As an experienced backpacker, you know outdoor adventures can foster a sense of independence and confidence in your teenagers. You’ve seen firsthand how spending time with nature has helped shape their sense of themselves as strong, capable young people.
Backpacking is one such activity that can help build self-esteem and increase independence for teens. It is a physical and mental challenge that requires teamwork to solve problems and negotiate the wilderness terrain. By planning an overnighter, you allow time for them to mentally process their surroundings and come up with solutions as they go.
To ensure that your outing is safe and fun, here are some suggestions for making backpacking happen.
Make the right gear preparations.
Though you would pack for yourself, make sure that they have everything they’ll need in their packs: sleeping bags and pad (not inflatable), a water filter and purification tablets, and plenty of food and snacks. Plan to take day-hikes from your base camp when possible, so that the teens have a chance to eat and drink, as well as relieve themselves.
Pack extra clothing layers in case of emergencies, but remember – this is an opportunity for them to learn how their bodies perform when exposed to a variety of conditions.
Know your group’s capabilities and limitations.
When choosing a route, remember that the more difficult the terrain, the less likely your teens will be willing to hike it. Make sure you’re all physically and mentally prepared for a challenging trek before heading out.
Give everyone (including yourself) a sense of purpose and ownership in planning.
Encourage your teens to help plan your route and decide how long you’ll be out and where you’ll go. This will help them feel more invested in the trip, which may make it a little easier to plan everything from eating schedules to clothing selection.
Make sure that they know what to expect on their first backpacking trip.
Inform your teens about what to expect from their first backpacking trip. Though it will be a great learning experience, you should brace them for the physical endurance required and remind them that they’ll need to stick close to camp at night for safety’s sake.
Practice before heading out!
Teach your teenager(s) how to pitch a tent, prepare their sleeping bags and pad, and set up a campsite. Before leaving for your trip, go with them on a weekend camping excursion so that they can practice these skills.
One final thought for going on a backpacking adventure with teens is to plan a hearty breakfast before heading out on the trail. That way, you’ll have the energy to tackle the day ahead and they’ll be less likely to become hungry and cranky as the miles go by.