Backpacking is one of my favorite things to do, a favorite way to adventure. There’s a special freedom you feel when you carry everything you need to survive and flourish on your back for a few days. When I was single I went backpacking with my friends. Once I married, I started taking my wife on backpacking adventures (and I still take trips with friends). Now, with a family of five, I take my family backpacking.
A few weeks ago we took our first backpacking trip as a family. My sons are still young and small, so I simply have them carry their school backpacks with a few items inside: their sleeping bag, clothes, water bottle, pocket knife, and some of the family food. This teaches them responsibility for their own things, and some of the family’s things.
I don’t like being indoors for too long. Being outside, in the wilderness, is where I feel most alive and where I do some of my best parenting.
Time passes more slowly on backpacking trips. It’s so good for my heart to not be in a hurry, and for me to not be in a hurry with the people I love most. Spending a few hours around the campfire telling stories, roasting marshmallows, and telling jokes is good for the soul.
For this trip, I took my family to the same area of wilderness where I took each of my sons on a one-on-one backpacking trip with me when they turned 3 years-old. On those three trips, I helped each of my sons carve their name into a picnic table that’s hidden deep in the forest, on the edge of a secluded canyon. My 9 year-old hadn’t seen his name for 6 years, my 7 year-old hadn’t seen his name for 4 years, and my 5 year-old had seen his carved name for 2 years.
For me, the highlight of the trip was showing my sons their carved names on the old picnic bench. That moment sparked joy, memories, and stories. Just like my son’s names are carved into that table, these backpacking trips are carving deep, good grooves in our family.
Go backpacking. Whether single, married, or caring for a growing family, backpacking is good for you.