A beginner’s guide for hiking with teenagers


Most American parents would agree that keeping tabs on screen time for kids is a big challenge, especially because playing games and connecting is how many teens socialize and communicate with their kids. friends. As hours are reduced on electronics, teens (and many adults) are seemingly lost in a black hole of endless scrolling, games, and more.

Going outside then becomes a stark contrast to this digital way of life, especially if you are planning a multi-day hiking adventure that will require a bit of endurance and strength. And, while it can be a daunting task for parents to endure – listening to whining and putting up with apathy – it’s important to encourage a healthy lifestyle. You might find that your teens really enjoy the time spent outdoors, spotting wildflowers, spotting wildlife, and getting their fingernails dirty. The memories you make and the connections you make will be well worth the planning and effort, even if you don’t hear a “thank you” from your offspring until adulthood.

If you are new to hiking, a mix of hiking and backcountry camping, you will probably have a lot of questions. How to choose the right path? What kind of equipment should I bring? What should I be aware of in terms of security? How to retain my teenagers? Read on for hiking tips for beginners, as well as things to consider when inviting teens out outdoors.

An outdoor philosophy: anytime, anywhere

Children see what their parents are doing and imitate them. If you want to encourage your kids to go out more, you will need to spend more time there yourself. Whether you live in an urban environment or have direct access to wide open spaces and mountain trails, finding a place to hang out is definitely possible – it can take a bit of thought and planning.

In Chicago, for example, you could take trips to the Morton Arboretum, where 16 miles of trails wind through forests, meadows and wetlands. Or spend time walking at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where dozens of flower and plant paths wind through the property. From well-maintained forest reserves and lakeside trails to huge parks, it isn’t too difficult to find a green space to explore in the great outdoors. The time spent discovering nature in your own community can be used as training for your larger backpacking trips.

Professional advice: Create outdoor fun for your kids by bringing a picnic with hot chocolate or invent a game to play that will challenge them to learn more about flora, fauna and various ecosystems. And, because teens are particularly outgoing, allow them to bring a friend or two to enjoy the trail as well. You may find that what they get out of the experience is totally different from what you get out of it, or what you expected of them.

Easy steps for planning

Now that you’ve created an outdoor culture for your family, it’s time to plan the big backpacking trip. Whether you are going for one or more nights, the process is the same: you will need a course adapted to your level; food (freeze-dried meals are the lightest and easiest), water and equipment; and you will need to understand the logistics (maps and permits).

Choose a trail

For beginners, choose a well-traveled trail that will be fun, short, and relatively straightforward. Find a path near you, given the season and the weather, with a few miles to go. Be aware of elevation gain and loss and know where the freshwater sources are.

If you find that the hike, with a heavy backpack, was easier than you thought, you can always hike around your camp or add extra miles. Instilling a love of hiking can go horribly wrong if you bite more than you can chew. For example, you don’t want to arrive at camp after dark for the first time or walk over much more difficult terrain than you expect. When in doubt, go easy for the first time.

Pro tips: While your teens can probably go a lot further than you think, you want their first experience to be something they will try to repeat. Along with scheduling a shorter first try, you might also want to lighten their workload. In general, children can carry around 15-20% of their body weight. If you can, try to keep the weight of their bags as low as possible – bring only the essentials. Really think about whether it’s worth carrying that hammock or camp chair or other items not necessary for survival.

Hiking gear and essential clothing

The outdoor industry has a saying when it comes to strong, lightweight, and inexpensive equipment – you can only choose two. If it’s light and cheap, it won’t be sturdy. If it’s strong and light, it won’t be cheap. You’ll need to make the right decision for your family, depending on how much you want to spend and whether you want your gear to be an investment for future backpacking trips. Since we’re talking about early nature trips, you might not want to buy expensive gear that you may never be able to use again. Or maybe it’s worth the extra cost to avoid the risk of your equipment breaking down or being too heavy to carry.

REI Co-Op has a great hiking checklist that walks you through everything you might need on your family adventure including: hiking boots or shoes, tent, headlamp ( BioLite builds superior headlamps), backpack (Osprey bags are top of the line and hard to beat), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water and treatment bottles, stove and fuel, cooking utensils, food , weather-appropriate clothing (moisture-wicking fitness clothes are your friends), toiletries (you’ll probably need to bring what you pack), hygiene supplies, a repair kit, and first aid supplies.

Another option is to rent your gear (everything except your hiking boots, which should fit your feet well) from a company like Arrive Outdoors. .

Be aware of the Ten Essentials, created in the 1930s by mountaineers to be prepared for outdoor emergencies. The list of essentials has evolved to include: navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire, shelter, extra food, extra water, and extra clothing.

Pro tips: For a one stop shop on quality gear, look no further than Big Agnes for tents, sleeping bags and cushions and air cushions. This company has thought of everything to be comfortable in the wilderness with well-designed backpacks.

Other things to consider

  • While you most certainly want your kids to be out of their devices to enjoy the great outdoors, you might be able to load books and podcasts onto their phones so they can have a bit of edutainment along the way. . Or consider giving them an old-fashioned camera to take nature photos.
  • Teach your teens to navigate and read a map, then let them lead the way.
  • Bring a celebratory candy bar or special treat to reward them for reaching the campsite.
  • Encourage your kids to take ownership of their adventure – let them help you plan meals, set up and take down camp, filter and treat water, and take photos.
  • Verbalize your gratitude every night before bed.
  • Find a charity to fundraise for and fundraise before the trip. Every mile your teenager, for example, could be sponsored for a good cause.
  • Don’t worry about spending a lot of money on specific hiking clothing for the first time. Wear the non-cotton, moisture-wicking fitness clothes you have on hand. If you’re a fan of leggings, prAna offers comfortable styles that make it easy to get around the outdoors.
  • Bring light camp journals for your children to write about what they are going through.
  • Sign up for wilderness and first aid training classes before your trip so you and your teen know what to do in an emergency.
  • Pack a variety of protein bars and fruit hides, especially for long trips. The powdered gatorade is also a treat. Honey Stinger makes delicious waffles, chews and moisturizing powders.
  • To be on the safe side, leave your itinerary / travel plan with a family member or friend and let them know when they should expect to hear from you after the trip.



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