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Got Backpack?

By Jeanine Silversmith

backpackSummer officially starts on Sunday, June 21, and in my family that means we try to get on hiking trails as much as humanly possible. To make for a quick and oftentimes spontaneous getaway, I keep a backpack stocked with important items, then I simply add snacks and water, and we head out the door.

Here’s what I keep in my backpack:


  • First aid kit: The thing to know about first aid kits is that if you have one, you probably won’t need it, and if you don’t have one, you might! L.L. Bean’s website has a great list of what you should stock in your kit.
  • Sunscreen: Buy an extra bottle for your backpack so you don’t have to remember to grab the one out of your beach or diaper bag. Learn how to be sun safe.
  • Hats: Just because you apply sunscreen doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also wear a hat. It saves your scalp from getting burned and gives your face added protection to keep it young and beautiful.
  • Bug/tick repellent: Don’t mess around. Rhode Island, especially South County, is full of ticks. Check out URI’s Tick Encounter Resource Center.
  • Diapers, wipes, plastic bags: I always forget to grab diapers (probably because I can’t wait till my youngest is potty trained and I won’t need them), so I keep a few in my backpack along with an extra container of wipes and a couple of plastic bags for waste.
  • Change of clothes: This is a liberating item. If I bring extra clothes for my kids, I don’t worry if they get muddy, sticky, or soaked from jumping in a pond. Go ahead, kids, have fun! I’ll change your clothes if need be, and you’ll be a lot more comfortable on the way home.
  • Hiking book with maps, directions, notes: I consider myself an experienced hiker – not an expert but seasoned. Still, I’ve been lost more than once, thankfully before the kids came along, so why not bring help along?
  • Snacks/lunch: Pack several granola bars, fruit leather, etc., so you don’t have to add snacks every time you head out the door. Have a few easy to grab items like yogurts, cheese sticks, or apples in the fridge. My trick to remembering to bring them: I put my car keys in there too.
  • Water bottles/straps: Anybody who has backcountry camped knows that the heaviest item – and the one you need the most of – is water. So in our family, starting at age two, everyone has to start carrying their own bottle. There are a lot out styles to choose from: we like Sigg kids bottles because they come in a variety of designs and sizes (the smallest is only 10 ounces) and they have simple yet surprisingly well-designed carrying straps.


  • Child carrier: With our youngest just getting steady on his feet, we still depend on our Kelty backpack.  I also recommend some type of soft, collapsible child carrier such as a BabyHawk or Ergo Baby Carrier for your older toddlers, especially if you’re new to hiking. You never know when little legs will get tired.
  • Camera: I’ll admit I was reluctant to switch from my beloved Nikon film camera to a digital, but once I did, I couldn’t imagine going back – especially on the trails. Snap away! And don’t forget to let your kids snap away too.
  • Binoculars: These are a great way to take a break. Kids love looking through them, from either end.

Whatever you choose to put in your backpack, don’t forget the most important thing: your willingness to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. Play games, sing songs, tell jokes, act like animals – just get ’em outside!

Jeanine Silversmith is a self-described tree hugging, science-and-math geek whose love of nature, coupled with her absolute certainty that people, especially children, are happier, healthier, and wiser when they regularly spend time in nature, led her to establish Rhode Island Families in Nature (www.rifamiliesinnature.org).  She loves to run, garden, bake, hike, and go camping, especially when accompanied by her husband, Ian, her four-year-old daughter, Sierra, and her one-year-old son, Devin.  They live in Warwick.

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  • Ditto. I have a similar bag for hiking. We have a bag for little league games too. It includes bug repellent,batting gloves, catching gloves, cups, garbage bag, water,trail mix/nuts, tissue, etc..)

  • sometimes backpacks have plastic loops at the very bottom outside. You can buy straps at the camping store and attach a blanket to hang under the back pack. That way when you’re ready to plop down for lunch, you can put something under everyone to keep from getting too dirty.

    I think our day-out bag has nearly the same stuff.

    Look into getting a backpack/rucksack cover, which is just like a shower cap for your bag, they fold small and are only a few dollars.