Cold-Weather Family Hikes


The temperatures have dropped but the sun still shines and there’s lots to see in the woods and meadows. Bundle up the kids and take a hike!

By FamilyTime

 

Hiking through the woods and fields when the leaves have fallen and the grasses have turned brown is as thrilling as hiking in the warm weather. Vistas you haven’t noticed at other times of year open before your eyes – and wildlife is easier to spot.

The kids will love getting out onto the trail and you’ll appreciate the exercise and activity. Plus, in cool or snowy weather there are far fewer day hikers to crowd scenic paths.

Plan for Daylight
Because you want to get back to the trail entrance well before dark, plan the hike during optimal daylight hours. Begin in the morning so that you will end the hike by mid afternoon.

Take the age and stamina of your kids into account when you map out your route.

Plan the day so that by the time the kids lose their initial energy, you have reached a good spot on the trail for lunch. This might be a sunny rock formation overlooking a broad valley. Take a few minutes to point out distant landmarks and natural formations before unpacking lunch.

Pack the Right Food
In the cool weather, your kids will need to snack more often than in warm weather. They will also need to drink plenty of fluids.

Expect the family to be hungry for this picnic so pack accordingly: sandwiches, hard-cooked eggs, hot soup or stew (packed in a thermos), sliced veggies, fruit, and cookies are all good ideas.

Avoid spicy or salty foods, such as chips or pretzels, which fill you up without satisfying your hunger for the long run.

In cold temperatures, the body expends more energy to keep warm and therefore burns more calories. Pack sensible snacks such as granola bars, fruit, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, and cheese. If your family likes them, ready-to-eat sausages are good, too.

Your kids may not feel thirsty as they hike, but their bodies need hydrating. Give them each a water bottle and be sure to fill it with water. If they object, fill it with a sports drink or diluted juice – not soda! Encourage them to sip from the bottles regularly during the hike.

Dress in Layers
When you set out on a late-fall or winter hike, you and the kids will be cold. As you progress, you’ll warm up and want to shed some clothes.

Dress in loose, comfortable clothes. Flannel or thermal shirts, “fleece” vests and jackets, and lightweight outer wear made from a windblocking fabric, such as Polartec Windbloc, Gore-Tex, or Windstopper.

Insist that the kids wear a hat, to protect them from the sun as well as to keep them warm. If they protest, make sure they pack a hat in their daypacks. Also pack extra mittens, scarves, and socks.

If you carry the baby in a backpack, dress him warmly. You may be working up a sweat on the trail but he isn’t. Tuck a blanket around him and put a hat on his head and be aware of the temperature and how it is affecting him.

Bring rain ponchos for everyone in case of a shower.

Wear the Right Shoes
Most hikers prize their hiking boots, but these are expensive items to buy for kids. If this is an occasional outing and the trail is well groomed and easy, your kids will probably do fine with good athletic shoes.

If you hike often, consider buying hiking boots for children. They cost more than other shoes, but if you shop wisely you can find some that aren’t too expensive. The kids can wear them at other times, too.

Regardless of their footware, make sure your kids wear good, thick socks. Carry adhesive bandages and moleskin in case of blisters – which can ruin a hike faster than an icy downpour!

Don’t Forget Sunscreen
The winds may be blustery, but the sun can still cause sunburn. Apply sunscreen to faces, hands, and necks.

Bring lip balm along for chapped lips and antibacterial cream or ointment for scrapes and cuts.

Enjoy the hike – the out-of-doors is lovely at all times of year!