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10 Tips for Starting Backcountry Camping with Kids

Updated: Jun 24

Embarking on a backcountry camping trip with toddlers can be an incredibly rewarding experience but also very intimidating. From bonding in nature to teaching them important life skills, it's a journey filled with so many present moments. As a hiking mom who has ventured into the wilderness many times with my kids, I've learned a few tips and tricks along the way and I want to share them with you to help you on get started with backpacking! I do not consider myself a backpacking expert, just an avid outdoor mom that fell in love with the peace of backpacking with kids. Here's my 10 tips:

Backcountry Camping with Kids

Start Small!

Choose an easy-rated, family-friendly backpacking trail and camp. Ideally, one with bear lockers and an out-house when learning the ropes of backcountry camp life. Start with one night and then add more nights on future trips. You will find comfort and confidence as you go. Find out How I choose a Back Country Camp.

Involve Them in Planning

Include kids in the planning process by hyping them up about the destination, fun things along the hike in, and activities that you can plan for camp. It helps when I pack in a new toy with my kids to play when they arrive at camp (something super light and small). I let my toddler pack his own pack with his own light gear that he is excited about and proud to carry into camp. He even chooses his own snacks too.

Focus on Safety

Bear and wildlife saftey is a huge priority. So how we store food and keep our camp clean is huge and I ensure my kids understand how important it is. My kids know they need to be in arm reach of an adult at all times when at camp. I teach my kids about using the SOS device in the event something happened to me.

Backcountry Camping Gear

Allow Nature to Entertain Your Kids

Allow the kids imagination to take-over and create when at camp. Create fun songs and trail dances along the way. Discovering new things together and identifying plants along the way can be super fun for the kids.

Pack Wisely

Pack as light as you can but load up on extra food and snacks for the kids because it seems like they are more hungry on backpacking adventures. Ensure you pack the ten-essentials and refer to my backpacking list below for moms and kids. Baby and toddler items fill up very fast.

Be Flexible and Release Expectations

Flexibility is key when camping with kids. Just let them explore and go their pace. Allow yourself to laugh at the moments along the way. It can get chaotic with small kids in the backcountry. I always have an exit plan too and tell myself it is okay to hike out of camp if needed. Weather can turn sometimes and energy levels can crash. We usually don't bail mid-trip but just knowing that it's okay to do that can help!

Backcountry Camping with Kids

Lean into Core Memories

The traditions and magical moments will unfold. For me, it is the moments when you rock your baby to sleep under the stars, or roast marshmellows on the backcountry stove, we tell tent stories with the shadows, and sing songs at camp together. I know my kids will remember the feeling of camping together in the backcountry.

Practice Leave No Trace

Teach your children the importance of leaving no trace by minimizing your impact on the environment. Pack out all trash, avoid damaging vegetation, and use designated campsites whenever possible. Leave nature as you found it for future generations to enjoy. My kids sometimes forget to stay on the trail. Reminding them and teaching them the importance of protecting our trails. Prepare yourself for a lot of reminders.

Stay Positive

One of the most difficult things to do is remain positive when frustration creeps in. It is essential however, because I noticed how much my energy and mood fuels the kids in the backcountry. A lot can go wrong sometimes like I have had dishes float away in a lake and having to go in an retrieve them. Sometimes the cook stove runs out of fuel and other times I forget my layers. Somehow remaining positive allows the adventure to continue.

Learn as you Go!

It is easy to look back on trips and know what you loved and what you didn't love. The next time you go, you may pack less or only bring the food the kids really wanted in the backcountry. You will find ways to simplify getting ready. Getting ready may not be as overwhelming too! There is no perfect way to backpack. It is your own story and memories and I think it is incredible that you're here reading this and planning to take your kids on a trip!

Backcountry Camping

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