Backpacking 2.0

The only gift Paul asked for this Father’s Day was a family camping trip. That is it. Simple, right?
Not when camping to Paul is hiking in the forest…with two kids under seven…who have only hiked For Mar Nature Preserve.
With proper planning and practice, we decided on a trail we have hiked before (smart, I know) and one that was only 2.5 miles to the first campsite. It is in Vanderbilt, MI and is referred to as the Green Timbers Trail, known for the shelters that still exist from old steel money who hosted retreats for his workers during the 1930s. The second site, known as the Honeymoon Cabin, was located another 2.5 miles in, and at an elevation of 1050ft. We did not make it that far. This time.
The kids had their own packs and each carried a set of summer clothes and one set of layering. They also carried a bottle of water. Leo (4) wanted to take a flashlight, and Claire (7) a journal.
Treats really helped motivate the kids on the hike, and I found a couple of great resources online that mentioned Swedish fish or anything chewy they can work on instead of thinking about walking. I also chose a pack of Mentos for each as it was hot when we started our hike (11am), and the mint made it feel cooler for a moment. Other snacks included jerky, meat sticks, and dried fruit. It was nice to have options to pull out for them as we hiked. We stopped often for water and to check in with everyone. The estimate is kids can hike as many miles as they are old, but practicing with a pack, is essential. The kids were squealing with anticipation…and I, in pain.
Paul carried all the medical supplies, kitchen utensils, sleeping gear (except my bag), water purification system (and extra bottles), and tools. I carried the food and my sleeping bag. While researching for our trip, I could not find adequate information on what to pack in regards to feeding a family for 2 full days, so I packed too much. I had enough food for us for four days at least. Here is what you should take for 2 days in the woods, if you are a family of four, and are taking small children;

A 20-40 pack of tortillas; great for roll ups, baking into chips, and sopping up gravy or stew
2-4 packs of tuna in packet (not can)
1 jar peanut butter OR Nutella
3-4 packages dried fruit (mix them into one container for the ultimate snack)
2 packages just add water rice OR pasta (if you take a pasta, choose one that is less dense than others for quick cooking purposes)
1 can beef stew or chicken in water (try to find this in packet rather than weight of the can)
1 box granola bars w/protein
1 bag beef jerky
1 bag meat sticks
1 bag almonds (our family likes these the best)
1 container each salt and pepper
Small container olive oil OR cooking spray
1 package each Swedish Fish, Mentos, gum
1 box Crystal Light ‘On the Go’ flavor packets (or other additive to spice up your water)

I did not choose to make a trail mix this time due to the quantity and weight of the food, and also the weather. Adding chocolate (like the kids and I prefer) would have melted over everything so climate is something to consider for your trip. I also took a package of bagels which added weight and was unnecessary along with the tortillas. They were tasty, but tortillas are much more versatile when it comes to cooking over a fire. Finally I found a jar of honey and packed it, but it also was unnecessary (and heavy) with our families eating habits.
My hope is this list helps one person plan a successful 2 day family hike. If you have questions about other items we carried, I would be glad to answer them in the comments section. Paul ended up carrying the kids’ packs on the way out so they could run, skip, and sing down the path. I wish I could have taken that picture to share.
The only item we forgot was a pair of swimmies for our son, Leo, who is four, but that is another blog itself! Happy hiking, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who share their love of nature with children; one of the most important gifts a dad can give.

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