How To Prepare For Your Family Hiking Adventure

And What To Do If You Get Lost

Young couple hiking

A family hiking trip may sound daunting, but it can be a lot of fun with a little preparation. Knowing everyone's limits, planning ahead, and packing the right items will help your adventure come off without a hitch.

This month Paul Low, an instructor with AIP and a former North Coast Search and Rescue member, continues our series about hiking safety by taking us through some easy ways to plan ahead to make any hiking trip a safe and pleasant experience.


Before you start your hike, it’s important to research your hiking trail. Take the time to choose a destination and determine the best way to get there. You may want to consider a trail that has points of interest or lookout stops along the way to keep your children entertained and motivated along the hike. You can review local trail guides on the web to get an idea of what you can expect, and you can view trail reports and advisories as well to make sure that the trails are still clear and safe before you go.

Pick your difficulty level.

Cater your hike difficulty to the weakest or youngest member of the family. You'll want to choose something that is easy enough for everyone in the family to do without being carried or frustrated along the way. And, remember that distance is a round trip consideration. If your destination is five km away, then you are actually planning a 10 km hike. If possible ask friends or coworkers who have completed the hike what you can expect along the way.

Tell others your plan.

Let a family member or friend know your plans for a hike. Tell them which trail you are planning on taking, when you intend to leave and when you plan to be home again. Once you arrive home safely, let that person know that you have arrived.

Bring plenty of water.

It's a good idea to bring 1 liter of water for every hour you plan to hike. It is always better to take more than you think you will need. Be sure to start out well hydrated and then to take regular water breaks as you go. Pay extra attention to infants and children because they tend to lose body fluids faster than adults and have a harder time regulating their body temperatures.

Pack safety items too. Add the following items to your backpack:

  • Waterproof Matches/Fire Pucks
  • Hand mirror & whistle to alert attention to you if you get lost
  • Approved First Aid Kit with Advil and antihistamines in case of injuries
  • Bug Repellent and sunscreen
  • Thermal Blanket
  • Energy Bars
  • Trail Mix, Dried Fruits & Sucrose Candies
  • Tweezers to remove splinters
  • Travel Pack Kleenexes or Toilet Paper/ Wet Wipes
  • Small garbage bag to pick up any wrappers or garbage found or created along the hike

If you do get lost. Here are some simple steps to follow if you lose your way:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Stay where you are. If you continue walking you may go further into the woods or go around in circles. This will cost you time and energy.
  3. Stop and think. When do they expect me back?  When will they start the search for me?
  4. Take stock of your supplies.
  5. Look for shelter, deadfalls or outcroppings. If you happen across a cave, be very wary as they are usually already the home of local wildlife, such as bears.
  6. If safe to do so, build a fire to keep warm. Occasionally put some green wood (damp wood) on the fire to increase the amount of smoke. This can help alert your searchers.
  7. Stay hydrated. If you require water, remember that water flows downhill, so look downhill for a freshwater creek.
  8. Listen. Searchers are trained to call out your name every 30 seconds following a grid pattern. If you hear them, blow your whistle.
  9. Attract attention to yourself. If you are in a clearing and can hear an aircraft, use your mirror to get their attention
  10. Dial 911 on your cell phone. Even if you are out of reach of server towers and do not have cell phone coverage, you should still dial 911. It is possible that they will be able to GPS your location even if a call cannot go through.

As an added layer of safety, we would also recommend that you have an up-to-date first aid certification before you head out into the wilderness. If you would like to certify, or recertify, your first aid, look at our First Aid Course offering.

What are you waiting for? Take advantage of the great outdoors and plan a hike with your kids! Even a small hike will provide healthy exercise, opportune teaching moments, and memories that will last your family a lifetime. Don't miss out on our giveaway this month, it's a good one. :-) Facebook | Twitter

If you missed Part 1 our Hiking Safety Series, you can read: How to Avoid Spring Hiking Dangers and Disasters here.