Preparing for an overnight tramp is busy. Gear must be gathered, food must be prepared, documents must be checked. All the while you're attending to your regularly scheduled parenting duties and supporting your children to join in the process of planning and packing. In the buzz of activity, it's easy to overlook some of the most crucial elements of the preparations. Here are seven mistakes to avoid when tramping with kids:
- Don’t be an aimless wanderer. Ensure you make your trip intentions clear. Check in at the closest visitor centre or DOC office, sign the log book, and complete the hut register. Tell someone reliable where you are going, the path you intend to take, and when you will be back in contact. Let them know what to if they don’t hear from you at the allocated time. The full procedure is outlined at AdventureSmart.
- Don’t get lost. Keep track of where you are. Depending on your skills, experience and the trip plan, you can do this with a map, compass, GPS, or just a plain old watch on a marked trail. Track your progress so you don’t get caught out. If you’re going off track into some serious backcountry, consider bringing a personal locator beacon.
- Don’t under pack. Bring the things you need. Leaving behind a spare set of clothing when you’re cold and wet or sunscreen and a hat when it’s scorching can ruin your enjoyment of the trip, make you sick, or put you in danger due to hypothermia or heat stroke. At the very least, it'll make the kids complain. And NOBODY wants that. This post has a printable list of items to bring tramping.
- Don’t overpack. How’s that for mixed messages? But under and overpacking are both legitimate concerns. Carrying too much gear is uncomfortable. It will slow your pace and put you at risk of injury. Instead, pack efficiently and spread the load between everyone on your trip. Consider each item that you’ve packed and ensure it’s important enough to bring along. Even the kids can carry little loads, but don’t overload them either. Kids backpacks shouldn’t be more than 10 to 20 percent of the child’s weight.
- Don’t bring stuff to entertain the kids. Or not too much stuff anyway. They might have moments of boredom as they adjust to life without iPads, but they’ll figure it out. Instead of stuff, give them space to explore, to find special rocks and sticks, to point out native birds and mushrooms, and to chat with you. My kids (four and seven) like to bring their own knives for whittling. (It’s not that scary, I promise! Start with chopping vegetables and they’ll be onto sticks in no time). If you don’t have space to pack a bedtime story, take turns telling stories instead. You can retell old favourites, reminisce about your childhood, or make up new tales.
- Don’t underestimate the weather. It can change really quickly, and let’s face it, even the professionals have a hard time accurately predicting the weather in New Zealand. If you’ve been in the bush for more than a day, ask other trampers or DOC rangers about the current forecast. As required, change your plans to stay safe.
- Don’t forget the dried mangoes. Develop a special tradition to celebrate the journey and reaching the destination. In our family, we celebrate the hut, the peak, or the waterfall with a round of dried mangoes and a group photo. Sometimes we drop peanut M&Ms along the track as we walk for the junior foragers to find. Be sure to bring some extra special motivation for your family.
Make your list, check it twice, get out there, and enjoy!