My two beautiful daughters are now 16 and 11 and I can say from experience that camping, particularly when combined with hiking, has definitely strengthened our family bond and given us some wonderful memories. We still find the whole experience fun and rewarding and hope you do too.
However, as someone who is always eager for adventure I have, in the past, been guilty of putting my family in 'uncomfortable' situations by not thinking about and preparing for the unexpected.
Focussing on hiking this guide relates to how I have learned from those mistakes. Hopefully you will find it useful in some way.
When hiking, we have learned the benefits of sticking to routes decribed in guide books.
By doing this we avoid unkowns and can therefore 'hike light'. If you are going onto routes without knowing what you will be up against then that's up to you but make sure you take adequate emergency provisions/accessories. Also, ending up with the wrong footwear for the terrain is one danger you could face.
Avoid blisters at all costs:
Having the right footwear for the terrain helps but you could also try wearing a pair of thinner synthetic socks or ladies stockings with thicker socks over the top. The bottom line is that socks should keep your feet cosy, sweat free and provide a buffer between your foot and the boot. In order to cover all these requirements you might wish to buy hiking socks (e.g bridgedale) which tend to have extra cushioning in the right places.
Be aware that the likelihood of blisters is increased when your feet are hot and when they are wet. So it can help to remove your footwear at intervals to cool your feet down and dry your feet. If you are with your family, plan in regular stops – don’t make the walk too unnecessarily challenging. During those stops you can snack, cool and dry your feet off etc. If anyone’s feet is showing the slightest sign of a blister then attend to it with a plaster or moleskin (or similar).
If a blister establishes itself it can render someone immobile and then cause a problem for the rest of the holiday.
Going hiking will be fun but, because of our experiences, I now consider the following questions:-
What might go wrong?
What will we need if that something happens?
What can we take that will help to avoid that going wrong?
What little extras can we take which will give us a boost along the way?
The relevancy of all this depends upon how long you will be out and about for and how near you will be to civilisation. However, answering these questions will help you decide what you need to take with you and therefore how big your bag will need to be, how heavy it will be and how much protection the contents will need.
With all that worked out you can decide which rucksack (back pack) to purchase. You will want it to be comfortable, as light as possible, water resistant and perhaps have separate compartments for ease of access to maps, food, drink etc along the way.
So what might happen?
Problems could include Cuts, bruises, stings, bites, injuries, blisters, the whole group getting lost, the group getting split up, hunger, thirst or dehydration, getting cold, sun exposure, energy loss, hypothermia, contents of back pack getting wet.
We help ourselves by doing the following:-
Make sure we are properly insured for the activity before we leave home.
Understand the fitness levels of each individual in our group - work to that of the 'weakest' member.
Check the weather forecast in advance.
Take a compass, a map, a waterproof transparent map case. Show at least one other person in the group how to map read before we go.
Plan our journey – we don’t make it too challenging for the group.
We remember that we can only carry so much water - so we judge the time/distance carefully. To avoid dehydration, drink little and often, don’t wait until you are thirsty!
Allow enough time for plenty of breaks – good for morale and good for your feet.
We tell a third party where we are going.
We stay on trodden paths and away from long grass/plantation in case of snakes, ticks etc.
Encourage everyone to stay alert in order to avoid injury from falling or twisting your ankle.
Each of us have loud ‘emergency whistles’.
I take a multi-purpose tool (e.g. swiss army knife).
Take a small first aid kit – definitely antisceptic cream, plasters, a bandage and moleskin (or similar).
Take hats, sun glasses and sun cream/block all with appropriate UV protection.
Take a rain cover for each back pack (rucksack) – or put the contents in a water proof liner.
Take snacks (rich in carbohydrates)/energy food for morale and of course energy.
Take Mosquito repellent.
Take an extra layer (or 2) in case the temperature drops + rain mac.
Take a thermal blanket – these fold up really small so don’t take up space.
Wear bright clothing to be more easily spotted (depends where we are going).
Check on each other’s wellbeing regularly.
Wear appropriate footwear.
Avoid blisters – We stop occasionally to take off your boots to cool down and wipe our feet (remove any sand or moisture). On the first sign of a blister we apply a plaster or special blister moleskin (an artificial skin that you can cut to shape and stick to your own skin).
Before we go, we ask a local person if there is anything we need to watch out for on the hike e.g poisonous plants, dangerous animals or insects, rock stability e.t.c.
Well, I hope you will find something in the above that will prove useful and I hope I haven’t put you off by highlighting what can go wrong. The point is really that camping and hiking do require a bit of forethought but once that’s done, all that’s left to do is to have fun.
I hope you have a truly rewarding experience together as a family.
I hope you will visit my shop soon, you are certainly welcome.
All the Best.