The Best Safety Tips for Hiking With Kids

For outdoor lovers, hiking is a great way to bond with your kids free from the distractions of everyday life. Spending time in the wilderness is an invaluable experience for any child, providing an abundance of teachable moments and opportunities to learn new skills, get physically active, connect with nature, and have loads of fun. At the same time, the great outdoors comes with inherent risks, and as a parent, we naturally want to protect our children. If you’re planning on hiking with your kids, here are some of the best safety tips to ensure your hike is enjoyable and safe. 

Always Plan Ahead

When hiking with kids, the most important thing you can do to make sure everyone stays safe is to plan ahead. Out in the wilderness, there are a lot of variables that can come into play putting you and your children at risk. However, proper planning allows you to be fully prepared for anything and can even prevent accidents or injuries from happening. Here are some of the things you should plan well before you leave.

  • Choose the Trail – Pick an age-appropriate trail based on the kids you’ll be hiking with, study the route, and make sure to pack a map of it. It’s also helpful to take into consideration their temperament, interest, and experience. You don’t want to plan a long hike and have your kids stressed, exhausted, and upset.
  • Gear Checklist – Before heading out in the wilderness, you should always make sure you have all the essential gear for any hike including extra water, snacks, sunscreen, a first aid kit, etc, and also include any route-specific items or special medications or gear for your child.
  • Ground Rules – When it comes to safety, prevention is critical, and one of the best ways to prevent accidents from happening is by setting some essential ground rules. You may have standard rules your children know while at home or in the city, but the wilderness is a very different ball game. When creating rules, also include an emergency protocol they can follow if someone gets hurt or they happen to get lost. 

Stick to Marked Trails

Once you choose a trail and study the route, it’s important to stick to it and avoid taking any shortcuts through the woods. Trails were created with a purpose, and in most state parks, they are regularly maintained to ensure safety. Most trails have markers that tell you where you are on the trail and in which direction you’re going. It’s also helpful to check with local park officials before you venture out to see what wild animals you may encounter or if there are any kind of potential dangers you should be aware of such as poisonous plants or dangerous terrain.

Use the Buddy System 

If you’re hiking with multiple children, it’s not always easy to have eyes on them at all times. This is where the buddy system comes in. Each child chooses a buddy and stays with them at all times. That way if one of them gets hurt or if they happen to get lost, they won’t be alone and their buddy can help them. 

Take Plenty of Breaks

When hiking with kids, it’s important to remember children can tire and get cranky easily and they most likely don’t have as much experience hiking as the adults they’re with probably do. During the hike, remember to take regular breaks in the shade, pack energy-boosting foods to snack on, and make sure they’re consistently drinking water, not only when they’re thirsty. 

Take a Wilderness First Aid Course

Out in the wilderness accidents can happen. While bringing a first-aid kit along on your hike is a must, it’s equally important to know how to use the items inside it. Taking a Wilderness First Aid course can equip you with the knowledge and skills to recognize, treat, and prevent many common illnesses and injuries you and your loved ones could experience out in the backcountry.