Our family did the West Coast Trail! I cannot believe it. It was amazing and incredibly hard. We will be sharing more on that trip coming soon and how we tackled such a hard trip together. That trip, and other backcountry trips to places like Gem Lakes in Saskatchewan, have helped us create the ultimate backpacking hiking packing list for families.
Trust me. Packing for 10 days in the backcountry with a family is NOT easy. I will be coming out soon with our food packing list!
*This post has been updated to reflect our experience packing for the West Coast Trail as a family
Before I dive in. I wanted to share another project I am working called TrailCollectiv that will have trails and nearby attractions for families.
If you want to support the project so that it can be developed then consider or if you have found my content valuable then consider donating here! The next build is going to be coming where we fix all the bugs and make it more user friendly. If you cannot donate then I would love ANY support that you can provide in the way of shares, follows on social media Instagram and Facebook @trailcollectiv.
Backpacking Hiking Packing List for Families
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The recent backcountry trip with our five and seven year old was not our first time camping in the wild as a family.
Our girls started backcountry camping as young as one years old!
This trip was last minute and we only had a few hours to plan our trip. I made sure I had the proper safety gear and then grabbed food we already had at home. We were unconcerned about our packs being lightweight because the hike was short and easy.
We do have a longer 10-13 day trip planned this summer.
A lot of careful thought and preparation is going into this trip to make sure our packs will not be too heavy, but still have the right gear and food that we need.
As we plan for our trip, I have had to do a ton of research into creating a master hiking packing list. Upgrading some of our gear to be more lightweight has been essential so that I know that I can carry two adults worth of gear over 10-13 days.
Because let’s be honest, my kids already eat like they are adults when they are active for a full day.
Our backcountry hiking packing list will change and grow over the next year but hopefully this will help you if you are deciding what gear you want to buy or bring for your family backcountry trips.
Safety Gear in the Backcountry
A Satellite communicator is not essential but recommended esepecially if you are going deep into the wild for a long period of time or hiking by yourself. We did not have one when we did our first backcountry trip with our baby.
Things took a turn for the worst and we are lucky we were okay in the end.
We invested in an Inreach partly after out first experience backcountry camping with a baby but also because I was doing a lot of hiking on my own with our girl. You can sometimes rent satellite communicators and phones.
Another great device is the Spot which is cheaper. The two way Spot communicator was not available when we purchased our Inreach. Whichever device you go with,
I recommend one that does two way communication. With these devices there is an extra monthly fee for service.
Purchase an Inreach here.
Purchase the two way Spot here.
First aid kit
Always bring a first aid kit along. Make sure to include extra bandaids, polysporin, tweezers, blister bandaids, duck tape, and any medications. We also bring along Benedryl in case of an unknown allergy.
Each adult should have bear spray along that is easily accessible. Also, make sure that you know how to use the bear spray!
Find Bear Spray Here.
Backcountry Cooking, Food, and Water
We cook using a single Jetboil and the small cooking attachment it comes with as our pot. We don’t add any extra pots.
Sometimes this means a little extra cooking time to make enough food for all of our family but my husband and I don’t mind having to wait a few more minutes to eat.
The Jetboil also cooks food and boils water really fast.
Purchase the Jetboil Flash with 1 Litre capacity pot here.
Purchase Jetboil fuel here.
Utensils and bowls/plates
We each have a cup.
The rest of the family uses some cheap camping mugs but I bring my hydroflask coffee mug because I like my coffee to stay hot.
We also each have a spork/spoon/knife from ucogear, and a bowl. We chose Ucogear because they are supposed to be the most durable. We do not bring a plate. A bowl can serve as a plate and a bowl for soup or dishes that have more liquid.
Purchase a Hydroflask Mug here.
Purchase the Ucogear spoon/forks/knife here.
Our recent two night short trip we did not worry about weight and just grabbed anything we had from our kitchen.
Our longer trip this summer is 10-13 days and we are so worried about weight. I’ve done a ton of research and it’s not about packing light food.
It’s about packing food that has a high lightweight to calorie/fat ratio to keep you full with energy longer.
For our long trip we think we will be doing freeze dried meals for dinner, sausage, dried cheese, tuna in olive oil and something else TBD for lunch, some bars, crushed chips, and trail mix for snacks, instant coffee, and oats with dried apple chips and sugar for morning (we may add powdered milk). Dark chocolate and Oreos will be a treat on the trail!
These are the backcountry dried dinners we will be trying on our long backcountry. If you have any other suggestions let us know!
Both kids carry 1 to 1.5 litres of water in a bladder in their backpacks. They can easily drink whenever they like. Check out some of our favourite kid’s backpacks here.
My husband and I will also have 1-2 litres of water in a bladder or water bottle that we will bring on our longer backcountry.
To filter water to this year we upgraded to the Platypus Gravityworks 4 Litre system we love. Super packable and filters 1 L a minute. We can also have 4 Litres at our backcountry site to avoid having to keep going for water.
We have also used the Lifestraw bladder. It is a great and more affordable option. It does have a little slower drip. We would have just kept with that one but filling up and making the kids wait for us a little longer was worth the money for us to by the Platypus gravity bag.
I could only find the 2 Litre one in stock online for purchase