As the popular saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” This is especially true when it comes to going hiking as a family. Having the right gear with you when you need it can make the difference between a fun outing and a painfully cold trudge through the woods.
The specific things you need will depend, of course, on the ages of your kids and the length of hike you’re planning, but here’s some gear that’s great to have on a family hike.
Anyone who is going to be walking a significant distance will need good, sturdy footwear, especially if the terrain is anything more challenging than a stroll along a paved sidewalk. Casual hikers who will be walking for an hour or less will probably be fine in runners or a casual shoe, but going for a long hike on mountain terrain will be safer and more comfortable in a hiking boot.
While it can be impractical to purchase hiking boots for fast-growing kids, a good quality shoe for kids makes hiking much more fun for everyone.
Here in the Pacific Northwest rainforest, it tends to be very wet between September and May. Having comfortable rain gear for everyone opens up the possibility of hiking year-round in Vancouver.
Adults can choose waterproof-breathable options like Gore-Tex, which keep the rain out and allow moisture from sweat and condensation to evaporate through the fabric, or conventional raincoats, which are cheaper but a little less comfortable.
School-aged kids will need rain pants and a rain jacket, while babies and toddlers stay snug and dry best with one-piece rain suits like the Muddy Buddy.
Families with babies and toddlers will also need some kind of baby carrier, either a frame-style backpack or a soft carrier like an Ergo or a wrap. Frame-style backpacks shift the child’s weight off your back and onto your hips, which can make carrying for long periods more comfortable. Soft carriers are lightweight and easy to tuck into a backpack when not in use, which is handy when your toddler decides today’s the day he’s going to hike it himself.
If your family is curious about hiking, but you don’t want to shell out a lot of money on gear that you may not end up using a lot, don’t let the lack of professional hiking boots or Gore-Tex rain gear stop you from going hiking. Choose a more urban trail with few rocks and uneven terrain, like the trails in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, and start by going on short warm-weather hikes instead of all-day excursions. These kind of hikes will be fine with regular athletic shoes, jeans and a T-shirt.
If you discover a true love of hiking and want to go year-round or on long, steep hikes, that’s the time to invest in more specialized gear for your family. Happy trails!
Michelle Carchrae is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to two girls. With a serious love for Vancouver and an equally serious need to get out of the house with two young kids, Michelle searches out the best kid and parent friendly places to go. Michelle also writes about parenting at her blog, The Parent Vortex.
Michelle Carchrae is often asking those important life questions: "who moved the scissors?", "how would you do that differently next time?" and "are you finished with the glitter glue?" Homeschooling two girls, ages 6 and 3, is her full time job. The rest of the time Michelle can be found blogging at The Parent Vortex, hiking in the forest or knitting and reading simultaneously. She recently published her first ebook, The Parenting Primer: A guide to positive parenting in the first six years, and moved to Bowen Island.