If you follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you know we love the outdoors! One of my personal favorite outdoor activities is hiking. My family and I love to take family days and go hike one of the many Arkansas trails. Since my kids are young and often times we wind up carrying them both, we try to pick easy to moderate trails so that it’s easy enough for my 3 year old to walk the majority of the way and in case he tires out, it’s short enough that I don’t exhaust myself packing that extra 35lbs out.
Speaking of packs, if you have children under the age of 4, I highly suggest you purchase a child carrier for those occasions. It will make the hike much more enjoyable for everyone. I have had to carry a kid out of a trail on my hip and let me tell you, that makes a trip not fun really quick. With a pack, you can carry in essentials you need with kids and if they get tired, you have a really good way to get them back out. So if you want to start hiking with your kids, you will want to get a good child carrier emphases are on the GOOD. Please don’t buy a cheap carrier. I know it’s a lot of money but you will regret a cheap carrier after you painfully carry a 3 year old on a hike.
Here are a few packs I recommend and a short list of essentials you might need for kids.
For your over 1 year old.
- Kelty – Anything Kelty made for carrying kids.
- Deuter – Great brand and good packs.
- Osprey – Another great brand and one I considered and would consider again if I buy another pack.
If you have a kid under 1 like I do, you will need a bit different pack because until about 1 year old, a baby doesn’t have the neck strength to handle the jostling around of a larger pack. Whatever you get, consider how the baby sits in the carrier. Hip and leg placement are important for a growing baby
- Erogobaby – Get the 360 so you can carry them forward or backwards.
- Babybjorn – We prefer the Erogobaby but this is a good pack too.
- Solly Wrap – http://sollybaby.com. These work fine while you baby is 5 or 6 months or under. They are lightweight and cool.
- Water – Enough for you and your kids
- Snacks – They always get hungry on a hike even if it’s 20 yards. Take good snacks that promote energy not sugary gummy bears or such.
- Extra clothes – Often overlooked, if there is water on the trail then it is likely you kids will get soaked.
- Diapers – If your kids are diaper age, you will for sure want to bring some with. Probably more than one.
- Wipes – Not just for changing kids but cleaning them up if they take a spill or get all muddy in that water they played in.
Some additional gear you will want to consider for both you and your kids.
- Rain gear – We just got back from a hike where it poured on us the whole way back. This isn’t something we mind so much as it adds to the adventure but not all people like this sort of thing.
- Extra clothes for you – If you are packing a kid, you will want a fresh shirt when you get back. Trust me on this one. Also your feet may get wet and you may not like wet socks and shoes on the way home.
Gear for your kids
Shoes – The right gear for you kids will help them have an enjoyable experience and want to continue hiking and promote a lifelong love for the outdoors. The biggest choice in this area you have to make is finding shoes your kids can hike in that are comfortable. This is hard since sometimes it’s difficult to figure out if shoes are hurting you kids feet or not. A suggestion would be to remove their shoes often on the first hike and see if they are rubbing their feet anywhere. If it’s dry and flat without a lot of rocks, tennis shoes are fine but anything beyond that and you will want them to have a better shoe for hiking. Things to consider on any hiking shoe is how well it protects the toes, the tread on the bottom and its ability to grip in dry or wet conditions.
Another challenge with this is cost. Kids hiking shoes are downright expensive. Since kids grow out of shoes so quickly the cost can quickly go out the roof. To combat this, I buy used. Ebay is a treasure trove for used kids hiking shoes. I have purchased at least two pair from Ebay and they were in excellent condition for $25 or less. My 3 year old is currently wearing Keen’s waterproof shoe, the kind that is sandal on top and hiking shoe through the toe and bottom. They were pretty much new and I paid $24 with shipping. Go brand not cheap. Again a good hiking shoe will possess the quality and features you are looking for. All hiking shoes are not created equal. Merrell, Keen and other brand shoes are all good. Don’t go to Walmart or Target and get hiking shoes for you or your kids.
Gear for you
Shoes – Shoes for you are no different than for you kids. The same applies. Get a good brand name that fits well. I recommend going and trying on several different pair before you buy. Also keep in mind you likely will be carrying an extra 30-40 pounds if you are packing a kid. Make sure the shoes are rated for that. Tennis shoes are NOT rated for carrying anything but you. Don’t pack your kid with tennis shoes, sandals or the likes. For sure never wear flip-flops on a trail. (I see this all the time) Your toes are not protected and neither are your arches. It’s important to keep your feet healthy if you want to keep hiking.
Rain Gear – Pack in at least a jacket and make sure it is actually waterproof. Also, make sure it’s breathable as those that are not can get really hot fast and you can lose a lot of hydration during a hike.
Socks – Depending on the hike you may want to consider some wool or performance socks rather than just cotton.
Shirts and Pants – You can get as techy as you like. I generally take a pair of Columbia or even Magellan hiking pants and they work fine. The convertible ones (the legs zip off) can come in handy. For long hikes you may want to upgrade all this gear but for short hikes it will be fine.
Arkansas is one of the most beautiful states for hiking with lots of great hiking venues. Here are a few trails you could consider hiking.
- Petite Jean State Park – They have several trails but our favorite is the hike to the waterfall.
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park – They have a base trail that is great for kids. One side meanders alongside a creek and ends at a railroad track. Both sides are pretty flat but have lots of rocks on the trail. The hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain is a bit challenging. I did pack my oldest to the top when he was 2. It was challenging to say the least but we did make it and it was awesome for him to get that experience at such an early age.
- Devils Den – Anything there is great to hike.
- JFK National Park – This is a great place to camp and then adventure the various trails there as well as across the river.
Here is a significant list of one-day hiking trails around Arkansas. Some I have hiked and some I have not. http://www.arkansas.com/outdoors/hiking/hikes/?page=1&pageSize=25&trailTypes=1
Hiking with your kids can be an awesome adventure for you and your family. It encourages them to love the outdoors and you get to spend a lot of quality time with them. We love our family hikes and try to do it as often as we can. I encourage you to do the same!