Trekking Poles Can Help Your Hike

Trekking Poles Can Help Your Hike!

Trekking poles, which look similar to ski poles, add balance and stability while you hike. They move the hiking workout to the upper body and take the impact off your knees; especially when you have the added weight of carrying a child. They can help keep you balanced while fording streams and can even serve as a shelter pole. Kids can benefit from trekking poles too. You will need to teach your children how to use the poles safely. You will need to set the pole height so that your child can comfortably grip the handles while extending his arm out at a 90-degree angle.  The poles can easily be adjusted using modern flip lock technology.

Trekking pole recommendations:

Black Diamond’s Ergo Cork (Paid Link) is an excellent choice

Leki Women’s (Paid Link) is designed especially for women

Trail Buddy (Paid Link) is priced right and your kids will enjoy picking out their own color

Protect You and Your family from diseases associated with Ticks and Mosquitos — Prevention is the Key!

The benefits of spending time with family in nature far out way the risks of acquiring an illness from a bug bite. That said, the last thing you want is for your child to get eaten alive by insects or a disease from an infected tick or mosquito. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning of an increased risk of disease from tick and mosquito bites. Mosquitos can transmit the Zika virus along with other viruses and ticks can transmit many diseases such as Lyme Disease and now, the Powassan virus (POW). But, by taking a few simple precautions, you can help keep your kids safe on your camping and hiking adventures.

Use a Multipronged Strategy:

  1. Before heading outside, apply insect repellant containing Picardin (such as Natrapel) or DEET (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) (such as OFF or BENZ). These are the most effective repellents for both ticks and mosquitos and they are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as safe for children two months and older. Follow package instructions and wash the repellent off when you return indoors.
  2. Pretreat your clothing and gear with Permethrin. Permethrin is an insecticide that was approved by the EPA for use on clothing, packs, tents, and shoes. It is not for use on skin. It is considered safe by the CDC and EPA for use on children’s clothing. You can apply it yourself. Follow package instructions. Several clothing and gear supplier’s factory-treat items with Permethrin.
  3. For infants under two months of age, avoid buggy situations for the first few months, and/or cover your infant carrier with bug netting and check your child for ticks and bites frequently.
  4. Wear long-sleeved shirts & pants when tolerable.
  5. Stay on the trail and avoid brushing up against trees and plants.
  6. Check everyone for ticks: scalp, underarms, legs, and in and behind ears.
  7. Carry a pair of tweezers and brush up on how to safely remove a tick.  Remove ticks immediately.

Make bug bite prevention part of your routine.  It’s not a 100% guarantee that you will eliminate the risk of a bug borne disease.  But, if you take these steps, you will help to keep everyone safe and healthy on you outdoor adventures.

Jeff Alt is a family camping and hiking expert. He is the author of Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun and several other award-winning outdoor books, A Walk for Sunshine (Appalachian Trail), Four Boots One Journey (John Muir Trail), and The Adventures of Bubba Jones (National Park your series). For more information, visit:

Applying Bug Repellent
Pretreating clothing and gear with Permethrin

Do You Want Your Young Kids to Love Hiking and the outdoors?

Let them lead! I call this “Child Directed Hiking.”  Walk at your child’s pace and distance. Whatever your child takes interest in, stop and explore that bug, leaf or rock with them. Tell them interesting facts about the animals, rocks, trees, and flowers. Getting to the destination is less important than making sure your kids have so much fun; they will want to go again and again.  So, if stopping for an hour to play in a creek after only walking a few hundred yards makes your child happy, then you had a successful adventure that will lead to many more! At first, you may stop every few feet to explore a rock, a bug, or to splash in every puddle or creek you encounter. As your child continues to develop her endurance, she will naturally hike further, and eventually, she will be giving you a run for your money up to the summit. For now, don’t push it. Keep it fun.  Your new mantra: The goal is not reaching the summit, view or waterfall, but for your little one to have such a fun time, they want to hike again and again. You can find lots more tried and proven tips on hiking with kids for all ages in my book, Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun!

Finally a DEET free bug repellent that works!

Have you tried out picaridin based bug repellent? We’ve been using picaridin based bug sprays on our entire family (kids and adults) for quite a while and we are completely satisfied. Picaridin is safe on kids over 6 months, if applied properly. It doesn’t ruin clothing and gear or have the odor like DEET and the 20% strength lasts all day. Natrapel makes the all-day strength, but it is available in other brands of varying strength (see Amazon for more)

Which hiking water treatment option is right for you?

I filmed this video exploring three modern water treatment options for hiking. You will only live for a few days without water. In the US, even the cleanest streams and lakes are contaminated with protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia which our eyes can’t see. Untreated water can make you very sick. There are more methods of treating water then I discuss in this video. But, the treatment options discussed are proven, easy to use methods that will help keep you safe from waterborne illness.

Winter Hiking with Kids

Make Your Winter family Hike Fun!

Aside from a Polar Vortex freezing the country, you can have the time of your life hitting the snow covered trails with your kids. After a spring, summer and fall season filled with miles of fun hiking adventure, don’t let old man winter put a stop to your kid’s active outdoor lifestyle. Most parks have the lowest visitation in the winter which means you can avoid the stampede of hikers and bumper to bumper traffic, but you need to be prepared for the winter elements which increase your risk of exposure, hypothermia and frostbite. By adding some safety winter survival skills, proper gear, clothing, flexibility, and common sense, you can build fun winter hiking memories with your kids.

Winter hiking can have serious and fatal consequences without the right skills and gear. As I wrote this, news broke that three adult hikers were air lift rescued from the Great Smoky Mountains along the Appalachian Trail. They didn’t have shelter, proper clothing and winter survival skills; and they were treated for hypothermia. They are very lucky their cell phone even worked; cell phones are unreliable in the backcountry (; In November, 2013 a family with three young kids survived two days in snow covered subzero Nevada wilderness huddled in their overturned Jeep until rescuers found them. They used their wits and survived by staying together, building a fire and using their vehicle as a shelter. They had just gone out for a day of play with the kids in the  snow (; Unfortunately, many other situations don’t have such rosy outcomes.

Seasoned hikers carry the ten essential items recommended by the “Seattle based Mountaineers” and they know how to use the gear they carry. Overnight winter hiking requires a hearty soul and should be left for the seasoned hikers. Here are a few tips to keep your winter day hikes fun and safe.

Winter Gear Considerations:

There are detailed lists and guide books of recommended gear, clothing, food and water you should have whenever you hike.  A big part of making a hiking adventure fun for kids is keeping them warm, dry, hydrated and fed. Here are a few items and tips to keep your winter family hike fun and safe in the extreme cold, snow and moist conditions. Some of these items are recommended elsewhere, such as the ten essentials:

  • Bundle Up and Stay Dry: Make sure everyone is wearing layered non-cotton thermal clothing with hats, mittens, and a waterproof outer shell.
  • Bring Shelter: Even if you’re just out for the day, pack along a shelter (tent, tarp, poncho, etc.) or brush up on how to make a shelter from your surroundings and your gear. If you get lost or injured, stay together and use the shelter to help stay warm and dry.
  • Prepare to Make Fire: Be sure you have a method to make a fire and know how to use your fire starter kit.
  • Map, Compass & GPS: Bring a topo map, compass and GPS if you have it and know how to use them. Snow covered trails can lead you off course. Know how to signal for help if you’re lost (three loud whistle bursts, bright colored clothing item placed in open clearing; etc.).
  • Bring the stove and some Cocoa: Pack along a hiking stove, hot cocoa and soup packets. Most kids never turn down a cup of piping hot cocoa after a cold romp in the snow and this will also help warm your inner core.
  • Pack Extra Snacks & Enough Water. You burn more calories in the winter and the added snacks will keep your kids energized. Be sure to bring your kids favorite foods to encourage them to eat. Stop often for water breaks.
  • Winter Footwear Accessories: Ice Crampons will help your traction on ice covered trails and snow shoes will help hiking over deep snow. These items are costly and you may have difficulty finding sizes that fit your smaller kids. But, you may be able to rent snow shoes or find them at a used  sporting goods outlet.

Make Your Winter family Hike Fun!
Family Winter Hike

Before you go:

  • Check with the park rangers and the park website for trail conditions:  Local experts know the area best, heed their advice and be flexible with your plans to keep everyone safe.
  • Leave your itinerary with someone. Include the date and time of your expected return, what trail you’re hiking, where you’re leaving your car, emergency park contact information, and when to alert authorities.

Fun Activities on the Trail:

  • Listen for winter sounds. Do you hear any birds?
  • Ask your kids what animals they think are active in the winter. Look them up online together after the hike.
  • What animal tracks do you see in the snow?
  • Play “I Spy” with binoculars.
  • Come up with a list scavenger items for the kids to locate on the hike.
  • Do all things winter on the trail: Build a Snowman, Make snow angels, etc.
  • Stop frequently for snacks and drinks.
  • Cook up some trailside hot cocoa.

If weather and trail conditions are not ideal (extreme cold temperatures, snow storm, sleet, heavy rain, etc.), come up with an alternate plan. Your mantra should be to keep everyone safe, have fun and stay active. Here are a few alternative activities:

  • Cross Country or downhill Skiing with access to warm amenities.
  • A short hike near warm amenities.
  • Research your next adventure together as a family.
  • Rent or borrow videos from the library of places you want to explore.

Please note: You will need more gear and clothing than what is mentioned in this article before hiking; and depending on your level of experience, you may need more preparation before heading out on a winter hike. You can find all my family hiking tips in my book, Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun!