One of the challenges of hiking with children is exhaustion. Mine. Not theirs. It takes a whole lot of energy to keep up with three pre-teens. In fact one of the misconceptions about hiking with children is the idea that kids can’t go the distance, when most kids would have more energy and stamina than their fast-approaching-middle-aged parents.
Sometimes I let rest breaks turn into lunch breaks. Other times, I just downed my pack and let them set up camp while I went ‘looking for firewood’.
Other challenges included refusal to walk (not due to exhaustion), to eat and to wear a particular item of clothing, as well as communication issues. Children have a limited repertoire of words and parents have an incredible ability to tune out to the words they use, such as ‘I’m tired’ and ‘how much longer?’
When hiking, it’s important to give a child the attention they deserve when they make these statements and to always be on the lookout for non-verbal cues to tell you how your child is doing on the wellness scale.
Stumbling, falling over, falling behind and conversational silence can all be signs of exhaustion that require immediate breaks and sustenance – such as sugars, carbs and proteins, which are all excellent for immediate and sustained release of energy.
Complaining of pins and needles and numbness can indicate a pack is too heavy for a child, and this requires immediate remedy also. As a rule, children shouldn’t carry more than 20 per cent of their body weight – especially if they have not done any prior training.