Originally published August 13, 2018

We live in a busy world. This is even more true for families with children! There are multiple schedules to juggle, chores and errands to accomplish, and meltdowns to conquer. This can make getting out of the house, let alone at a specific time, seem like a monumental task. The same rings true for outdoor activities, both scheduled and unscheduled. That’s why we compiled this handy list of hiking tips and tricks from our awesome Hike it Baby community to help you get out the door quickly with the confidence that you are prepared for anything Mother Nature and your tiny humans throw at you!

Keeping the Car Packed and Ready

  • Nicholl, Charleston Branch – I keep seasonal weather supplies in a soft, underbed storage container in my car. So in the winter, it is hats, socks, gloves, extra layer, blanket. In the spring, it is rain coats, puddle boots, towels, change of clothes. In the summer, it is bathing suits, towels and sunscreen, etc. There is also always a baby carrier. So if we want to go somewhere, I always have everything I need already packed. I just need to grab the diaper bag and our lunch.
  • Jessica, Portland Branch – Pack lots of snacks and leave the extra nonperishable ones in the car in case you forget in the future.
  • Lacey, Kanai Peninsula Branch – Go-bags in the car with snacks, extra clothes, emergency stuff, water bottles (used for drinking and washing off, if needed), extra shoes for littles, etc.

Useful Hiking Tips and Tricks for Busy Families by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it BabyPhoto by Lyndsey.

Getting Things Ready Ahead of Time

  • Jessica, Hanover-York Branch – I keep my boys’ hiking backpacks packed, ready and hanging by the door! Perfect for last-minute trips and one less thing to worry about in the morning. Also, less impressive but equally convenient, my three boys always take their shoes off in the car so they are always with us when we head out!
  • Becca, Southern Adirondacks Branch – I try to set everything out the night before so that we can grab and go in the morning. This includes clothes for both me and my toddler, my “hiking side bag” filled with snacks, a packable towel since we tend to find puddles regardless of where we go, and a car supply bag with sunscreen, bug spray, extra change of clothes for both of us, extra shoes, hats, rain gear, “adventure toys,” etc., depending on the season.
  • Lyndsey, Monadnock Branch – I have three plastic drawers in the back of my SUV with food and extra gear; a basic beach bag with bathing suits, towels and small sand toys; packs ready to go and in my car; and a gallon or two of water. I also keep a small bin with our basic tenting supplies by our door (that I will often bring “just in case”). That way we are always ready to go anywhere and can stay as long as we want!
  • Missy, Gettysburg Branch – I started keeping my stroller in the car for last-minute adventures, a “bin” for all hiking supplies (sunscreen, bug spray, hats, carrier, fanny pack, water and Capri Sun) and a “rainy day” bin with rain boots, extra clothes, rain suit and stroller cover) in case rain is in the forecast so I don’t have to spend time hunting everything down every time we want to go hiking.

Useful Hiking Tips and Tricks for Busy Families by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it BabyPhoto by Jessica.

Be Prepared for Anything

  • Samantha, Portland Branch – Bring a carrier even for a toddler/preschooler. If they get tired, your fun doesn’t have to end.
  • Gaila, Ames Branch – I keep a (little-kid-sized) basketball and soccer ball in my truck, so whenever we end up at a park, even if the play equipment isn’t good for the 3-year-old, he has something he can play by himself or with other kids that he will enjoy!
  • Alexandra, Salt Lake City Branch – I have a set of inexpensive trekking poles that broke a while back. I duct taped them back together and now they’re exclusively for my kids to use. They’re always in my car. Sometimes getting to use them motivates my boys to hike. I also always carry a packable blanket from Matador in my backpack so we always have a clean-ish place to sit for impromptu picnics.
  • Kate, Hampton Roads Branch – My Onya soft carrier and hats are always in the car. I consider my hiking backpack as a supply kit for any and all hikes. At the beginning of each season, I’ll check to see if stuff is running low (medical kit, tick kit, towel, maps, etc.) and pack a seasonally appropriate change of clothes.
  • Annie, Ann Arbor Branch – Never clean out your car and you’ll be prepared for everything.

Dealing with Wet Gear

  • Vong, Kansas City Branch – I stuff wet shoes with balled-up newspaper and they dry overnight. (Yes, it really does work!) So if the kids want to jump in puddles or stand in a creek, by all means, “GO FOR IT, SON! Wet shoes? No problem!”
  • Emily, Emerald Coast Branch – My husband is a runner and living on the Gulf Coast makes life super damp. I bought a boot dryer this time around and it dries two sets of shoes fairly quickly and they don’t get too stinky. From there, we use a charcoal insert to dry the last parts and it removes the remaining foot smell.
  • Becca, Southern Adirondacks Branch – I have hooks in my garage specifically for wet clothes and a fan nearby if I know I need them to dry more quickly. This works well for winter and rain gear along with swim gear. I also use newspapers in wet shoes, and I will place wet snow boots (which tend to dry more slowly) near a heating vent, just close enough to be effective without being dangerous.

Useful Hiking Tips and Tricks for Busy Families by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it BabyPhoto by Emily.

Change Your Mindset

  • Katie, Ann Arbor Branch – I try to remember to keep spare clothes in the car for me too so that I can join in on the fun. It’s fine if the 2-year-old rides home mostly naked not so appropriate for me. I just keep the mindset that we’re all washable and having fun is more important than being clean!
  • Melissa, Hampton Roads Branch – Remember that short jaunts are ok too! Kids don’t have a great concept of time, so for them, 30 minutes outside is often just as satisfying as two hours – sometimes more so if it means they avoid getting hungry or tired. Big adventures and long hikes are fun, but backyard time, playground trips and neighborhood walks can be great too! Especially if it gets you outside on a day when otherwise you might not have.

What tips and tricks do you have for making outdoor adventures fast and easy? Let us know in the comments below!

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