Hiking With Baby: How to Ensure Everyone Has a Good Time
I love taking my baby on my hikes and being outside. I love to be with my friends and I truly love knowing that my daughter will be growing up learning to appreciate the outdoors.
No, hiking with a baby isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. It takes quite a bit of planning and a bit of foresight if you want to get it right. However, once you do get it right, everything will just fall right into place.
Over the past 7 months, since I first took Lorelei on a hike when she was 6 weeks old, I have truly begun to see what works and what just won’t work.
Get a Pack that is Comfortable
I began with the one called Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier. As Lorelei got a bit older, I moved up to the Osprey Poco Child Carrier.
When Lorelei was younger, hiking with the Ergo pack was amazing. It is truly comfortable, and it made adjusting the size from my husband to myself easy. For smaller infants, I definitely recommend this baby carrier.
Once, I tried to use a sling carrier and I really don’t recommend that. I wasn’t able to get it too tight, and I constantly felt as if Lor was slipping.
Once the baby grows a bit, the pack starts to become truly important. Carrying gear on your back is a lot different than carrying a small child. This is especially the case when they get a bit older and begin to wiggle quite a bit. You will need a pack that will distribute the weight evenly while also being able to conform to your body.
As far as the Osprey carrier goes, I love it. I have used 2 different ones in the past while hiking with my friends and their kids and the difference is astonishing. My back doesn’t even want to hurt, and I am even able to cover large distances while not having any issues with my knees. Nicer packs can get quite pricey, but you may be able to find used ones on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or even at baby consignment shops. If you begin looking for one as soon as you find out you are pregnant, you will surely be able to find a deal on one.
You also need to consider the comfort of your child. When my daugther is comfortable, she can be much happier than when she is uncomfortable. She doesn’t tend to get fidgety or cry. She also appears to enjoy being up so high and being able to see everything.
Plan Around the Baby’s Schedule
This is a lesson I learned very early and purely by mistake. Now, my goal is to feed Lor either on the way to the trail or right before we leave home. I try to ensure that she is truly full. This will give me about 3 hours to hike before I need to worry about stopping to feed her.
Now that she has gotten a little older, I try to keep little snacks for her in one of the side pouches so that I can easily get at them. If she begins to fuss a bit, I give her a little snack and she typically will be fine until we make a stop.
Side note – if you do this, expect there to be crumbs or even worse in your hair. I would recommend wearing your hair in a braid or wearing a hat. It won’t stop your baby from pulling your hair, but it can at least make it a bit more manageable.
Pack What You Need the Night Before and Keep Extras in the Diaper Bag
Even though I keep Lor’s pack stocked at all times, I still need to double check before I go out each time. The times when I try to pack the morning we are going make me feel as if I am rushed and I invariably will forget something. Just remember that preparing in advance can mean less stress when you hit the trail.
Always Bring Extra Diapers
This is another lesson that I learned the hard way. That is enough about that situation. Just remember not to go light with the diapers. Also, wipes can be a fantastic thing – not just for the baby, but also for you. I am far from being a clean freak, but I do always try to be clean when it comes time to feed my child. Also, wipes have quite a few uses on the trail.
Always Bring Additional Water
Where I hike is mostly arid and hot. Because of this, I always bring more water than I think I might need. Having a baby who is dehydrated just isn’t worth it. Lor is just now getting to the point where I can sometimes get her to drink from a straw. It might not be pretty, but at least it is a way to hydrate her.
Also, if you use a Camelbak, watch it if your child has teeth. Some of my friends have lost their hoses due to their children chewing on them.
I have gotten to where I tie a sippy cup for her to the side of my pack. She likes to play with it while we hike and drinks a bit more water.
Watch the Weight
I am 5 foot 1 and weigh in at 120 lbs. I am still working on that last bit of post-baby weight. Going by my weight alone, I shouldn’t be carrying more than about 30 pounds if I want to be safe. Lor only weighs 16 pounds, my pack weighs in at half that, so… can you see where I’m going with this?
When you are hiking with a baby, you will need to pack light. You might be laughing right now, since that is an oxymoron. When you have a baby, there are some things that you absolutely have to pack – that is just part of being a parent.
That being said, you should try to save those pounds where you can. I am lucky in that I have friends who are willing to help me by carrying some of the weight if I need them to. Even then, my pack is still around 32 pounds.
Hike as Soon as You Can
There are 2 reasons for this. One, it will get you back into hiking shape, which means that as your child grows, you will already be accustomed to the additional weight. It is also helpful for your child. I had one friend who didn’t put her child into a carrier until he was 18 months old. Let’s just say, that was a loud and unforgettable hike.
I don’t know how Lor will act as she grows, but speaking for right now, she is quite accustomed to being in the carrier and tends to get a bit excited as soon as I put her in it. She loves to go for rides. She babbles and waves at everyone she sees.
Plan the Hike Around the Child
Right now, most of my hiking gets done in increments of 2 or 3 hours. It doesn’t matter how I feel, I have to stop every so often to give Lor a break. This is just something I factor into my plans for each hike now. Even though I don’t really like having to stop, I realize that her needs come before my preferences and if she needs a break she gets one.
I also make the assumption that when I stop, it will be for about a half hour.
By the time I take her out of the carrier and let her play in the sand or dirt, feed her a bit and take all the rocks in sight out of her mouth, 30 minutes just flies by. Babies just need that time to recharge.
I’ve never been a fan of hiking poles, but now that I am hiking with Lor, they come in handy. Before, they just seemed to be a bit cumbersome and just get in the way.
However, since I have begun hiking with Lor, they are the best thing to have when I am going down and up steep trails that are rocky. They add to my stability, and this makes hiking with a baby on my back quite a bit safer.
Even when your baby is in the carrier, they can and do move suddenly, and this can unbalance you and lead to a frightening situation. Using the poles for hiking has offered me a lot of comfort, especially when the trails are steep. They are also great for my knees. I do try not to be a snob when it comes to gear, but hiking poles are one of the items you really shouldn’t skimp on. Go to an actual outdoor store to make sure that they are correctly sized for your particular body and needs.
I use Black Diamond poles and I love them. If you are even smaller than I am, you might want to think about getting hiking poles meant for kids. They are generally lighter, more cost-effective, and they work like a dream.
If you plan to stick with just some light hiking on trails that are good, I wouldn’t think you really need them, but if you plan to go off the trail or do anything with a bit of elevation, you should really think about investing in a good pair.
A Typical Hiking Schedule
I will normally feed Lor before I leave the house and then will give her a bottle while we are driving to the trail. I will check her diaper and add layers of sunscreen and clothing as they are needed according to the weather. Once I have her ready to go, I will get her in the carrier and hike for about 3 hours. When she begins to get hungry, I will take a break and feed her and change her diaper. I will then hike back to my car.
As of this writing, I haven’t had her in the carrier for more than 6 hours each day we hike. I would like to go for longer hikes, but I work the schedule for hiking around what she needs. When she gets a bit older, I might adjust it, but as of right now, she likes being in the carrier and I enjoy being outdoors, so we are both happy.
What to Carry
This list will vary depending on how long you will be hiking as well as the level of difficulty, but it will be a good place to start.
- Baby food – I have discovered that pouches of baby food work best on the trail
- Pre-measured formula
- Pre-measured bottle of water for the formula
- Pacifier that you can tie to the outside of your pack so that your baby will have easy access to it
- Hat – either for warmth or protection from the sun
- Lightweight, small blanket
- Cell phone. It is rare for me to hike alone, but those few times that I have, I made sure to stick with trails that have good cell coverage
How to Dress a Baby for the Trail
When I go hiking with Lorelei, I always dress her in clothing that is stretchy, lightweight, and easily layered. I always put her in long pants and high socks since the pants have a tendency to ride up when she is in the carrier. I also put her in a bodysuit with long sleeves that are a bit loose on her. I prefer onesies due to them not being able to ride up and expose her stomach. Now that she’s growing, I also put her little moccasins on her to keep her little toes warm. I found some that are really cost efficient on Amazon. They won’t last long, but they are great for babies who are growing and only wear shoes every so often.
In the winter, I bought her a little snowsuit and wrapped her up in it a few times.
Hiking with a Baby can be a Blast
Don’t be scared to go outdoors with your child. It might take a bit of planning though, and you need to be careful. That being said, the benefits of staying active and outdoors can far outweigh any potential danger. Get outdoors and enjoy life and allow your child to get used to being outdoors too.
- You Tube, Boba 4 G Carrier and How to Hike with a Baby
- The Washington Post, Baby Steps: How to go Hiking, Camping, and Canoeing with Your Infant or Toddler
- One Day in a City, 6 Tips for Hiking with a Baby
- Hey Let’s Make Stuff, Tips for Hiking with a Baby