Hiking with Teens: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

My husband and I have always been avid outdoors type people.  Long walks in the woods are far more enjoyable for us than a cruise or an island vacation.  Yes, we would rather get dirty and sweaty than sunny and tan. Sorry, maybe that’s weird!  Our love of the outdoors did not stop once we had kids.  We threw the baby in a backpack and continued hiking up mountains.  The kids have hit those fun teenage years (yeah…that is sarcasm there!) and we struggle to get them out into the woods with us occasionally. Hiking with teens is a challenge.  They enjoy it…deep down in the pit of their souls…I know they do.  But, they are sloth like, lazy creatures with an unnatural obsession with YouTube videos and Instagram.  But, my husband and I continue to make them join us on our occasional woodland hikes.  I keep hoping that one day they will open their eyes and be astounded by the beauty surrounding them rather than asking how much farther til we reach the visitor center.  I decided to share a few tips for hiking with teens in case you decide to drag yours out into the woods!

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Hiking with Teens:
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

HIking with Teens in Georgia 2

Hiking with Teens: The good stuff

1. They need way less gear than they did as babies.  Hiking with babies required diapers, wipes, jars of baby food, and about 6 extra changes of clothes for accidental leakages.  Hiking with teens requires only that you bring the teen, along with enough food and water to feed a small nation.

2.  They are big enough to carry the few things that they DO need:  If you are hiking with teens, invest in a couple of good hiking packs.  Fill them with the above mentioned food and water.  Throw in some bug spray and sunscreen and you are done.  Send them off on the trail…preferably far enough away from you that you can’t hear them bitching about being a pack mule. Depending on how long you are planning on hiking you can fill one small pack and everyone gets to take turns carrying it.  That is how we handle short day hikes and it causes less grief in the long run!

3.  They have long legs that can easily travel relatively long distances: During the time between ‘baby’ and ‘teen’ there is a period of time where hiking distances may be limited.  Small legs can’t always travel miles over hilly trails.  As long as your teenager is in decent shape, a 2 to 3 mile hike should be no problem. Start short and easy, then work your way up to the more challenging trails.

4.  They are old enough to remember these special times and look back on them fondly as adults: This is why my husband and I keep plugging along with our forceful outdoor hiking habit.  One day, I really hope that they will look back on these days fondly.  Time together as a family is important to me and I would rather spend it in the woods really talking to each other than at an amusement park standing in line for hours.

HIking with Teens: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Hiking with Teens: The bad stuff

1. They do not understand why you insist on no electronics in the woods:  My one and only rule for our family hikes is no electronics.  I bring my cell phone for pictures but I want my kids listening to the birds and the sound of rushing waterfalls, not their iPod music.  Keeping ears ‘ear bud free’ also means that we can actually talk to one another.  A cell phone can be used for geotracking, recording trail mileage, getting info on nearby trails, or even sharing a photo on social media when we stop for a break.  But, we try very hard to keep our hiking trips a no cell phone usage time.

2.  They require large amounts of food and water to complete a ridiculously small journey:  As mentioned previously, hiking with teens requires large amounts of food.  Make sure it is high protein and dense because they have appetites similar to linebackers during football season.  Pack more water than you think you are going to need.  A camelback hydration pack  (affiliate link!) makes carrying water easy and they have a direct line to the water via a tube whenever they want a drink.  No having to listen to them complain about how thirsty they are!

3.  Teens are highly over scheduled:  One of the hardest parts about hiking with teens is actually finding the time to do it!  Babies have very few prior commitments but teens have very active social lives and extracurricular activities.  We mark off free weekends on the calender periodically and try to leave them unscheduled so we can hit the trail.

Tips for Hiking with Teens

Hiking with Teens: The Ugly Stuff

1. You are stuck in the woods, several miles from civilization, with hormonal teenagers.  They can, at times, be belligerent, argumentative and just downright unpleasant to deal with. This is not always enjoyable.  Try to make it fun for them.  We always stop for donuts on the drive out of town as a special treat.  I am not above bribing my teens with food to ensure a pleasant disposition.  Start small, let them try Geocaching (searching for hidden treasure!) to make it more of a treasure hunt, and just ask them (beg if you have to) to please try to keep their negative thoughts to themselves.  I know that may be asking a lot but my kids know that this is something WE enjoy and thankfully they are mature enough to suck it up and deal with it quietly.  Most of the time!

2. They would rather be home watching TV and playing video games.  A fact that they remind you of every 20 seconds: Yes, I know…YouTube videos are WAY cooler than Mother Nature.  But, try to come up with a few things to do on the trail to keep their mind off of their misery.  Try bringing along a few minute mysteries (affiliate link!) to keep them engaged.

3. They have long memories and will constantly remind you of that time you tortured them for hours by making them hike for miles in desolate wilderness: Yes, hiking with teens will result in weeks of  them using your hike as an excuse to maintain their sloth like behavior.  “Mom, I KNOW I have been sitting comatose in front of the computer for 6 hours but last week you make me hike for HOURS”….  Plug your ears and start planning your next hike!  Remind them occasionally of the cool things you saw or learned about during your journey.  Make sure you take time on your hike to actually SEE the good stuff.  You might admire the flowers while your teen is excited about a dead bug they found but hey, at least they are LOOKING, right?

Hiking with Teens

Hiking with teens can be incredibly fun but it certainly has it’s challenges.  Make sure you tackle relatively easy trails first and bring all the right gear.  A good set of hiking boots, food, water, first aid kit, map and a few emergency supplies are all you will really need for a couple of hours in the woods.  Make sure you follow all hiking rules and trail etiquette for both your own safety and the preservation of the land you are hiking on.  Hiking with teens is a great way to reconnect with them and the quiet of the woods may inspire them to open up and really start communicating.  Or, they may just keep asking you ‘are we there yet’. Please do not purposely LEAVE your teen in the woods…no matter how much you may want to!

 Do you go hiking with your own teens?

Want a few hiking tips for women that you won’t find in the hiking books?  Check out my post…just click the photo below!

hiking tips

 

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Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician with two teens, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She has a BS in Microbiology but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging full time. She currently deals with emotional teens, suburban politics, and middle aged metabolism while sharing her opinions in an honest and down to earth fashion on her blog.

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Comments

  1. Haha, I AM a teen and go hiking or backpacking by myself all the time.

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