Netteburg Family Thru-Hiking Adventures

Netteburg Family Thru-Hiking Adventures

Netteburg Family Thru-Hiking Adventures

We first heard about this family of thru-hikers in 2022 when they started the Continental Divide Trail with their infant (and Little Mo 20 Baby Sleeping Bag) in tow. Since then, we've marveled as they've hiked more than 5000 miles together as a family of 7. Having now completed the Triple Crown of Thru-hiking (the Appalachian, Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest Trails), we sat down with Olen and Danae Netteburg to talk about their inspirations, must-have gear, and favorite moments from the trail. You can follow their adventures on Instagram.

How Did Your Love of the Outdoors and Long-Distance Hiking Start?

While Olen’s parents deeply appreciated nature and enjoyed brief forays into it, Danae’s parents were very comfortable being “in the wild.” But Danae didn’t recognize it as awesome until Olen reintroduced her to being smelly and dirty for multiple days in a row.

Olen had an awareness of the Appalachian Trail since middle school but didn’t take his first backpacking trip until the end of high school. Really, backpacking was merely his excuse to spend hours poring over backpacking gear magazines. He developed a habit of being outdoors, biking, paddling, and occasionally hiking. The Appalachian Trail remained à how-fun-it-would-be-but-won’t-realistically-happen dream. We took a few 1–4-night backpacking trips as a couple but assumed that was done once we had a kid, even taking a final overnight trip when Danae was pregnant, as a sort of last hurrah.

Once we had a baby, we found that while we could camp with the baby, the sleeping arrangement was a nuisance.

Then in 2018, with kids ages 2, 4, 6, and 9, we decided to take some 3-6 night backpacking trips. The kids loved it! The one real hassle was the wrestling of quilts and sleeping bags. We’d either carry huge bags for little people (so much extra weight!) or make them share bags/quilts and hear them argue all night. Nonetheless, the good moments far outshined the bad and we hiked the Appalachian Trail as a family of six in 2020. Unbeknownst to us, we finished the trail with a parasite, who seven months later would be born Piper Grayson (after the Grayson Highlands of Virginia, a highlight of the AT for us).

We figured that was the end of long-distance backpacking, but our oldest four really wanted to hike the Continental Divide Trail in 2022, a trail I had long known to be impossible. But we discovered the Morrison sleeping bag and gave it a go. What a game-changer! Our baby had a warm sleeping bag (it got to 17 degrees one night) that was safe, and most importantly, kept her out of our own quilts!

We’ve now hiked 5000+ miles with our baby in a Morrison and she LOVES it!

A man holding a smiling baby wearing a Morrison Outdoors Little Mo Sleeping Bag while camping

Can You Tell Us About Your Thru-Hiking Adventures with Your Family? Where Did You Go? How Long Did it Take?

Sure. We’ve just completed the 3 long trails of America while hiking with our family. The first one was the Appalachian trail in 2020. Our youngest at the time was just four years old when she completed it. When I look back at the pictures from that year I am blown away again at how special it was to be able to spend so much time together as a family. The older 3 were 7, 9, and 11 that year when we finished, 7 months after starting. The year was filled with us learning and being flexible. We learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and long-distance backpacking with kids.

Two years later, in 2022, we completed a connected footpath along the Continental Divide Trail, connecting Mexico to Canada spanning 2250 miles. This trail is different than the others in that it’s easy to make up your own variation of routes using alternates that you choose. We mostly chose the easiest and shorter routes for the kids, but a few times we did pick the more difficult ones (knapsack col alternate for example).  This trail was also challenging due to having a new baby who was 8 months old when we started. ‘Deadweight’, as the baby is called, was carried during our 6 months on the trail, but took her first few steps at the Canadian border when we finished.

This year we went for broke and attempted and finished our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike from May to November 2023. It was bittersweet putting on our triple crowns at the California and Mexican border.

A family of 7 hiking in a gorgeous forested landscape

What Motivated You to Want to do This as a Family?

We had spent so much time being busy medical providers in Chad, available 24/7 for emergencies, that we didn’t make as much time to simply be present with the kids. This was our chance to help our family grow through different challenges than what we had previously been through.

A family of seven hiking along a steep mountainous trail

What Were Some of your Favorite Moments?

  1. Picking blueberries on the Appalachian Trail while we were hiking in southern Maine. The whole day was a memorable one because of its simplicity. It was the day we hit 1200 miles, and we made our mile marker out of blueberries. And then we ate them! As the day progressed the kids scrambled across the granite rocks (part of the trail) and enjoyed the views, but the blueberries along the trail seemed to last all day. Wild berries are always a win in our book!
  1. Having the wild ponies lick our legs on the AT in Grayson Highlands. The squeals of the kids, as they burst into laughter because the ponies were tickling their legs, were priceless. The ponies were attracted to the salt that hikers get from sweating so much. It was sort of like a little bath.
  1. Walking the Eagle Creek alternate of the Pacific Crest Trail and going through the waterfall tunnel. We had had a rough day of walking through blowdowns. The waterfalls and walk along the gorge were a welcome change. The trail even went behind a waterfall through a tunnel. It was so cool!
A young girl being licked by a pony while hiking along a forested trail

What Were Some of the Biggest Challenges?

  1. Hiking long distances with little legs. Young kids get bored of hiking unless their mind is engaged. So someone has to talk or play games or sing with them constantly.
  1. For the Appalachian Trail it was for sure the shutdowns due to Covid. With that being the biggest challenge the other things we were worried about didn’t seem like as big of a deal.
  1. On the Continental Divide Trail I would say in the beginning it was long water carries in New Mexico. The kids were still young, and couldn’t carry as much (as they can now), so we had to be attentive to water locations and always carry extra. I think the longest stretch we had was around 22 miles, so more than a day of hiking at that time.
  1. On the Pacific Crest Trail I would say weather was the most challenging. It was a super big snow year in 2023, so we had to work through that challenge.
A family of seven hiking along a trail in a mountainous region

What Was Most Surprising?

This whole thing is surprising. I would have NEVER dreamed this up from the beginning. We didn’t know how far we would make it on the AT to start, so we said we would just start hiking and not quit before one month was up. After that, we would reassess. But then we kept going. And then we did another one. And even another one. It’s all super surprising still to me!

What Advice Would You Give Other Families Considering Thru-Hiking with Their Children?

I would say plan a little, but also just start. You’re never going to be completely ready, so if you can take the time off, just do it. It is life-altering and wonderful to spend so much time with your family. You need to remain crazy-flexible and definitely readjust your goals. Put away any distractions and just spend time talking.

Three children holding wild blueberries they picked along the trail while hiking

What Gear Would You Recommend?

Obviously a Morrison sleeping bag. But secondarily, just start with whatever you have.

If you’re looking to get gear here is our hiking gear list for the PCT (kids ages 2, 7, 9, 11, 14)

A group of tents set up in a forested area with a view of mountains in the background


Chicken tramper custom packs (the kids just used daypacks that we had to start, then we upgraded to some REI backpacks off of Facebook marketplace later on our AT hike, then upgraded to chicken tramper early on our CDT hike).


  • Two Zpacks two-person tents
  • One Zpacks three-person. These all use our hiking poles to stand.


  • Morrison Sleeping Bag for the baby (and for the win!). We actually also got Morrison’s for the 7 and 9 girls, which they loved, but we opted for them to continue sharing a single-person quilt because it was lighter.  They definitely would have been happier in their respective Morrison’s, but when you’re carrying all your gear 2650+ miles, you count every ounce.
  • The boys shared a quilt and the parents shared a quilt. We loved our down quilts from Enlightened Equipment. So light, warm, packable, and you pick your own colors.
  • Everybody was on the cheapest/lightest sleeping pads we could find. We did closed-cell foam as opposed to air mattresses. We figured we weren’t responsible enough to prevent air leaks and punctures.
  • The baby was on a gossamer gear pad that was ⅛-in thick. It weighed nothing.
An adult and a baby in a Morrison Outdoors Little Mo Sleeping Bag sleeping in a tent with a view of the sunrise in the background


  • 2 bear bags, small rope
  • Stove and Fuel - Were weird and took a big MSR stove, the Whisperlite International. Probably the heaviest stove on the trail, but we could cook on car gas and could easily cook two big pots for the whole family. If we were a smaller group, I’d go with a different stove.
  • 3 pots
  • Stackable cups (we went with cheap plastic ones from REI that were actually super light)
  • 6 sporks


  • Darn tough socks.
  • We wore sun hoodies for the PCT and CDT
  • For the PCT, we wore Jolly Gear shirts, which were super fun patterns and colors.
  • The girls and daddy hiked in skirts/kilt. Nothing beats that freedom of movement and breathability!
  • Insulating Layer: Our insulation on the AT was fleece because everything there was so wet. We went to down on the CDT but then went back to synthetic insulation on the PCT with Enlightened Equipment warm puffies (which are cool because you can choose your own fabric colors).
  • Footwear: We hiked in boots on the AT, the ultralight Xero shoes on the CDT, and then a mix for the PCT, mostly trail runners. To each their own, but definitely take care of your feet by any means possible! Daddy still has neuropathy from the pounding with a heavy pack.
A baby wearing a Morrison Outdoors Little Mo sleeping bag sitting next to a sleeping adult in a forested area

Electronics (Minimal):

  • Cell phone
  • Nightcore battery bank
  • GPS emergency device
  • iPods so our kids could continue a modicum of school on the trail. It’s best to disengage as much as possible to reengage with nature and family.


  • An umbrella (we loved 6 moon designs)
  • Hiking poles for the adults
  • A baby toilet (ours came from the market in Chad, Africa for fifty cents. It’s the most lightweight one we can find because it’s so simple. We cut the bottom out and drilled a hole in to hang it on our pack).

What Other Adventures do You Have Planned for the Future?

I guess our biggest adventure is trying to figure out what responsible adulthood and parenthood look like. We worked 24/7 in Chad, Africa for 12.5 years, neglecting our family despite our best intentions. So hiking was a way to try to make up for that. Now we have left Africa and are homeschooling for one more year as we try to find where we are supposed to land in America and get “real” jobs.


A family of seven standing in front of a summit marker along the Pacific Crest Trail

Check out more of their amazing photos from their adventures and see where they go next by following their Instagram account.

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