Overnight Hiking with Kids : Miss 8’s big adventure

If I was a mum, I’m pretty sure I’d aspire to be like Clare. I came across her adventures through the Travel Play Live family and was so excited to hear about her and Miss 8 (Scarlett’s) first big overnight hike together, that I asked them to share their story. I hope you (and your little Misses and Masters) find it inspiring too – there’s some great tips and learnings in there about hiking with kids!

Hiking with kids
The “before” matching buffs and smiles!

Miss 8’s First Overnight Hiking Adventure

As a young child I was fortunate enough to have an older brother who was adventurous and (other than the odd eye roll) he didn’t mind me tagging along with him and his mates. My brother was my inspiration, I wanted to do all the things he could do and so I did. All those years of tagging along fostered a love of the outdoors and adventure sports.

Fast forward 30 odd years and here I am still adventuring, albeit fitting it into a busy life of work and my own young family.  My husband and I have two children, Scarlett 8 and Caesar 5.

I love hiking and trying to fit in single and multi day hikes within our calendar can be challenging at times. I also love spending time with my children and showing them all the wonderful adventures that are there to be had. It therefore became a natural progression to plan my daughter’s first overnight hike.

A group of like minded mums decided we would do a local overnight walk to Shelly Beach Camp in Mungo Brush NP. The walk in to the camp area is a flat 11 km with the reward of a lovely swimming spot.  The drawback being no fresh water onsite.

Planning and preparation

Miss Scarlett was very excited at the prospect of doing her first overnight hike and watched the weather keenly for the four weeks prior to our departure. She has watched and helped me prepare so many times in the past – I am one of those, “weigh everything people,” and the kids enjoy playing with the scales. However, all this experience at packing didn’t seem to translate into an eight year old’s priorities. Her plans of taking toys and dolls to play with could not be dissuaded. The answer was best resolved with a practice hike. With her bag packed with what she ‘needed’, we went for a 5km training walk after school. Upon our return a cull was made from the pack and only one Beanie Boo managed to remain. It was an easy lesson and much better to have experienced it, than simply being told. Some key items she had were just like mum: a cool pink buff, sunnies, hiking shorts (Kmart microfibre sport shorts) and an awesome adventure t-shirt. She borrowed daddy’s daypack.

Hiking with kids
Hitting the Gibber Trail

The big day arrives

The day of the hike arrived and we collected some of our companions, purchased our NP pass and drove to Boomeri Camp Ground where we left the vehicles for the Gibber Trail and the taste of adventure. My own pack was the heaviest I have ever carried, around the 30kg mark [Caro: Yowzers!]. I had eight litres of water, food, jetboil stove, tent, sleeping bags and warm clothes in anticipation of cool weather. Scarlett carried my micro light sleeping mat, her clothes, her food for the day and 2 litres of water.

Hiking with kids
Scarlett (Miss 8) “Like a boss!”

We set off at a reasonable time to enable little legs to mark the pace. We were lucky enough to have regular sightings of goannas to pique the interest along a fairly bland track. We stopped at about 8km for lunch before soldiering on. There were times when it seemed difficult and packs were heavy. Scarlett and I took turns at selecting a tree in the distance and making that our point to achieve – it’s amazing how quickly the distance is whittled away like this and I admit I do this when walking on my own. Finally, right when it was all seeming too much, we came to the turn off on the track to get to Shelly Beach, 2 km to go! The landscape changed and became more interesting with our final destination within reach.

Hiking with kids
Phew! Only 2 kms to go.

Upon arriving at camp it was all hands on deck to set up the tent so we could go for a well earned swim. No one was happier than I to get their pack off.

All the rigours of the trail were forgotten.

A goanna (whom the children named Trouble) was the local resident at the camp ground and made it his business to explore any tents left open which caused delight and chaos amongst the kids.

Having spent the afternoon swimming in the cool waters, a warm cup of tea was in order. My daughter loves her tea but on the trail I don’t carry milk, so she enjoyed her cup of black tea as I do at the end of a long walk. We sat together and watched the sun rays dance across the water, hugging our tea and soaking up the ambience. Another swim and it was time for dinner. A dehydrated dinner in a bag. Thankfully, Scarlett is not a fussy eater and I divided the meal between us, the warm meal hitting the spot as well as a Sunday roast would (well almost!). Chocolate, Pringles and a cup of tea for dessert. All is good with the world, until Miss slips into the water with her shoes on. Now we have a very soggy pair of sneakers and no fire to dry them by.

Hiking with kids
Nothing better than a cuppa after a long day on the trail!

A reasonable night sleep and it’s a matter of packing up after a cup of tea with warm porridge for breakfast. There was a heavy dew so I wanted the tent to dry off a bit and of course, the shoes were the first thing out into the morning rays of light.

Heading for home

Back on the trail, we started off with a skip in our step after all the water we had used had reduced the weight of our packs considerably. However, it wasn’t long before the sun was high in the sky and little relief of shade or breeze. The return walk lacks the anticipation of adventure and became hard going by the time we reached halfway.  No longer did the sight of a goanna stir interest, the track had nothing new to show that we hadn’t already seen and our game of choosing trees to mark the distance was wearing out. So what did we do? We held hands and we sang! Probably not quite the songs you would expect. We sang ‘One Man Went To Mow’ and ‘The Ants Go Marching’ and Scarlett got to choose what the little ant got to do each time. She had some very creative answers which brought giggles and smiles from us all. One of our companions, who had her boys along, joined in and it was lovely to share our joy with her. Strangely, we didn’t see much wildlife on that particular stretch of the track!

Hiking with kids
Campsite next to the beach is lovely, but must carry drinking water

It got to the point where I would give us time frames before our next rest stop. Walk for fifteen minutes, stop for five, walk for ten minutes, stop for two. I don’t take jelly beans on the trail, but I have discovered Mentos and Scarlett had a pocketful of them to which she expertly rationed out along the way.

The last couple of kilometres were definitely hard for the little ones in the group, but as we rounded the last bend we walked with renewed vigour towards the end.

“I held my daughters hand and felt the pride I felt for her sneak out of my eyes and slide down my cheek. She had done it, I had done it, our companions who were taking their children for their first hike had done it. We all did it and we are better for it.”

I asked Scarlett if she would like to do another one, her first answer was no, however then she clarified by saying she would like something shorter. I can deal with that and next time I will also take my son because I know we can do it.

Check out the LotsaFreshAir Facebook page where you can read the interview with Scarlett (Miss 8) herself about her big adventure!

Q: Have you taken kids hiking overnight? What tips and advice would you give first timers?

Hiking with kids
Holding hands and heading for home

Writer, producer and content creator by trade, search and rescue volunteer by passion, Caro Ryan started LotsaFreshAir.com to inspire, teach and encourage people to get into hiking and the outdoors safely.

It’s all about connecting people to wild places in meaningful ways, so they can look after themselves, their mates and these precious places we visit.

She teaches wilderness navigation, authored the book, ‘How to Navigate’ and hosts, ‘Rescued - an Outdoor Podcast for Hikers and Adventurers.

In the bottom of her pack you'll find coffee grounds, instant noodles past their used by date and an insatiable curiosity.

Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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