This article was published in the October 2017 issue of Wilderness magazine, available online and in print.  

You’ve put in the hard yards, your children have had plenty of experience succeeding on short walks, consistently carrying their own gear, and persisting, even when they are tired. You’ve become well-versed in telling stories, singing songs, and staying positive in the wake of whinging. You’ve given the kids a taste of the spectacular outdoors, they’ve loved it, and you are ready to tackle your first overnight tramp as a family. Now it’s just a matter of getting packed and ready to go.

As if it was so simple! It doesn’t matter how long the trip, packing and preparation tends to take me at least 5-6 hours. There is the matter of gathering all the gear and supplies, and ensuring they are functioning and there are spares where required (e.g., fuel and batteries), planning and shopping for meals and snacks, and packing these in such a way that they are convenient to access, protected from decay and damage, and waste is minimised; lastly, there is the double check. Even, and perhaps especially, experienced trampers forget things.

There is a legendary tale of our good friend Dale who set out on a week-long solo canoe trip. Dale is the kind of guy who makes a spreadsheet before any major purchases. He has a plan and a back up and a back up back up. He is always meticulous in his preparations, you'd give him your absolute trust in any situation, and it was no different this time. However, once he started out on his trip, it was only a matter of hours before he realised that he’d forgotten to pack his matches. He found 6 matches unintentionally included among his gear and set to work, tediously splitting them to make them last. After 3 days of pouring rain, he realised this oversight would be a deal breaker; he was forced to cut his trip short and head home.

In the past, we have forgotten toilet paper and on a recent trip with the kids, we only realised our camping stove was broken once we reached the hut. In both cases, we were lucky to have friends along who were willing able to share their T.P. and their stove. The morale of these stories: Always check, check, double check. Recently, Dan (6), Sadie (4), and I went on a two-night tramp in North Island winter. Below is a list of what we brought and how we carried it and here is a printable checklist.  

The kids each carried*:

  • Puffer jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Toque
  • Mittens
  • Head torch
  • Matches
  • Band-aids
  • Swiss army-style knife or multi-tool
  • Emergency blanket
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Full set of spare clothing (top, bottoms, undies, socks)
  • A fuzzy friend or a special book

I carried:

  • Puffer
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Sleeping bags x3
  • Pots
  • Stove & Fuel
  • Toilet paper
  • Toiletries: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, lip balm, sunscreen, insect repellent
  • Board games (Go Fish and Roll for It)
  • E-book stocked with bedtime stories
  • Full set of spare adult clothing:  Top, Bottoms, Undies, Socks
  • Additional kids’ clothing: Slippers, Extra socks, extra base layer(s), Extra undies
  • Head torch & spare batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Matches
  • Emergency blanket
  • Phone
  • Personal locator beacon (PLB, available for hire)
  • Wallet
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Map
  • Hut passes and printout of hut booking
  • Pen
  • Breakfast – e.g., Pancakes & tea
  • Lunch – e.g., Peanut butter & honey sandwiches
  • Dinner – e.g., cans of beans & corn chips
  • Treats, snacks, and desserts – apples, muesli bars, marshmallows, veggie sticks, peppermint tea
  • Dehydrated meal (emergency use)