Successful Backpacking WITH Kids

Many people have an adventurous heart. Adventure comes in all persuasions and can vary widely from person to person.  You have adrenaline junkies, outdoorsmen, sportsmen, sailers, travelers, and the list goes on and on.

The kids are following us as we live our dreams as ADVENTURERS

Now I have to admit, I fall under the outdoor adventure category.

Having been raised in Rural America the outdoors were my playground. I love the mountains, trees, bad weather, and wildlife.

As My wife and I began to have children, we were told by several well meaning, and apparently experienced individuals that our adventures were over and the kids would now suck up all of our time, energy, money, and attention. They were only half right! Our adventures are far from over. And yes they do suck up all of our time, energy, money, and attention, BUT THATS THE BEST PART!

How do you have kids and still enjoy your flavor of adventure? After all, kids are life sucking leaches and are best behaved when kept locked up with video games and TV right?… Wrong!

The answer is simple. Take them with you!

Starting the decent down to Havasupai

For years I have wanted to do the coveted Havasupai Falls backpacking trip. This year we accomplished that adventure with our 5 kids ages 14, 12, 9, 7, and 6! My brother came along and brought his wife and 1 YEAR OLD baby!

Adventurers in the making

We spent weeks planning our adventure and preparing for it.

Havasupai requires reservations, so we had the spots booked 4 months ahead of time!

The Trail Boss

Our prep looked like this:

  1. Walk. Walk to the park. Walk to the store. Walk all over town. Walk, Walk, Walk!
  2. Hike. We did several mini backpacking trips (loaded), on local hiking trails. At least once a week for the last 4 weeks. Usually 2-5 miles. The longest prep hike we did was only 6 miles.
  3. Wear the shoes we would be hiking in EVERYWHERE, and every day.
  4. Modify, modify, modify.  We modified EVERY TIME we did a practice hike. Different shoes, different clothing options, different socks, different backpacks, less weight, more weight, listening to music, not listening to music, trekking poles, water bottles vs. hydration bladders, hiking boots vs trail running shoes vs sandals, and the list goes on. You have to figure out what works for you and your situation if you want to be successful.

Gear list for our Havasupai backpacking trip:

  1. 2 Gregory and 3 North Face internal frame backpacks, and 2 Camelback hydration packs for the youngest two.

    All of our gear in 1 big pile

  2. Shoes. Solomon XT Wings 3 (Nate), Solomon Speed Cross (Holly), Nike tennis shoes (Toby, Tianne, Kirsten, Zoe), Swiss Army boots (Collin)
  3. Clothes. Yes we wore them. T-shirts, shorts or pants, and swim suit.
  4. Water shoes for playing in the river and walking around camp. Keens, Solomon, and Teva.
  5. A 1 liter water bottle each, and I also carried a full 10 liter bladder for refills along the trail.
  6. Backpacking Stove not a camping stove. 1 can of fuel.

    Backpacking Stove

  7. Food. 3 days of Oatmeal for breakfast. 3 days of PB & J. 2 nights of backpacker freeze dried meals. Snacks included trail mix, summer sausage, string cheese, jolly ranchers, and beef jerky.

    just add water; keeping it simple

  8. Accessories included few bandanas, sunglasses, sun block lotion, 7 head lamps, iPhones and iPods for pics and vids.
  9. 7 self inflating REI sleeping pads
  10. 7 sleeping bags
  11. 4 of us brought a camp pillow. The others used their jacket for a pillow.

    Sleeping quarters

  12. 7 lightweight jackets
  13. Some brought a change of clothes and/or pajamas. They had to carry their own. I personally took a change of socks, swim shorts, and thats it.
  14. A 10 X 12′ nylon tarp, and 100 ft of para cord. Just in case.
  15. A first aid kit

Exploring the river below Mooney Falls

Our kids were a big source of motivation for other backpackers on the trail. When they saw 6, and 7 year olds it seemed to put a smile on their faces, give them a boost of energy, and give them hope, that “if a 6 year old can do this, so can I!”

Our kids did the 10 mile hike down in 5 1/2 hours and out in just 5 hours!

Don’t let life pass you by


Words of wisdom: Plan your adventures! Travel with your kids! Include them in all the prep and planning. If the accommodations don’t work with kids, change the plan a bit. If its too expensive to travel, travel cheaper. Camp, drive, ride bikes, get a part time job at the airline and fly for free, WHATEVER! Make it work for your brood!

The white (we named Fluffy) Rez dog followed us out all 10 miles!

Livin’ The Dream

About Nate

Hello! My name is Nate.... And I am a travelaholic.
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7 Responses to Successful Backpacking WITH Kids

  1. Amanda says:

    We are taking our kids, 9 and 11, this year. We are super excited! Did you take your kids down to Mooney Falls? If so, was it bad like other reviews said.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Raquel says:

    This is so awesome! I’m on my way with my daughter right now and you inspired me. I just wanted to know what time of year you guys went and what time you started the hike?

  3. maritza says:

    I have a 6 year old daughter and would like to hike to havasupai falls . How long does it take to get down there? Is it a possible one day hike ? Thanks for taking the time to read this email .

  4. Lucas Ridley says:


    So you all stayed one night? And slept without a tent? Is that because bugs and rain aren’t an issue? I’ve read it’s impossible to get a permit, any advice there? Thanks!

  5. Nancy says:

    When did you go on this trip?? My sister and I want to take our kids there.. 10,7 and a one year old. I don’t know how to even start preparing for this trip. I’d love to be able to go.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Oh my goodness! This post makes me so happy! I’m still considering doing this camping trip with my daughter! We are very active and I’m still so undecided but this makes me feel like it is possible! I have dreamed of doing this hike for years since my last Grand canyon visit! Do you think it would be safe to attempt with just us two? She’s 3

  7. Ryan Enk says:

    I’m taking my crew of 5 boys down to the Grand Canyon this summer and I want to take them to the havasupai falls. Ages 11, 9, 8, 6, and 20 month old on my back.
    This would be a tough walk for the 6 year old. Is there an option to take mules?