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Hiking With Babies:
Best Tips For Happy Trails

By Diane Spicer

Hiking with babies seems much easier now than when I had my babies in the 1980's. (I know. The 1980's!!!)

Today, the baby carriers seem sturdier.

The parents seem sturdier.

  • So do the babies!

Some of my fondest memories are of my babies in their carriers, their big eyes gazing around contentedly while the scenery rolled by.

For whatever reason, both of my offspring loved to be carried (swings were magical for them, too, but I don't envision you swinging them in the hiking carrier until you get to base camp, if ever!)

So I offer a few tips for hiking with a baby.

Start 'em young!

I think it makes perfect sense to get babies out on the trail while they're portable, light weight, and still figuring out what a "normal" family routine consists of.

If they're indoctrinated into trail time before becoming verbal or mobile, they simply accept that hiking is what the family does together.

This may pay off later, when they're able to walk under their own power, and in the teen years.

Family hiking will be the norm, not the exception.

Temper, temper

Your baby's temperament will dictate how much, and which kind of, hiking you can get away with.

  • Some babies are lulled to sleep by the rocking motion of your steps - and will wake up and start fussing when you stop (guess how I know that!).
  • Some babies (as mine were) as just plain snoopy, and soak up whatever goes on around them.
  • Other babies resent being confined in the carrier and may squawk after awhile.

Now that I think about it, this explains why there are so many types of adult personalities!!

Do some trial runs around your neighborhood first, to see who you're dealing with (sometimes car rides can foretell hiking temperaments, too).

And hiking with babies is a never ending process: as the baby matures, hiking patterns may have to change to accommodate new likes and dislikes.

How young is too young to go hiking with babies?

So hard to judge, as every baby is a universe unto herself.

I think a better question is:

How strong is the person carrying the baby?

Follow up question:

  • And what's the weather like?

If mom is still depleted from giving birth or adopting, maybe someone else can carry the baby while she enjoys the trail.

Or mom may want to use the weight of the baby to help get back in shape and to get the body ready to be carrying the baby-into-toddler.

If you're still wrestling with how young is too young, read this article:

Supplies needed when
hiking with babies

So what do you need to take along when hiking with babies?

If you're breastfeeding, lunch is no problem.

Otherwise, you must calculate how much formula to bring along, and be sure it can be carried properly (temperature extremes and leaking are to be avoided, right?)

Accept the fact that you are still eating, 1 way or the other, for two.

Take nutritious food for yourself, and don't be afraid to snack frequently on the trail.

  • A lumbar pack around your waist or a deep pocket you can dip into easily is a smart way to keep your blood glucose level high while your muscles are working hard.

Your hydration is super critical, since your baby depends on your milk.

Baby supplies for hiking comfort and safety

Only you know how many diapers and related supplies are necessary for your hiking trip.

  • Bring a few extras, just in case you're delayed on the trail (a bear sighting may lose you some time while you wait for the bear to evacuate the area).
  • Or the road trip home stretches out (traffic is notoriously slow near the mountain passes in my state on week-ends, and heaven forbid there's an accident to block the lanes.)

Consider the amount of ultraviolet radiation exposure your baby will be getting, and plan on appropriate clothing (long sleeves, hat, etc.).

Or use sun avoidance techniques: pack a hiking umbrella, picking a shady valley hike with no summit exposure, frequent shade breaks along the trail.

  • Hiking with babies means paying close attention to the amount of sunlight striking the skin, eyes, top of the head, and other body parts.
  • Sunburns are not a great idea at any age, but with babies, can lead to other health issues.

How to handle diaper changes
on the trail

This article from the REI Co-op blog gives you all the details.

It also gives some tips for potty training on the trail.

Best baby carriers for hiking

Baby hiking carriers come in so many varieties that it's almost frightening:

  • front loaded,
  • back,
  • rigid,
  • soft...

Your choice will change as your baby becomes less of a dumpling and starts developing the muscle strength to look around and sit upright.

A few tips from a veteran
hiking mom...

One thing to keep in mind about hiking with babies: the warm baby against your warm (perspiring) body may interfere with thermoregulation for both of you - an important consideration on very hot or wet days.

  • Choose a jacket with pit zips to allow hot air to vent away from both of you.
  • Look for moisture wicking fabrics in shirts and pants.
  • Lots of great clothing choices here for hiking parents.

Be aware that not every hiker who passes you at your rest stops will enjoy hearing a crying or fussy baby.

  • You might have to harden your heart a little to those sideways glances, and treasure the folks who stop to chat about the baby.

I try to encourage young parents carrying babies, especially if that baby is being a bit "outspoken", but not everyone will do that.

It's OK - you have every right to be on the trail, and your first priority is taking care of business: diaper changes, feeding, rest breaks, naps, whatever the baby needs at that moment.

  • Just be sure to step off the trail, as a courtesy to passing hikers..

And remember to take lots of pictures. This is one of my deepest regrets, not having more photos of my kids enjoying Nature.

  • Send lots of those precious photos to your family members; they will treasure them more than you will ever know.

Bonus: when your kids hit their teen years, you can show these pics to prospective prom dates.

A book to get you started
hiking with babies

Here's a book suggestion: Babes in the Woods by Jennifer Aist.

Geared toward first time parents wanting to take baby into the great outdoors, there are suggestions for day hikes as well as longer trips (plus other outdoor sports such as camping and boating).

Give it a look before you go hiking with babies in the woods (or mountains)!

Babes in the Woods

You just might run into a few other mamas out there...

A line of white mountain goats against a blue skyline ridge on a mountain hikeLots of kids in a mountain goat herd in Mount Rainier National Park

And lots more hiking safety tips for you here!

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Hiking With Babies