On the last day of August we took the kids backpack camping for the first time ever! We hiked 3.5 miles into Panther Creek Falls, and as luck would have it, we snagged the best camping spot on the beach!
On this adventure we learned a thing or three about backpacking with kids. While I wouldn’t consider us “experts,” I’m sure these tips are bound to help you on your next backpacking adventure.
Skip the Kiddo Sleeping Pads
Dan and I slept on adult sleeping pads, but we purchased the child-sized sleeping mats for the boys. While they worked well, they were heavier and harder to roll back up than the adult pads. I wish we had spent a little extra money on pads for 4 adults.
Make a Fire Easier on Yourself
I know that not every backpack camping adventure needs a fire…but this was their first and we had lugged s’mores fixings the entire way! If a campfire is on your agenda, then a camping saw is a great investment.
We brought the 15″ Sven Saw with us. It worked great, and stored easily in the bag holding our tent poles.
Compression Bags are Key
We could not find kids’ sleeping bags made of down so we opted for regular kiddo bags. They are warm and light-weight, but they don’t pack well.
Take the sleeping bag out of the shell and pop it into a compression bag. It will get much much smaller.
Another tip? It doesn’t get small enough to fit into a kiddo backpack, so we carried their bags. BUT the down sleeping bag will compress enough to fit into their backpack (along with a sleeping mat!)
Know-how About Feeding Kids
My kids are the pickiest eaters on the planet. I am not kidding. So feeding them was the hardest part. We opted for plenty of Kind Bars, pasta with salt and butter for dinner, and bacon for breakfast.
First, get yourself a MSR PocketRocket Portable Stove. It’s awesome, and it only weighs 4 oz. (The butane will weigh more, but you can adjust the size based on how many days you camp.)
We boiled water for them in no time, and they loved the pasta. The camping plates we have were hard, though. Next time we’ll bring them bowls to eat from.
It was also a sweet piece for frying bacon in the am as you’re sipping on some coffee. Head to Whole Foods for cured bacon, and it will be fine without refrigeration.
As an aside, hubs and I don’t eat carbs so we tried a new (to us) Keto backpacking food and LOVED it! We got the sampler pack from Next Mile Meals. Everything was really, really good. I was not expecting much, to be honest, but it was even “eat at home” good. haha. We will always be backpacking with this!
Finally, a note about how much food…we brought too much this time. I guess I expected everyone to be famished from all the hiking and water play, but we weren’t. We ate LESS than usual.
I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure I’ll do it differently next time , though. One time does not a big enough “sample” make. And as sure as I cut back on food, they will be starving in the woods. But do plan for this to be the most weight you carry – especially with kiddos.
Hammock is a Verb
You can’t camp without a hammock. Eno is the brand everyone knows now, and I sure hope you have one!
We noticed almost everyone in the area had an Eno, but they were struggling to put it up. I am so glad we invested in Atlas Straps. They’re only $30 and they save you a world of time, effort and headache no matter where you are putting up your hammock.
In fact, as we were packing up, another parent camper came over and asked if he could buy ours for $100. That’s nuts…get yours before you camp. The kids will love you for it.
How to be the Hero
This really wasn’t supposed to be a post about camping “gadgets” but when something like the Atlas straps or the cooking stove really saves your sanity…well, you share.
I feel the same way about this new carabiner hubs discovered. It’s called a Hero Clip. The hook rotates and folds, and holds up to 50lbs. It’s great for clipping things to your pack. I also liked it for hanging our packs on a tree and off the ground while we camped.
Water, Water Everywhere and not a Drop to Drink
You can’t carry in enough water for an overnight; you need a water filtration system. We use an older model MSR Water Filter (Here’s a newer one.) This is the only model we’ve ever used, but we like it.
We should have brought a collapsable water container to carry more from the source. Add that to your list. And don’t leave your cleaning brush at home; hubs had to clean our filter much more frequently than normal on this trip. You never know what the conditions will be when you get to your water source.
One last note about pumping water. Hubby did this a LOT over the trip, and discovered a little “secret.” Find a place with fast moving water around the ricks. Perch your butt on a large one, and then place your feet on two smaller ones while you pump. It will save your back (which you will need on your return back to your car.)
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