There are no rules or laws that restrict children trekking in Nepal and it is the perfect place to combine stunning scenery with an incredible cultural experience that children will learn a great deal from, however there are a number of factors which you need to consider before signing up to a trek in the Himalaya's with your children.
Avoid the winter months and the monsoon season, most kids love being in the outdoors but December through to February can be very cold and the rain during the monsoon season of June through to early September are not ideal trekking conditions. Also, you may want to consider avoiding May, particularly the second half of the month before the monsoon breaks as it can be dusty and uncomfortably humid.
Physically a child will get colder quicker and be less able to generate his or her own heat, and therefore the clothing that your children have with them is important. Good clothing will be vital since a child will need more assistance to keep him or herself warm (including the torso and extremities) and provide extra insulation to sleep in. Similarly with the sun, ensure you have high factor sun cream, lip protection, sun glasses and sun hats.
You won’t really know how they will cope at altitude until the day it happens, so our best advice is to consider that ‘come the day’ the best preparations in the world may not be enough and their safety and well-being is clearly paramount, as long as you go with this view then you’ll always be ready to descend as obviously your child’s needs supersede your own.
The pace on treks in Nepal is generally slow but our experience is that kids like to run around a lot, especially after a day’s hiking! Best to be firm and make sure they really do rest and get lots of sleep and avoid any weight on their backs like rucksacks or hydration systems. Eating well throughout the trek and drinking lots of water is very important, be careful of sweets and so on which create energy spikes, and stick to ‘slow energy’ foods though don’t avoid sweets completely as they can provide a much needed boost to morale.
Choose a trek that has a very good acclimatisation schedule where you are gaining height gradually, avoiding big leaps in altitude like routes with high passes, trips like our Annapurna Sanctuary or Langtang trek are perfect for trekking with younger children but we can tailor make itineraries and combine trekking with cultural interaction. For example, a great child-friendly trip would be to trek from Jiri to the villages that have been developed through our charity, Moving Mountains, where your children will have the chance to mix and share experiences with local Sherpa kids in this stunning region of the lower Solukhumbu.
A lot of the challenges will mostly be psychological, keeping them interested and motivated. A young child feeling tired and fed up will sit down and ‘give up’ more easily than an adult, they lack the ability to put up with difficulty and even hardship in pursuit of an abstract aim. This is especially true when it is cold and the path is not so easy and in the evenings ensure that you have some activities or games to keep them entertained.
People often ask whether children are affected by altitude more than adults and although there is little evidence to suggest this, their ability to convert oxygen to energy and their weight to power ratio means that they do find it harder. If altitude does strike then the only answer is descent, irrespective of age, but the reality is that it won’t be a big situation that occurs, more likely an accumulation of small things. The most obvious reasons for these small things will be food intake, amount of sleep and rest, hydration and comfort.