When you have kids, everything changes—but it doesn’t mean you have to give up playing outside. It can be intimidating to plan for a family adventure when you’re used to going solo, but don’t stress: you’re in good company. More and more parents are incorporating little people into their favorite backcountry activities, and there are more resources and support than ever.
Research is Key
As with most expeditions, the planning starts at home. Research your destination carefully. How long will it take to get there? Will there be access to bathrooms? What does the weather forecast show? Do you need to bring all your own food and water, or will it be available when you arrive? When you know what you’re getting into, it’s easier to prepare for all the contingencies you’ll meet with your family in tow.
Bring Extras of Essentials
Next, double-check your packing list. On your first excursions with kids, you’ll want lots of clean clothes, extra water bottles, hand sanitizer, and an infinite supply of snacks. Whenever possible, bring wipes instead of liquids: sunscreen wipes, bug-repellant wipes, biodegradable baby wipes. (Just remember: nobody has ever finished a trip and regretted having too many ways to clean up.) Always bring UV protection for skin and eyes—remember, if you’re squinting, they probably need sunglasses, too. And never forget Murphy’s Law: if something can go sideways, it probably will. If you’re prepared, that’s okay.
Lead by Example
Once you’re out there, make it fun! When kids are tiny, find manageable ways to introduce them to the activities that you love—let them play in the dirt, wade in the river, hang out at the crag. When they’re a little older, download apps about animal tracks and plant identification. For kids in elementary school, try geochaching and knot-tying. And when all else fails, and the whole team is sunburned and cranky, just remember: if you show them the things you love about the outdoors, they’re bound to see the joy too.
Finally, be prepared to adjust your expectations. No matter how hard you’re used to crushing at the crag, kids are going to change things. Your goals will be different, you’ll have different responsibilities, and—at least for the first couple of trips—you’ll have a lot more on your mind than you did before your family came along. But ultimately, that’s a good thing. “The way we define a successful day outdoors has changed,” says mountain guide and first-time father Chris Meder. “Most days with our daughter, we don’t cover much ground at all. But with her perspective, it’s possible to have fun inside a twenty-foot circle within sight of the car.”