Gear · Hiking Gear

The Hiking Tether

The hiking tether:

You will either love the concept, the idea, how it works, or you will vividly froth angrily about using a leash on a child.

What is a hiking tether? It’s simply nothing more than a leash to keep wayward children close to you in the wilds. Yet giving the child freedom in not having to hold a hand.

When my oldest son started hiking with me, I had a lot to deal with. He is on the Autistic Spectrum, and was a runner/bolter as a toddler and preschooler. I needed a way to keep him with me, so at first I had a wrist to wrist strap, made of elastic, as one would find in baby sections. It was not a good product. It limited his mobility and I could not use trekking poles, and my arm had to hang in a funky manner. Walking on narrow trails in the alpine zone was not very easy, nor was it safe.

I started the tether so he could walk with me, and not be in a backpack carrier. But I was concerned with him wandering. He had an uncanny ability to vanish. Often he would see a rock to toss into a creek, or a rabbit, and want to follow it. (He also did not talk, which was a big concern)

And let me be blunt: If you haven’t raised a child on the Spectrum, and you have no idea the why behind it….please don’t criticize a caregiver using tools. Keep your thoughts in your head. What you might see as “cruel” is keeping a child safe.

As time passed, and he crossed into his 4th year, a solution came to me: two carabiners and a section of 1″ poly webbing. They don’t have to be technical carabiners, cheap ones are fine. I hand sewed a loop of the webbing over each carabiner. His normal tether was 36″ long (3 feet) giving him ample movement room. One carabiner on an adult’s backpack, on the back, and one to him, be it on his waist belt, or on his pants’ belt loop.

Summer of 2003 I believe, so he was 6 that summer. You can see the carabiner on his belt loop, and the webbing against my legs.

(This was the original version. The webbing was black. The later version was gray)

Over the next few years, I upgraded it twice, to make it nicer looking (better sewing, nicer webbing). But the overall design didn’t change. I made ones for friends. By 7 years old, we had long retired the tether. For the age of 4 to 6 though, it was an invaluable tool. It had bought us time and by then he was a safe hiker who didn’t wander.

It is something to consider as a tool if your child is a bolter.


One thought on “The Hiking Tether

  1. My child was a bolter too. He fought holding hands as we walked, wildly. This was in town. I was sick with fear that he would run into the street as we walked. I bought a child harness. We both immediately relaxed. He was safe and also had the freedom he craved.

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