Hiking With Baby--Why You Should Do It and Tips For How
For a few moments on our first hike I do remember wondering when we would have a chance to hike again. The idea crossed my mind that this newly found hobby might once again be abandoned for other, child-friendly, activities. Thankfully, that idea was quashed a few moments later when down the mountain came a particularly agile family with the father carrying an infant on his back. As I struggled to catch my footing on a particularly steep part of the trail I was in awe that a human could travel across such rugged terrain so smoothly with a baby in tow. Even my husband was amazed at this man’s balance as he ascended the trail.
We were inspired.
When Bean arrived and it came time to plan a family vacation, the image of this mountain climbing family came back into the forefront of our minds. One thought kept returning, “We could be like them. If we were not too afraid to try.”
And so we booked a ticket to Yosemite National Park. This trip presented several difficulties ranging from a six hour flight followed by a three hour car ride to planning hikes that would last several hours over the course of a single day. But, when it was all said and done I could not be happier that we took the risk and made the trip.
Hiking as a family was an adventure. In addition to breath-taking views, I got to see smiles on the faces of the people I loved the most. I had the opportunity of working together with my husband to plan an amazing trip. And, every step of the way I was filled with a gratifying feeling that I was exposing my baby to all that was beautiful in the world.
I would highly recommend hiking with a baby to anyone. But, it was a bit of a learning process. Here is a list of tips I would recommend for hiking with baby.
1. Choose Your Carrier Carefully
There are so many great travel carriers for babies and toddlers on the market. And, different carriers can be suitable depending on the hike. For example, if you are planning a short excursion, a simple, every-day baby carrier may do the trick. Whereas for a three-four hours hike may require a carrier backpack. We used the Osprey Packs Poco AG and loved it.
This pack had so many features that have come in handy throughout our adventures. It has a built-in sun-shade, a removable backpack (if you need to lighten the weight), a large storage compartment, a clip to hook on a toy or a binky, and has adjustable straps and support to evenly distribute weight.
Some of the back-pack type carriers are kind of pricey. So you may need to decide whether the investment is worth the price Do you plan on using the carrier multiple times? If so, it is likely worth the price. If you know your hiking plans well in advance you can sometimes spot good deals on equipment. We purchased ours on black Friday weekend and got a great deal.
2. Dress your Baby Appropriately
This one is very important. If your baby is uncomfortable on the hike no one is going to enjoy themselves. If your baby gets wet, cold, or too hot, they will likely let you know it…all throughout the hike. Some of this is dependent on where you are hiking and what kind of climate you will be hiking in. But, some things are essential on any hike. Rain gear for your baby in case the weather shifts and a change of clothes are two important things that shouldn’t be left out. Baby clothes tend not to be very heavy so you can probably take the extra weight.
Also, sun protection is very important. Especially if your child will be riding in a carrier all day without a sunshade. Sunscreen and a hat are a must.
3. Pack Enough Food and Water
It is important to follow the recommended guidelines for the appropriate amount of water to bring on a hike. This includes having enough water for your baby. Ever though it doesn’t seem like they are doing much of the physical work, your baby will likely still need to drink more than they typically do.
Packing light, energy boosting snacks is also important. Granola bars, peanut-butter sandwiches, and bananas are all good options for a good snack out on the trail. Try to avoid foods with a lot of packaging or that will leave a lot of garbage behind as their may not be man trash receptacles
4. Get Your Baby Used to Your Gear
We didn't want Bean's first time in the carrier to be right when we were about to head out on a three hour hike. So we practiced. My husband wore the carrier around our apartment and let Bean ride around and get the feel for what it was like. This was also important for my husband and I to get an idea of what it would feel like having the carrier on during an extended period of time. We were each able to adjust the straps and figure out the most comfortable positions before we left for the trip. This way, we knew what was comfortable and did not have to mess around with the pack on the trails.
5. Purchase Proper Footwear
Before Bean, when my husband and I went on some smaller hikes I wasn't as concerned with my footwear. Any old pair of shoes would do. Not only is this something that experienced hikers probably wouldn't do, it could be dangerous when hiking with a baby.
Having footwear that will give you a firm grip on the terrain you are hiking is essential if you are carrying a baby, particularly on a trail where you are climbing on stone or rock. A fall while you are carrying your little one could not only hurt the child, but it could also increase the likelihood that you will be injured. Take your time, do some research, and purchase a good pair of hiking boots/shoes. Wear them around your home for a few days to break them in so that they are comfortable.
6. Take Plenty of Photos
The first thing that most people would say to us when they heard about our great Yosemite trip was, “Why take a baby hiking? They won’t remember it anyway.” I found this statement infuriating on many levels. First, there are so many benefits to traveling with an infant even though “they won’t remember.” It is time to bond as a family. A time to focus on one another. Even if Bean doesn’t remember the trip, she very well may remember the feelings of love and closeness that we had during the trip.
Also, Bean may not remember the trip, but I certainly will. And, with the amazing photos that I took along the way, Bean will still have a way to look back on her trip with her family. We plan on making an album dedicated entirely to the trip to show Bean when she gets older and is discovering a love for travel on her own.
7. Know Your Limits
Don't try to take on too much for the first time. If you don't hike often, maybe a long hike is not for you. Remember, you will be carrying extra pounds of weight and may tire out more easily than normal. Injuries happen when you are fatigued, so it is important not to push yourself too far.
In the same regard, know your baby’s limits as well. Is your child likely to be restless after an hour? Maybe a short hike with a planned picnic stop is a good option. Does your child hate the cold? Than plan to hike on a warmer day. The entire experience will be more enjoyable if you realistically plan within your limits.
8. Remember How Much Weight You Will Be Carrying
I know as a mom it can be tempting to fill a diaper bag with just about everything we think our baby might need. Just keep in mind how much weight you will be carrying on your hike and for how long. Try to pack lightly when it comes to extras. Include only a single toy and spring for the smaller tube of diaper cream instead of the large vat.
9. Check the Weather
Check the weather often leading up to your hike. This way you can plan for any unexpected changes and pack accordingly. This is particularly true for hikes in a higher altitude where the weather forecast may change periodically over a short period of time.
10. Have a Back-Up Plan
It is important to keep in mind that your plan just might not work out. Weather may prevent you from setting out on your journey. Maybe your little one just isn’t up for it on that particular day. I find it best not to force a plan that simply isn’t working. Have a backup activity planned to enjoy with your little one. You may not be able to enjoy the hike, but you certainly can have a fun day with your little one!
I hope these tips encourage you to hike with your child! If you have any suggestions or further tips, please leave me a comment!