In my family, hiking is just something we do. A lot. If we are on vacation, we are taking some sort of hike (usually several!). As a child, I was game for a hike – the more adventurous, the better – but, I have not always enjoyed hiking. I went through a difficult teenager stage that lasted well into my twenties. I was only interested in hiking if it was really worth it – a gorgeous vista or an amazing waterfall. Even then I used to think that once you had seen one waterfall, you’d seen them all. Like I said, I was “difficult” – “an idiot” might even work here.
Anyhow, at some point hiking and I got to be good friends. It might have something to do with this little girl I am now tasked with raising. Or maybe I finally realized that every waterfall has its own story to tell. Or perhaps I decided that exercise is a lot more appealing in the great outdoors. In any case, we hike – My whole extended family, my tiny nuclear family, just the baby and I – We hike.
My daughter was 3 weeks old for her first hike (and so tiny!). Actually, it was our first major escape from the house since she was born. This short, one-mile hike taught us a lot. We learned exactly how much stuff a newborn requires, how to nurse in public, and how important (and difficult) it is to make sure no stray tree branches accidentally scratch that sweet little baby.
We have really refined our hiking-with-a-baby skills and knowledge since this first hike. Read our 7 tips below to find out how we hit the trails!
- Proper gear is essential. Not using good quality gear means pain, potential for injury, and general misery while hiking…all things that make returning to the trail seem undesirable (sad face). I highly recommend the Osprey Poco Plus for any type of hiking with older babies and a soft structured carrier (we like the Boba 3G) for newborns and light hikes with older babies. Make sure you read the manual for properly fitting your carrier and try it out before you start your hike!
- Proper gear for mom and dad (and anyone else joining in) is also important! So, let’s talk boots! Maybe you can find some nice cheap deals for clearance boots at your local shoe store, but my feet (and I would imagine most people’s) are not that generic. Keep in mind that you are going to be carrying an extra 10, 20, 30 lbs on those feet! I highly recommend getting your feet sized – by the same sort of people that wear those boots! I’m talking about an outdoor specialty store – REI, LLBean, etc. You know the type! These people know how to get a good fit because they understand the importance of a good fit first hand! They might even throw in a life-changing lacing strategy if you’re lucky! Trust me on this one…I’ve finished a hike barefoot because my boots were not team players!
- Layers…for everyone! I almost always hike in layers. You start out chilly, getall that blood running and take off some layers, and then put them back on when you get to that cold, windy peak! Layers are awesome. Baby needs layers, too. That adorable little one doesn’t get the benefit of blood pumping warmth, so don’t be afraid to dress him in long underwear, wool socks, a hat and gloves when you are wearing shorts. Just make sure you check his comfort frequently so you can adjust layers as needed! Be sure to research your hike in advance and choose appropriate layers for the season, weather, and altitude. *Another quick note about clothing. Boo is wearing leggings, socks, leg warmers, fleece lined pants, and sneakers in this picture. Her feet and legs were still cold and we have since adjusted our game (lightweight long underwear and wool socks!). Be careful! Babies can get frostbite easily!*
- Take explore breaks! If your baby is old enough, let them get out and crawl or walk around. This is a chance for your miniature hiker to really get out and experience nature hands-on style! Choose your breaks carefully and keep an eye out for unfriendly wildlife, plants, and terrain!
- Be realistic about the hikes you choose. You are carrying quite a bit of extra weight on your back. Make sure you are prepared for the chosen distance and terrain. Just remember, there is no magic “End Hike Now” button. You started that hike, you will have to finish it!
- Feed that baby! If your adventurer is still a nursling, this is super easy! Just find a comfy rock/log/patch of moss (you’re going to be there awhile) and enjoy the privacy that nature provides! Or if you are super talented (or choose a good carrier), you can just nurse on the go!
If your baby is eating solids, don’t forget to pack some non-refrigerated, finger foods! Our favorites are cheese chunks, crackers, summer sausage chunks, fruit snack packs (packed in 100% juice), BelVita Breakfast Bites, Goldfish…you get the idea! Oh and don’t forget water! Teaching your baby to drink out of your water bottle or reservoir ups the convenience factor!
- Dog poop bags make excellent on-the-go diaper disposal bags! Most hikes don’t have convenient trash cans along the trail, so you will need to pack out all of your trash. If your baby is still diaper-bound, you will likely have 1 or 2 dirty diapers making that trip with you. Dog poo bags do a great job of containing the #2 stink! They also make the whole carrying-around-dirty-diapers thing slightly more tolerable.
Other than all of that, I would say follow standard hiking safety rules! Don’t get stuck out in the dark (Make sure you leave early enough to complete your whole trip – unless you are planning on camping out!). Don’t get stuck out in bad weather (thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards, heat waves, etc.). Don’t hike alone (hiking companions can help with accidental injury, unruly wildlife, and unsavory people).
Babies naturally love the outdoors – help them develop a lifelong love!