Deuter Kids Packs on the Road Less Traveled

Now on the cusp of eight years old, Kieran has traveled in and with Deuter kids packs since he could toddle up trails.

Kids Packs and Llamas

Quick flash back. It’s 2012. We spend two weeks with 4-year-old Kieran, our dog and two llamas in the Wind Rivers, hoisting Kieran in the Deuter Kid Comfort 2 while saddling him with his very own Deuter Junior. We decide to make it an annual thing.
Fast forward to 2013. We ditch the Kid Comfort 2 and make 5-year-old Kieran hike the whole way (over 20 miles) with a Deuter Fox 30 pack. We do not ditch the llamas.
Fast forward to In 2014. We add the Rangitch-Tibbets family to the equation and experiment with some off-trail travel to see how 6-year-old Kieran and his Fox 30 will fare on boulder fields and in thickets instead of maintained trails. Kieran crushes it. The llamas do not. We decide to ditch the llamas. We do not ditch the Rangitch-Tibbets family.
Every year we up the ante on the challenges to which we subject our son and our packs in the backcountry. And this year brings a whole new challenge. With the Rangitch-Tibbets family (who have a 6 year-old and a 2 year-old) and two dogs we decide to explore a remote area of the Wind River Range, traveling off trail for a good part of the way. We ditch the llamas and carry our own gear. Kieran has graduated to the Fox 40, I have graduated to a big ACT Lite 70+10 pack after having had the luxury of going light for years with a little llama help.
Long grueling hiking days with heavy kids packs and whiny kids can be as painful as getting your teeth pulled, the old fashioned way. Tantrums abound. Perhaps taking a cue from tree sitters, kids decide to picket on tree stumps along the way, refusing to move. One kid hates getting his feet wet, which, by the way, happens a LOT when you’re traveling off trail through meadows and across creeks. Kids compete to be the “first hiker” on the trail, losing their cool when they are outpaced by anyone else (including the dog). The oafish dog Nacho has no sense of how much space he takes up and ends up careening past us with his heavily laden pack, constantly bowling kids over. More crying ensues.

Seven Tips For Hiking with Kids

Fair warning to all of you families who try to push the limits:
  • Storytelling is magic: There’s nothing like long hiking days to tickle the adult imagination. One way to make time pass more quickly is to tell stories along the way. My friend Tom told a wonderful story about dragons that had the kids enthralled for miles of travel. Tom has a trilogy and fame in his future.
  • The forest fairies save lives: The forest fairies are magical creatures who hide treats in cracks and crevices along the path for those who behave well. On this trip, the fairies spent a pretty penny on a large and heavy bagful of Smarties to maintain our forward momentum.
  • Kids are stronger than you think: One day we hiked 1,700 feet up a pass with our packs. To help out the other family, our family took some of their load up the pass. At the summit, we discovered that our son had offered to carry more than his fair share of weight. His pack felt like it was filled with rocks (and in fact we discovered it did contain some rocks). But the lesson we learned is that our 7-year-old could carry much more than we thought he could.
  • Wake up early: There will be many protests, but waking up early ensures you leave camp in time to beat mountain thunder storms. We learned that the hard way.
  • Keep feeding the kids: When they’re scrawny bodies are burning so many calories, it’s critical to keep the stream of food coming or kids will bonk big time. Bonking can look like many things. For example, giggling one second, tripping over a rock, and then lying down and screaming bloody murder for an hour. Or, joking and playing together one second, and then getting into a full-on brawl over who gets to hike first in line. Keep the food accessible and keep the kids fed once an hour to mitigate the bonk.
  • Build in layover days: Layover days are great ways to replenish energy, engage in some all-day play time, and sneak in some quiet adult time (yes, such a thing exists). Plus they’re good for pizza dinners, which require the dough to rise for hours. And who doesn’t love pizza dinners in the backcountry?
  • Mini-boats: This might getting into the weeds, but the most fun we all had was when we built little boats out of tree bark, twigs and leaves, set them out to “sail” on the lake, and then pummeled them with cannonballs (i.e., rocks) to see whose boat would sink the fastest. The adults actually were as into this game as the kids. Good times.
Bottom line is to keep pushing yourself and your family and you’ll be surprised what you’re capable of doing.
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