Running from the Law: Spring Family Hiking & What to Pack

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Family Hiking & What to Pack

Happy second day of spring everyone! I feel like I've been counting down the days and hours until warmer weather was upon us and we could all get outside and explore. With little kids that refuse to keep gloves on and insist on jumping in puddles and getting as wet and dirty as possible, warmer weather certainly has it's advantages. But don't get me wrong, the winter weather certainly hasn't keep us completely indoors for the last few months -- we are a family that loves being outside and loves "gear," so we make any weather work for whatever adventure we want to do. Therefore, when the first day of spring rolled in and we woke up to a blanket of snow on the ground, we certainly didn't let it stop us from our plans to take the kids hiking. 

For us, hiking is one of those activities we do year-round, which is part of the fun. The exact same trail can feel completely different depending on when you hike it. In the summer, the trees are in full bloom and the trails can be shadowy, damp and lush. In the fall, the trails are bright and airy and covered in gorgeous colored leaves. In the winter, the trees are bare, the forest feels wide open and you can see for miles in any direction. And in the spring, the green is just beginning to reappear and the wildlife is incredibly active, leading to all kinds of close encounters with deer, squirrels, rabbits and birds. 
The weather here in Missouri has been crazy lately (always). Last weekend was warm and rainy and the kids were wearing shorts and t-shirts by Wednesday. Things started cooling back off again on Saturday and yesterday (Sunday) we woke up to snow! While not completely unheard of or out of the realm of possibility, the snow was certainly a shock to my system and had me double-guessing myself for already putting the majority of my sweaters in storage. Lesson learned. However, the kids didn't seem to mind or care that it was cold and gladly would have donned their bathing suits for the hike so long as it meant we got out of the house and do some exploring (or 'sploring, as Mac calls it). 
Mac is a great little hiker. Like a true first born child, he loves leading the way, telling us all where to go and bossing us around. He takes it upon himself to clear our path of sticks, test out any benches and let us know if we picked a good (or bad) trail. In his opinion, good trails have lots of mud puddles, cross creeks and have good places to hide from your parent. Mim, on the other hand, is still getting used to hiking. She does really well for the first half of the hike and insists on walking on her own and chasing after Mac. But eventually (after about 15 minutes) she gets tired of tripping over sticks and her own feet, so Ryan and I end up carrying her back. We've thought about getting a hiking backpack (we had one we used a lot when she was smaller), but we know as soon as we pull the trigger and buy one she'll insist on walking the entire trail with us, so we're basically just waiting it out. 
Since it's that time of year when everyone wants to get outside and explore, I thought I'd make life a bit easier for you and give you my list of 15 things to pack when hiking with kids. I have this stuff packed in a bag and ready to take with us anytime we go hiking and yet it still takes us 45 minutes to get out the door...someone please tell me when (if ever) it get easier. My hope is that by giving you this list in advance, it'll only take you 45 minutes to get out the door, instead of 3.5 hours. However, I will not be holding my breath. 
1. Snacks - If your kids are anything like mine, they need to eat about every 20 minutes, regardless of where they are or what they're doing. It is not surprising at all to hear, "I need a snack" before we even reach the trailhead, so we tend to carry quite a few snacks with us. Our favorites are beef jerky, cashews, dried fruit, trail mix, applesauce pouches, gummy bears, granola bars and pretzels. Carbs for the win!

2. First Aid Kit - While I'm incredibly thankful that we haven't ever had to use our first aid kit, we carry it with us just in case. It's a basic case that can treat up to four people and contains a variety of bandages, cold pack, medicines and safety gear. But make sure your kit is kid-friendly - most kits are geared toward adults, so add kid-friendly medicines and bandages, if needed.

3. Pocket Knife/Multi-tool - A pocket knife or multi-tool comes in handy when you're hiking more than you'd ever guess. Even on short hikes with little ones and dogs, we use this to clear the trail of thorn bushes, cut briers out of the dog's fur and a million other things. 

4. Towels - When hiking (or doing anything) with kids, you can never have too many towels around.  Kids are a mess! We always make sure to have a towel with us in case someone falls in the creek or gets a little too aggressive with a mud puddle.

5. Water bottle - Why is it that the moment you step outside, everyone is dying of thirst? Trust me, it happens. You'll be asked for water 900 times in the course of 30 minutes. Maybe take a couple water bottles for each kid and one for the adults. 

6. Anti-bacterial hand wipes - Because there are no bathrooms on the trails. Enough said.

7. Tissues - Snot happens year-round. 

8. Lip balm with SPF - This one is pretty self-explanatory. I'm a big believer in sunscreen and making sure that everything is covered, including your lips. 

9. Sunscreen - Definitely a must-have if you're in a sunny place or doing a hike where you're out in the elements and exposed to sun. Even in the winter we put sunscreen on the kids faces if they're going to be in sun for any length of time. You can never be too careful.

10. Sunglasses - Not only do sunglasses help with the glare from the sun for the kids, but they protect your kids eyes from branches and sticks that could otherwise hurt them.  

11. Diapers - Similar to your kids being thirsty as soon as they get on the trail, someone will need a diaper change as well. I almost never fails. We love these Huggies Little Snugglers because they're soft, cushiony and fit Mim better than any other diaper. No leaks! 

12. Rechargeable cell phone battery pack - This one may not be a necessity if you're not using your phone much during your hike, but if (like me) you tend to take billion photos of every outing and/or you are using your phone for GPS (if you're geocaching on your hike!), then a backup battery charger is always a good idea.

13. Bug spray - The woods in Missouri are thick with mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks, so we do not mess around with our bug spray. We like something with a low concentration of DEET that can be sprayed on 

14. Plastic bags - We use these to pack out dirty diapers, muddy clothes, empty bottles and any trash we create or find along the way. 

15. Baby wipes - These baby wipes clean up anything, from sticky hands to muddy feet. We use them for everything. 

Do you take your kids hiking?
What's in your hiking bag (what am I forgetting)?


  1. My husband and I LOVE HIKING!! WE hike whenever we can and hope one day to bring our kids with us. Great check list, thanks for sharing.

  2. Good for you for hiking with kiddos! I can hardly handle myself when I go hiking I'm such a baby when it comes to nature

  3. We love taking Owen out on hikes! We haven't gone together as a family since Luke was born, but I'm sure we will as the weather gets warmer. Great photos!

  4. I haven't taken my kids hiking yet, but this information is so helpful! Great list to keep in mind for our outdoor adventures, in general. Pinning this for later. Thanks for sharing these tips, Sara! [client]

  5. Oh how fun! I wish there were more hiking trails around us. We do go hiking every chance we get when traveling, though. Great tips on what to pack! I am saving this for our next camping trip. Love all of the pictures of your sweet family!