I often get asked about what we carry in our packs when we head out on trail with the kids and my honest answer is usually, “it depends”. Where are we going? How long for? What time of year? I thought I’d address this in a series of posts entitled “What’s in your Pack.” In this series I’ll look at what we carry for day hiking in the lowlands, mountain hikes, overnight wildcamps and longer backpacking trips. So here’s the first one; Lowland Day Hiking.
We’re not all so fortunate as to live in one of the UK’s beautifully rugged National Parks but just because we don’t have mountains on our doorstep we still try to get out as much as possible. Here on the Isle of Wight we’re blessed with abundant coastal trails, forest walks and a lovely chalk ridge that runs east to west across the Island. We may even claim to have the shortest coast to coast route in the UK at about 4 miles (Please let me know of anything shorter) from Freshwater Bay to Yarmouth.
When we do get out on a hike there’s a few things we always take with us, some are essential, some are probably overkill and some are just for fun but we’ve hiked enough to know what suits us. After all, a good time on the trail is far better than a long boring one.
So here’s a list of stuff that we like to take with us on a day hike. The hikes are usually circular, between 4 and 10 miles and would best be described as easy lowland hiking, on well made trails, and using passing a shop for a brew or an ice cream. The kit is divided into three categories. Essential, Just in Case, and Just for Fun. If you can think of anything on here that’s too frivolous or if there’s anything you can’t do without that we don’t take, let me know, I may find it a useful addition in wrangling 3 kids along a trail!
Food and Water
We usually make up a classic packed lunch (sandwich, apple, crisps) but putting it in a plastic tub takes up room and weight in the pack. We take snacks like jelly beans and cereal bars and a big bag of GORP (Good old raisins and peanuts) but any fresh ideas would be gladly received.
Just for snapping pictures really and in case of emergencies. We also use the Geocaching app for fun along the trail and I do like the OS Maps app if we’re hiking in a new area just to help confirm our location alongside the paper map.
First Aid Kit.
Just a simple kit with some plasters, compeed blister plasters, cleansing wipes and a few dressings of various sizes. Enough to deal with most minor injuries.
Even if I know the area I won’t go out without a map. We often take a side trail, especially in the woods and it can get a little disorientating. Its also great to show the kids where they are in relation to where they’ve been or how much further we have to go.
Trowel, Toilet Roll & Hand Sanitiser.
Do I need to add anything here? You hike past the public conveniences and a 1/2 mile later a child needs the bathroom. No choice but to embrace the “Trail Poo!”
Just in Case
Extra warm layers
If we’re hiking into the evening then the temperature can drop quite quickly, especially if we’ve stopped for a break. Sometimes it’s an additional layer, sometimes its the one removed earlier in the day. Its usually a fleece because that packs down small and if it’s really cold then the the kiddies will probably already have their warm coats on.
Everyone knows the vagaries of the Great British summer but the weather forecasts are fairly accurate these days so we only take them in summer if rain is forecast. The rest of the year we always carry a waterproof coat and some trousers because a wet, cold child is a real pain to deal with!
I know, one minute he’s talking about rain, the next he’s telling us to carry sunscreen. We’ve found the best way is to cover the kids before we head out with a high SPF cream and then carry a “stick” type sunscreen to top up on noses, cheekbones and the tops of ears throughout the day.
Great for communicating when the kids have run ahead and can’t hear you shouting for them to wait. We’ve come up with our own code. One long blast for them to stop. Three short ones for them to come back to us. It’s also handy to know that to whistle for help you blow six times, then repeat at one minute intervals until help arrives. https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/skills/series/rescue/how_-_and_when_-_to_call_mountain_rescue-7690
A good back up to the paper map with usually a longer lasting battery than a smartphone. I usually preload our route onto it and the kids take turns navigating. Also good for geocaching.
Just for Fun
You can add your own things here but these few things are the little extras we carry on a fairly regular basis
We carry a small tub of trinkets for exchange at any geocaches we may find. Also a little pencil for filling in log books.
Travel Towel (if heading towards the beach).
Living on an island you can imagine how many of our hikes go along the coast or include a stop at the beach. Have you ever tried telling a six year old to not get wet at the seaside!
A second camera is nice, especially if the kids want to take pictures or the last hike resulted in pictures of one parent but not the other. We had so many pictures of Mrs Jones and the kids but very few of me on the trail so we took to carrying a standalone camera alongside the smartphone.
Hopefully that will give you some idea of what to carry in your pack when your on a lowland trail for a day, please feel free to comment below and let me know what I’ve missed, what I could try (especially snack related) or anything else really, just say Hi!