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Backpacking with Kids: The Complete Guide + Tips and Checklist

Posted by Bea Manzano on
Family ready for backpacking trip

Let’s face it: backpacking with kids doesn’t seem as thrilling as backpacking alone, especially if you’re clueless in that area. Nobody really gets it right the first time without a little help here and there. If only there was a complete guide somewhere that could give you some sweet tips, plus a free checklist, on what to do… 

Oh right, there is! And you’re looking right at it. From where to start and what to bring, to choosing the right kids backpacking gear, we’ve got you all covered. Take our hand and we’ll walk you through this entire guide.

What’s with backpacking?

We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of it but we’re not just talking about trekking or hiking (although you can definitely include these on your backpacking trip). We are talking about a low-cost trip but instead of carrying a suitcase, you carry the weight of your journey on your shoulders. Literally. With a backpack. 

So, how do you prepare for a backpacking trip with children? Here are some tips:


TIP #1 - Plan (way) ahead

Backpacking trip with kids checklist

Let’s be honest: a backpacking trip with the kids needs a bit of planning and a lot of prep. Make sure you have all the basics covered by answering the questions below:

✔ What's your budget?  Your answer to this question will pretty much drive your entire trip. Since we’re talking about low-cost travel, knowing your budget will give you a hint of where to go. Also consider how much you’re willing to spend (or splurge) on:

• Transportation (including flights)

• Attractions

• Food

• Accommodation

Once you’ve established the cost for the entire trip, you can narrow down the places your budget can take you. The ideal destination depends on other things too - like your travel style, the kid’s ages, safety, etc. So definitely take all these things into consideration before deciding on where to go for your first backpacking trip.

How long is your trip? A backpacking trip can take anywhere from 3 to 4 days to several weeks! Now, with the kids in mind, we’d suggest a few days to avoid complaints and keep the entire trip exciting.

When is the best time to do it? For sure, peak season is not the best time to do it. Think about all the other tourists, expensive tickets, overcrowded accommodations, just to name a few. If you can travel during off season (for your specific destination), that’s your ideal situation. Also be mindful of the weather forecast because it will help you with what to pack.

What do you need to bring? We have a checklist at the end of this article for a complete list of what you need to bring.

Mom packing for backpacking trip with kids
**Thanks to Jenna for this cute photo!

If you’re still not sure about these questions, we’ve ranked the cheapest places to go backpacking with children to help you out. You can check out this awesome page to see the complete list of the best backpacking routes around the world.

Top 10 Cheapest Places to Go Backpacking With Kids





Sri Lanka

3 weeks


October - March


3 weeks


December - February


3 weeks


November - April


15-30 days


October - April


2 weeks


November - mid-December


3 weeks


March - May, September - October

South Caucasus

3 weeks


July or August


3-4 weeks


October - March


2-3 weeks


September - November


4 weeks


November - April

TIP #2 - Buy comfortable backpacks for kids

Letting the kids have their own backpacks for the trip incorporates responsibility in them. However, be sure to choose those that are designed for comfort so you won’t end up having to carry it for them in the middle of the trip. Also, make sure to:

Fill your kids’ backpack only up to 15-20% of their body weight.

Toddlers should only carry their snacks, toys and books in their bags. You can put them in Small Packing Cubes and Extra Small Packing Cubes so they can easily grab what they want right away.

Kids toys, electronics and other travel items organized in packing cubes for backpacking

**Thank you Aimee from The Crazy Craft Lady for this awesome photo. 

Let’s take a look at some cool kids' travel backpacks for your little ones.

For toddlers - Deuter Kikki Kid's Backpack - This awesome backpack put a smile on our faces with its adorable ears and roomy compartment with a drawstring closure. Its padded shoulder and sternum straps make it comfortable with added stability. It’s a perfect fit with this equally adorable Extra Small Packing Cube or this Small Packing Cube for the kids’ toys and snacks. 

For 5-12 years old - Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack - We like how the mesh back panel provides great ventilation. A super convenient way to load and unload items, this backpack’s top zip is perfect for organizing underwear and socks on one side and clothes on the other side, using two Small Packing Cubes. Its fleece-lined shoulder harness also offers extra comfort all day long.

For teenagersOsprey Ace 50 Kid’s Backpack - Osprey is a brand that you can trust when it comes to all-day comfort because of its mesh back panel, shoulder harness, and mesh hip belt. It has two zippered compartments in the removable top lid to keep your child’s things organized using a Medium Packing Cube as a modular kit.

TIP #3 - Pack at least 5 outfits to mix and match

Little kids change clothes at least 2 to 3 times a day with all the playing, eating, diaper changes, and such during the trip. We recommend allowing the kids to help plan their outfits for each day. Other than fueling their excitement for the trip, this will also make packing more convenient than just throwing in a bunch of random items. Use a Small Packing Cube to categorize your kids’ daily outfits. 

Kids outfits for backpacking
**Thanks to Aimee for this awesome photo!

TIP #4 - Plan to do laundry

Since kids change their clothes often (can be quite a handful), we recommend you to do the laundry at least once or twice. This is more efficient than packing a lot of extra clothing. Make sure to pack some detergent and fabric softener. This Travel Laundry Bag will keep your dirty clothes away from the clean! Pop the bag in the laundry with the dirty and you're good!

TIP #5 - Color code with packing cubes

Sort your family's personal items using color coded packing cubes. Maybe use black for dad, pink for mom, and green for the kids. It’s completely up to you! This way, it will be easier to find and grab what you need. This Starter Set should help you do the trick.

TIP #6 - Pack a first aid kit

For adverse circumstances, it's always best to pack a first aid kit where you can easily access it. This Extra Small Cube has a clear design that allows you to see its contents, making it easier for you to get what you need right away.

First Aid Kit for backpacking

TIP #7 - Bring a child carrier

If you’re backpacking with an infant or a toddler, bringing a carrier will allow you to be mobile in crowded places. Compared to a stroller, a carrier doesn’t take up too much of your spare hands. If your toddler is a bit heavy for you to carry, you can always rent a light stroller at your destination.

TIP #8 - Load up on snacks and water

If there’s one thing you must over-pack, it should be food and water. It’s no secret that hungry kids are grumpy kids. It’s best if you can hand out some munchies when they start to get cranky.

TIP #9 - Don't overdo the walking

Kids get tired easily with long walks, especially when they’re carrying something on their backs. Don’t shy on commuting or exploring local transportation during your trip.

TIP #10 - Take it easy with the toys

It’s always a good idea to keep the kids busy while traveling. No, not with electronics, but with fun games that you can play along the road. You can try a little bit of I Spy with my Little Eye, Travel Bingo, or Spelling Bee if they’re old enough to play. You can refer to more fun and exciting backpacking activities for kids right here whether you’re in the car, on the plane, on the train, or even while walking. Having an Activity Kit with crayons, pencils, paper, coloring books, and story books inside a Medium Packing Cube is also a fun way to keep them occupied.

Backpacking Checklist (for you and your kids)

For Mom

☐ Clothes (Pack according to the weather of your destination: light-colored and breezy clothes for warm places; parkas and sweaters for colder ones)

Pro Tip: You can either pack by outfit or by category and organize the clothing items using  a Medium Packing Cube.

Medium cube with mom’s clothes for backpacking

☐ Scarf

Travel Laundry Bag

☐ 3 Pairs of Shoes (Sandals, sneakers, heels / formal: best to keep them in a Travel Shoe Bag)

☐ Money Belt

☐ Travel Towels

☐ Diapers & Wipes

☐ Undergarments and Socks

☐ Small Sewing Kit

Makeup Bag

☐ First Aid Kit

☐ Toiletries

☐ Snacks & Water Bottle

☐ Passports & Other Travel Documents / Essentials 

Pro Tip: This TSA-Approved Extra Small Packing Cube can be used as your underwear organizer, makeup pouch, medicine kit, toiletry bag, or snack sack with a clear design for easy access.

For Dad

☐ Clothes (again, appropriate for the weather condition of your destination)

☐ Undergarments & Socks

☐ Toiletries

☐ Microfiber Towel

☐ 3 Pairs of Shoes (Trainers, technical sandals, flip flops)

☐ Universal Adapter

☐ Portable Battery

☐ Travel Security Belt

☐ Electronics (phone, kindle, laptop, charger, earphones, power bank, headlamp)

☐ Dry Bag (to keep electronics in)

☐ Eyeglasses, Sunglasses

☐ Hat / Cap

☐ Scarf

Backpacking travel items for dad organized in clear packing cubes

For Kids

☐ Clothes (you know the drill)

☐ Undergarments and Socks

☐ Toiletries

☐ 3 Pairs of Shoes (Sandals, sneakers, flip flops)

☐ Kindle

☐ Toys

☐ Activity Kit

☐ Snacks

Pro Tip: Use a Small Packing Cube to organize kids’ undergarments and an Extra Small Packing Cube for their snacks and some toys.

Kids snacks for backpacking trip in a clear packing cube

We’re pretty sure we’ve covered everything you need to know for your first backpacking trip with kids. Make sure to plan well and be prepared for anything, but most of all don’t forget to enjoy!

Anything we missed that you want to add on the list? We’d love to hear your ideas! Oh and if you ever need more tips about traveling with kids, you can refer to our How to Travel With Kids: Best Tips for Parents post. You're welcome!

Have a safe trip!

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