Hikes with Tykes
From Chapter 4: Clothing
Half of all body heat is lost through the head, hence the hiker’s adage, “If your hands are cold, wear a hat.” In cool, wet weather, wearing a hat is at least good for avoiding hypothermia, a potentially deadly condition in which heat loss occurs faster than the body can generate it. Children are more susceptible to hypothermia than adults.
In lower latitudes, higher altitudes, deserts and especially during summer, a hat with a wide brim is useful in keeping the sun out of eyes. It’s also nice should rain start to fall.
Wear lightweight hats in late spring and summer and heavier ones in cooler weather. During winter, wear balaclavas or hats with ear flips.
For young children, get a hat with a chin strap. They like to play with their hats, which will fly off in a wind gust if not “fastened” some way to the child.
Sunglasses are an absolute must at high altitudes if walking through open areas exposed to the sun, and in winter when children can suffer from snow blindness. Look for 100% UV-protective shades, which provide the best screen.
The variety of sunglasses available out there are enormous, but when children are involved, always opt for something sturdy. You can buy sunglasses with no hinges, which means toddlers have one less avenue for breaking them. You even can buy symmetrical sunglasses that can be worn either right-side-up or upside down (for some reason, toddlers like to wear sunglasses upside down). These options also cost more money than an inexpensive pair you can buy for kids at any discount store. Also, be prepared for children to lose their sunglasses.
A water-resistant poncho is sufficient most of the time for children on a day hike. But if the temperature falls into the 50s or lower, or if hiking in a place that sees a lot of rain-fall or that is windy, more elaborate gear – such as a rain jacket and rain pants – will be better. Other rain gear might include water-resistant boots and a rain hat with a wide brim. As I advise against hiking on rainy days, we won’t spend much time on this topic. Still, carry a poncho or hooded, water-resistant windbreaker with you for each child on overcast days.
For the northern United States, winter as well as early spring and late autumn require cold-weather clothing. Besides layering with thicker clothing or even adding a fourth layer, you’ll want to wear gloves or mittens. The latter is better for children as they keep the fingers grouped together and so warmer. Scarves or mufflers are needed to the cover neck. Always bring extra shirts, socks and even shoes to change into after the hike. Shoes likely will get wet on a cold weather hike, and children will need new socks so they don’t have to suffer through cold feet on the drive home.
After the hike
Even if the weather is warm, bring a complete change of clothes, including footwear, for each child, just in case. The clothes don’t have to be those that the kids would wear in the wilds. If all goes well on the hike, you won’t need to change clothes, but it’s best to be prepared.
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