Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The right food and drinks is a game changer when hiking with kids

Snacks for every hike

Each hiking trip, long or small, should include a careful consideration of the types of food and hydration that will be required for the hike to make sure the day is pleasant and so you can always respond to the "I'm hungry" calls in the wild.

We can't stress enough that you should always have snacks on hand when hiking with kids (and have some snacks back in the car for when you get off the hike). 

Even for a short hike you should have snacks. Kids' metabolisms can run really high, even if they just ate.  In addition, you never know when an emergency can happen and the hike becomes longer than expected. 

Snacks are so much more than just loading up on power bars. There are so many great ideas for snacks for the trail and you will find that overtime, the power bars may be used for only emergencies (e.g. longer hikes than expected). 

Our kids do not have peanut allergies and they actually love the taste of peanut butter on the trail so we always try to bring a few different options.  For example, Jiffy makes individual packages of power balls in different flavours that kids love.  For hikes where we know we will be taking a break on a summit or at a nice spot along the trail, we like to bring bagels (mini bagels are also a great alternative) and the kids like to dip them in individual sized peanut butter or Nutella packages (just remember that all of this packaging must be packed out with you). These snacks provide the nutrition and the calories needed to replenish the energy spent on the hike.  

Dried meets like jerky and pepperettes are also a great choice to replenish on protein and sodium. However, the sodium can be high in these snacks so ensure you have enough to hydrate properly. 

We have found that for a quick boost or when someone is feeling sluggish, a nutritional supplement gummy is a good way to overcome the low point and to help kids get to the next break (this is especially important if you find yourself in a low area with lots of bugs and you need to find a better location to take a break). Stingers or Gatorade gummies have worked well for us. Having each person carry a pack of dummies in a place in their packs that they can easily access has also worked well. It allows each  individual to give themselves a boost as they start feeling a low energy period. We have also used these gummies on a last push to climb to the top of a summit where we all take one before making our final ascent to the peak. 

Storing snacks in your packs

Although you will get different advice about where to store the food in your packs, we find that it is easier to keep the snacks close to the top of the pack. There are a few reasons for this. Easy access and easy clean up. No one wants to take their entire pack apart on a snack break. Also, it allows for easy redistribution of the items in the packs if someone is struggling and needs to lighten their load (and so its easy to take snacks out of one pack and put them in another).

Meals for longer hikes

For longer hikes, bagels, gummies and power bars just won't be enough to sustain energy levels.  For these longer hikes, you will need to decide whether you want to bring a stove (and all of the cooking items) to make a meal on the trail or whether you want to consider non-cooking options.  We find that it is usually just not worth the hassle to bring a stove to boil water on long day hikes and we prefer making pre-made meals at home that we can bring with us on the trail that requires zero cooking time.  

For these longer hikes, the wrap has become are number one go to meal.  You can put almost anything in a wrap (tuna, chicken, cucumbers, deli meats, etc.). Everyone can choose their favourite wrap!

We have found a peanut butter base with either honey or jam, with (or without) granola is a hit with the kids. These wraps are easy to make, simple to pack, they are filling, and they are a fun meal to look forward to eating on those long hikes.   

On long day hikes, you may also experiment with other types of meals.  For example, the kids love the "picnic meal" with hard cheeses, an assortment of meats, olives and crackers (we usually also bring ice tea mixture for our water containers to make it truly feel like a family picnic on a summit!).  

We have also tried bringing sandwiches, but these are a little more tricky because these can become soggy from the hot sun, which is no fun to eat. If you plan to bring sandwiches, you need to choose your toppings wisely, given that some items like tomatoes and shredded lettuce become disgusting messes by time you reach the peak.  

Cooking on the trail

If you are planning on bringing the stove and doing a boil bag meal, we suggest a sample night at home before you head out. Buy a few different types you think you may like and give them a try (Doing a meal time buffet of different boil bag meals is a fun way to get kids excited for hiking and is a fun way to find out which meals you would rather just leave on the store shelf!).  You don’t want to get out there and have someone refuse to eat it. 

What you carry in, you carry out, so have a bag for garbage you can seal in your pack.  Having wrappers in every pack is messy and can attract animals. If the garbage is sealed all together in one pack then it is easy to dispose of the garbage when you return home and clean up your packs for the next trip.  

Staying hydrated on the trail

We love our camel backs!!  Bottles are fine (and we always bring a couple extra bottles of water for each hike), but the camel backs allow each individual to take in water when needed (the bottles are best used when we take breaks or when we mix the water with power drinks for extra flavour on the trails) But bottles are also good to refill the camel backs especially given that most filter systems work best with bottles.  Never add flavours or powders to the camel back as it can damage the pouch or straw and it makes cleaning a headache!

When doing in and out trails (e.g. most high peaks require you to walk down the same way you hiked up), trying stashing bottles of water and/or power drinks on the trail so you can pick them up on your way down. Just make sure you remember where you stashed your supply so you can easily find it on your way back.  We find that the kids like the anticipation of finding the stash of hydration and they look forward to it on the long walks down off the mountain.  This also ensure that there will be fresh water waiting for you after a long day hiking, especially in the mountains where there may not be a water source to pump from. 

We have also been experimenting with a life straw. So far we have been happy with the ease of using the life straw and the less hassle required to keep it clean, compared to the camel backs and the water pumps.  But because we are hiking with kids and we always want to be over prepared, we also bring with us a water pump and we trying to keep our bottles filled throughout the hike.  It's heavy going when you are always having to carry lots of water, but with kids with you, you always want to make sure you have enough water in case one of them needs more than expected.  Hydration is the key to making a hike successful!  


Bringing snacks for the hikes can encourage the appropriate amount of rest breaks along the trail, while camel backs allows for moving forward on the trail without taking too many breaks.  Knowing when to break versus when to keep going on the trail is essential so that nobody gets too tired while ensuring that not every hiking trip ends with walking out with headlamps!


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