What to Bring When Solo Backpacking with Kids (the Ultimate Check List)

What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete packing list for an overnight trip with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.

Published on September 2nd, 2017 Updated on January 10th, 2023 By Linda McGurk

I recently came across a story about a woman who hiked 33 miles through Alaska bear country carrying not only a 50-pound backpack but also her 20-pound, 10-month-old baby. More power to her. I’m the first one to admit that I was NOT quite that brave (or strong!) when my girls were little, but since then I’ve figured out that solo backpacking with kids doesn’t have to be very difficult. In some ways it’s even easier than car camping, because you’re only able to bring the necessities.

What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete packing list for an overnight trip with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.

So why go solo backpacking with kids? You know you’ll end up carrying most of the weight, you’re on your own to handle potential meltdowns and once you’ve set up camp there’s usually no going back. While I can only speak for myself, I have yet to find a better way to spend one-on-one time with each of my daughters. Backpacking together gets us away from our respective screens and brings life down to its bare nuts and bolts in a way that helps us form a deeper bond. Plus, you can’t really beat sleeping in a tent under the stars. (Although both my kids would probably argue that pumping and filtering dirty creek water is even more exciting than star gazing.)

My oldest daughter was seven the first time we went backpacking together and at that time I was a little rusty. It had been years since I went backpacking and I’d never done it with a child in tow before. We had a great time, but I also made some mistakes that easily could’ve been avoided had I been better prepared. (Read more about that adventure in The Truth About Backpacking Solo with Kids.)

What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete packing list for an overnight trip with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.

Last weekend, it was my youngest daughter’s turn to hit the trails for an overnight trip in the woods for the first time. Although I don’t consider myself a backpacking expert by any means, I at least feel like I have it down to a system at this point. I was also helped by a new book by fellow outdoor blogger Heather Rochfort, a.k.a. Just a Colorado Gal, called Backpacking 101. Unlike me, Heather IS a true backpacking expert and her book covers all the basics, as well as some clever hacks. (Keep reading, because you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book at the end of this post!)

The book isn’t geared specifically to parents, but the tips can be applied when you’re backpacking with kids as well. Combining Heather’s advice and my own experience I’ve compiled a list of necessities that I typically bring for a one-night trip on a backpacking trail in Indiana with one of my school-age daughters. Keep in mind that depending on your unique circumstances – say for example that you’re planning to hike with a baby through the Alaska wilderness – you may need to add or deduct some things!

Packing List (My Backpack)

General

Tools/Survival

  • 1 Morakniv Scout
  • 2 head lamps
  • 1 small can pepper spray
  • 2 lighters
  • 1 REI Weekend First-Aid Kit
  • 1 Compass

Sleeping

Drinking/Eating (dinner, breakfast and snacks)

Clothing

  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 set Terramar long underwear
  • 1 pair wool socks
  • Change of clothes

Hygiene

  • 1 trowel
  • 1 roll TP
  • 1 packet baby wipes
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • 1 small container dish soap
  • 1 small towel
What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete packing list for an overnight trip with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.
A snapshot of all the contents of my backpack, which added up to around 45 lbs.

Packing List (My Daughter’s Backpack)

What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete packing list for an overnight trip with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.

That’s it! Enjoy your backpacking adventures with kids, wherever they may take you.

What to Pack When Backpacking with Kids. Complete check list for an overnight trip in the back country with one child! Rain or Shine Mamma.

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10 thoughts on “What to Bring When Solo Backpacking with Kids (the Ultimate Check List)

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is a helpful jumpstart! I have been wanting to get out but my husband’s schedule doesn’t always allow for him to camp on a whim or even travel far from work. I’ve been scared to take my two young boys (who have food allergies) camping/hiking/trekking just by myself. I know it can be done, but having never done it or seen how it is done has been a road block.

    • Linda McGurk says:

      Yes, it can definitely be done! If you’re feeling unsure, I recommend starting with short distances close to home and then gradually seek out longer trails depending on how things go. Good luck!

      • jenn says:

        Hitting the trail with kids can be a little scary for first timers. This is a great list, taking many of the “do I need this?” anxieties away. I have a little one who has had a few mild food allergies in the past and one way I alleviate some worry is to carry an epi-pen when we go into the backcountry. I haven’t ever needed one, but it sure makes me feel better prepared.

        And, yes, I agree with Linda, the more preparation the better:) In fact, I recently wrote about how to get your family prepared for backcountry camping. If you’re interested, here it is: http://www.takethemoutside.com/family-backcountry-camping/

  2. Shannon says:

    One thing that’s just off the top of my head that I would put in both packs just in case of seperation. Is a good high pitched whistle.

    • Linda McGurk says:

      That’s a very good point, Shannon. My daughter actually has one that is attached to her backpack but for some reason I forgot to list it. I should probably get one for myself as well:)

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