Light-Weight Family Backpacking

Multi-day Backpacking, or tramping as we call it in New Zealand, has been in the ‘too hard basket’ for us for a few years now.  How does one carry all of your own stuff, plus most of your kids stuff, as well as a kid or two because you always seem to have a baby?! It worked when we just had one kid, was tricky when we had two, and impossible once we got three and beyond. Our first four kids were born in 5 years and our 5th came along 3 1/2  years later giving us a 9 year age span. Not a very conducive scenario for a backpacking trip!

Canoeing has been a much more realistic option for us to get into the backcountry as a family. Now I am so pleased to announce that family backpacking is a GO!!! I will share more in another post about where we went and how we managed, but today I want to talk about one way you can do overnight or multi-day hiking trips and reduce the load.

Our packing and weight distribution for our trip was very strategic.  We made the call to take no tents, which would give us a significant reduction in weight. Our tents weighed 7kg combined. Our tarp that weighed in at 1.2kg was the ticket.

We worked in the outdoors for a lot of years.  The majority of times that we were out on over-nighters with a group, we would set up a tarp and have everyone sleep under it.  It worked great.  We made the bold move that we were going to do this with our family too. The weather forecast had some rain and cooler temperatures but we risked it all!  I am glad that we did – it was fun.

The secret to every good tarp is a taut (very taut) ridgeline.  We usually look for two tree’s to span between. We tie a bowline on one end and a trucker’s hitch on the other. Setting up a tarp of campingWe don’t ever chop down tree’s to assist us.  It is a good chance to get creative, and no two tarp set-ups are the same.  Funnily enough, putting up a tarp usually gives us marital issues.  My thought patterns are invariably different than hubby’s and he prides himself on a skookum tarp!  We chose to take groundsheets this time.  Usually we don’t.  Can you believe that everyone slept until 8:30am?! In this photo, I am still in bed, watching them get breakfast sorted. My view from the tarpThis is it set up in the back ground at our first nights campsite.  The one that we took was an MEC guides tarp.  It measures 3.9m x 2.9m.  I can’t find it on their website – maybe because no one is going camping under a tarp at this time of year! It was just big enough for the 7 of us. family campingWe dont usually ever set it up like this, though a lot of the tarps  have these points on the outside where you can biner it to the ridgeline.  We set this up quick en-route to our 2nd nights camp because a shower was coming. setting up the tarpWe hung out underneath it and had some laughs (while munching on some chocolate blueberries that I didn’t know I had :), waiting for the shower to pass. hanging out under the tarp family time under the tarpWhen we got to where we wanted to camp for the 2nd and 3rd nights we set it up again.  It is reasonably high so we could get in and out from under it.  Once we were in our beds for the night, my husband went and lowered it significantly, and made sure all the angles were good so that it drained without pooling in any spots.  Good thing, because no sooner had we settled in, than we got a cracker of a thunderstorm, and it rained hard.  We were snuggled in, dry as a bone, and most of the kids even feel asleep while the storm was on. Awesome campsiteAnd look at us!  Fresh as daisies the morning after!! family camping tarp styles

It might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for us, with a large family it was awesome.  It took away bulk & weight and the kids thought it was cool! I loved that we were altogether, because usually we are in two tents.

We also have a  bigger tarp – the MEC Super Tarp that we have had many years use out of, that we love.  It weighs 3kg and is significantly bigger and works great for hanging out under, playing games or whatever, if it is super rainy.

I hope this inspires you to think out of the box!

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