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March 2016 Issue
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Ten Myths of Family Tramping Debunked

Your pack will be heavier – but that’s about the only drawback to tramping with young kids. Photo: David Norton
Jo Stilwell debunks some common misconceptions about tramping with your young (and old) children

Have you ever wondered about heading to the hills with the family but have heard rumours about how hard it can be? Don’t listen – there’s not a lot of truth in them.

1. Babies are hard work
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, tramping with your first baby might be one of the easiest phases of family tramping. They are transportable, light, don’t take up a lot of room in a tent and easily fed (especially if breast-fed). Yes there are nappies to deal with, and potentially broken nights, but babies are certainly no more work than tramping with toddlers and young children.

2. Kids slow you down
Not always. A good rule of thumb is don’t make your kids carry anything until you have trouble keeping up with them. A light pack means they will be skipping down the track in front of you. Tramping with teenage and adult children also increases your speed as you attempt to keep up with them to protect your ego.

3. Kids get bored with walking
Sometimes this might be true, however, if your kids are finding the walking boring it might be time to make things more challenging. I recently did a trip with my friend Margaret and her 12 year old daughter, Rata, in the Lewis Pass area. We rock-hopped up a stream to the tussock tops, travelled along an unmarked ridge and bashed down to the river valley following Rata as she led us on her compass bearing. Was she bored? Definitely not.

4. Taking kids too young puts them off for life
It’s the opposite, the earlier you start the easier it is and the more at home they’ll be in the bush, on a mountain top, using a long drop or getting their feet wet. What will put kids off tramping is making it too hard when they are too young, so always keep it fun and easy for little children.

5. Teenagers don’t like tramping
We have had long periods of time when our teenagers haven’t tramped with us because they have been developing their own independent lives. But it doesn’t mean they don’t like tramping and last New Year’s Eve our 18 year old chose to come on our family tramp up the Huxley River rather than go to Wanaka with her peers (whew).

6. Other trampers don’t like kids in huts
Maybe true for the odd tramper who doesn’t like to share huts with anyone, but usually other adults with a love and passion for tramping readily engage with the children when we are sharing huts.

7. Tramping with children is dangerous
Yes, there may be accidents and we have had dislocated joints, broken bones, cuts and bruises while tramping. But we have also had these mishaps while at home. Kids need risk to develop an awareness of safety, and tramping provides them with ample opportunity to assess dangerous situations, take risks and learn to manage the outcomes.

8. Sandflies drive kids crazy.
Not if you’re organised. Put on insect repellant before you leave the tent or the hut in the morning, have over-trousers ready to throw on your kids once you arrive at the campsite and get them mesh hats to keep sandflies away from their faces. We have one child who, when young, reacted terribly to sand-fly bites so we needed to be extra-vigilant with insect repellant and covering up and it wasn’t too difficult a task.

9. Kids find the food dull and repetitive
If you’re on a long tramp, yes the food can become repetitive however, on an overnight trip there is no reason for dull food. Don’t be too rigid about the healthy eating habits you might uphold at home and remember that food for kids needs to be tasty, fun and motivating. Porridge with almonds, apricots and lashings of condensed milk; ‘damper’ (scone mixture) cooked on a stick on an open fire with lots of jam and butter; wraps with cream-cheese, sprouts and salami; rice pudding made with powdered coconut cream, chocolate chips and raisins; sausages cooked on a fire wrapped in bread rolls; burritos heated in the billy with melted cheese, sliced tomato and avocado; jellybeans and licorice allsorts galore to help keep up motivation… Dull? I don’t think so.

10. Parents’ packs are always heavy
Sorry folks, this is “un-debunkable” as undeniably your packs will be heavier as you share your children’s load, especially when they are younger. But that’s family tramping and something you wouldn’t give up for the lightest pack in the world…