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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Castro

Backcountry Camping with a Little One: What to Bring (Packing List and Meal Plan Included)

Updated: Feb 25

Backcountry camping is not easy to decide on, especially if you have a small child with you, but it can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. As you may know, there is a lot to prepare ahead of time, and it also requires the willingness to go. If you've decided to take on the task of exploring the wilderness with your child and go backcountry camping, here's information on what to bring.



Kid on backcountry scene with turquoise lake and mountains around, kid playing on the snow, cloudy october day
Upper Joffrey Lake Pemberton BC

What to Bring: The ten essentials

First let’s talk about the ten essentials. This is a list of items that you will need on any hike, backpacking trip, or climb that involves the wilderness, and it consists, as its name states, of the essential elements to help you have a safe adventure.

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  1. Navigation: map, altimeter, compass, GPS device, personal locator beacon.

  2. Headlamp: with LED bulb and spare batteries.

  3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, sunscreen.

  4. First aid: a first aid kit, wrapped in waterproof packaging.

  5. Knife: hikers on a short trip may also carry a multi-tool, strong adhesive tape, and cordage; on a longer trip, further small tools may be useful.

  6. Fire: the means to both start and sustain a fire; either a butane lighter, matches, or other fire-making device. Fire-starters for igniting even wet wood, and in areas where no firewood will be available, a stove is highly advisable.

  7. Shelter: a plastic tube tent, jumbo plastic trash bag, or bivy sack.

  8. Extra food: at least one day's worth of food for a short hike that should require no cooking.

  9. Extra water: drinking water and the skills and tools to purify water.

  10. Extra clothes: additional items may be needed if spending the night in the emergency shelter.

Note that the last five of these elements are necessary to safely spend one night in the wilderness when you are not planning to do so; therefore, those are the elements that will vary in our backcountry camping plan.




Let’s break them down.


Fire: Always bring it with you, but remember to only use it in case of an emergency.

It is actually prohibited to light fires in provincial parks, so being prepared is the best way to avoid having to make one.


Tent close to a turquoise lake, rocky background, sunny day

Shelter: A light, good-quality tent will prevent you from being wet or cold, should the weather turn out to be this way.

You can choose the size of the tent according to the people who will be sleeping in it, but other things to consider are its weight, waterproofness, packability, ease to set up, and of course, its price.

There are plenty of options on the market to find the right one for you and your family, but I recommend you not go overboard and buy an expensive one until you have actually gone on a backpacking trip at least once, so you are sure that this type of adventure is for you.

Maybe you can borrow one or find a cheap, good option; usually MEC branded tents are good quality and won’t break the bank.

It is important to mention that you might also need a foam mattress, an air mattress, a sleeping bag, or, in the case of your little one, a puffy suit to sleep more comfortably and warmly. Even the nights in the summer months can be cold when you are in the alpine or subalpine where most backcountry campsites will be located.

Food: A very important item that can’t be forgotten is food.

Besides bringing some homemade sandwiches, you want to get the dehydrated packs so they don’t take up a lot of space in your backpack.

Are they tasty? You may ask, and in reality it will depend on your palate; some are tastier than others, but in most cases after a long walk with a heavy pack, I think the answer is yes.

Some of the popular dishes include omelets, oatmeal, coconut curry, pad Thai, and even Mexican chorizo and Mexican-style beef bowls.

You can buy the dehydrated packs for a single serving plus.

My family and I usually eat two packages of the two servings, between the three of us (two adults and one child), because who isn’t hungry after such an effort?

You also might want to bring your favourite snacks to have along the walk.


Backcountry Camping Meal Plan

Here is an idea of a meal plan for two nights out camping in the backcountry for a family of three:


Breakfast in the mountains with three plates and oats, backcountry camping kitchen, sunny day

Day in:

Breakfast: homemade breakfast sandwiches

Snacks

Lunch: homemade lunch sandwiches

Snacks

Dinner: two double-serving dehydrated packs

Day two:

Breakfast: oats with dried fruits and coffee

Snacks

Lunch: two double or single-serving dehydrated packs (depending on activity)

Snacks

Dinner: two double-serving dehydrated packs


Day out:

Breakfast: two double-dehydrated packs and coffee

Snacks

Lunch: two double dehydrated packs

Dinner: at home or somewhere along the way back home.




Total of dehydrated packs: 12 + coffee


Sometimes breakfast will happen late, and you might skip lunchtime; thankfully, dehydrated food is easy to pack.

Check out this YouTube video to learn about the different cook kits and choose one that fits you the best.

Consider the weight of extras in case you are bringing any, for instance: cups, cutlery, plates, tea… and also always make sure that all your food, food utensils, and toiletries are safely stored away from your tent, either on a food cache that some sites offer or on a rope to hanging from a tree.

NEVER store food or scented products in your tent.

Water: Hydration is one of the heaviest items I’ve packed up to the mountains, especially when the water sources are limited.

When there’s no way to filter water, it can take up to 5 litres of water for the three of us to make it one night camping, and that can easily vary depending on how hot the weather is or how hard the hike ends up being.

Luckily in BC, there are plenty of backcountry hikes with water sources. Make sure to always search the area that you are visiting to find out if a water source is available, and if so, please check out this YouTube video so you can familiarise yourself with a few different ways to treat water in the backcountry and choose the best one for you and your family.


Clothing to bring on a backcountry camping

Clothing: Bringing the right clothes to the backcountry is definitely essential, and whilst you don’t want to pack heavy, you also don’t want to leave anything important behind, especially for your little one.

Layering is the big advice here as it is wool (yes, we also wear wool in the summer hikes). Due to its breathability, it helps regulate temperature, so a good pair of woolly socks will help keep the foot warm or cool and most of the time blister free. A wool long sleeve is one of my favourite items to wear on hikes that offer little to no cover from the sun.

For the kids, cotton long-sleeve shirts will do since they will probably be doing a much lesser amount of walking but check their temperature and choose accordingly.


Backcountry Camping Packing List


To give you an idea, here is a list that I made for a summer overnight at Helm Creek, for three nights for a family of three (adjust accordingly):

Kid

  • 1 pair of long underwear

  • 2 pyjamas

  • 1 bunting suit

  • 1 puffy suit

  • 3 undergarments

  • 2 pairs of wool socks

  • 4 pairs of socks

  • 2 shorts

  • 2 pants

  • 1 tuque

  • 1 gloves

  • 1 light sweater or hoodie

  • 1 neck warmer

  • 1 pair of wool boots to sleep with

  • 1 rain jacket

  • 1 pair of rain pants

  • 1 pair of snow pants

  • 1 snow jacket

  • 1 sunglasses

  • 1 hat

  • 1 extra pair of shoes


*Night time will look the same for the three nights: Pyjama, bunting suit, and puffy suit (because my daughter doesn’t like the sleeping bags yet), and the rest of the clothes can be used depending on activity, time of day, and weather.

We decided to bring my daughter’s snow gear to this trip because sometimes in the summer you can still find snow in the mountains and she can’t resist to play with it full body.

Mom

  • 2 shorts

  • 1 tights

  • 1 long-sleeve shirt

  • 2 short-sleeve shirts

  • 1 pair of socks

  • 3 undergarments

  • 1 tuque

  • 1 neck warmer

  • 1 pair of gloves

  • 1 pair of long underwear

  • 2 pairs of wool socks

  • 1 light fleece sweater

  • 1 rain jacket

  • 1 puffy jacket

  • 1 sunglasses

  • 1 hat

*Night time will look the same for the three nights: long underwear and a neck warmer plus the sleeping bag; if it’s too chilly, I’ll wear my puffy jacket as well, and the rest of the clothes can be used depending on activity, time of day, and weather.




Dad

  • 1 pair of light pants

  • 1 long-sleeve shirt

  • 1 short-sleeve shirt

  • 1 light hoodie

  • 1 fleece hoodie

  • 1 puffy jacket

  • 1 rain jacket

  • 2 pairs of wool socks

  • 1 pair of long underwear

  • 1 tuque

  • 1 pair of gloves

  • 3 undergarments

  • 1 pair of socks

  • 1 Sunglasses

  • 1 Hat


*Night time will look the same for the three nights: long underwear plus a sleeping bag, and the rest of the clothes can be used depending on activity, time of day, and weather.


As far as spring and autumn overnights go, remember to pack some extra warm clothing, a pair of extra wool socks, and snow or rain boots for your little one.

As you can imagine, this time of year tends to be wetter, and kids are going to play no matter what, so be prepared to deal with the consequences of a fun day.


Don't Forget to Bring the Following Items


Some other items that I will add to the list of important things to bring to the backcountry will definitely be:


  • Bug spray, consider one that also deters ticks as they are found in BC.

  • A mosquito net, or even just a hat, will do. There are places where mosquitos can be vicious, especially in the summer months.

  • Bear spray: learn when and how to use it.

  • Poles, to ease your walk.

  • Carrier, depending on the age of your little one, you can bring one to set off for a quick adventure from camp.

  • Whistle (depending on age) for the little one to use in the odd chance that they get separated.

  • Waterproof bag in case you got wet clothes that didn’t dry.

  • Garbage bag or anything to store your garbage.

  • Books are great, to read around camp.

  • Toys, obviously, if you can carry a couple. My kid usually plays with nature, but sometimes she takes a small toy in her backpack, a book and a container to observe bugs with a magnifier.

  • Communication: Last but not least is communication. Many backcountry locations do not have cell service, so in case of an emergency, you may want to consider bringing a satellite communication device such as a personal locator beacon or satellite phone.


Final Thoughts

To wrap up, I would say that I hope this information doesn’t overwhelm you, and if it does, work on it slowly but surely. Check out our post: Backcountry Camping with a Little One: 7 Useful Tips for Beginners, to ease your mind. Keep learning and see you out there!

** Ten essentials list shared from Wikipedia.












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