A couple weekends ago, my wife and I made it our annual summer tradition to take our little children backpacking. We chose the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness between Vail and Aspen, Colorado as our destination, since the trail started at high elevation, which meant we wouldn’t need to hike far or climb high to get into the alpine. This area also gets very little human traffic, since it requires driving a long way on back roads. Our oldest girl is 3 and the youngest is barely 1- which presents a few added challenges.
Obviously, weight can be a big problem. With two small children that need to be carried, both parents must either each have a child carrier backpack and split supplies between them, or, one parents must find a way to carry both children, and the other must carry all of the supplies. In our case, my wife decided to carry both of our daughters. With our Osprey Poco pack (the best child carrier backpack in my opinion) she was able to haul our 3 year old in the main child compartment, and in the limited storage in the pack carry the necessary diapers, spare clothes, and even our tarp-tent. Since our youngest daughter is only 1, my wife was able to carry her on a lighter, cloth chest carrier.
In my pack, I carried most of our gear: including three lightweight down sleeping bags, two-days worth of food in a bear canister, one Jetboil cooking system, ground cloth, survival and medical gear. Lastly, both of us carried bear spray: an item that we don’t always carry when travelling alone- but with small children, we’d rather not take the risk.
As Ive said before, I also carry an emergency locator beacon built by ACR , called the ResQlink. It is a small piece of equipment that offers an indescribable feeling of security, knowing at the push of a button we can summon help if a dire emergency would arise. Having this piece of gear when taking small, fragile children into the backcountry can be the difference between staying close to home, or feeling comfortable enough to venture far into the unknown.
Well, our 2018 trip turned out to be a huge success. Our 3 year old walked nearly 3 of the 3.5 miles we hiked the first day! There were plenty of deer, elk, and bear tracks on the muddy trail to indulge in her curiosity. A baby-blue sky, and only a light rain that night, made the trip easy enough. Even being picky eaters at home, the girls loved our freeze-dried Backcountry Pantry meals of shepherds pie soup and New Orleans rice and beans. Granola bars, oatmeal, and the essential trail mix filled all our other food needs. Other than a couple poopy diapers at night, the weekend went by without any troubles.
It occured to us that at our children’s young age, our 3 year old might only vaguely remember these trips- and our 1 year old will surely have no recollection. But these trips are important in many other ways: one, there is value for my wife and I to know that even with small kids, we dont have to stay at home- or camp on the road to enjoy the outdoors. Secondly, whether or not these early trips have a serious impact on their memories, at least we hope it will give them an instinctual level of confidence traveling in the wilderness, as well as foster a love for wild places in their impressionable brains.