Our first hike with our baby was when he was three months old. It was summer time and he seemed so fragile, especially in the heat. I was scared and nervous, yet determined. I wanted to show our new baby the world around him, however, there were so many variables to consider. He is a strong and healthy one year old now, and we have hit the trail countless times since that first mountaintop hike. In this post, I’m going to provide you with 6 tips to help and encourage you to hike and travel with your baby.
1.) Test Your Gear
While our baby was small (>12 lbs.), we used the Ergobaby Original for the trail. This allowed me to have him close to me so he could hear my heart beat, the sound of me breathing, and breastfeed if he needed to. Since he knew I was right there to respond to his needs, it kept him calm. We tested the Ergobaby Original several times before our first hike around the neighborhood and on local walks.
Once he became too heavy (>20 lbs.) for the Ergobaby Original, we transitioned to the Osprey Poco Premium. Once again, we tested this carrier to get him comfortable with a different pack. We also needed to make sure the torso adjustments were just right for our bodies before we hit the trail. To make sure he was comfortable, we carried both carriers on those initial hikes when we were making the transition. Testing your gear avoids any U-Turns back to the car once you are on the trail.
2.) Start Small
Prior to having a baby, Drew and I used to average 10-20 mile hikes on the weekends. I wasn’t sure if I could do that distance only a few months postpartum. I also wasn’t sure if our baby would enjoy being on the trail. I selected a distance that would be easy for me physically postpartum, and that was short enough that Drew could run back to the car if we had an emergency. I also wanted to select a distance that would be appropriate based on the number of miles we move per hour (MPH). Based on our previous hike data using our Suunto GPS watches, I knew that we moved around 2.5 MPH. I assumed that we would be moving 1.5-2.0 MPH given my postpartum condition. Our first hike with Owen was 4 miles, and seemed just right based on our physical condition and the speed that we were able to move.
3.) Start With A Familiar Trail
I would strongly recommend selecting a trail that you’ve done before. If you are new to hiking, find someone who has knowledge of the trail you are going to or read several trip reports online. Knowing the elevation, distance, incline, and exposure of your trail before you go helps you prepare for what you will need to bring and any unexpected circumstances along the way. For example, is your trail shady in the morning or afternoon? Are the hills going to be too tough if you are carrying a baby in front of you? I love tracking the distance I’ve hiked, the elevation, and watching the storm alarm with my Suunto watch so I have as much information as possible while carrying my baby.
4.) Plan For The Unexpected
Plan for the unexpected with your baby and you will be prepared on the trail. Generally, this falls into three categories for me: food, clothing, and protection.
Bring enough food and water on the trail for yourself and your baby. At the beginning of our hiking journey, I was breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, test your carrier while breastfeeding. Are you able to hike with your baby in the carrier while breastfeeding? If not, are you comfortable sitting on the dirt? Do you need to bring a light weight nursing cover? Next, Owen transitioned to solids and breastmilk. Plan for your baby to be in an extreme growth spurt, and you will have more than enough food. Bring a variety of solid foods, just in case your baby is having one of those moments where they decide they don’t want their favorite food. Also, don’t forget to bring food and water for yourself! Plan on bringing extra calories you can easily digest for carrying a heavier load. Consider bringing extra water, especially if you are dehydrated from breastfeeding.
I apply the same concept of layering with my baby while on the trail. Consider that your baby is not moving so your body temperature will be warmer than their temperature. I love using merino wool onesies as a base layer to keep my baby nice and dry. On top of that, I will use a Columbia fleece jacket, Columbia windproof, or Columbia down jacket, depending on the conditions projected in the weather report before we depart. I also bring an extra pair of clothes to change him into once we arrive back at the car.
Protection from the elements is an important consideration on the trail. I always carry Neutrogena Baby sunscreen, a wide brim sun hat, and a warm beanie. When hiking with the Ergobaby Original, I made a custom sun cover that would wrap around me completely to protect his legs and arms from the sun. When hiking with the Osprey PocoPremium, I used the Osprey Poco rain cover to protect from wind and rain. We have never encountered anything but a light drizzle, but it has done wonders for us in windy conditions.
4.) Bring A Communication Device
Assume that your trail does not have cell phone coverage. The worst circumstance would be if you were in an emergency situation with your baby and you couldn’t contact help immediately. We always hike with the InReach Explorer for this reason. The InReach allows us to have satellite connectivity to emergency services with the click of a button. The InReach also allows us to send text messages to family members, and gives them a method for following our hike virtually to make sure we are making progress. We don’t leave home without it!
6.) Stop To Meet Their Basic Needs
If our baby cries, we stop immediately. We check to see if he is comfortable with the clothes he has on, if he needs a diaper change, or if he is hungry. This allows him to feel safe and secure with the fact that his basic needs are being met. If he isn’t fussy, we make it a rule to stop every two hours. At the two hour mark, we change his diaper and offer him milk and food. Even if his diaper appears dry, we change it. Even if he doesn’t seem hungry, we offer him food. This has resulted in a very happy baby on the trail who doesn’t hesitate to go on a hike.
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