The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking with Kids

What is Backpacking?

So, you have decided that you would like to be a backpacker and require more knowledge if you can do this with your kids.

The great news is that you can. There are just a few things you would most likely need to know before you take your child with you on a backpacking trip.

In this article, we will discuss what backpacking is and how different it is from other activities you can do in nature with your children. We’ll discuss the benefits of taking your children with you on a backpacking trip versus its disadvantages.

To conclude, we shall provide you with five tips on making this experience a quality one for both yourself and your family. 

Backpacking definition

Backpacking is quite a difficult thing to define.

This is because of the wide range of activities that one can undergo whilst they are backpacking. The primary definition that you can take from backpacking is that it involves travelling and travelling light. This comes in the title.

The idea is that young people used to travel from country to country with just a backpack in the past, which means that they would go many different places with a very light budget and a very light amount of packing. 

Some people decide to go backpacking in forests where they sleep with tents or prefer the beach. Then others could even go travelling across several different countries.

I say this just to give you an idea of the extent to which you can backpack and to inform you that really whatever you choose is OK if you enjoy it.

The main categories of backpacking that currently exist today are flashpacking, backpacking RTW travel and ultralight backpacking. These are all not significantly different from each other except one involves moving with a vehicle (RTW Travel) usually a house on wheels. 

How does backpacking compare to other types of outdoor activities?

Backpacking vs Hiking

Often people think that hiking and backpacking are the same activity. They are not. Hiking is a long walk that one can take for exercise or meditation purposes.

One could say that they are hiking if they leave their house and go for a 10-minute walk uphill outside their house. One could also be hiking if they climb a mountain and then climb back down. 

There is no solid definition of what a hike could be except that it is walking. For people who backpack you must pack things to go with you hence the term backpacking. You can go hiking whilst you are backpacking.

I understand this may be difficult to understand, but that is also the idea I am trying to explain: there is no actual definition for any of this. If for example, you decided to go camping that could be considered backpacking.

For instance, you wake up in the morning while you are camping, and you decide to go up the mountain to see the view that is considered a hike. Therefore, you can hike whilst you are backpacking. 

 Backpacking vs Camping

If you wonder what the difference between camping in and backpacking the difference is that camping would require you to get all the things you would need to live and put them in your vehicle for use at the campsite when you arrive.

Backpackers often do not carry with them their entire house, i.e., a tent. Instead, backpackers will put everything they need into their backpack and live out of that. 

If you wish to travel across the country on foot and camp in different places, you would put all of that into your backpack and make your way across the country.

It may sound quite extreme for a child to participate in this, but they are much lighter versions of backpacking. If you decide to hike up the mountain and have lunch, there with your children, then you could consider this to be backpacking because you would have packed all your food in your backpack. 

Backpacking vs Mountaineering

Let us say you wanted to go mountaineering. To safely survive this, you would need an assortment of technical equipment to assist you in performing various tasks. People that do this will need such tools as ropes, axes as well as helmets.

Cool, we can say that mountaineering and backpacking are quite similar, although mountaineering is a much more dangerous and challenging task that a child could not perform. 

When backpacking with children, you will often pick a trail that is easy to navigate and will not put your child in danger.

With backpacking, you would most likely be depending on how far you were going only require water and food and small navigational items such as a torch and a compass. In today’s modern world, however, all of this can be done using a smartphone.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Backpacking with Kids


  • Your children will get to understand how to plan for trips in the wild 
  • you will get an opportunity to teach your children about different plants and trees you observe in nature. 
  • It is a fun and simple way to get some good exercise for your children. 
  • It allows them to build trust in the world instead of feeling fearful and anxious when they are out. 
  • You will teach them important survival skills such as making a fire, navigating through the woods and what to do if there is danger.


  • We all love our children, but the truth is if you take them out on a backpacking trip, some may complain. You may not get a break from hearing about how much they hate this trip and why are they doing it. Children may not see the advantages and lessons that they ought to gain from such a trip.
  • It can be dangerous if the trip is not well planned. You must avoid taking your children to areas with uncontrolled wildlife. Remember, children are not trained in dealing with animals and in such an encounter, they may begin to panic. 

5 Tips for a Wonderful Outdoor Experience with Your Kids

  1. Nothing hectic to start with

You must not place too much pressure on your children, especially if it is their first-time backpacking. Rather take them on a very light excursion.

Make sure that it is something that they can handle athletically. By this I mean do not make them climb steep mountains or walk more than 10 kilometers. 

  1. Take it easy.

You should not expect them to keep up with a grown-up pace. Rather take every moment you can to allow them to rest whilst teaching or showing them something along the way.

For example, if you run into a flower, tree, or an animal, you can begin to explain certain aspects about that. Educational breaks are great for both parties.  

  1. Positive reinforcement

One of the most straightforward ways to get a child to do something is using goodies and treats. Positively reinforcing progress on the backpacking experience will go a long way in boosting your child’s morale.

You will find that if you pack sweets or chips and continuously tell your child that once we reach the next milestone or the next break, they can enjoy chocolate, which will encourage them to keep going. 

  1. Prepare for danger.

It is essential that before you begin the backpacking activities, your children must be aware of the protocol to be followed in the event of an emergency.

Having given your children some instruction is better than none. An example of this is what to do if they run into a wild animal or what to do if they do not want to get lost.

  1. Be happy.

Children can often feel what we feel. If your child is not trying their best and does not have a positive attitude, they will likely not enjoy the activity.

Try your best to be understanding and motivating. Do not get on their case if they complain or say they are tired rather than try to have a good attitude. Also, some DYI projects while backpacking or camping might come in handy and add to the experience.

Wrapping up

To wrap this up, I think it is important to stress the need for performing activities that are sensible and reasonable, to begin with.

Remember, this is not for a prize; rather, the purpose of this goal is for bonding and learning. If you want your children to look forward to the next backpacking activity, you must start them off light and simple.

Many fathers get carried away and drag their children off to do things they do not want to. Make it enjoyable for everyone.

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