Backpacking with kids.

I have always been a nature girl. I love the outdoors and discovering all the wonderful things our green Earth has to offer.  To experience that in a new way, I have been wanting to go backpacking for years. But I decided 2018 was my year and nothing was going to stop me… except maybe my kids! Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mom more than anything.  

But just like anyone, I still have hopes and dreams of my own; there are still so many things I want to see and do! So as a happy compromise, I decided to take my 6-year-old Colton with me! Colton is a ball of constant energy, so I had a feeling he would do great. But as added reassurance, an experienced friend said she would go with us in case Colton and I weren’t able to handle the hike on our own. She also found a place that had only a two-mile hike to camp:  Newport State Park in Door County Wisconsin. 
I can be quite conservative when starting new hobbies, so I didn’t want to go overboard on my purchases for this trip. I’m going to share some of the things that I packed for my son and I. Then I’ll share with you which items I may choose to leave home next time, as well and a list of things I wish I had packed.
Mom’s Pack:
(2) ponchos (It called for rain all weekend) 
Net sack
(1) bag granola – Kind Bar 
One-person backpacking tent 
Fishing pole
Pocket plant book
(3) knives 
(1) Filet knife 
Small travel camping kit with washcloth, comb, and other toiletries 
(1) sleeping bag
Toilet paper
Bladder water bottle
Bathing suit 

Colton’s Pack

Water bottle
Small playing cars
Folding pliers
Tackle box

You may have noticed I really didn’t have much for cooking or food. I chose to bring MREs (AKA Meal Ready to Eat).  I hunt, so I already had a large box of these and decided to utilize that stock for this trip. MREs are definitely heavier than the freeze dried food. However the packages contain everything you need; plus they provide an abundant amount of calories. Colton and I shared two for dinner and saved half of the second one for breakfast. While I may not still be able to do that when he’s a teenager, it is still worth mentioning how filling and satisfying they are! I didn’t have to worry about heating my food either because each one comes with its own heating element, plus you can hear water for a drink (like coffee… wink wink). 

Both Colton and I did great on our hikes.  Our only complaint was the bugs – Holy cow, were the mosquitoes bad! I did do some verbal prep-work with Colton, explaining to him that we were going to be walking with heavy packs for a long long time, and that we might get tired but would be able to relax when we get to camp. I have found that preparing him for new experiences becomes much easier on both of us if he is allowed to know exactly what he can expect. And to his credit, he only said to me once that his back was starting to hurt, but he wasn’t going to complain about it. Pretty grown up choice for a 6-year-old!  #proudmamabear

We successfully made it to camp and got all set up. I was extremely jealous of the awesome hammock my friend had. If this is something I decide to do more of, I am thinking we will need to invest in these! She let us try it out and it is snug as a cocoon! Although my tent from Walmart served its purpose, it was kind of like sleeping in a coffin and I did get a little claustrophobic.  

After setting up camp we went to the beach and found the park water for making our dinner. Sure glad we made this stop. It’s easy to forget how beautiful Lake Michigan is! Especially in Door County. Cooking for dinner was a breeze.  Wish dinner was this easy every night!

My friend Jessica packed dehydrated foods, which are much lighter weight making them easier to pack and carry. However, she did have to warm up water in her cute little stove. She shared with us, and they are very tasty!


A little night fire to finish off the night, and it’s off to bed for all of us! We did wake up in the middle of the night to lighting and thunder headed our way. Unfortunately, cell service wasn’t good, so we were unable to pull up a good radar reading of the approaching storm. Imagining a worst case scenario, we discussed our options (the closest shelter and the truck were both about the same distance away). Ultimately we all agreed to just tough it out. Colton slept through all this, by the way! Thankfully, the storm completely missed us – not even a drop of rain threatened our weekend!


The next morning was nice and slow, very relaxing in no hurry to do anything. Listened to the lake crash against the shore, enjoyed all the sounds of wilderness around us, life was easy and calm. Just what I needed – I didn’t want to leave! We enjoyed our breakfasts and started to pack up. 


Colton and I love to hike, and identify mushrooms and plant varieties. Unfortunately the mosquitoes were so awful that we were only able to do a quick glance identifications and discuss what we each thought it was and what it was used for.


All things considered, I would call this first trip a success!  We had a great time with only minor hiccups (which are anticipated on any trip).  As promised, here is a list of alterations I would make to our pack list…


Future Pack Adjustments:

Mattress pad!  My body needed it!

Water purification tablets – These are light-weight and easy to pack, and the water provided was a little rusty.

Bug foggers

Folding saw – We brought a pocket chainsaw and an axe, but both were unnecessary.

More clothes! I did not pack enough clothes. I try to be as minimal as possible when packing, but in this case I was TOO minimal.

Next time I think Colton and I will be able to handle a longer distance and more days; we will start slow though. I would love to hear about your backpacking experiences. Have you wanted to give it a try, but just haven’t made the leap yet?  What’s stopping you?!


Thanks for reading,


Upcycling is a unique craft that when practiced correctly, can really make a difference.  Enter: Tara and Becca – Two Midwestern girls with a passion for flea markets and dusty gold.  Tara has over 15 years experience in woodworking and antique restoration, and Becca has a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture and over 10 years experience in the field of design.  Together, they are the dynamic duo known as The UpCycle Girls!  They thoroughly enjoy all things old and rusty, and are always in search of their next great find in America’s beautiful dairyland.  Their mission focuses on bringing new life to old household items by flipping them into decorating staples or statement pieces. Additionally, they work to recognize sustainability by keeping unwanted furniture and decor out of landfills through the practice of repurposing and upcycling.  Between the two of them, Tara and Becca have six kids, 4 dogs, 7 chickens and a fish (and are hoping to add more!)!  They are busy wives and mamas who love doing almost anything outdoors, drinking strong coffee, traveling to new places, listening good country music, and junking until their nail polish chips off! // WebsiteFacebookInstagramPinterest


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