The below is an article i wrote for the Family Pulse for June 2011. It’s either in your mailbox (if you have a kid in school) or it’s on it’s way.

Todd Kristie and Ginnie backpacking

One of the awesome things about living where we do is the proximity to the epic alpine terrain of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Now that I’m a dad, my definition of “epic” has changed from long backpacking treks, to nice casual hikes in the backcountry. Tahoe has a ton of great short hikes that once were nice snack stops on the way to a farther destination, but are now about as far as we can get before the little dude needs a break, nap, food, change, etc…

We missed the boat last year. Our son, Bowie, was born on mother’s day so by the end of backpacking season, he was only 6 months old and not quit up for an overnight on the trail.

But some of our friends were able to get out for overnight trips with young kids. I surveyed them and here are some tips for getting youngsters out on the trail overnight.

Todd and Ginnie crossing a creek

Pack and Packing

We use the Deuter Kid Comfort pack. My friends are equally split between that and the Kelty FC pack. Both are light weight, comfortable aluminum frame packs that hold a kid and a bit of gear. Tennile O’Meara and her husband Shawn took their daughter Sidney out to Winnemucca Lake last year and used the Kelty pack. “It was not easy to pack,” she says. “First we got out all of the gear we usually bring and all the gear we thought the baby would need (almost gave up right then).” They then whittled their gear down, setting aside luxury [heavy] items and, “continued on packing and repacking until we got it right (or at least right enough).”

Todd and Ginnie on the trail

Usually one person carries the kid and all the kid gear, amounting to a standard to heavy backpacking load. Then the spouse carries all the gear for the couple, which amounts to a heavy to really heavy pack.

Meals and Snacks

Unless you give your kid a lot of cheese and perishables, the normal snacks and food will work as backpacking food. If your kid is still nursing, ore on on formula, that’s a super easy (and light) solution. Kristie Connolly gave her daughter Ginnie gold fish, nuts and kid cliff bars for snacks and shared their freeze-dried backpacker food from REI for meals. Barrett and Dawn Donovan brought their son Caleb’s regular food and Formula for snacks.


“I would have not done such a long trip in such a short time.” Says Connoly. She recommends doing just a few miles a day so your kid can get down and play more.

Ginnie having some fun!

“Have a backup plan.” says Donovan. They had to bail on a backpacking trip in favor of car camping and day hikes when a last minute melt-down made an extended hike impractical.

“Pick a location you are already familiar with,” suggests O’Meara. “Don’t go when you think it will be buggy, don’t bring (many) toys, relax.”

Where to go

The Tahoe area is filled with great short hikes that are a mellow Micro-backpacking excursion for families with small kids. As the Sierra snow melts off, here are a few close by as well as one more further afield.

Lake Margret

Winnemucca Lake

  • Mileage: 2 – 3 (depending on where you start)
  • Region: Carson Pass, Caples Lake
  • Map: USDA A Guide to The Mokelumne Wilderness
  • Activities: Beautiful high altitude alpine lake with many day hikes and landmarks to explore.

Gilmore lake

Long Lake

  • Mileage: 2.8
  • Region: Bishop, CA: Bishop Pass
  • Map: Tom Harrison Maps: Bishop Pass
  • Activities: There are many stops along this hike for resting, exploring and fishing. Also, it’s right below Bishop Pass which crosses the Sierra Crest with stunning views down into La Conte Canyon of the upper Kings River, Dusy Basin and the west face of The Palisade Peaks.

USFS Map: A Guide to The Mokelumne Wilderness

National geographic Maps

Tom Harrison Maps

Mike Henderson is an avid mountaineer, climber and backpacker looking forward to his first summer exploring the backcountry with his son.