What supplies, gear, and knowledge is mandatory for hiking with your preschooler? None. Once you master Rule No. 1, which takes just seconds, you have everything you need. You can go on your first hike right now. You don’t need speciality mountaineering footwear, or water, or anything. You don’t even need a location. Put on your shoes. Grab your keys and phone. Grab your kid. Walk out the door. If you don’t reside next to a mountain let your first hike be an urban one. You can call it by the name of walk.
This is where I started. I would take my daughter on walks in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles city streets were far from ideal. Not bringing water and snacks and not having any remote bathroom facilities prematurely ended the experience time and again.
All the supplies, gear, and knowledge that I include on my hikes today are to optimize the experience. Optimizing the experience increases how much fun you have, which makes it feasible to increase the duration and frequency of hiking, as well as expand the portfolio of locations.
Safety and fears of a medical emergency while hiking are generally valid concerns. However, since most preschool age children are not physically equipped to manage extreme terrain or conditions, risk can be greatly minimized by selecting trails that are are appropriate (eg nearly flat) and nearby. Extreme hikes require more advanced equipment and training, which tends to be beyond the preschool age range.
My rule of thumb in the first year of hiking with my three year-old daughter has been to attempt hikes that provide easy medical evacuation. If something happens to my daughter, I want to be near enough to civilization that I can carry her out quickly on my own locomotion. If something happens to me, being near to civilization means there should be foot traffic wherever I am and I should be in cell phone range.
This is part of a series of Hiking with Preschoolers.