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How to Not Overload Your Children When Hiking

One of the most common activities recommended for preppers is hiking. The ability to walk distances without tiring is important to off-the-grid survival, after all. But there’s one important aspect to not overlook: can your kids handle it?

The answer is yes, they can, but only if we make sure they’re being properly cared for. Too often you’ll see parents either overwork their children, expecting them to match the pace of a fully grown adult, or not properly prepare them for such tasks. Here are a few things to remember the next time you’re hiking with children.

This information comes from Lisa Jhung, who wrote about her findings with Curriculum Director for NOLS Wilderness Medicine Tod Schimelpfenig and Dr. Stephanie Canale. Both sources recommend hiking with children as a regular activity.

General Advice
  • When hiking, with children or not, make sure everyone stays well hydrated and well fed. Take breaks as needed.
  • Follow the children’s pace. If you expect them to follow yours, they will fall short and tire out sooner.
  • Let kids carry some supplies as well. “Kids like having some of what their parents have in their packs,” Shimelpfenig states. So add some basic supplies to their bags.
  • Make sure everything fits. If a backpack is loose or too tight, it will cause strain and discomfort. Canale says to make sure the sternum strap attaches across their sternum and not their breast bone for heavier loads. The hip belt should sit directly on the hips, not at the waist.
Age Appropriate Guidelines

“In the medical literature, you’ll find it says kids can carry 15 to 20% of their body weight,” says Schimelpfenig. But she recommends keeping it lower than that, especially for younger ages.

Ages 0-3
Distance: 0 – 2 miles
Weight: 0 lbs to 5% their bodyweight (basically an empty backpack, really)

Ages 4-7
Distance: 2 – 4 miles
Weight: 2 – 4 lbs (water and snacks make for good items)

Age 8+
Distance: 6-10 miles (keep it lower for the younger range)
Weight: around 15% of their body weight (they’re old enough for you to ask what they want to carry at this point)

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