Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Packing the first aid supplies to handle the most common problems on the trail

Supplies for a family day hike

There are several great first aid kits on the market designed specifically for hiking. Most of these first aid kits are great starters to be ready for minor medical issues on the trail. However, there are several additional items that should be added to your pack to ensure you are prepared for most situations when hiking with children.

Pain relief: Many kits contain either Tylenol or Advil, but usually only for one or two adults. Consider the number of hikers in your group and the age of the hikers. It is good to include additional pain relief medication that is age-appropriate (e.g. children's Tylenol) in case children complain of headaches or pains while on the trail (Note: before you give you child medication, the headache may be a sign of dehydration or hunger so always best to investigate the source of the headache). If you would rather not give your children medication, there are some wonderful homeopathic pain relief items you can bring instead.

Splint/Stabilizer: All though you may never need it, on long hikes or backpacking trips you may consider how to create a saint. There are several items you probably already carry that can be used as a brace. Hiking poles and tent poles can be used as a splint. You will need to use a soft layer against the skin like a puffy coat or a long sleeve shirt and something like rope or gauze bandages to hold the saint in place. Here is a great article that describes how to set a splint in the backcountry.

Sun protection/sunburn relief: Bringing sunscreen on even a cloudy day is essential. Although you may seem protected in the tree cover, the sun can penetrate the canopy. Once you are above the tree line, you are fully exposed to the sun. As we all know the sun has become much more intense over the years and can burn skin a lot quicker. Besides the pain of a sunburn, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heatstroke you need to consider. Apply sunscreen before you begin your hike especially to children. Avoid putting it on their forehead and hands so it does not run into their eyes or they don't rub it into their eyes or mouth. A hat to protect their forehead and eyes is best. A special hiking hat they have picked out usually gets them to wear it. Reapply sunscreen according to the instructions or if it has been washed away by rain or a dip in the water. You may also wish to reapply above the tree line for good measure.

Bug spray: Ah bugs spray. This should be brought on all hiking trips. Black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies are the most common biting insects you may encounter. The most effective bug sprays contain Deet with different % levels. Usually the higher the Deet the more effective in repelling insects, however, use caution when using Deet.

There are repellents that do not contain Deet that can be effective. 

Another consideration is not mixing insect repellent brands. Although their purpose is the same their chemical make up is different and may have a chemical reaction on the skin which can cause a burn. Avoid getting insect repellent in eyes or on open wounds as it will sting.

Insect sting relief: Carrying items to relieve insect bites and stings may ensure you are able to continue your hike. After bite is one common insect relief product that comes in kids' safe and adult versions. Simply apply to the affected area to relieve the itching. Another treatment is hydrocortisone you can also purchase at a pharmacy that helps relieve the itching. Benadryl can also help, however, I would suggest that it is administered after you have completed hiking for the day as it may cause drowsiness or a hyper state which both are not conducive to hiking.

Poison ivy/poison oak treatment: Poison ivy, oak or sumac are all possibilities while hiking. Leaves of three, let it be is a good guideline, however sometimes it is hidden. It is the oil of the plant that causes the reaction that is why even if it gets on clothes it can be transferred to the skin. Avoid scratching the area and the oil can be transferred to your fingers and spread to other areas of the body. 

Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions: Allergy medications is extremely important to carry especially if someone in your group has known allergies. An unexpected allergic reaction can happen at any time and over the counter medication is usually very effective. Ensure you bring nondrowsy and age-appropriate. If someone experiences an unknown allergy and is causing distress call 911 and follow the dispatcher's instructions before giving any medication.

Prescription medications (e.g., antibiotics): Carry all medications with you on a hike: a venting, antibiotics, diabetic supplies, and any other medication that would cause serious issues if missed. Getting lost is not expected but if someone in your group has a medical condition that is dependant on medication, carry it with you on your hike. Better safe than sorry.

Injectable epinephrine (for severe allergic reactions): For those with severe allergies that an epic-pen is required to carry it at all times. Even if the allergen may not be a possibility, you never know if another hiker had the allergic on the trail and you come in contact with it. Other allergic reactions may become more severe and an epi-pen may need to be administered before you reach medical help. Do not administer an epic-pen if the reaction is not severe or if you are unsure if it is an allergic reaction. Seek medical help if a hiker becomes in distress.

Blister repair: Many first aid kits contain minimal blister relief, however, it is usually for one or two blisters at most. Adding Moleskin and or second skin to your kit will ensure you have enough to go around. We recommend the sheets of moleskin and scissors to cut to the appropriate size required. We have found that the pre-cut moleskin does not always cover a larger hotspot and is less adhesive and thinner than the sheets. (Note: it is also important to investigate the source of the hotspot, such as the quality of the boots, wet socks that are creating friction, etc.).

Steri strips: Most kits do not contain steri strips. Steri strips are used to close a cut that may require stitches. If someone happens to slip on a rock and cuts their skin, it may be a while before you can seek medical attention. Steri strips can be used when a cut may require stitches so that you can close the cut and stop the bleeding until you are able to get medical help.

Larger pieces of gauze: Most kits contain a few small pieces. Carry a few larger pieces just in case. This can help to cover a large scrape so that dirt does not get into the cut. Large pieces of gauze can also be used to clean a wound, without further contaminating the spot until you are able to better clean the wound once off the trail.

Hand sanitizer: There are no handwashing stations on a hike so carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer to ensure your hands are clean before eating a snack is extremely recommended. It may also be used to sanitize other items as well. In a pinch, you could use it to clean a wound if you do not have antiseptic wipes.

Tweezers: For removing splinters, ticks, and removing debris from wounds.

Cornstarch/Monkey Butt: Cornstarch is not just for baking! It can also act as a drying agent to reduce friction on hotspots. These products can be used on all parts of the body including feet, armpits, thighs, and yes your children's butt. Heat and friction can create raw irritation so body parts (this is especially a concern for children who do not properly wipe their bums before going on a hike, causing them discomfort, itching, and pain. Applying a drying agent will reduce the discomfort and stop the itching.

Diarrhea medication: The all familiar pink Pepto tabs may come in handy while out on the trail. The last meal you ate, the water you drank, heatstroke, IBS for whatever the reason diarrhea creeps up on a hiker in your group. Carrying diarrhea medication may come in handy. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and extreme discomfort so getting it under control as quickly as possible is important. You can get several types of medication for diarrhea or constipation which can also cause extreme discomfort.

Feminine hygiene products: This is a must in your first aid pack even if you have no females in your hiking group. Obviously, if hiking with females having an emergency supply of feminine hygiene products as it can come on without notice at times can be a hike saver. However, feminine hygiene protects can also be used as a medical supply to control bleeding. It is very absorbent so if someone gets a cut and doesn't seem to stop bleeding a feminine hygiene product can be used to get control of the bleeding.

Chapstick: Dry chapped lips are uncomfortable and can crack and bleed. A neutral-flavored chapstick will help. Children can carry their own chapstick while on the trail so they can apply it whenever they feel their lips feel dry.

Water treatment tablets: Although you feel you have enough hydration for the trip, it is better to carrying water treatment tabs just in case. Your filter may clog, you forgot the filter, you don't have a life straw, you split your water, whatever the case you need water and filtering is not an option. Carrying these small tabs to add to the water to make it drinkable can be life-saving and take up very little room.

Firestarter supplies: If the weather turns on you or you get lost and you are unable to complete the trail, sometimes you will need to hang tight for a while (waiting for the rain to stop or until the morning light). Starting a fire to keep warm for the night might be necessary. Another reason for starting a fire maybe because you need to boil water if there isn’t a clean water source or if your filters are not doing their job. There are times when boiling water may be your only option to stay hydrated.

Warming blankets: These are usually in hikers medical kits but not enough for everyone in your hiking party. These are the blankets that look like tin foil. They help retain heat. An unexpected night in the bush should always be anticipated.

Small notepad with a waterproof pen: A waterproof pen and note pad can be used for several things. Taking notes about the trail or animals you say, but it can also come in handy in case of an emergency. Taking notes of landmarks you saw if you are lost, keeping track of a person who is injured condition, or using a few sheets to help start a fire are all reasons to carry this along with you.


Let's hope you never have to use it, however, you should always be prepared in case the supplies are needed.

The standard stock first aid kits are a great start but we recommend adding enough items for everyone in your party and to make sure you bring special supplies for your children.

Sunburn relief may be something you wish to carry as well. Some people burn extremely easily or you may have forgotten to apply sunscreen. Having burn relief can come in hand. You can get the aloe-based creams or wipes that you can keep in your first aid supplies. It is essential to check these items before heading out to ensure you have enough for everyone in your party and that it has not expired or degraded due to exposure to heat.

A sting is treated a little differently depending on the number of stings acquired. For a few things, some natural techniques will provide some relief. A copper pen placed on the sting site, aloe, and ice all provide some relief. If someone has sustained several stings it is best to seek medical attention. Allergy medication also can provide some relief.

Setting out on any trail requires preparation. A fully stocked first-aid kit is one of the most important items you must carry.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Kids on crack! The hidden gem in Killarney Provincial Park

Kids on Crack!

Welcome to the hidden gem close to Sudbury Ontario on the North Shore of Georgian Bay.  The Killarney Provincial Park offers a unique family adventure with camping, canoeing and hiking trails, including peak seeking. 


The campground contains electrical and non electrical sites and well as 6 heated Yerts you can rent.  We usually bring our trailer with us.  Most sites are both large and private.  You can find more information about the Killarney Provincial Park on their website.   If you don't want to stay at the campground the town of Killarney has a few hotels and the city of Sudbury is not too far away.

La Cloche Silhouette Trail (7-10 days)

This is a 78 km or 48 mile backpacking loop.  The trail head starts at one side of the provincial parks and completes the loop at the other side of the park.  It contains may unique features along the loop including quartzite peaks of the La Cloche Mountain range.  the complete the full loop, it generally takes 7-10 to complete and there are some spectacular campsites along the way.

We completed this trail in our early 20's and loved it.  We plan on doing it again with our children.  However you do not have to do the entire loop to enjoy the trail.  You can do day hikes from the campground as in and out trails.  Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to your campsite by retraining your steps back.

Silver Peak (Full day)

Silver Peak does not disappoint.  Silver Peak is 539 metres in elevation.  The granitized rock stands out in the sea of forest.  Cliffs, rock formations and the shores of Georgian Bay are stunning.

The best (and most adventurous for children) to climb to the top of Silver Peak is to enter at Bell Lake by canoe (you can rent these at the lake at the Killarney Outfitters).  Once you get in your canoe, you will see Silver Peak in the distance and so you just canoe towards it for approximately 3 kilometres.  

Silver Peak in the distance
After 3 km of canoeing, you will see a wooden dock near the base of the mountain.  This dock is used to exit the canoes and join up to the Silver Peak trail by foot.  But before leaving your canoe, make sure you lift it to higher ground and flip it over so everything stays dry (paddles, life jackets).

Posing in front of canoes before making trip to Silver Peak

The hike up to Silver Peak is 5.5 kilometres one way so you will want to give yourself plenty of time to get back down as you will still need to canoe back to the outfitters before they close up shop for the night.

Once on the trail, it starts off fairly flat.  The trail is wide (also used for portaging) and easy to hike.  This hike would be spectacular to do in the fall with all of the different colours (on our bucket list of fall hikes!). This part of the trail provides passes through a number of wetlands and hardwood forests and is a great plate to view a variety of wildflowers and ferns. 

Making our way up to Silver Peak

The last hour of the trail is steep and strenuous.  We went fairly slow through this part and took a lot of breaks to catch our breath. On rainy days, this part of the trail could be tricky with slick rocks and loose footing.  Although at times challenging, the strain is worth it once you reach the peak!

At the top of Silver Peak

The top of Silver Peak is memorable.  Although not huge in elevation compared to other mountain ranges, the views are just as spectacular (and arguably more impressive because the views become less clear once you get higher in elevation).  The La Cloche Mountain range is over 2 billion years old and the white quartzite is perhaps the most recognizable feature of the peak as you are fully surrounded by this amazing plateau of white rocks.  

Depending on the year, the peak can provide a great opportunity to pick blueberries.  We filled two water containers of blueberries in a very short time, which we used for blueberry pancakes the next morning).

Picking blueberries 

The Crack (4-6 hours)

The Crack is an 11 km in-out trail, which takes about 6 hours with children (stopping at the top to pick blueberries).  The beginning of the trail is relatively easy with some ups and downs.  Nothing too technical in the early parts of the trail.  Once you get onto the Crack, this section has a split creating a large crevasse.  The crevasse is steep with jagged rocks and is the trickiest part of this hike.  The children in this section stayed close so we could all assist each other up.   

Once you reach the top of the Crack you are treated to a remarkable view and feeling of accomplishment.  The granitized rock is beautiful.  

The views from the top of the Crack is spectacular with views of hardwood forests, white granite rocks and teal blue lakes.  The colour contrast is remarkable and will have you wanting to come back as the pictures will never be able to capture it. 

The White Quartz Ridge was remarkable

Cairn of white granite


Killarney Provincial Park does not disappoint.  The hiking is spectacular and provides wonderful opportunities to complete day hike in combination with canoeing, scramble up a giant crack in the mountain and challenge the family to a longer 7 day hike.  The peaks are breathtaking, the camping is relaxing and the overall scenery is breathtaking.  Who would have thought a mountain range near Sudbury Ontario would be so amazing! 

Added bonus: Make sure you go into the town of Killarney where you can purchase the most amazing fish and chips from the docks of Georgian Bay. Herbert Fisheries is by far an added bonus on this trip and great for a long day hike.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

How to use hiking gamification to engage children on the trail

With the amazing views above the tree line, our family became hooked on peak seeking.  But it was the gamification of collecting patches that got us hooked on completing the 46ers in the Adirondacks!  Here is how it happened...

As our preferred family time together, have always been committed to spending our time together camping, hiking, and outdoor adventures, but completing the 46ers has only recently been put on our radar.  Most of our family hikes have consist of local trails where we pack a lunch and set out for the day to rediscover the amazing outdoor spaces. We had previously hiked some small mountains, like Bear Mountain in New York and La Cloche in north-eastern Ontario but nowhere near the elevation of the Adirondack mountain range.  

We have always enjoyed our family hikes, but more recently we have been looking for the next big adventure (the next cool waterfall, a mountain with amazing views, a location we have yet to discover). 

The Adirondacks seemed like the perfect leveling up in our adventure quest.  The mountain range was relatively close to home (a five-hour drive across the border into the United States from Canada) and it offered the opportunity to test our skills and endurance as a hiking family.  

On our first trip to the Adirondacks, we summited Algonquin and Wright and we could not believe the amazing views from the top of the mountains. The peaks were well worth the effort (and pain) to make it to the top of the mountain and I was very pleased with just how well our children did on the hikes, especially on the long hiking day with some grueling climbs to the top of the mountains.

On our way home, we stopped in Lake Placid to look around at the local shops, as the children wanted some souvenirs from the trip. Most stores had all of the typical souvenirs: sweatshirts, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, etc.  But then we went into a store and found patches of the two mountains we had just climbed, and 44 other patches of mountains we could climb in the future.  Although our legs and feet were still sore from the long hike, we talked about how amazing it would be to come back every summer to hike more peaks and to eventually collect all of the patches from the 46ers.  And just like that, we were hooked.  The children talked about where they would put the patches.  One wanted them sowed on a sweater, the other wanted them on a blanket for her bed and the other wanted to make curtains with the patches to hang in her room.  

There are so many amazing feelings when we are on top of the mountains and so many great reasons for coming back, but we would be lying to ourselves if we did not admit that we also like gamification of collecting the patches and its influence on our commitment to complete the 46ers (why else would anybody hike up to Street Mountain!).     

The use of gamification in parenting 

The concept of gamification, also known as game theory or game-based mechanics, has traditionally focused on gaming activities on digital devices, such as computers, smartphones, and wearables with users earning gaming elements such as points and virtual badges.  

We find gamification strategies in our loyalty programs that give us points for purchases, in our watches that reward us with virtual badges for accomplishing our steps for the day and in our apps that track our fitness.  But the study of gamification has been gaining traction outside of the digital world.  Research has recently shown for example that adding games to family activities helps to make them more enjoyable and can have an important role to play in encouraging children and youth to engage in physical activity

As a buzzword, gamification is only a few years old, but parents have been using these same strategies on kids forever.   The gamification of parenting (aka positive rewards parenting) involves adding gaming elements to everyday tasks, such as scoring stickers for cleaned bedrooms, adding competition morning routines, winning prizes for good report cards and leveling up allowances for good deeds (Not sure if we could have ever potty trained without the use of stickers!!) 

Hiking gamification 

Hiking gamification is different than just tricking children to make hiking seem fun. It's about validating and rewarding children’s accomplishments and encouraging positive growth.  It is about providing children with the motivation to reach goals and to document their achievements. It is about acknowledging that there are parts of hiking that can be challenging (e.g. pushing the last hour to the summit, walking the long trail back to the car, feeling sticky and cold from the rain, etc.) and rewarding them for persevering beyond the challenges and obstacles.     

There are many ways to integrate gamification into hiking with children:
  • Giving children patches for completed mountain tops; 
  • Certificates of completion for long trails so that children can hang them on the walls in the room;
  • Virtual badges on their smartphone devices for reaching their step goals while on the trail;
  • Competing in a scavenger hunt of items typically found in the forest and giving points for the person with the most items found while on the trail; 
  • Have children take pictures along the trail and then post them to social media to see which one gets the most ‘likes’
  • Stopping at an ice cream store after hikes to celebrate a job well done;
  • Allow children to buy new hiking boots after they have reached a specified target goal. 

Parents should experiment with different types of gamification and its impact on motivation and engagement with the sport.  Not all children will respond to the same types of rewards so it is important to make sure the reward system meets the specific needs and interests of the child.

The limits of hiking gamification 

Hiking gamification is only a tool and, like everything parenting related, it needs to be used in moderation.  Using hiking gamification is about finding the right balance for your family. It can be great when it’s a fun incentive for your children to do push to the mountain top but relying too heavily on gamifying every challenge runs the risk of imparting the wrong message about the benefits of hiking.   

Hiking as a family is about reconnecting, spending time together in the outdoors, and away from everyday distractions.  Too much focus on games and rewards can distract from the enjoyment of walking in the woods and soaking in all of the amazing discoveries that nature has to offer. 

The ultimate prize of hiking does not come from a badge, a treat, or the ice cream cone after the hike, but rather from the thrill of being in nature and hiking together as a family.  


As a hiking family, we are committed to the enjoyment of outdoor spaces and spending time on the trails together.  Hiking is an activity that we do as a family to stay connected and to participate in shared activities.  The motivation to hike as a family is based on shared meaning and enjoyment of spending time together.  

Gamification is a tool that we can use as parents to help our children get over the obstacles on the trail and to motivate them to accomplish tasks that they find difficult or challenging and to focus on our shared activity when life seems too busy to carve out time to spend together.  We continue to enjoy all kinds of hiking trails, but gamification keeps us on track for completing the 46ers. Once we do, we will be looking again for our next big adventure.