Over the summer holidays we completed our first overnight hike as a whole family. My husband and I have done a lot of multi-day hikes over the years using tents and a year ago he took our eldest daughter and her friend on a multi-day hike staying in huts but having all three girls on an overnight trip together felt like a significant family milestone.
We decided to do the Pinnacles hike in the Coromandel which we had heard was a great introductory hike for families.
The short version of this story is ‘we made it’ but let’s talk about the nitty gritty of the experience.
WHO CARRIED WHAT?
- My husband and I both carried full hiking packs. Between us we were carrying all the food, our clothes and clothes for two children, four sleeping bags, cooking pots/plates/cutlery, first aid kit, sunscreen, insect repellent etc
- Our 11 year old carried a small hiking pack wiith her own sleeping bag, clothes, water, the playing cards and some of the snacks.
- Our 9 year old carried a small day pack with her water, scroggin, water and rain jacket
- Our 7 year old didn’t carry a pack
This worked well for a 1 night hike but I would want all the girls to be carrying a little more before we take on a multi day hike with them. The extra food for 5 people gets heavy pretty quickly!
HOW DID THE KIDS COPE WITH THE HIKE?
Amazing. Better than I expected.
They all had moments where they got grumbly, tired etc. They key to managing this was adequate rest stops, scroggin and my best distraction techniques.
They all felt so proud of their achievement and are keen for more overnight hiking adventures.
WHAT WAS THE HUT LIKE?
The hut was terrific. It sleeps 80 people and was fully booked the night we were there.
There are two bunkrooms – luckily our room didn’t have any significant snorers!
Kitchen was well set up and in fact has so many left over pots/pans/plates that we could have left ours behind.
We arrived at the hut mid afternoon and claimed a table by the window for family cards and dinner.
The hut relies on rain water. The North Island if NZ is in drought this summer so showers were off limits at the hut while we were there but water was available for cooking/drinking.
WHAT DID WE EAT?
A lot of thought goes into hiking food. When you have to carry everything you want to make sure that you only carry what is needed and that everyone will eat it.
I discussed every meal ahead of time with the kids. They all needed to say they would eat what was available even though it wasn’t their favourite thing. For example none of my kids LOVE Weetbix (and don’t eat them at home) but they will eat them hiking as they are light to carry and good energy.
This was my food plan exactly as I wrote it up … nothing fancy but it works for me:
Lunch (before walk) sandwiches
Walk day 1 – scrog(*) & snacks
Afternoon tea – nutty crunch bites & choc coconut slice
Dinner – France Pasta – bacon, zuch, uht cream, parmesan
Chopped vegie’s in vacuum seal
Water bottles x 5
Breakfast – weetbix and fruit bix & uht milk, tea
Morning tea – choc coconut slice
Lunch Cruskits – Geoff and Linda tuna sachets, kids Peanut Butter
Carry scrog for day 2
(*) scrog = scroggin = a mix of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate & lollies.
The kids helped me make up a big batch and then everyone got a small zip lock bag full each day to carry on them. This meant that any time the kids were feeling hungry or just needed a boost they could eat something yummy to keep them going.
WHAT IS CLIMBING TO THE ACTUAL PINNACLES LIKE WITH CHILDREN?
We chose to climb up first thing on Day 2.
You are more at risk of cloud cover reducing views in the morning but for us it was about managing kids energy and there was no way they had the energy to summit after hiking up to the hut on Day 1. We were greeted by a sunny and calm morning – perfect.
The “summit” is definitely not for young children. Access to the top is via a mix of ladders, random metal rungs bolted into boulders, and some steep rock scrambling.
Once you get to the top there is a great viewing platform to stand on.
My 7 year totally froze half way to the summit. Her fears overwhelmed her and we found ourselves with a child who was incapable of moving forward, crying uncontrollably.
Eventually I sent my husband ahead with the older girls and said I would just wait on the track with our youngest until they came back.
After another 10-15 minutes of crying and overwhelming distress my daughter say to me, between her tears, that she really wants to make it to the top. So we agree to go together, slowly. This proved to be really hard for me as I really felt I needed a second adult to help her navigate some sections safely.
But … we made it and she was so happy when she finally got there.
Coming down proved to be a piece of cake after that!
WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS?
The kids loved the swing bridges, making it to the top of the Pinnacles and playing cards.
One of my highlights was seeing my 7 year old overcome her fear to get to the top of the Pinnacles.
We will definitely do more overnight hikes with the kids in future.
If you have any questions about anything just post them in the comments below.