Will My Kid Ruin This? Backpacking With a Toddler in Tow

Is my kid going to ruin this? If you are considering taking your kids on a backpacking trip, you have asked yourself this same question. Heck, you’ve likely asked yourself that question on the way to get the car washed. Even though I completely understand the feelings behind that question, I believe that those types of questions can easily become the cage that keeps us from adventure. The way you word valid questions is really, really important.

If you struggle with these negative thoughts (like me) then you will have to put some intention into how you phrase those questions.
For instance, instead of asking: is my kid going to ruin this? Ask yourself: how can I help ensure that my kid is going to enjoy this trip? You know the saying “happy wife, happy life?” Yeah, on the trail the saying goes “unhappy kid, psychotic parent who commits themselves to the psych-ward upon returning home.” I don’t know why that isn’t catching on.

Little changes in your expectations can really help tame the monster inside of you when your kid is counting pebbles on the ground (we are on a flipping mountain! It’s all rocks and pebbles! LEAVE THEM!). Consider giving yourself double or triple the amount of time that you would typically give for a mile. Try to envision lots of stops to just hang out and enjoy where you are. I also am a big advocate for bringing a phone with some downloaded movies on it for backup.

I KNOW, I know, I know! We are supposed to all pretend like our kids don’t watch TV. I get that they are supposed to be enjoying nature, and they will, I promise. But let’s just embrace the tools given to us in 2016, shall we? If you don’t have your phone, and it suddenly starts to pore down rain, your three-year-old isn’t going to accept that she is supposed to sit quietly in the tent and enjoy the pitter-patter of the rain. She will NOT accept it. Prepare yourself.
I believe that I may have the most “spirited” (aka hyper-active, nutso, and CrAzY) four-year-old ever. When we are eating pizza in public she will lick my face. She will run away from home if we don’t lock her in the house. She wakes up at 6am, begs for food, a show, and a game of whatever-the-heck-gets-mom-out-of-bed. She is incapable of cuddling without turning it into rough housing. She is obsessed with running, but running somehow invigorates her, which is exactly the opposite of the way the human body is supposed to flipping work. She’s great, though!

She is has an attitude.

I love her, but she is crazy.

Somehow, when she is hiking, she transforms. She listens quickly, isn’t shouting (or maybe the outdoors is the only thing capable of absorbing her voice) and just basically becomes really manageable. She makes me smile and fill with pride when she tells me that she is getting worn out, yet continues to climb the hill. Hiking really has a magical effect on her. I can relax a lot when we are on the trails, because I don’t have to tell her to speak softly, or attempt to keep her from running away from me. In fact, I encourage her to hike a couple-hundred feet ahead of me so that she feels independent and confident. It does our relationship so much good!
Your own temperament will greatly influence that of the kids around you. Sure, you can’t keep them from getting upset all of the time (they have a right to be ticked-off at that false-summit, just the same as you), but you can help keep the tone positive. At one point on our trip last year, the rain was starting to come down, and of course we had NO CLUE where our destination was. We decided that the dads would run ahead, while the moms stayed back with the kids. We set up a tarp, got out snacks, and broke out the phone with downloaded episodes of Sofia the First. This was the first time that I ever had to use my space blanket (seriously, we have had it since my brother was in Boy Scouts). It wasn’t a dire situation (mostly because we were prepared to handle it), however it was definitely a little bit worrisome. But we played it cool, and the kids just thought that we had finally given in to their demands. Had we panicked, the kids would have certainly been hysterical.

Just avoiding the rain!

Just avoiding the rain!

The quote that I leave you with is one that I have found describes why I love hiking and backpacking. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, I suspect that it will resonate with you, as well.
“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” -Yvon Chouinard
When you are preparing yourself for things to go wrong, you are really just getting ready for adventure.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?