Backpacking with Kids

Hiking at Mount Rainier with Kids

In the years prior to having children, my wife and I gradually shrunk the packing list we use for our backpacking trips to a relatively lean assortment of essentials: stove, water filter, tent, etc. Everything superfluous, except wine—one can only go so light!—was cast off to shed weight and make hiking with a pack more manageable.  But once we had kids, things changed, especially for me. Besides now carrying a four-person tent we also have to lug four sleeping bags and pads, diapers and wipes (for now), extra head lamps, a pair of hiking sticks that gets used an average of 10 minutes, hiking incentives (i.e. extra chocolate for Madeleine) and food and utensils for four people.

Before Madeleine was old enough to walk by herself and before Margot was born, that load was divided between Laura and me. Now, with Margot, my pack weighs a ton and looms over my head in an absurd tower of compressed gear. Needless to say, I was probably better suited to carry such a load when I was 28 than I am now, and that’s not to mention the extra ten pounds that don’t get packed away! But as I packed for our most recent outing to Mt. Rainier for a short weekend trip, I felt a sense of joy. Not that I would carry all the gear we needed for a couple of days in the mountains, but that we still make time to hike and camp as a family. Juggling jobs and obligations around the house isn’t always easy; these weekends in the mountains are a reminder of the pleasure to be had in singing silly songs to pass the time on a trail, of the fun in wading into an alpine lake after a dusty hike, in the feeling of happiness that comes in waking up in a tent together. Soon, these girls will be grown up enough to carry their own gear and sleep in their own tent. After that, they might not want to spend days in the mountains with their parents anymore. So for now, I’m happy to put on my giant pack and head out as a family. Who needs to go light when they can go out together?

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