Hiking and trail blazing for families on a budget

Hiking and trail blazing for families on a budget

Hiking and trail blazing for families on a budget

Looking back at my teen years I realise I had a very unique and wonderful upbringing, made so by my parents who guided my siblings and our friends into a world of exploration. Who else can say they canoed from 1770 to Gladstone when they were 14 or hiked 80 kilometres through Carnarvon Gorge National Park in 4 days at 15?

At the time, I just accepted that this was just ‘things we did’. That part of my parents being youth leaders and supporters of the Duke of Edinburgh Award was taking a groups of disgruntled teenagers (mostly girls) into the wilderness and teaching them survival. Now I appreciate how truly dedicated they were to not only providing us with life skills, but also unmatched teen memories.

This year I decided that I wanted to share these types of experiences with my own children, in addition to our regular camping adventures.

Testing endurance

Now I’ll be honest, my children are a few years out from their teens (5 and 8), so to test to see if they would be up for an overnight hiking experience, we did a few small day hikes starting 3km, 5km and finishing at 13km.

They surprised us with their enthusiasm and endurance, with the 13km we only had to do a few little piggyback rides to get them through. Best of all they completed the hike in 3hours 15minutes!

Getting your gear together

There’s no denying it, hiking gear can be EXPENSIVE. But for our first hike I’ve managed to keep the costs down by doing the following:

1. Borrowing or hire gear

There’s nothing worse than spending money and realising you HATED the experience. Look to borrow or hiring gear for your first trip to test things out. Things you can look to borrow and/or hire include:

  • Hiking pack
  • Cooking gear/stove
  • Sleeping bags and mat
  • Snow/wind Jackets

2. Sort through your camping gear

If you’re family are already keen campers, go through your camping gear, you might just be surprised at how much you can use for your first hiking trip (ie. small torches). I discovered that in a moment of pure genius I’d purchased winter sleeping bags that were 1.5kg in weight. Not bad.

I also discovered that my parents still had most of my hiking gear, so one short car trip I had a lot of gear for FREE! Even though it’s old, I don’t plan on hiking Mount Kosciusko just yet, so it’s perfect to get us started.

3. Out of the kitchen

There’s nothing wrong with using plastic bowls and utensils when hiking, plastic tends to be very light weight, so perfect for hiking. Just remember, you need to carry out, what you carry in. So don’t go crazy! 

4. Raid the home first aid kit

A first aid kit is an essential part of your hiking gear, but taking your full home kit is unnecessary when hiking. As a guide, I used the list on the St John’s website to pack my own kit from supplies I already had on hand. You can also take a look at Kelly’s mini travel first aid kit for inspiration ideas.

5. Aldi

I have a soft spot for Aldi. I’ve found their thermals to be great and also have been using one of their hiking cooking kits for some time. We often do a winter camping trip, so every year I purchase the children new thermals for their size. Thermals are a MUST if you are winter camping or hiking.

6. Kmart

The camping section in Kmart is not bad for those starting out. They have light weight plastic bowls and also sleeping mats for $10. I cut a sleeping mat in half for the two children, rather than carry extra bulk.

7. Gumtree

I scored with a 70L and 30L backpack off Gumtree. The backs were excellent brands, one was brand new and the other used twice. I spent a little over $60, a bargain when backs can cost around $250. I didn’t have to buy the 30L, but I saw it and thought it’d be brilliant for my 8 year old.

8. School bags

Children should not carry more than 10-15% of their body weight, so a school or kindy bag can be the perfect start for the little ones. I also elected to use the children’s school drink bottles to carry their water supply, as I knew they didn’t leak.

9. Shoes

Joggers are fine. You want comfortable footwear. Back a second pair of shoes, such as thongs in your pack.

Watch this video as I walk you through my 8 year old daughters hiking kit. You’ll be surprised at how simple it is!

Hiking and trail blazing for families on a budget - 8 years old camping kit

Deciding on your menu

You can spend A LOT on Freeze-Dried Food from the camping store, but the fact is, with children your rarely going to be doing more than an overnighter to start with (teens a different story!!!).

Deciding your menu beforehand is really handy, as you don’t want to be dragging uneaten food home.   You want food items that are light weight, nutritious and give you enough energy to get through the day, plus are light on with packaging, remember what you carry in, you have to carry out!

As our first trip is only an overnighter and a short distance, here is what we planned to take:


LUNCH:  Vita Weet, Tuna or Salami, Sundried Tomatoes, Sliced Cheese

DINNER: Pasta, Pre-cooked Bolognaise Sauce (frozen), Parmesan cheese

SNACKS: Homemade trail mix (mix of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and soy crisps), Muesli Bar (Nut Free), marshmallows

DAY 2:

BREAKFAST: Pancakes from shaker, long a life cream and jam

LUNCH: Vita Weet, Tuna or Salami, Sundried Tomatoes, Sliced Cheese

SNACKS: Homemade trail mix (mix of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and soy crisps), Muesli Bar (Nut Free)

This menu is not really light weight and does have some bulk. However it is more about the experience with the children and them having fun. If we were going for a longer period of time or tracking a further distance, I’d to review. Bibbulmun Track has some great information about cheap and easy hiking food, plus tips on how to dehydrate your main meals.

So don’t hold back, if you’ve ever considered taking your family hiking, just do it!

Renee Gusa

Renee is a crafting, gardening, nature loving, somewhat techy, DIY’er with a passion for cultural heritage, reading, art, camping and exploring with her family. She may not be the world’s best cook or run a marathon, but she loves her job in digital marketing were she gets to tell everyone about her little slice of heaven north of Brisbane – be sure to Visit Moreton Bay Region and see what your missing out on!

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