Hiking With Littles: 8 Tips to Help You Hit the Trails With Your Baby
Hiking with a baby is absolutely doable. It gets me excited just thinking about more of you being empowered to hit the trails and knowing that motherhood doesn’t mean adventures need to take a halt. In fact, I would argue that you have even more of a reason to get outdoors. Because hey, it’s good for the whole family! Kaila has loved the outdoors from the beginning and I am sure most babies are the same way. Yes, it will absolutely look different and there are a few things you should consider before hitting the trails with your littles, so let’s jump right in and talk through 8 tips to consider!
Okay friends! Hiking with a baby is absolutely doable. It gets me excited just thinking about more of you being empowered to hit the trails and knowing that motherhood doesn’t mean adventures need to take a halt. In fact, I would argue that you have even more of a reason to get outdoors. Because hey, it’s good for the whole family! Kaila has loved the outdoors from the beginning and I am sure most babies are the same way. Yes, it will absolutely look different and there are a few things you should consider before hitting the trails with your littles, so let’s jump right in and talk through 8 tips to consider!
1. Take advantage of hiking while they are younger and smaller.
It's easier to hike and/or do longer hikes the smaller they are. The reason you ask? It may be intuitive, but I bring this up so you take advantage while they are small. They sleep anywhere (including your front pack) and you don’t have to worry about bringing extra food and water if they are nursing. Yes it may feel weird pulling to the side of a trail to nurse your babe, but it's pretty magical. The older they get, the heavier both they and your load become! Now that Kaila can walk, we have to consider what hikes we choose and when we let her down to roam, given we would not want to risk her running off the side of a mountain. I see us picking hikes with a lake at the top over a summit going forward.
2. Use a front pack until they are old enough to hold their head up without support.
There are tons of front carrier brands out there and I can’t speak to them all but I can speak to the one we have which is the LileBaby. It allows you to carry them forward facing, chest facing, and even on your back. Ives has the Ergobaby which I have heard great things about as well and I know it has the same functionality. You will want a baby carrier in general, Kaila could spend all day in it and prefers it over a stroller. She loves it to this day and she is 16 months old. (side note: you can even stick them in the front carrier to get chores done around the house when they want to be held)
3. Graduate to a hiking backpack carrier once they can sit up-right without assistance and have good head/neck control.
This usually happens around 6 months, when they are 16+ pounds. The hiking backpack carrier that I have and LOVE is the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 Framed Child Carrier. I chose it for the durability, features, and comfort/support (both for babe and parents). I looked at a few different models, but this one rose to the top for me. Ives has the Osprey carrier and Osprey is one of the best brands out there for hiking, so I have no doubt that it won't disappoint. When picking our carrier, this was also at the top of the list. When looking for a carrier, the features I would look for other than what I listed above are:
- Kickstand- makes it easier for you to get your child in/out
- Rain/sun hood that pops up
- Removable daypack
- Adjustable suspension
- Hydration reservoir capability
You can always purchase an older model to get a good deal if you aren't ready to commit to the price of a newer model. But having a carrier that is comfortable and supportive will make your experience that much more enjoyable! Also know that you should transition out of the child carrier after your child weighs 40 pounds (ages 3-5).
4. Pack out what you pack in, including diapers.
Most experienced hikers/campers know this. Just remember that if you change their diaper on the hike, that you will also have to pack it out. Take this into consideration to ensure you have enough room and can carry the weight of dirty diapers as well as spare diapers and wipes. Don’t forget a dirty diaper bag to store all the dirty diapers . You wouldn’t want it to mix with other gear.
As Kaila gets older and I want to up our hiking game and would like to do an overnight backpack trip with her, I plan on investing in reusable/waterproof swim diapers to cut back on weight. I can wash them as we go by boiling water and bring a spare with me. I totally get that a backpacking trip wouldn’t be ideal for everyone given that it is a lot of work with a babe, but it’s a challenge that has gotten me excited for awhile. Call me crazy:)!
5. Allow the more conditioned/balanced partner to carry the baby.
We started hiking with Kaila when she was roughly 3 months old. In full transparency, I wasn’t ready to hike until I hit this mark postpartum but since I was still gaining quad strength and recovering from nerve damage, going downhill on a hike while carrying Kaila was not optimal for me so we had Rob carry Kaila. Since then I have gained my strength back so we have taken turns carrying her. That is another great feature with the child carrier. You can adjust the straps to fit each partner. At this point I feel strong enough to carry her. I just take my time and ensure my footing is always there. I prefer to do the incline over the decline, since I have more control.
6. Factor in that it could take double the amount of time.
This isn’t always the case, but it’s best to have a good attitude any time you try something new with a child! If your child is still a newborn, you will have to stop and nurse/feed along the way and change their diaper. Speaking of, don't forget a changing pad!
In addition, if possible schedule your commute around their napping schedule! This will ensure a happy baby once you get to the trail head.
7. Have proper gear and check the weather report.
I found the following list from REI of the top 10 essentials you should pack with you. In full transparency, we do not have this full list with us at all times, but if we were to do a longer hike/backpack trip then I absolutely would. We have picked hikes that we have done before to cut back on the risk of the unknown. Of course anything can happen, so it doesn’t hurt to be fully prepared!
If you are still using the front carrier, make sure there isn't a large change of rain. If you have the backpack child carrier, I would ensure it has a sun and rain pop-up roof as I mentioned earlier. This has come in handy on a few of our hikes! A few other items to ensure you have on hand:
- Changing pad, diapers and wipes
- Dirty diaper bag
- Breathable clothing for babe and always have a change of clothes in case there is a blow out situation
- Long sleeve shirt to ensure sun protection, but also breathable if it’s a warm day, since the body heat from you may make it a little sweaty
- Sun hat and sunglasses
- Sun tan lotion
- Snowsuit/bunting (we used this when camping with Kaila in colder conditions and even on walks in the winter, it covers ALL bases as far as keeping their hands, feet, and head warm!)
8. Start small and work your way up.
Give your gear a test run and also condition yourself for hiking! Go to a local park that has a trail. If you are in Seattle, there are so many to choose from! Discovery Park is one of my favorites and would be a really great route to test out your gear and see what else you might need to consider. I also did a hike with two other girlfriends and Kaila on Garfield Trail. It was a very attainable trail, 2.2 miles in and out with a 830ft elevation gain. There was also a set of picnic tables along a river, which would be a great place to have lunch and enjoy the outdoors a little longer before heading back into the city.
You can also wear a pack filled with gear that weighs the same weight as your child and do stairs in order to condition yourself for elevation while carrying your babe. I know there are killer stairs both in Golden Gardens area and Queen Anne that you can practice with weight or your babe if you are in Seattle.
Now go out and enjoy it!! The #1 rule is to have a good attitude, but isn’t that the case with all things parenthood and life in general? Let us know if you get outside and tag us! #ULAHikes
To make sure this post doesn’t get too lengthy I will save my camping tips with littles for a separate post. A lot of this still pertains, but there are a few items to consider when it comes to sleeping and hanging out at the campsite that may be helpful!