When I decided to embark on PROJECT BACKPACKING with my 6 year-old twins, my mind immediately turned to trying to figure out EXACTLY what I needed to take for TWO NIGHTS on a wilderness beach.
Of course, it isn’t really earth shattering news that figuring out what to take on a backpacking trip is both important and tricky – this can be said about almost any trip, especially where space is limited.
With backpacking, it is tricky for two reasons.
- Very limited space to actually pack things in.
- The more things you pack the HEAVIER the pack gets.
Number 2 is especially important because unless you have a Sherpa, which I don’t, you are going to be carrying all that weight on your back.
I guess in the current scenario I’m the Sherpa – oh dear.
With backpacking, what you choose to pack and by extension what you don’t pack is also extra important.
I would argue, and if you ask my family they will tell you that I like to argue, that the choices you make when choosing what to pack and not pack are exponentially more important when backpacking because unless you are hiking to your local city park, you are going to be a significant distance from civilization.
Basically, if you bring the wrong stuff you are going to be wet, cold and hungry.
With the above in mind, I started thinking about what gear we would take months before our scheduled departure. And much to my husband’s annoyance, mostly because I used our living room as a staging area, I began to gather our gear weeks before it was time to leave.
Okay, so he never actually indicated in any manner that he was annoyed, I’m just assuming that having camping gear strewn across the living room for months would bother him.
Why did I spend so much time thinking about it and start packing so early?
CONFESSION TIME: Deep down I would like to be one of those people who takes the bare minimum necessary and is never weighed down with piles of luggage, but this is not my experience. Every time I go anywhere with my twins it pretty much looks like I’m leaving on a month long vacation.
Who am I trying to kid? I look that way even if it’s just me going.
This trip, of course, HAD to be DIFFERENT. Everything that we were taking had to be carried on our back. So I started planning early.
PLUS, if I didn’t take the right stuff, there was only going to be me to deal with it!
The BENEFIT TO YOU is that I did all the thinking and testing so that you don’t have to.
You can just roll out of bed one morning, take five minutes to throw some things into a pack and be out the door.
Okay, so that’s not realistic, but the following will hopefully give you a place to start.
WHAT WAS IN THE TWINS’ PACKS?
- Sleeping bag (sleeping bags are bulky but light)
- Inflatable sleeping pads
- Fleece hoodie
- Small bedtime story
- Small toy shovel
- Rain gear (jacket and pants)
- Sun hat
- Head Lamp
- Sun glasses
- Lantern for tent
ATTACHED TO OUTSIDE:
- Water shoes (crocs)
- Water bottle
The total weight of their packs was about 7 lbs.
WHAT WAS IN MY PACK?
Basically everything else!
(This list includes the gear that the twins carried)
(number is for each person unless otherwise noted)
- Toque x 1
- Great for chilly evenings (especially if you can’t have a campfire)
- Great for sleeping if you get cold when you sleep (a loose one might fall off though)
- Mitts x 2
- We are by water – the twins are going to get wet.
- I only packed 1 for me
- Hoodie x 1
- Doesn’t have to be a hoodie, any style of warm sweater
- Puffy Vest x 1
- Only for me
- Thermal top and bottoms x 1
- Only for me – what can I say? I get cold!
- Rain jacket x 1
- Rain pants x 1
- Water shoes x 1
- We used crocs as they are light and easily attach to the outside
- Even if you aren’t near water having a pair of shoes that are easy to slip into is nice do you don’t have to put your hiking boots back on all the time
- Bathing suit x 1
- With my bathing suit I also brought bottoms to go over (mine is a skort but shorts would’ve worked too)
- Water shirt x 1
- Sun hat x 1
- PJs x 1
- Underwear x 4 (kids) x 3 (me)
- Socks x 5 (kids) x 3 (me)
- Dry feet are essential
- Long sleeve shirt x 2 (kids) x 1 (me)
- Short sleeve shirt x 2
- Shorts x 1
- I brought capri leggings for me
- Long pants x 1
- We brought two total
- We have the quick drying compact hiking type
Some quick notes about choosing clothing:
- Chose things other than cotton
- Cotton is heavy and retains water and takes forever to dry
- Plan for layers
- It’s the best way to keep warm
- Take extra socks
- Feet will get wet whether it’s from water or sweat
- You want dry feet!
- Tooth paste
- It is important to note that spitting toothpaste onto the ground can have an environmental impact
- Other options include:
- Baking soda
- Swallow toothpaste (toothpaste made for babies is meant to be swallowed)
- Dry brush
- I have long hair
- Hair elastics
- Feminine Hygiene products
- Even if you aren’t expecting your period, it is good to be prepared
- Toilet paper x 1 roll
- You never know what the availability/quality of the toilet paper will be
- Garden trowel in a ziplock
- I didn’t know if there was going to be a pit toilet
- The trowel is for digging a hole for the poop to go in if there isn’t a pit toilet
A quick note on toiletries:
- I didn’t take deodorant because the fragrance can attract animals
(number is the total number taken not per person)
- Backpacking stove
- We have a Jetboil Sumo
- The Jetboil has a cooking cup with it so I didn’t pack a separate pot
- Water filter
- Mystic beach has fresh water available, but it should still be treated
- Lighter x 2
- Cup x 3
- Plates x 3
- We have these great orgami plates that fold out flat when not in use
- Spork x 3
- If you are unfamiliar with the spork it is a spoon and fork together in one utensil
- Water bottle x 4
- One for each twin
- Two for gathering fresh water
- Tea Container
- Special water bottle I have that has an attachment for making loose leaf tea
- Scrub brush
- Small dish cloth
- Large ziplock bag for packing out the food garbage
A note about dishwashing:
- Dish soap is harsh on natural environments
- Any soap used should be biodegradable
- Sand is excellent for cleaning dishes
- Breakfast x 2
- Lunch x 2
- Supper x 2
Stay tuned for an in depth discussion about what we ate…
(number is total number taken not per person)
- Backpacking tent
- They are much lighter than regular tents
- Ours is a 3-4 man tent which has ample room for three people and gear
- Sleeping bags x 3
- Sleeping mat x 2
- I simply didn’t have enough room for 3
- We were staying on the beach so not as critical for comfort just for warmth
- I placed the mats sideways and then put a pack at our feet to keep us toasty warm
- We lay sideways across two mats
- Tarp x 1
- Enough rope to rig a bear cache if necessary
- Enough twine to put up a tarp if necessary
- First Aid Kit
- Lantern x 1
- Ours is a Luci light
- The Luci light is solar powered and it inflates so it takes up very little space
- Head lamps x 3
- Spare batteries for Head lamps x 9
- Multi-tool x 1
- Children’s lanterns for tent x 2
- Just in case we could have a campfire, as drift wood can be challenging to light because it is wet
- Always good to have in your emergency kit whenever hiking or backpacking
- Large garbage bag x 3
- Works great to waterproof backpacks if it rains – we live on the west coast
A note about our gear:
- I chose not to bring a compass and map because we were only going 2 km on a clearly established trail, and weight reduction was crucial.
- Cell phone
- Charger cable
- Back up battery pack/charger
- Personal Journal
- I’m a writer – I always have my tablet
- Portable Keyboard
- Ziplock bags x 2
- To water/sand proof my tablet and keyboard
- In case of rainy weather, we would have something to do in the tent
- Sunglasses x 3
- Stuffy x 2
- Bed time story x 2
- Extra super small and light
- Twin A’s medication
- My medication
- Sand bucket x 2
- Toy shovel x 2
WHAT DID WE WEAR FOR THE HIKE?
- Hiking boots
- Heavy socks
- Short sleeve technical shirts
- Long fleece pants
- Unfortunately we don’t have non-cotton underwear for them
- Hiking boots
- Heavy socks
- Sports bra
- Short sleeve technical shirt
- Capris (Yoga style)
- Non-cotton underwear
CUSTOMIZING YOUR GEAR:
It’s important to keep in mind that the above gear list was for a very specific trip for a very specific group of people. What you decide to pack will need to be customized for your destination and your children (or whoever else is tagging along with you) and, of course, you.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
|Climate||Temperate – plus it is the west coast so we always plan for rain|
|Time of year||Beginning of summer|
|Interests/quirks of people going||I’m a writer / my kids like to play in the sand|
|Length of stay||2 nights|
|Amenities available||Pit toilet and bear cache available – I didn’t know this before we got there so I made provisions just in case|
|Availability of fresh water||Fresh water stream – I chose freeze dried food because it is lighter, and I could get the water from the stream on site and didn’t have to carry the water|
THE FINAL WORD
I have done a fair bit of backcountry camping, but I’m new to doing it with young children in tow. I’m pleased to say that it can be done with a bit of planning and patience.
What you deem important enough to carry on your back is going to be an individual decision, but I’m hoping by sharing our list, it will take some of the mystery out of packing for your adventure.
You don’t have to be an expert to get out in nature with your children – even if you have young twins. It’s DOABLE.
Just pick a destination and get out there.
Update 7 Oct 17: Find some tips on choosing a backpack for your children here.
Please share your adventures. I look forward to reading them.
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