27 December 2022
Deciding to go on your first hiking expedition with the kids can be slightly worrying at first, as you are responsible for both your own and their safety, even when conditions may not be ideal. Don’t be daunted however, our guide tells you what you need to know to go safely hiking with children.
One of the most important things you can do is to prepare. Whoever said “those who don’t prepare for success are preparing to fail” was correct. In this day and age there is a wealth of information available online about practically every conceivable walking route. So many different aspects are covered, from the gradient of the hill, to the distance that will be walked and from the quality of scenery and wildlife encountered to how popular the walk is and how busy it is likely to be. Research the planned route carefully and involve the children, making it a fun part of the trip.
This sounds really obvious but it is something that is often neglected when people go hill walking. The number of times people are rescued from hills and mountains with totally inadequate clothing for the circumstances is astounding. If you are going hillwalking, assume that the weather will be cold and wear layered breathable clothing, so that some may be taken off and carried in rucksacks if it is too warm. Bring waterproof jackets as well because you never know when the weather might turn for the worst. It is vital to wear hiking boots or some kind of sturdy footwear with a good grip. A lot of injuries come about from people not using the correct footwear and going over on their ankles etc.
One of the most important tips is to bring plenty of water as it can be easy to get dehydrated when walking for hours. Pack a compass or a phone with an inbuilt compass, so that if necessary you can navigate by that, for example if the weather and visibility gets too bad. A good first aid kit is an essential part of any hillwalking trip and is especially important when hillwalking with children as they are more prone to minor injuries. Food is also important, incorporate this into the plan for the day and take extra cereal bars as these are great for a slow release of energy to keep everyone going.
Remember that although you may have been hillwalking for years, your children most likely haven’t. If you have never done this with them before, and they aren’t very sporty, it may be a real struggle for them to complete some of the routes. If you have never seen them walk a few miles on flat ground, suddenly asking them to do it on a hill on a blustery day may not seem doable for them and it may make for a difficult and unhappy trip.
We cannot emphasise this point enough, if you are going hillwalking, tell someone you trust what your route is and arrange a check-in phone call with them after the time you expect to finish. Instruct them that if you miss the check-in by more than an hour or two, they should try proactively to contact you and if they can’t they should phone mountain rescue and inform them of your route. Time can be of the essence when out on the mountains and the better information that is provided, the more likely it is that a rescue can be made.
The what3words phone app can allow you to pinpoint your location to GPS coordinates that are identifiable by a three word-phrase and this can be very useful if rescue is needed as it is possible to give this to emergency services and they will then know exactly where to find you.