Hiking with kids? Start small, dream big.
Taking a child on a walk is better than Disneyland. Every fallen log, meandering steam, or low-angled boulder is a mini-adventure—to say nothing of waterfalls and wildlife. You can usually go to your local Parks and Recreation Office for a map of trails in and around your hometown. Or start with the nearest local, state, or national park and chat with a ranger to find out their “classic” hike. From there, hopefully the activity will become a life-long pursuit for everyone involved.
1. Start small. What differentiates a hike from a walk? Not much—although a hike generally connotes self-supported travel on unpaved terrain. Pick a nearby park or forest and find a loop hike (meaning you don’t go up and back on the same trail.) Look for one that lasts about an hour to start, and try to find one that’s easy to access and also one that you hike often, like the small butte that rises just outside of the town of Bend, Oregon. It’s about half an hour up and about 20 minutes down (just over a mile round-trip). You can start by taking kids in a burly stroller, then hand-in-hand. Next thing you know, the little ones will be racing to the top, and as they grow older, they’ll likely develop a positive relationship with the trail.
2. Dream Big. Anticipation is half the fun. Use your local walks as training for THE BIG EVENT. Is it the summit of a peak you see from your porch every morning? Or the top of a local ski hill in the summer? Or maybe a summer road trip through one of our majestic national parks? The important thing is pick something fun, use the anticipation to inspire training and enthusiasm, and then give it a try.
3. Bring a light daypack for each person on the trip packed with fun snacks, tasty cold drinks, and favorite deserts. Don’t forget a packet of hand wipes for after lunch (or post mud castle construction).
4. Bring along a bird book and pair of binoculars. Or better yet, a camera. Or a few light kids’ storybooks. Who doesn’t like a story about an outdoor setting IN an outdoor setting. Little House on the Prairie anyone?
5. Use the hike as a lesson on how to read (or make) a map. Most smart phones have compasses—and apps that include an altimeter, but better yet, buy an inexpensive compass at your local outdoor shop.
6. Encourage your kids to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that won’t snag on bushes or limbs, and can get extremely dirty. One non-negotiable option is good footwear. Don’t scrimp when it comes to well-fitting walking shoes with rugged tread, a sticky rubber sole for traction, and supportive canvas or leather upper. Flip flops or gym sneakers will just cause foot problems and diminish your kid’s ability to climb, hike, and run.
7. Pack a small medicine kit. Sunblock and bug spray are a must. So are fun, colorful band-aids that take the sting out of a skinned knee.
8. Remember, the walk is about the kids and exploration. Gently pushing them beyond their comfort zone is a good thing, but sometimes quitting halfway to take advantage of a wildflower-covered field or sparkling swimming hole is the best way to engender enthusiasm.
Just about anybody can get out and hike, but it’s more fun if there’s a spring in your step and easy rhythm to your breathing.Whether you are planning on an after-work jaunt or multi-day trek, here are some tips on getting in shape. No excuses!
1. Increase Your Cardiovascular Fitness
Nothing gets you in shape for walking better than walking. The critical part is getting out. Plan on 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Your cardiovascular fitness increases according to the level of intensity of your workouts—with the fastest gains being when you are pushing at about 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. (Check your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220—it is not an exact formula, but it will give you a good ballpark). In layman’s terms, you should walk fast enough that you’re winded, but not exhausted. Practices walking at a brisk pace, never pushing so hard that you have to stop. Take your first 20-minute walk on a flat course (around the block, or at a local track). Then start looking for hills. Determine your course, and then go ahead and walk. Once you are comfortable going two to four miles, add a backpack with five to 10 pounds to get your back used to carrying weight.
2. Flexibility Training
Stretching can be done anytime—before you exercise, afterwards, or for five minutes in the morning and five minutes before you go to bed. Stretching is supposed to help prevent injuries, so don’t force it. Stretch four to five times a week for the best results. Begin your stretches with mild tension (about 10 to 15 seconds) and then stop and hold the position. Hold the stretch for another 15 seconds—and don’t forget to breathe. Hikers should concentrate on stretches for their calves, groin, hamstrings, and shoulders.
3. Strength Training
If you have access to a gym, start working on leg and hip muscles. You’ll also need to concentrate on muscles in your back, core, and shoulders. Leg presses are good as they work your abs and buttocks too. Abdominal crunches are something you can do at home or at the gym. Concentrate on your stomach muscles when you do these, and keep them up until your abs burn. Pull-ups are also a great way to increase back strength for carrying a pack. Start with your palms facing away from you, and don’t lower down so far as to straighten out your elbows. For each exercise, do three reps of 10.
First published in 1960 by The Mountaineers of Seattle, The Freedom of the Hills is now in its eighth edition.Long regarded as the textbook on all things hiking and mountaineering, The Mountaineers were the first to introduce the concept of The Ten Essentials—and despite all the technological advances of the last few decades, the core of their insight remains a timelss checklist to ensure that you’re always ready to respond to accident or emergency, and can handle an unexpected night in the great beyond. True, you may not need all ten items for every adventure, why both taking the risk? After all, if something goes wrong, you’ll be whispering private thanks to each and every item.
Navigation: Whether you use a traditional map and compass, an app on your smartphone, a handheld GPS, or even a GPS watch, some form of navigational ability is the key to not getting lost or getting yourself un-lost. And it should be more than just knowing that moss always grows on the north side of the trees.
Sun Protection: Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, and protective clothing. Nothing can ruin a great day outside more than sunburn, snow blindness, or even heat stroke.
Extra layers: Depending on the climate, you will want a rain jacket or light insulated jacket in your pack in case the weather turns foul or you get caught out all night.
Illumination: Even if you plan to be gone for only a couple of hours, it is essential to have some sort of light source, just in case. And batteries don’t last forever so be sure to check them regularly.
First-Aid: A basic first-aid kit should be able to do three things: stop bleeding, pain, and allergic reactions. As part of the kit, also include some sort of communication device—whether it be your cell phone, whistle, or satellite messenger in case of a real emergency.
Fire: Either a lighter, fire starter, or waterproof matches.
Hydration: Although it is always good to have enough water, keep in mind that one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds. If you have access to a water source on the trail, consider ditching the excess and carry a water filter, bleach, or some iodine instead. Fully hydrate at the start and end of the day. And since you aren’t carrying a ton of water weight, you have space for that flask full of your favorite trail tipple to enjoy around the campfire at the end of the day.
Repair Kit and Tools: A knife or multi-tool comes in handy for a variety of tasks. Wrap some duct tape around your water bottle or hiking poles and you can fix almost anything—at least for the time it’ll take to back to civilization.
Food: You need enough food to fuel you through the day’s adventures, but plan on throwing in a few extra no-cook items such as jerky or energy bars.
Emergency Shelter: Space blanket-type emergency bivies weigh nothing and cost nothing, so there is you just round of reasons to not stashing one at the bottom of your pack.
Columbia Sportswear Take Ten App:
Take Ten is the second in a series of mobile apps designed by Columbia Sportswear to help you get the most from your adventures in the Greater Outdoors. This app is designed to introduce backcountry users to the Ten Essential Groups, a collection of items promoted by outdoor experts as critical to the safe enjoyment of our wild areas.
The Ten Essential GroupsAt the heart of the app is a user-expandable database of tools and equipment divided into ten groups:
- Sun Protection
You’ll definitely want to stay hydrated when you’re climbing to the top. http://bit.ly/1eatcNj
As summer turns to fall, it’s time to take a step in a new direction. Which step will you take? http://bit.ly/17IDaPM