What Items Do You Need to Prepare When Backpacking as a Family?

Going on a backpacking trip can be a great way to bring the family closer and make new memories together. Additionally, spending time outdoors comes with numerous health benefits — from eliminating stress and fatigue to improving focus and attention. These cognitive and physical effects are beneficial at any age but are especially important for your children as they grow and explore the world around them.

However, maximising these benefits as a family may take more time and effort than arranging kid-free travel. Fortunately, we’re here to help and make the planning process much more manageable. Whether it’s your first time or you simply want to make the next trip more memorable, here are the essential items to prepare and bring when backpacking with your family.

Backpack and outdoor gear

Since you’ll be wearing it for almost the entire duration of your trip, your choice of backpack can easily make or break your outdoor experience. Comfort and fit are critical, but you must also prioritise other factors like durability, pack anatomy, and storage space. Brands like Oakley that are oriented toward outdoor activities can help you find the right backpack for your budget and needs, alongside various sizes, designs, and materials to choose from. For example, the Road Trip Rc backpack is an excellent choice for its water-repellent surface and padded shoulder strap, providing all-day comfort and protection from changing weather conditions.

Getting an age-appropriate backpack for your children is equally important, too. The Wildkins Pack-It-All Backpack is big enough for younger kids without being too bulky or cumbersome, while the North Face Vault Everyday Backpack has a 27-litre capacity to offer older kids bigger space and more compartments. Together with your backpack, you’ll also be carrying outdoor gear like camping tents, sleeping bags, and headlamps to help you rest during full-day or overnight hikes.

Food and water

Whether you’re setting out for a short overnight hike or backpacking for multiple days, pack enough food and water for the entire family. While you can carry most food items with you, plan light and portable meals that are easy to prepare, such as breakfast casseroles and freeze-dried or ready-to-eat rice bowls. Whatever you bring, make sure that it’s tasty, filling, and something that the kids can look forward to eating after the long, tiring hikes.

Don’t forget to bring something to munch on while on the trail. Instead of sweets or salty chips, buy or prepare nutritious snacks like mixed nuts, wheat crackers, and protein bars. With essential nutrients like protein, fibre, and carbohydrates, these snacks can energise adults and kids alike for the rest of the hike. Meanwhile, be sure to stay hydrated and refuel by bringing insulated water bottles or tumblers with full-litre capacity.

Hygiene and first-aid kits

Personal care remains a top priority even when outdoors, so keep hygiene products and toiletries handy by storing them all in one kit. These items include but are not limited to toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand sanitiser, towels, toilet paper and wet wipes, and menstrual products. For sun protection, bring sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and SPF sunscreen.

Being outdoors also exposes you and your children to unwanted scratches, wounds, and bites. Thus, a first-aid kit with plasters, band-aids, medications, and treatments is essential. Lastly, always carry a sealable plastic bag or two to dispose of used tissues or medical supplies properly.

Clothing and footwear

You may think you have to buy a whole new wardrobe just for backpacking, but you can simply use what you already have. Choose comfortable clothes that allow freedom of movement and protect you from all types of outdoor elements, like the weather, plants, or bugs. For instance, select tops and bottoms with fabrics like nylon and polyester to help wick sweat away from your skin. For colder hiking conditions, consider layering a T-shirt or light long-sleeved top with a jacket so you can easily adjust and take it off if you generate heat while hiking.

When it comes to footwear, sneakers and running shoes work great for smooth and moderate trails. However, consider shoes with extra grip and support for your kids to avoid accidents or injuries. In this case, hiking boots like the KEEN Targhee Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot and the Merrel Moab 2 are practical choices for kids. Aside from their waterproof surfaces, their seam-sealed construction and excellent traction help your kids stay protected and comfortable even amid rocky and bumpy terrains.

Cooking supplies

Whether you need it to reheat or prepare meals at the campsite, a lightweight cooking setup can ensure the family’s well-fed throughout the trip. Aside from dishes, bowls, and pans, the best backpacking kitchen gear includes a fuel-efficient Primus Lite XL Stove so you can heat, boil, or sauté ingredients, as well as a GSI Outdoors 1.8L Tea Kettle for making coffee or adding hot water to your freeze-dried meals. Remember that fuel canisters are not allowed on aeroplanes, so prepare to buy one upon arrival if you’re flying to your backpacking destination.

Navigational devices

Navigational devices help ensure you’re on the right path and that even if you get lost, you can quickly get back on track and arrive at your destination in time. While there are dedicated GPS trackers for outdoor activities, there are also travel apps that allow you to use your smartphone to identify and select any routes you wish to follow. But these digital devices have their limits, so keep a map and a compass with you at all times. Your ability to read and interpret these traditional tools can go a long way if your GPS device or phone battery dies on you.

On top of these backpacking must-haves, remember that you’re travelling with kids. There’s always a risk of them getting bored or tired along the way, but this can be remedied by board games, puzzles, toys, children’s books, and rest periods. Despite any challenges the family may encounter, be patient, stay calm, and make sure everyone has the time to enjoy the wonders of nature throughout your backpacking trip. If you want a smooth and seamless holiday from start to finish, check out more tips on how you can take the stress out of planning family holidays.

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