I absolutely love power sports and using it as a tool to explore the great outdoors wherever we go. The explosive growth in interest and development of side by sides today has opened so many doors for families of all ages to get out there together and do so much more than in the past. Off-road riding with kids can be an amazing experience for everyone.
No longer restricted to 4×4 trucks and other full size vehicles, families can go on adventures in much smaller vehicles adapted for the stresses of off-road use and capable right off the show room floor. It is so important to teach children to find the beauty in nature and to take joy in getting away from the busyness of everyday life.
Off-Road Riding with Kids
Off-road riding with little kids is certainly a different experience than going solo or riding with adults only. Here’s a quick rundown of 5 tips for family off-roading and trail riding with kids, and what you can expect to be different.
Plan an Appropriate Route
The cool places are sometimes hard to get to and the road might be long. You have to consider your kids’ much reduced stamina for extended riding. This comes into play as soon as you begin planning your day or trip. Think about how long it will realistically take you to arrive at your destination (or destinations). While mom & dad might be up for an 8-hour ride in the Colorado mountains, it’s easily possible the kiddos can only handle half that length before they become too tired.
Also, little bodies will move a lot more with all the bumps and bounces, so driving cautiously over terrain is essential. Make sure your little passengers are well rested before your ride. Starting a 4-hour trail ride at a usual nap time is probably not a good idea for anyone.
Always require your little ones to wear their helmets and wear one yourself. And in case I need to say it, it’s essential to provide your kids with harnesses or seat belts that fit appropriately. We use 4-point harnesses for our children and would like to upgrade the adult seats with 4 or 5 point harnesses as well. I also recommend goggles or sunglasses for the whole family. Even if you do have a windshield for your ride, your eyes will dry out less with some protection and bugs or dust will be less of an issue for all concerned.
“Are we there yet?”
Asking “are we there yet?” isn’t just something you hear on road trips; kids’ attention spans can wane on off-road rides. Try to point out things of interest along the way for your kids to see and enjoy. Stop more frequently to relax or for bathroom breaks. A child can quickly become frustrated by extended riding without a goal or rest stop in sight. Let your kids know when they can expect a lunch stop or tell them about a cool pit stop where they will see an interesting view. Off-road riding with kids can be a real treat for your family. Just seeing your kids’ eyes light up or hearing their laughter while enjoying the same things you do is an amazing feeling.
Stock up on Snacks and Drinks!
I know I like snacks, and at the rate at which my kids metabolize their food, I better be prepared for snack breaks. Drinking plenty of water, even though it’s ‘just a ride,’ is still vital to avoid dehydration in higher temperatures or over time. It is smart to be prepared with snacks and drinks when off-road riding with kids! If your trail takes you away from well-traveled paths, it’s best to store additional food and water on board for emergencies as well. We love our CamelBak hydration backpack with water bladder. It holds 2.5 liters of liquid and the kids enjoy the bite and suck mechanism for drinking as well.
Have a GPS SOS Device
You may find yourself at the top of a beautiful and remote vista with your family in tow and suddenly consider, “What would we do if we were stuck up here? Or if I was injured and unable to move?” Bring a GPS device that can track your movement in real time, so loved ones back at camp or at home can see what you are doing even out of cell range. A GPS SOS device allows you to send messages, post updates to social media, request assistance from friends and family, or even send out an emergency SOS signal to search and rescue personnel for an evacuation. You likely won’t need to use it, but a GPS device is always a good idea to have on hand.
I highly recommend the Garmin InReach Satellite Communicator with two way messaging via GPS. A subscription is required, but you can pay month to month or annually for a discount. Another option is the morme economical SPOT device, but it’s message features are one-way only. When you are off-road riding with kids, you really want to be as safe as possible out there!
Remember, off-road riding with your family is about creating an experience to enjoy. Help your kids learn to enjoy the outdoors by encouraging them to share in your own favorite hobbies. Off-road riding, hiking and exploring are all great ways to create family memories.
Andy is dad to three kiddos and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. He loves going on family adventures, hiking, and riding motorcycles and ATVS. He’s also an entrepreneur and runs a successful children’s brand specializing in solutions for playtime and snack time.