Author – Ankit Naithani
Planning a trek vacation can be a very difficult if you are a parent. You might be a parent who wants to take your kids out in the wilderness at a young age to get them accustomed to it, but are unsure about how to go about it.. Or, like most adventure enthusiasts, you might want to escape to the mountains but there are two questions lingering in the back of your mind:
1. Can my child come with me?
2. How young is too young?
During my time in the mountains I have often come across kids trekking with their parents(often foreign nationals) and honestly, they look fine. I have seen that kids after they cross a specific age are quite motivated, love to explore and are great team players, making them perfect trekkers.
So let me answer few key concerns that you, as a parent may have about taking your child on a trek.
- When can I start taking my child on a multi day trek?
This is a tricky question and may often vary for different individuals.In my experience, I have observed kids above 7 are often comfortable on easy treks.
Fit, outdoorsy and experienced kids who are younger can be an exception to this.
For kids who are younger and have no prior hiking or camping experience, I would recommend taking them on multiple hikes starting from one location. For example, you can make Manali your base and then take your kid for 2-3 day hikes in the neighbouring region.
This can also be done with an older kid who has no exposure to the wilderness.
- Which trek would be suitable for your kid?
One of the most important question would be: “Which trek do I take or not take my child on?”
The answer to this question would depend on your child. As an expedition leader, I would be comfortable taking a slightly older kid (10-12 years) who has some experience (summer camps , hiking locally) and are fit and motivated on a moderate trek too.Younger kids, I believe, can be taken on easier treks.
The simple trajectory to follow for teenagers would be to start with easy or moderate treks and then graduate to difficult treks.
For example, you should probably start with a easy trek like (Deoriataal-chandrashila or Kedarkantha) and then graduate to more difficult treks.
- How do you tackle environmental challenges?
One challenge kids can face while trekking is extreme weather. First trek is often a make or break affair for youngsters, so as parents you would want it to make a positive experience. Avoid sending a kid on a trek during cold weather/winter or during heavy rainfall. Both of the these conditions can be a real mood dampener for adults and kids.
Also, appropriate clothing is an absolute must. Invest or rent good layers for the trek.
- Medical challenges a kid can face
Like adults, it is important for kids to acclimatize well when they are at an altitude. Normal principles of mountain sickness prevention applies here as well.
There is no study that says that kids take longer to acclimatize and so the parents need not worry too much.
The important thing to note here would be to stop or go down immediately at the onset of any symptoms.
- Familiar faces and trustworthy expedition leader and guide
I have noticed that often a child is most comfortable if they have a familiar face, preferably a parent, on the trek. This gives them added sense of security and motivates them.The added bonus is that if anything goes wrong or for some reason they need reassuring, the situation can be handled better.
What also helps is having expedition leaders and staff who are experienced in dealing with kids and who are sensitive towards their needs.
Parents have often spoken to me after a trek about how the trek was very comfortable for both them and their child because of an experienced staff.
These are some of the points you should consider before taking a kid on a high altitude trek.
Mountains are great teachers and facilitate learnings that are beyond the scope of any classroom. In my experience, youngsters exposed to the wilderness often are independent, sensitive, confident, knowledgeable and have an appetite for adventure.
As a parent one of the best gifts you can give your child is a trek vacation. Bonds that are built in the mountains stay strong for a very long time! 🙂