The mountains are unpredictable, so everyone should be prepared. Since children are still hikers, they should follow the same code that all other hikers follow.
You should cover the the hiking essentials with your children before they go hiking. They should:
- Dress for the hike. Wear sneakers or hiking boots, not sandals. Bring a warm jacket even if it's hot at home. It's cooler in the woods and on mountains.
- Always carry their own gear in case they are separated from the group.
- Be a responsible hiker. Carry all your trash out.
- Always hike with a buddy, or with a group, and wait at all trail junctions.
- Never play hide and seek on a hike.
- STAY IN ONE PLACE if they think they are lost, and follow the hiking emergency protocol.
- Not be afraid of getting in trouble if lost. Friends and family will be proud that they remembered what to do. Sing, whistle or tell a story to feel better.
- Not be afraid of wild animals. Animals don't like to be near people.
- Make a noise back if they hear a noise. If it's an animal, it will run away. If it's a rescuer, they'll find you.
Your pack doesn't have to be heavy, but it should have everything you'll need. For a day trip that means:
- Garbage bag - make a hole at the top, slip the bag over your head and you'll stay warm and dry!
- Trail food - enough for the hike and an extra meal
- Warm clothing such as a fleece jacket or vest
Other things you could add to your pack:
- Lightweight, weatherproof jacket
- Extra socks
- Insect repellant
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First aid kit
- Compass and map if you know how to use them
- Emergency blanket
- Field guide
- Crayons and paper for a journal
Just as you need to plan for yourself when hiking, you must plan for your dog. Hiking is a lot more strenuous than walking, so you should make sure your dog is healthy and fit. It is important to note that in most states, if your dog is injured, search and rescue will not assist you. Be prepared to rescue your pet or find assistance on your own.
The essentials of hiking with your dog:
- Make sure the terrain you plan to hike is suitable for your dog.
- Your dog should be well trained and should respond to voice commands.
- Your dog should have a collar with an ID tag that has your contact info.
- Some areas require leashes for dogs, and it is always good to be prepared with a leash. Many hikers use a waist belt system for day hikes, or a leash that can clip to their pack. You may want to add a small bell to the collar; the sound can help you know where your dog is when off lead.
- Discuss your plans for hiking with your dog with your vet. If you plan to have your dog help carry the load, ask your vet if this is OK and how much your dog can carry. Typically young and healthy dogs can carry up to 25% of their body weight.
- If your dog will be carrying a pack, be sure you fit it properly. If you tighten the straps too much, the dog won't be able to breathe properly; if they're too loose, the pack could slip off or chafe.
- Stop to check your dogs for cuts and ticks during the hike, as well as after.
- Since dogs can't sweat, avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.
- Generally, a dog will need approximately one ounce of water per pound of their body weight for an average day's hydration; however, a dog that will be participating in strenuous activity may need more.
Your dog kit should include the following:
- Plastic bags for if you plan to carry out your dog's waste, or a trowel so you can bury feces off the trail.
- Water and a collapsible bowl. Don't let your dog drink from streams or puddles.
- Snacks or food.
- An extra collar and leash.
- A current picture of your dog in case it becomes lost.
- A fluorescent orange reflective vest if you are hiking during hunting season or after dark.
- Dog booties (depending on the season and the terrain).
- Your vet's contact info.
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