What’s So Great About Backpacking with Kids?

My husband Dustin and I just got back from a short backpacking trip on the Ice Age Trail with five kids (our three and two of their friends). On Day Two, we met the friends’ mom and siblings and hiked together. Walking for miles with a pack provides ample time to talk and think, and I wanted to share something that I learned.

There are so many lessons I could write about, but I’m going to skip the obvious, logistical ones. You know, the fact that the tinier and cuter a backpack is means more lightweight, but large items that Mom and Dad have to carry, even though it’s impractical for an adult to carry eleven pounds of sleeping bags while a forty-pound child can only fit a five pound meal in the cute, tiny backpack.

Or the hard-learned lesson that placing gallons of water along the trail ahead of time can be the reason a hike can continue through dry areas.

Or mastering the balancing act of being prepared enough without carrying unnecessary items (but we might need it if…see, it’s a fine line to toe).

For today’s post, I’m going to share what I couldn’t get out of my head while walk, walk, walking and encouraging the young children to keep going.

We need to get ourselves and our children in nature, together, and often.

Here’s why:

  • Our world is so full of distractions that as often as possible, we need to turn our attention away from a screen and to God’s creation. Kids need to see that the best high-def imaging comes from God’s handiwork, not a newer device.
  • Doing hard things (like hiking until your shoulders, hips, and feet hurt and then sleeping in the incredibly noisy outdoors) makes us stronger. And when we do those hard things together, we build up our relationships. We are designed to be part of communities, and strengthening relationships is one of the more valuable ways we’ll spend life. Plus, when we build up a group – the people we’ve struggled and overcome with – we’ll have each other when the going gets tough.
  • Life is busy and people are highly skilled at cramming it full of more busyness. But busyness can become grasping for the wind. I’ve found that when I get away from powerlines, away from a kitchen faucet, away from electricity, my priorities shift. It’s back to the basics. We sleep, we pray, we eat, we wash dishes, we find filterable water, we brush our teeth with toothbrushes cut in half, and we hike together and talk about the cool things we see. We tell time with a watch that doesn’t vibrate with alerts, doesn’t double as a phone, and can’t do anything other than keep time. We aren’t checking emails or social media. We’re living slower, yet more fully. We’re helping each other, and we’re remembering what matters most in life.

What have you learned from hiking? Please post positive comments below 🙂

If you’re interested in seeing more of what our family has learned from shared adventures, here’s an article from last summer.

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