When I found out I was pregnant in December of 2013 I knew that our outdoor hiking life would be changing for awhile. I tried to find other people online who still did outdoorsy things with their babies and kids, people who hiked and backpacked with babies and toddlers. I didn’t want that aspect of our life to change that drastically. Of course, it has and it did. But, we still have made it work. Are we doing any long distance trails? Nope, but we are doing long dayhikes. It was our hike in Sam Houston National Forest in February that helped me realize that we could do it, that our outdoor life was going to be there, just looking a bit differently for awhile.
I wanted to offer up some things I’ve been thinking about in regards to hiking with a baby, particularly for those who have been very active previously.
For everyone’s sanity, maintain this mantra. If something isn’t working, change it. If the miles are too long, go back to the trailhead. If the baby is just too fussy, call it a day. It isn’t the end of your outdoor life, just the end of that particular hike. Savor that experience for what it was and move on to planning the next outing. Enjoy the one or two mile trek in a local park when you can because you know the longer and more adventurous ones are in your future.
Get A Suitable Carrier/Stroller
Good gear sets you up for having a good experience. This goes for having the proper clothing or tent but also for however you are going to carry the baby. There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable and now you’ve got a baby who can’t adequately express itself in words, so the better the gear you have to support you on your hike, the better of an experience it will be. Does this mean go all out for the top of the line? No way! Do what’s within your means while also looking for used items, too. I’m very thankful we registered for and were able to get a Bob stroller and the Osprey Poco Premium pack, but there are a plethora of other offroad strollers as well as baby and toddler backpacks. I’ve used my Ergo on most of our hikes and it works fabulously, you’ll just have to have a partner carry your other gear (though I have seen pictures of people with baby on the front in a carrier and a daypack on their back).
Psst….Don’t forget your typical hiking gear, as well as snacks and water! Plus a change of clothes for the baby (you know, poo explosions and spit up!), diapers, wipes and all that sort of stuff. Yeah, packing light gets a little tougher.
Do a trial run of a hike around your neighborhood or on a short trail before going for the longer and more remote hikes. Work out the kinks with your gear and make sure you and the baby are comfortable using whatever carrier you have chosen. It’s also a good time to make sure you’ve got all of your other gear together. Even though we’d been out a few times before for short hikes, when we did our long hike that I linked to above, we completely forgot toilet paper. We realized in a pinch we could have nabbed the baby’s wipes, but it’s the small things you’ve got to remember.
Find Some Friends
Maybe you are the one interested in hiking but your partner isn’t? Try to find a meetup group or even the Hike It Baby group to join on a hike, or even some likeminded friends. You could always become adventurous and strike out on your own, too.
Go For It!
On our first excursion with Forest we went to Hamilton Pool over in Austin. Another dayhiker made a comment on the side about Forest being too young to be out there. Ignore the naysayers. If you and the baby are comfortable out on the trails, just go for it. The younger you introduce your child to the outdoors the greater the liklihood they will be enthusiastic about it later in life.
Don’t forget to stop often for hydrating and eating, especially if you are a nursing mom. That’s one great thing about nursing and hiking with a baby—there’s no need for carrying bottles or formula. Just find a comfortable spot on the side of the trail and feed your baby. If your partner is comfortable carrying the baby it is great to switch out who is carrying the gear and who is carrying the baby.
Sure, our hiking life isn’t quite the same, but I hope that as Forest grows he’ll be so used to hiking that we can go on longer treks and overnights. Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future we’ll even embark on another thru-hike—hey, I can dream because there are others who have set that precedent…it is possible!