Hello from Vegas! And anyone have advice for helping reluctant-hikers enjoy backpacking more?


New Member
May 16, 2018

Happy to be here. I've found so many of the trip reports super helpful. During the last few years I've explored a lot of Death Valley and Valley of Fire. Love the desert but also get homesick for the forest from time to time. We often take advantage of our vacation time to head to greener country and explore the Sierras and Rockies.

Quick question for anyone who has kids/spouse who are not very enthused about backpacking: I keep hoping that my crowd will come to love it if we do just a few more trips to spectacularly scenic locations, but so far they don't seem to be too impressed. (They being husband and three pre-teen kids) Has anyone else had luck helping a reluctant backpacker see the beauty and wonder of spending time in the backcountry?
Welcome aboard! You could make not going backpacking so miserable they would gladly go. For example, start a HUGE garden that needs constant weeding, volunteer the kids cleaning at an animal shelter, that kind of thing. But seriously, just take away their tablets and they'll be so bored that anything will sound good. :)
My wife is not a backpacker, but doesn't mind couple hour hikes. I started my kids (5,7,9) early enough that they have no memories of not being hikers, it is just what they do with dad. I would say pre-teen is not too late to get the kids started. One suggestion is to have a reasonable destination in mind for a dayhike. By reasonable I mean not too long, too hot, too buggy with a payoff at the end. In general, I don't think kids respond to spectacular, I think they just want to throw rocks or build canals by a creek. If you were in Kentucky I would point you in the direction of a waterfall or a creek, Death Valley is probably a little dry for waterfalls :)
Thanks for the thoughts @wsp_scott and @Rockskipper! I am trying to be better about not aiming for hikes that are too long/hard. I have put my crew through a couple rough trips that they now remember as being funny, but aren't eager to repeat. (One was an overnighter where I forgot the stove, which kinda killed the dinner and breakfast). We've done about 2-4 backpacking trips a year since the youngest was old enough to walk herself a few miles, and while everyone puts up with them in a "this is what mom wants to do, so we're doing it" kind of a fashsion, no one seems to be catching the flame (yet). Have high hopes for this upcoming season.
I would have hated if my parents had forced me to go hiking and backpacking when I was a kid, and I'm sure I would have made the trip miserable for them if they had tried. That said, I really enjoy it now and am glad I found it for myself instead of being forced to do it when I was younger.
I sympathize with your battle. We have been taking our 2 out since they were a few months old. Now that one is a teen and the other is on the cusp, they could not care less about being in the outdoors, for the most part. My daughter likes to bring her camera and we can go off and take pictures together and my son likes the wildlife sightings. Telling them that they can bring a friend is a great mitigating tool.

I'll continue dragging them along on backpack and raft trips until they are able to spend the weekends at home alone. Hopefully by then, there will be enough of a "cool" factor that they will want to bring friends and just have fun. We'll see.

Neither seem nearly as interested in the outdoors as I was at their age, so maybe it's something they'll ignore completely as adults. I sure as heck wouldn't bet on what their futures hold regarding that.

I agree with @wsp_scott that lots of times they just want to throw rocks or play in the water, but when we hike to waterfalls, my kids think they are really awesome.
I was lucky that my Dad liked to fish lakes, rivers and streams and I loved to go along on our rare fishing trips with him any time I could. Later on being a scout got me into backpacking and hiking, etc. and my dad always went along. I couldn't get enough of it. This is obviously my story but that being said I think there are a couple of things that hurt this and that help.

I think @Rockskipper 's comment about turning off their tablets is a *big* factor. Kids are addicted, (yes I said it), to the hyper stimulation that social media and video games give them. They have become accustomed to seeking out the instant highs that it provides. It is extremely difficult for quiet, relaxing, contemplative back country activities to compete. Add that it can be a bit of work to hike a few miles and they're doomed.

The other thing I liken this to a bit is how my folks dealt with me and my siblings at the dinner table. When we would turn our noses up at something new on the dinner table they made it clear that we had to at least try it a couple of different times be we could say "no thank you" going forward. As a result of this I really enjoy most foods to this very day. I also enjoy trying new things. I contrast this with friends and others who have a very limited menu and are still resistant to try new things. I think they are really missing out on some great things in life. I would liken this to "encouraging" kids to getting out in the back country. Don't let them off the hook too easily and don't be surprised in the future when you hear them telling *their* kids about their great memories in the outdoors!
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Words of wisdom @Perry, thank you! There definitely is a difference in the analog vs. digital childhood. One of our family rules/traditions that we set long ago was that we don't have electronics on long car rides (with the exception of everyone listening to an audio book). It's something that sometimes shocks other people. "How can you surive an 8 hour road trip without a DVD player for the kids?!" they ask. The truth is that an 8 hr car trip is not the most fun or entertaining thing. There's boredom and arguing and complaining. But there are also wonderful bonding moments with great conversations, games to be played and books to read. It's important to me to protect that together time and to prevent my kids from getting into the state of mind where they expect to watch a movie when we drive to the grocery store. Every so often they complain about not having the ipad on a car trip, but we review why we made this tradition and for the most part, they don't mind.
We took our two girls car camping from a very young age. The younger one loved hiking (still does) but the older one grumbled and moaned through every trip. Oh well.

First time she came home from college, she brought two friends and immediately asked to borrow the car and our camping gear. Turned out she didn't hate camping or hiking., She just hated us!

This summer she and her boyfriend are joining us for a week in Utah....you just have be patient.

As for advice: .Shorter hikes with a payoff are best: lakes, creeks, or even ripe berry bushes work!
Maybe try a summer of 1 on 1 backpacks (if comfortable). I have 3 old enough to backpack and I take them all on their own backpack (sometimes just us, sometimes with my brother(s) and a niece or nephew). They all 3 are always so excited for their trips with dad. The younger 2 (boys) both dread the hiking but I can usually distract them enough and go at their pace to make it not so bad. They love when we are at camp though! My oldest (daughter) has the bug, she wants bigger and better every year and I have to tone down the enthusiasm and limit the miles.

Also I have no idea how your husband is on the trips but if he comes off at all visually/vocally negative, I think it would be quick and easy for your kids to jump on that energy. I know my kids are very receptive to our moods. (no idea if that is the case or not, just a thought).

So I say take them 1 on 1 or with someone else you know that really enjoys it (one of your friends, siblings) being able to focus on them (what they want to do, their own pace, etc) might add to the enjoyment! My wife and I have taken all of them at once a few times, and while we have enjoyed it, as I am sure you know it is a ton of work! I feel like all I do is filter water, dig bathroom holes, cook & clean up dishes. Not a lot of time on those trips to focus on my kids (at least individually).

Hope it helps!
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Also I have know idea how your husband is on the trips but if he comes off at all visually/vocally negative, I think it would be quick and easy for your kids to jump on that energy. I know my kids are very receptive to our moods. (no idea if that is the case or not, just a thought).

All of this...

My wife is not all that into hiking, but I can usually convince her to get out once or twice a year. But, the minute she starts to get a little irritated or negative, the kids immediately pick up on it and their attitude changes along with it. The frustrating part it, they all say they want to go hiking with me (wife included), but when the time comes it is always a battle to get the whole family out.
I also agree with trying 1 on 1 hikes with the kids. When my daughter was young (our oldest) I would take her on hikes all the time. It of course started with me packing her in a carrier, then when she was old enough she would hike on her own with me. So, it became tradition that she would get at least a few hikes every summer with dad, just the two of us. Suddenly, though, when her younger brother was old enough to join us, she didn't want to come anymore. I've found now that I have to plan a few trips where it is just the two of us, otherwise her and the brother bicker the whole time and it's no fun for any of us.
I bet @WasatchWill could give some good advice here, his kids seem to love going out with him.

he just doesn't take pictures of them when they are crying :)

My wife's very old grandmother sometimes asks why the great grandkids (my kids) look so happy in the photos, uh because we only photograph the memories we want to remember :)

pretty sure that is not the case with @WasatchWill his trips with kids look great
he just doesn't take pictures of them when they are crying :)

My wife's very old grandmother sometimes asks why the great grandkids (my kids) look so happy in the photos, uh because we only photograph the memories we want to remember :)

pretty sure that is not the case with @WasatchWill his trips with kids look great

I thought I had mentioned it in this trip report, but must have neglected to say that on that trip, we forgot some anti-biotics for an ear infection our youngest had. He was miserable all night because of that. Nobody enjoyed spending most of the evening in the tents taking shelter from a storm either. So indeed, it's not always fun and joy.

As for some tips for @ScienceMom, I would never force it on them. My kids aren't alway enthused about the hiking part, but they do like campfires, s'mores, getting to eat some other yummy snacks, looking for cool rocks, and things of that nature. On the few trips we've backpacked with them, we've always opted for something within one to two miles of the car, both for the kids' sake, and for parents' sake since we're carrying most of the gear for them. We also try to go in the middle of the week to avoid the weekend crowds to both ensure a better selection of available campsites and to spare others of any crying kids. Now as some of my kids are starting to get older, they've been asking when we'll go camping again and most are looking forward to more one-on-one trips this summer. So yeah...that's my advice...keep the distances short, try and go mid-week if you can, involve some good food and snacks, and let them hike their own hike. The younger they are, the more easily entertained they can be by the simplest of details along the trail. As they become teens, who knows...it may involve giving them permission to bring a friend to get them the desire to come along.
If this was covered in other posts sorry but my advise is the following:
-ignore there attitude and focus on the beauty yourself and express it (never say “why aren’t you enjoying this?”)
-quality gear (I buy it used and outfitted my daughter for $100) so they stay warm and dry in crappy weather and sleep well at night
-light pack (my wife and kids shove tones of their stuff in my pack)
-high reward low mile hikes 2-3 miles includes a number of great trails
-good food they enjoy with lots of sugar for energy
-incorporate there phone into it with GPS, weather, and photos and stuff (what awesome Instagram pics you will have!) but don’t tell them there will not be signal
-Positive female role models like this lady for the girls as they get older
Text from my 11 yo daughter just after my original post
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I echo "have em watch videos" angle. Hasn't gotten 'em off the couch yet but it has created some passing interest where there was none before.:coffee:
I echo "have em watch videos" angle. Hasn't gotten 'em off the couch yet but it has created some passing interest where there was none before.:coffee:
The one I posted is from a female on the way to a triple crown. Much less smug than Skurka.
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