Bagging That First Summit
The outdoors is the perfect place to spend time with your family and friends without the distractions of modern life. Equipment is more accessible, comfortable and cheaper than it ever has been and with little or no mobile phone signal the office won’t be able to disturb you. But before you head off for one of the big named summits, here is some advice we have learnt from taking our own Alpkids into the mountains
If you are not prepared for this you can get into real trouble, especially as the top is only the half way point. Make sure you have put in a few local walks on different surfaces before striking out for the big named summits. If a child has only walked on tarmac paths, rocky path might seem an impossible barrier. Don’t be afraid to turn back if the weather turns bad and remember it can be a lot colder on the tops than in the car park.
Top Tip - Build a Plan B into your walks so days don’t feel like failures if you don’t achieve Plan A. (e.g. is there a different route down from a mini summit to make a good loop walk?)
You need to be prepared to keep them going but also be prepared to be on your feet longer than maybe you are used to. Walking 10 miles in a couple of hours without children is very different to the 4 or 5 it might take with them. Days in the hills will become longer than you are used to, so make sure you think of everyone when planning your day. A six year old will probably push on with a blister all day but a tired partner will let you know about it.. again, again and again.
Top Tip - Check the weather forecast for the whole day, you never really know how long you are going to be. Pay attention to windchill and use the mountain weather service if you can for an accurate local forecast.
We’ve all seen the kit freak parent on the hill followed by a rag tag family just waiting to drop. We cannot reinforce how important it is to kit everyone in your party with the right equipment... that includes your partner as well as your kids!! You don’t have to spend a lot and balance the budget with the use it will receive. eBay and car boot sales are a great places to find perfectly serviceable equipment for a fraction of the new cost. Equally they are great places for you to recoup money on equipment that has been out grown. Try and make a special effort to take children to the outdoor stores when buying boots, jackets and rucksacks, going to the right store and meeting the right sales staff can enhance your childs experience of the outdoors.
Top Tip - Point out how similar their equipment is to your own, most children want to be just like their parents, use this to your advantage.
Children get hot and cold quickly so dressing them in layers of adaptable clothing can help regulate their temperature. However all that clothing is going to have to be carried by someone... probably you. And then there is all that extra food and water. So get yourself a nice light, large rucksack and ask yourself, do I really need to take that extra lens for my pimp SLR on this trip?. Most children will at some point have to be lifted over a style or off a rock so try to keep your luggage weight as low as possible.
Top Tip - Make a point of packing your child’s rucksack with them, encouraging them to carry some of their own kit. Beware this might end up in your pack when they get tired so get them to leave the rock collection at home.
Great as most kids are at playing games, few are capable of thinking of mini challenges and tasks along the way to keep themselves distracted from all that walking. It is worth having some games and activities up your sleeve before you leave. Prepare an iSpy tick list, learn some amusing songs you can sing together, print large scale maps so they can plot their route and mark what they’ve seen are just some ideas. The activity we use more than most is Geocaching. Simply put, someone hides a container and publishes the coordinates of it on a website. You log on, find Geocaches in the area you are heading to, take a note of the coordinates and attempt to find them. An app is available for all smart phones. www.geocaching.com
Top Tip - A lot of hikes and trips take place on holiday with friends you haven’t seen for a while. Walking the trail nattering with your best from University with your child 10 yards behind all day is not going to inspire them towards future adventures. Take it turns to entertain the troops, this will give everyone else a mental break and the chance for some sane adult conversation.
Food and drink serves 2 purposes for children in the outdoors. Firstly it provides the energy to keep them going. Secondly food provides the perfect distraction for that 2 hour climb. But don’t fire off all your weaponry in one go though, keep treats small and often.
Make sure everyone has a good meal the night before (pasta is perfect) as well as a good breakfast. When on the hill try and maintain normal meal times with a good packed lunch with lots of different foods in it. If you have time take a stove and make a quick simple meal. Don’t get annoyed if they don’t eat it all, they’ll be getting plenty of energy from the snacks and sweets you’ve bribed them with on the trail.
Top Tip - Make up a horse bag filled with Jelly Babies, Raisins, small sweets, dried fruit, Haribos, Randoms etc and let your children take one item at a time at natural rest points, like benches, stiles and viewpoints.
- Always take your mobile phone with you. It might not have signal at the site of an accident but you might get signal before you reach the car park.
- Put together a simple first aid kit and make sure you know how to use everything in it.
- Wear the correct clothing for the conditions. It might be sunny in the car park, but in 3 hours time on the summit it might be raining and gale force winds.
- Tread carefully. Loose rocks can roll a long way down a steep slope.
- Children get cold quickly, especially if they are not moving. Take plenty of spare clothing for them.
- Discourage children from running, it is quite a skill to run down a mountain safely.
- Keep hold of children near drops and edges. Grass slopes can be extremely slippery especially when lubricated with a few sheep droppings.
- Bring all your litter home with you, including banana skins. Leave the mountains safe for all the creatures that live in them.
- Accidents happen, wading a little too deep in a stream, toilet accidents or simply slipping over in the mud, if you haven’t got some dry spare clothes, the rest of your loved ones day will focus solely on making your day miserable as possible.
Top Tip - Keep an emergency spare set of pants, thin gloves, socks and a hat together with a mini chocolate bar and some toilet roll in a waterproof plastic bag at the bottom of your rucksack.
We hope these tips will be useful and help you enjoy your time in the mountains with your children as we do. Just remember is not about getting to the top, it is about having fun. They’ll cut themselves on rocks, sit in sheep poo, get embarrassed peeing behind rocks and find some bits hard going, but provided you are there alongside them to take their mind off it they’ll be right by your side all the way to the top.