Tips for taking your child on an overnight hike

Going on a hike to stay out in nature overnight, either in a hut or in a tent, is bound to become a standout childhood memory for your little one.

Hopefully your first experience with them will be successful, and it might become a regular occurrence!

So how do you ensure the trip is a success?

Last weekend I took Nate (4) on his first overnight tramp with some friends. Here are some tips from our experience:

  • Involve your child in all aspects of planning for your trip – they will be much more into it if they can contribute ideas, look at maps, add to lists, and help with the shopping and packing.
  • What kinds of things might you see and hear on your journey? Do some research on the local flora and fauna so that you know what to look out and listen for.
  • Have some ‘distraction’ questions and games up your sleeve in case little legs are tired and enthusiasm is waning, eg I Spy, 20 questions, Simon Says, and my new favourite (suggested by one of our mums in The Outdoorsy Mama group!) – ‘Jump Out and Rarrrr’. One person goes ahead on the track 20 or 30m and hides out of sight. Then they get to jump out and scare the rest of the group as you walk past. Ha ha.
  • Pick an easy track with a hut or campsite that is max 2-3 hours from your transport. If you don’t know where to start looking in your area, ask for ideas in The Outdoorsy Mama.
  • Take plenty of snacks. More than you think you’ll need. And take treats you don’t normally have at home, eg lollies!
  • Make sure dinner and breakfast is quick and easy to prepare. We took pasta with salami, cheese and broccoli for the kids, and two yummy pre-made salads for the adults (chicken & roast veg salad, and a brown rice, smoked salmon & greens salad). Breakfast was Weetbix or porridge, hard boiled eggs and baked beans.
  • Take food in reusable plastic containers which can double as plates/bowls and can contain your rubbish to carry out.
  • If you’re into it, decant wine into a plastic bottle – much lighter to carry!
  • Thermal underwear is great kidswear in the hut, but I suggest you change to a t-shirt for bed (unless you’re in a pretty cold place). Most down sleeping bags these days are warm as toast, and your kids will wake up in an hours’ time drenched in sweat if they wear thermals to bed.
  • Keep torches under the pillow and warm jackets and shoes next to the door within very easy access at night, in case trips to the toilet are required.
  • Jandals are great for wearing around the campsite/hut
  • I took so many photos and videos that my phone battery died out very quickly, even though I had it on flight mode to save battery power. Next time I’d take a spare battery bank.
  • If the hut is small, see if you can book out the whole thing with your friends/family. Some might argue that meeting new friends is part of the tramping experience, but perhaps for your first time, it’s good not to have to worry about your little ones waking up the whole hut, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5.30am. Because they will 😉

I interviewed Nate for this post:

What was the best part of our trip? ‘Getting to the hut.’

What did you like about getting to the hut? ‘Having lollies’.

What was the coolest thing about Peach Cove? ‘Going to the beach and climbing on the rocks’.

What was the best thing about staying in the hut? ‘Telling stories at bed time and sleeping in a sleeping bag. And I heard moreporks and a kiwi.’

What do you think you’ll remember most about the trip? ‘Lollies’

…. oh well, I’m sure it was a very formative experience for him and his appreciation of nature, ha ha 😉

Do YOU have any tips you’d like to add to this list? Please comment below!


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