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.
This post was created after we hiked numerous backcountry trips including Helm Creek, Hidden Lake, Gem Lakes, and the West Coast Trail with our kids!
I recently updated and added it to this amazing 10 page download that includes our backcountry gear list and what went into each of our backpacks for a longer 10 day hiking list! Download the Guide here.
Before I dive in. I wanted to share another project I am working called TrailCollectiv that is Redefining Trails for Families. It is an app that is launching in summer in 2022 ! Follow on social media Instagram and Facebook @trailcollectiv.
Backpacking Hiking Packing List for Families
Disclaimed: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through my link then you support my small business and ability to keep creating content!
The recent West Coast Trail backcountry trip with our six 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!
A lot of careful thought and preparation went 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 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 with belt holder 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.
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 did 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!
Download our complete Backcountry Food Guide which includes a breakdown of calories per person in our family here!
These are the backcountry dried dinners we will be trying on our long backcountry. If you have any other suggestions let us know!
Update: We recently tried Peak Refuel and LOVE IT! Well… I should say that my husband and I love all the kinds, especially the Dal Baht and the beef stroganoff. Our kids liked the Dahl Baht a lot from Peal refuel and then the Lasagna from Mountain House.
Water Bottles and Water Filtering
Kids water bottles: Both kids carry 1 to 1.5 litres of water in a bladder in their backpacks. They can easily drink whenever they like. It is life changing. Check out some of our favourite kid’s backpacks here.
For short backcountry trips and hiking we use a Hydroflask 40 or the 32 ounce waterbottle. I love that the water stays cold.
Purchase the 40 ounce Hydroflask here.
For longer backcountry trips. Disposable 1.5 L Water Bottle.
- For our long West Coast trail hike, we each bought a disposable 1.5 litre plastic water bottle that we used. It was the lightest option that compacted. I hate the idea of saying that was what we used. However, backcountry hiking a 10 day hike with two young kids across some of Canada’s toughest terrain required that we use something very lightweight.
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.
Purchase the 4 Litre Platypus Gravityworks 4 Litre system here.
Backpacking Sleeping Gear
Purchase a down sleeping bag if you are not allergic to them and can afford the extra cost. They are lightweight and packable.
I can’t do down so just bought a -1C sleeping bag my husband will use on our longer 10-13 day backcountry in the summer. It’s only 1 lb compared to my 6 lb bag. 6 lb bag will still be used for short and colder trips.
If you are buying completely new gear then try to go as lightweight and compact as possible.
If you are camping in the mountains in Canada or along the coast then you will want to have a sleeping bag rated for -10 C. You can choose to buy kids a kid sleeping bag or a smaller adult back country sleeping bag (to save money in the long run) and tie the ends (or put something in the bottom) when they sleep so that they don’t lose heat from the bottom.
Quilts & Sleeping Bags: These quilts and sleeping bags from enlightened equipment are so cool. They are blankets that turn into sleeping bags. They are supposed to be incredible lightweight and warm. I have never tried them but putting it here just in case you want to check them out. That is not an affiliate link. If you try these out then let me know what you think!
I prefer a thicker blow up mattress. Ours are old and I can’t remember the brand but they pack pretty small. Only issue is my kids steal mine and I often get stuck on the smaller mattresses 🤣.
So my tip for you is this. Just buy adult mattresses for the kids. It will last pretty much forever if you want.
For us, we didn’t choose the lightest weight tent and instead went for less expensive but still not too heavy 4 man tent that is 8 lbs. I carry the poles and my husband carries the tent and fly.
We have the MEC Camper 4-person tent but they no longer make it. The newer version of the tent is the MEC Ohm 4 person tent.
Here is the breakdown. Everyone has a :
- pair of quick dry hiking pants
- Cam uses the Fjallraven
- I have old hiking pants I don’t love but are quick dry and have cut off shorts
- Kid’s have these hiking pants here. I like that they cut to shorts and they are pretty good but do not dry as fast as I would like them too.
- one T-shirt
- one long sleeve
- one puffy jacket
- one hat
- Kids have packable rain pants. Cam and I don’t use rain pants.
- Kids use this Packable Pakka Rain Pants.
- one rain jacket.
- Kids use the Packable Pakka Rain Jacket
- Gaters (for wet/muddy trips and beach hikes to keep sand out)
- Kids used the Outdoor Research gaiters.
- Cam and I used a pair from Mountain Warehouse. They were inexpensive and kind of worked. They kept the sand out of my shoes and most of the wet/mud. I am sure there are better pairs.
- Cam and I have one pair of underwear a day. For a 10 day hike we maybe have only 3 to four pairs
- Cam and I have 2-3 pairs of wool socks. We like Smartwool.
- Kids have a pair of underwear for each day. Since the West Coast Trail is wet then we had a pair for each day for the kids.
- 4 pairs of wool socks for kids. We like SmartWool.
- 10 pairs of polyester ankle socks for kids. We bought these at Sport Chek and checked to make sure they were 100% polyster.
- One pair of hikers
- one pair of Crocs (lightweight sandles)
- Hiking Poles.
- Cam and I used these carbon fiber hiking poles on the West Coast Trail. They are lightweight and affordable. They also lasted the beating of the WCT. Our kids rarely use hiking poles but sometimes borrow ours.
* Note of Kid’s Socks. This is not ideal but our kids are very picky and really don’t like bulky wool socks. They hiked the majority of the WCT in thin, polyester socks with their trail runners. When their shoes were wet, they did wear the wool socks and were shocked that they could not feel the wetness from the shoe.
For Bedtime we each have:
- One base layer set. Our favourite Toddler Base Layer Set is found here or the Big Kids Base Layer Set is found here.
- One fresh pair of warm wool socks not used for hiking. We like SmartWool.
- One neck warmer
- One toque.
- Jackets can also be worn at night if it is cold.
Kid’s do not need any toys. The outdoors is their playground and they find things to do. On the West Coast Trail, our girls made little toys out of drift wood and rocks, they swung on a buoy swing, and they even made a teeter totter out of drift wood.
That being said…. we do like to bring along these items into the backcountry!
Planning to go backcountry camping with a baby? Learn more about our experience and what we learned here.
Check out what was in our West Coast Trail Backpacks!
Thinking about hiking the West Coast Trail? Check out our Guide to the West Coast Trail.
Want to our gear list for backpacking? Download our Backcountry Packing List.
Download our Food list here which includes calorie count per member of our family here!