How to Hike With Your Baby:
I love hiking with my baby. I love being outside, I love being with friends and I really, really love knowing my daughter is growing up with an appreciation for the outdoors.
Hiking with a baby isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of planning and foresight to get it right.
Over the last 7 months, since we took Ella on her first hike at 6 weeks, I’ve really started to dial iconvenience and what doesn’t.
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1. If possible get a comfortable pack
I personally began with the Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier and then moved on to the Osprey Poco Child Carrier as Ella got older. If you are into hiking, you know that a comfortable pack makes all the difference.
It makes even more of a difference when you are carrying a little human on your back.
You need a pack that distributes weight well and conforms to your body. I wrote a detailed review of my experience with the Osprey Carrier if you are interested in this product.
The nicer packs can be very expensive, but I’ve seen them at used baby stores, on Craigs List or the facebook marketplace. Start looking as soon as you get pregnant and I bet you’ll be able to find a good deal.
You also want to take your child’s comfort into consideration. When Ella is comfortable she is a much happier baby. She doesn’t cry or get fidgety. She also seems to really like being up high so she can see everything.
2. Plan everything your do around your baby’s feeding schedule
I learned this lesson very early (by mistake of course). My goal is to either feed Ella on our way to the hike or just before we leave the house.
I want her completely stuffed full of food. This gives me 2-3 hours of hiking without having to worry about feeding her.
Now that she is a bit older, I keep little baby snacks in a side pouch for easy access. If she gets a bit fussy, I hand her one and she is usually fine until we stop.
On a side note, if you go this route expect to get crumbs or worse in your hair. That is life with a baby.
3. Pack everything you need the night before and keep extra’s in your diaper bag just in case
Prepare in advance, it will save you a lot of stress out on the trail.
4. Bring at least one more diaper than you expect to need
Again a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. Enough said, don’t skimp on the diapers.
Also on a related note, wipes are your best friend. I’m not a clean freak (hello I’m hiking), but I do like to at least try and be semi-sanitary when I’m feeding her.
Wipes are about as multi-purpose as you can get.
5. Bring Extra Water
I hike in Phoenix, so I always, always, always bring extra water. Having a dehydrated baby isn’t worth it. Ella is just getting to the point where I can kind of get her to drink out of my bladder. It isn’t pretty, but at least I know I can get her to drink.
On a side note, watch your baby if they have teeth. My friends have lost a few hoses to teething babies.
6. Weight is Everything
I’m 5.1 and weight 120 pounds – I’m still trying to get that last little bit of post-partum weight off. Based on my weight, I really shouldn’t be carrying more than 20-30 pounds. Ella is lightweight at only 16 pounds, my pack weighs 8 pounds . . . . you can see where this is going.
Pack light with a baby. Most of you are laughing right now – there is no such thing as lightweight with a baby.
Some supplies you just have to take and that is life.
Still, try and save pounds/ounces where possible. I’m lucky enough to have friends that are willing to carry some of my weight if needed, but my pack is still typically 30-32 pounds. I’m not looking forward to when Ella starts packing on the weight.
7. Start hiking as soon as possible
This is for two reasons, one it gets you into hiking shape so that as your baby grows you are used to the added weight. It also helps your baby. I had some friends who put their baby in a carrier for the first time at 18 months old. Let’s just say she wasn’t happy and it was a very tough trip on all of them.
I’m not sure how Ella will behave as she gets older, but for now, she is very used to the pack and actually gets excited when I put her in.
She loves going for rides and will wave at people and babble to her heart’s content.
8. Plan the level of your hike around your baby
Regardless of how I feel, I need to stop periodically to give Ella a break. I just factor this into my planning now. It is kind of a hassle and drives me nuts (I like to just go), but she needs a break occasionally.
I also assume that when I stop it is going to be around 30 minutes.
By the time I get her out, let her play in the dirt, give her some food, take 10-20 rocks out of her mouth 30 minutes has flown by.
Babies need that recharge time.
My Typical Hiking Schedule With a Baby:
- I feed Ella before leaving the house and then give her a bottle as we drive to the trailhead.
- I check her diaper and then add layers of clothing/sunscreen as needed based on the weather.
- Once I know she is ready to go, I’ll pack her up and hike for 2-3 hours.
- When she starts acting hungry, I take a nice break and stuff her full of food again – hopefully, avoiding a diaper change.
- Then I hike for another 2-3 hours back to the vehicle.
To date, I’ve never had her in her pack more than 6 hours in a day. Most of the time, I limit it to 3-5 hours.
I’d like to hike longer, but am working my hiking schedule around her needs. As she gets older I may adjust, but for now, she loves being in the pack and I love being outside, so it is a win-win situation.
What to Carry in Your Pack When Hiking With a Baby:
This list varies based on the length of the hike and difficulty level but is a good starting point.
- Baby food
- I’ve found the baby food pouches are the easiest food on the trail.
- Bottle – I pre-measure my water so I’m ready to go.
- Pacifier – I use the Wubbanub pacifiers and then tie it to the outside of my pack with a shoe lace for easy access.
- Hat (either for sun protection or warmth)
- Sunblock – I use the Babyganics Sunscreen.
- Small lightweight blanket – I like the Muslin Baby Blankets
- Cell Phone (I rarely hike alone, but when I do, I always do well-travelled hiking trails that have cell phone service)
How to Dress Your Baby for Hiking:
When hiking I’ve found it is best to dress Ella in light-weight stretchy clothing that is easy to layer.
I always choose her longest pants with high socks since her pants tend to ride up in the pack. I also dress her in a long sleeved body suit that is loose fitting. I like the onesies because it won’t ride up and leave her stomach exposed. I also keep them loose fitting because I live in phoenix and it can get really hot.
Now that she is getting a bit bigger I also use the little moccasins to keep her feet warm and protected.
I found some ultra cheap ones on Amazon that are 3-5 dollars. They aren’t going to last you long, but they are perfect for growing babies that only wear shoes occasionally.
I don’t worry as much when I’m using the small Ergo baby carriers since my warmth helped keep her warm. When she is in the big carrier she has minimal wind protection and I’d rather keep her too warm then have her get a chill.
Hiking with a baby is a blast
Don’t be afraid to get outside with your baby. Yes, it takes planning and you have to be incredibly careful. However, I feel that the benefits of being active and outside outweigh the potential dangers.
Get out and enjoy life and let your baby get used to being outside as well.