In my infinite wisdom I decided that taking the boys backpacking around the south coast of the UK this summer would be an absolutely fantastic idea. It would be an amazing experience for them, travelling without the car and carrying our entire kit with us. It would be character building, great exercise and a brilliant opportunity for us to spend some real quality time together as a family.
I spent months planning every little detail of our trip. Trains, buses, coach trips, sea fishing boats, theme parks, city tours… it was going to be an incredibly busy week and we were going to make some wonderful memories!
The day arrived for us to pack a weeks worth of ‘stuff’ into two large rucksacks and two kids backpacks. I think that’s the point it suddenly hit me, as I realised that what we were about to do was something nobody would do unless they had taken leave of their senses. It’s no wonder I struggled to find any advice online when I googled ‘backpacking with kids’. I should’ve known then.
Not one to be easily deterred, I insisted to my rather dubious husband that we should press on with our original plan and leave the car at home. We’d spent a fair bit of money on pre-paid public transport and I wasn’t about to be defeated by a big bag full of equipment.
I’ll be writing more about how our trip went over the coming weeks, but this post is for tips and so without further ado here are five things to consider when planning to backpack with children.
1 How much clothing do you need to take?
For six days backpacking I packed 2 pairs of trousers, 2 t-shirts and one hoodie for each of the boys. They also had 6 pairs of boxers and 6 pairs of socks each, which they carried in their own bags. To be honest, I think we were about right to take what we did – we stayed on proper campsites all week and a couple of those had laundry facilities which I made use of – my kids manage to get their clothes filthy when they’re sat completely still, so the two changes of clothes (plus what they wore when we set off) was just right.
2 What cooking equipment do you need?
We took a single gas burner, four mess tins and a cutlery set each and that was adequate. We only used them twice though, choosing to buy ready made food or eat out on the other nights.
3 How much will the children be able to carry?
My youngest son turned five while we were away and my older son is seven, and they carried quite a few things of their own all week. In their bags they had:
- mess tin
The seven year old carried his bag all the time, though the five year old did take it off and give it to poor old dad quite often. I don’t think it was too heavy for him though, rather he just didn’t fancy wearing his backpack in the sun! Be sure not to over pack children’s bags because too much weight isn’t good for their little bodies, nor will it make for an enjoyable holiday
4 How far will you walk?
We walked approximately 40 miles over the course of the week, which included walking around the towns and cities we visited as well as getting to and from camp sites etc. There was no hiking or hill walking, just flat walking at a fairly slow pace. The kids actually didn’t complain once and although 40 miles sounds like a lot it really didn’t feel it to our children. They do play a lot of football and are outdoors every day, so consider your child’s regular level of exercise when planning how far you’ll be travelling on foot.
5 Is it worth it?
What do you actually want from your family backpacking trip? Can you do the same thing in a cheaper or easier way – and do you want to? It would have been a lot cheaper for us to take the car and drive our journey, but then we wouldn’t have the treasured memories of running for the train and the friendly, helpful conductor or taking in the spectacular views of the Jurassic Coast from the top deck of a bus. We wouldn’t have walked through Salisbury to get to our camp site and we’d have missed all the beautiful city has to offer.
So you really have to weigh up whether backpacking is right for you, and if it’s right for you at the moment. If we were to do it again, I would probably wait until the boys are older and can carry more of their own belongings and equipment because for both me and my husband, the weight of the bags was a negative of the holiday.
If you do decide to go – or you’ve already backpacked with young children – I would REALLY love to hear all about it!