Extended Family walking in countryside
*The great outdoors is one of the best places to share lasting memories with the whole family. It doesn’t matter if it’s a national park, state forest or local trail through the woods, spending time outside with your family creates strong bonds, develops teamwork (everyone has to look out for each other) and gives the children an appreciation for something other than TV and an iPhone screen.

Hiking is a fun and safe activity so long as you’re prepared for the journey. Prepping for a family hike is a bit different than a solo or group hike with only adults, but it isn’t any more difficult. Whether it requires a trip to your local REI or Bass Pro Shop, or maybe just a quick run to Target for the bare essentials, this is the list that will prepare your family for safe, adventurous fun on the trail.

First Aid & Safety

Let’s get the essentials out of the way. Know that there will be cuts, bruises and blisters — it’s just part of the experience. To prevent a minor injury from getting worse, here are some tools you need:

  • Small, lightweight first aid kit that includes bandages, moleskin (for blisters), antiseptic cream and anti-inflammatory medication
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and other reliable skin care products
  • Lip balm
  • Lifestraw (in case you run out of water and need to drink from a stream or lake)
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Plenty of water

Clothing

The clothing you need depends on your climate and time of year, but there are some items that you’ll wear no matter what the conditions.

  • Good pair of hiking shoes with wool socks to wick away moisture
  • Durable pants or shorts with a decent stretch to allow for comfortable hiking
  • Synthetic shirt that doesn’t collect sweat (and steal heat from your body)
  • A hat to block the sun
  • Sunglasses with polarized lenses
  • Rain tarp (just in case)
  • Light jacket for cool mornings or evenings

Tools & Gear

The first aid and safety section covers your “just in case” items, but there are other tools and gear that make hiking fun and enjoyable for the whole family.

  • Child-carrying backpack for the really little ones
  • Books on identifying birds, animals and plants along the trail
  • A good knife or multitool
  • Hiking poles if there is a lot of elevation change
  • Backpacking stove to cook a hot lunch on the trail
  • Maps and compass (you can’t alway rely on GPS)

Great Resources

Preparing for a day hike with the family goes beyond a checklist. There are reputable resources available to help prepare you for the trail. Industry leaders like REI and Outside Online are great places to learn more about life outdoors and the gear you need to make it an enjoyable experience. Your local REI even has free classes for members to learn more about camping and hiking, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran.

Fun Extras

Hiking is all about the weight you carry and every ounce makes a difference. But what’s a day on the trail without some toys to make it fun? Bring a Frisbee, football, baseball and gloves, anything you want to make a good hike into a great expedition. Sometimes the extra pound or two is worth the trouble to make the outdoors just a little more interesting.