My husband and I enjoy hiking and were determined to keep hiking a part of our life even after we had children. We therefore found ways to make hiking both possible AND fun with an infant or young toddler. So in the spirit of fun times ahead, here are a few tips for hiking with your baby.
1. Only hike in good weather
This may go without saying, but many adults have no problem hiking in the rain or the cold. Babies, on the other hand, are not as able to regulate their body temperature like adults can and since they are not generating heat through activity, they can lose body heat quickly through their hands and feet. What’s more, babies and young children do not follow instructions even when it’s to their benefit to do so! No matter what you do, sometimes your child will insist on hanging a foot, hand, or even head outside of the rain cover or poncho to get cold and wet. The end result? Unhappy baby, unhappy parents. Always check the weather forecast before leaving and bring inclement weather gear (including a weather cover for your carrier) even if the forecast is clear.
2. Check baby frequently
Take frequent breaks to stop and check on your baby. Check arms and legs to make sure s/he is warm enough but not overheating. Check the diaper to make sure it’s dry and clean. Check to make sure the baby is not hungry. Also, plan to stop every so often just to give your baby a break from the carrier. Let baby lay (or sit or crawl or stand) along the trail and explore. Babies usually enjoy gazing at trees, clouds, and other sights along the way.
3. Plan ahead for diaper changes
If you’re going to be hiking along a place that may not always be conducive to diaper changing, change diapers whenever the opportunity strikes. Take a long a thick pad or blanket for a changing pad, and enough diapers/wipes to last the trip. Also consider bringing a wet bag to put dirty things in until you are able to dispose of them. Many hiking trails do not have regularly placed trash cans and you may need to pack your dipes and wipes out (yes, even if they are bio-degradable). Don’t forget an extra set of clothing in the event of aa blowout. You know they’ll happen if you are not prepared!
4. Make getting in the baby carrier fun!
Even the most chill baby can get fussy when asked to ride in a carrier for a long time. When we took Jack on a week-long backpacking trip in the Sierras with my parents, he started to get fussy when I made to put him back on my back. Our solution: all four of us stood around and cheered when I put Jack in the carrier. We whooped and hollered until he started laughing and grinning. We did this every time I loaded him up, and it made the whole trip a lot more fun for all of us.
5. Plan extra time for your hike
Doing anything with kids takes twice as long, and this is certainly true for hiking! The extra weight of carrying your baby will slow you down some, and you will need to take more frequent and longer breaks to attend to baby’s needs and give him/her a break from the carrier. If you go into the hike planning for this extra time, you will have a much better time. Try to be less goal-oriented and more experience oriented than you may be when hiking with adults.
6. Bring the right supplies
- Basic hiking supplies, including emergency shelter, food, water, and first aid kit
- Enough diapers to last the entire hike
- A wetbag or plastic Ziploc for wet clothes and/or dirty dipes
- Anti-bacterial hand wash
- A blanket to serve as a changing pad as well as an extra warmth layer if baby seems cold
- Change of clothes for the baby in case of diaper messes
- Warm clothing, including a hat, socks, mittens, if there is any chance of the weather turning chilly or rainy
- Sun hat & baby sunscreen. We love BabyLegs for covering up arms and legs from the sun and especially for that gap between the bottom of the pant leg and the top of the sock that always happens when we put our babies in carrier!
- Snacks for baby. If your child is eating solids, snacks are a great way to keep a fussy baby entertained while on the go
- A few toys that can be attached to your carrier with a toy clip
- A babywearing mirror for checking out your baby while on the go. Babies also love mirrors as toys.
- A great baby carrier, obviously! (See next tip)
- A weather cover to keep baby warm and dry
7. Bring a baby carrier that is comfortable for both you and the baby
Assuming your baby has good head control, I generally recommend carrying baby on your back for hiking. This is both more comfortable for the wearer (our bodies are built to carry heavy loads on our backs) and safer in that you can watch your step and maneuver more easily. The Ergobaby Carrier is one of my favorite carriers for day hiking. The Ergobaby is comfortable for almost everyone and the padded waist is great for putting baby’s weight on your hips instead of your shoulders. The Ergobaby can be worn on the back or on the front if you prefer. Consider the Cool Air Mesh line if you get sweaty easily – they are much cooler than the original version!
Please use caution when attempting any of the carries, exercise or activities highlighted on this blog, social media or any other content channels. Please use common sense and caution when using a baby carrier. You should consult a physician before starting any diet or exercise program. For more information, see our Disclaimer.