Adventure Packing Lists for Families

Adventure Packing Lists for Families

It’s the adventure before the adventure. It’s the moment when someone in my family is most likely to cry or fight. Usually, it’s a timed event but rarely a planned event. No one trains for this adventure, and no one is handing out medals if you do it well. (Although someone should!) And while it was intended to be a team event, it usually morphs into a solo marathon.

The event? Pre-adventure Packing

For years, I thought that I could not prepare for our activities because they were often spontaneous. My husband and I would wake up on the weekends, stretch, look at the weather, and decide to hike, bike, or ski.

Recently, I finally realized that I might not be able to predict the date of our excursions, but I could plan the supplies we needed. I could control a bit of the crazy.

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    Any system I created had to be simple because both the kids and I have short attention spans. Additionally, I am not naturally organized. I needed a system we could maintain.  Eventually, I settled on a checklist system. After using it for several months, we love it!

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      Benefits of adventure packing lists for families

      We have what we need.

      In the words of my 10-year-old, “You can’t ski without a ski.”

      We have better communication.

      If you are fortunate to have a spouse or child who helps pack, you can easily see what they have done. No more yelling down the stairs, “Did you remember the ski goggles?” I nag my children less because they know what is expected and I no longer need to remind them to pack every item needed.

      It’s also prevented a few near disasters. Once my son packed everyone’s ski helmets except the helmet belong to the brother with whom he was currently feuding. Because I made him check off what he packed, I knew the helmet was missing before we reached the slopes.

      We share the work.

      My family members don’t help pack because they aren’t sure how to help. The checklist shows them what I haven’t done yet and what is their responsibility. It keeps everyone on track. (Including me!)

      It quiets the crazy list-maker in my mind.

      Am I the only jotting things down on random pieces of paper and then starting the list over because I lost the paper? Now I know where my lists are. I know that I have everything I need on the list because I thought about what I needed during a moment of calm reflection – not when I’m trying to go someplace.

      It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I can focus on planning where to venture and not what to pack.

      My kids are learning responsibility and how to prepare for their own trips.

      My oldest loves knowing that we won’t be stranded without snacks. I like knowing that the checklists help develop my kids’ executive function and encourage them to see how their actions positively change their situation.

      The checklists also teach them what supplies they need to be safe outdoors. I hope they remember these items when they are old enough to backpack on their own!

      Adventure Packing Lists for Families
      My younger boys are checking their lists before our ski vacation.

      How to use the Adventure Packing Lists for Families System

      I love that my system is re-usable and very simple. All you need to do is print the checklists and protect them with plastic sheet protectors. I store mine in a three-ring binder and have placed tabs on each, so I can find them more quickly.

      When we get ready for a trip, I lay the appropriate checklist out on our kitchen table. The kids scan the checklists and start gathering supplies. We use multiple checklists if our events include a variety of activities.

      For example, we are currently planning a trip to a rustic, uninsulated cabin in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. While there, we will both nordic and alpine ski. Since the cabin is remote, we will bring all our supplies in sleds and backpacks. To prepare, I’ll use the Downhill Skiing Checklist, Cross-Country Skiing Checklist, Travel Checklist, and Backpacking Checklist.

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        Supplies needed

        • Sheet protectors or laminating sheets (if you have a laminator) 
        • Notebook or clipboard for storage
        • Fine-tip dry erase markers
        • Checklists
        • Tabs or dividers (optional)
        • Whiteboard eraser, damp rag, or Magic Eraser

        How it works

        • Select the checklists that correspond with your activities for the day
        • Place them in a visible location
        • Check to see what has been done
        • Erase and use again
        Adventure Packing Lists for Families
        Not shown: The snacks, hot chocolate, and hand warmers that made this ski fun for my five year old!

        How to get your family to participate in a checklist system

        A system only works if you use it. For families with young children, the checklists will primarily serve the parents. Children under five can help some, but they should not be expected to be responsible for their supplies.

        If your kids are old enough to help, they should! Hopefully, they will become convinced that this method is better. Today my kids appreciate that our departures are calmer and mostly help pack. When I first introduced the system, my kids needed a little bit of training.

        Here’s what I did to encourage them to buy into my system.

        1.) I explained why I created this system.

        Peace! Love! Happiness! Hiking! 

        2.) I emphasized that they were responsible for their own checklist.

        I told them that I would not pack for them. If they didn’t follow the checklist, they might not be able to participate in the planned activity.

        Adventure Packing Lists for Families

        3.) I bribed them.

        Occasionally, I will place a raisin, peanut, or chocolate chip on each checkbox. When the item is packed, the kid may have the treat.

        4.) Finally, I had a training event.

        I selected an event where my children would be safe and not emotionally devastated if they have to sit out. Then I let them pack according to the checklist.

        For example, last year we attended a weekly community group where most of the kids loved playing outside in the snow but some kids played board games indoors. I told my children that I would no longer pack their snow clothes. Instead, I would give them a list of what they needed.

        If they had their snow clothes, then they would be able to play outside. If not, they would stay indoors. One week without a snowball fight converted my kids into careful list followers!

        Other safe checklist training situations might include packing for an hour-long downhill skiing lesson. You might want to bring games and drawing activities along in case your child forgets something crucial.

        If the child did not pack her gloves, you should be very sympathetic and play with her in the lodge, but she won’t be able to ski. She’ll miss the skiing lesson but hopefully learn a different lesson.

        It goes without saying, but don’t do this if your children are very young or if it’s not safe! I always double-check our supplies for trips longer than a few hours.

        I hope these checklists help you find more peace of mind and enable you to get outside more!

        Adventure Packing Lists for Families

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          • Although she grew up in the suburbs, Becky Trudeau enjoyed frequent hikes and camping trips as a child. These outings taught her to love the wilderness. In college, Becky studied journalism and biology, pursuing both her interest in the natural world and her love of writing. She has since worked in Communications and as a science teacher. These days, Becky is teaching, writing, and learning as she home educates her three boys. Since moving to the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains in 2017, Becky's family has dedicated more of their time to outdoor pursuits. They love skiing, hiking, biking, and camping.

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