It's the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council's Get Outdoors Week from 16th to 24th November. Will #GOWeekNZ provide you with extra inspiration to hit the trails for a tramp? Perhaps it's a local day walk you've been meaning to try or a favourite spot you haven't visited lately. Maybe you've been walking with your kids for awhile and want to try your first overnight tramp. Aren't sure where to start? You're not alone there.
“I want to be a tramping family. I want to raise outdoorsy kids,” an old friend of mine confessed, “but I’ve never done any of that, there is so much information and advice, and I don’t know where to start.” My friend had read that being outside has benefits for learning, relaxation, and relationships for kids and adults alike. She was motivated to get into it. With her children, she had done short walks, but mostly she exercised inside at the gym and the kids participated in organised sports. One trip to the outdoor store and she was overwhelmed and ready to give up before she'd begun.
To get her started, we planned a trip together and hooked her up with some expert resources.
Safety first. When it comes to getting outdoors in the bush, in the mountains, or at the beach, there are few important considerations.
- Plan your trip. You can find tramping inspiration at megdrive.com, wildernessmag.co.nz and tramper.nz. Be sure to check with the Department of Conservation or local authority for current track conditions and warnings.
- Know your limits. Ensure that the destination and activity suit the party's fitness and experience. In this case, we chose Dalys Clearing Hut in the Kaimai-Mamaku Conservation Park. The hut is close to the road end (5km) with well-marked trails. The track isn’t overly technical, unless you count hills and mud. My friend and her children (8 and 6) had done this sort of track on day walks and were fit enough to cover the distance with a heavier load. On the Department of Conservation website you can search for huts based on time from the road end.
- Share your plans. Tell someone where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and what to do if you don’t return when expected. The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has a Plan My Trip feature on the website. It takes less than 3 minutes to complete it and share it with a friend.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Change plans if you are unprepared for the conditions. We checked the weather the week leading up to the tramp and in the morning before we left. We also bumped into a Department of Conservation official on the second day of the tramp who gave us an update on the forecast.
- Pack sufficient and appropriate supplies. Here’s a printable list for overnight tramping with kids and one for day walks.
With safety covered, here are 3 tips for making your family's first overnight tramp a success.
- Let the kids set the pace. Most children I've tramped with seem to prefer this pace: sprint, stop, sprint, stop, sprint, stop... until they begin to fatigue and then it becomes: walk, pause, walk, pause, walk, pause. Now is a good time to stop for a rest before it becomes: stop, complain, stop, complain, stop, complain. Resist the urge to tell kids in the sprint, stop phase to slow down. The slow and steady (or fast and steady) adult pace doesn’t suit most children and you’ll find you get there faster with micro breaks. As the children get bigger, fewer breaks are needed and you’ll soon find that they keep up with you. And then pass you.
- Involve the kids in the planning. Waterfall? Summit view? Stream crossings? Swimming hole? Geocache? A new hut? An old favourite? Or maybe it's one of the games you play along the track. Find out what the kids are most looking forward to. Take turns being trip director.
- Involve the kids in the packing. Once you’ve decided where to go, get the kids to pack their own bags. If they can read, checklists work. Here's a link with more info about packing with kids and a checklist we use. If not, a photo checklist can be a lot of fun. Packing their own bag might involve choosing the tramping snack they get to carry. You might want to check the contents of their bags before you head off. You might ask them to check yours, too.
Check the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council's website for resources, to find out more about #GOWeekNZ and #MakeItHomeNZ