During Covid-19, a lot of families are turning to the outdoors for a much-needed escape. Outdoor activities with little ones can present unique challenges but making the extra effort is incredibly rewarding and fun. And you’re sure to create long-lasting memories for years to come. Going out into nature with your little ones lets you see familiar places through new eyes— because everything is so NEW to them. How freakin’ awesome!
Before our daughter Logan was born, I had grand plans. We registered for all the baby gear an adventure mama could ever need and luckily got most of it. I envisioned peaceful mornings on the trail with baby napping so close to me as we enjoyed the outdoors together.
Perhaps the first lesson one should learn about hiking or being active with kiddos is that you must release all expectations — things rarely go as planned. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know our daughter had colic until she was 6 months old and she refused to nap on the go so in the beginning hiking with her was honestly out of the question. (That doesn’t mean we didn’t try though!) She also hated being restricted with a passion, which made car rides, stroller sessions, and hiking pretty unpleasant. Thankfully, that was just a phase and now with some practice, we’re finally getting active together on a regular basis. This post is primarily about hiking, but just know there are other options for you out there to get your family moving outdoors. We also love running and biking with Logan + plan to take her SUPing soon.
So without further ado, here are my best tips and tricks for hiking with babies and toddlers.
- Forego all expectations or at least manage them: Like I mentioned above, keep an open mind when it comes to hiking with babies and toddlers. You won’t be hiking your pre-baby pace. Sometimes, it might go perfectly planned, while others might be epic fails. Expect to be on their schedule. You might have to take frequent breaks or rush your plans to make it back for babies nap time. I’ve literally, sat on a rock for over an hour while Logan took an hour nap on me — we were three miles from the car. She refused to nap in her carrier and we couldn’t get back in time. The other family we were with kept going while we hung back. Ya gotta go with the flow.
- Bring a good carrier or hiking backpack: Hiking with little ones involves some extra manual labor. Having a good carrier or backpack in my opinion is essential. For younger babies and shorter distance hikes, an Ergo type carrier is more than sufficient. We have this one, which we especially like because it allows baby to be carried inward, outward and on your back! There is also a decent amount of pockets so you can easily store keys a diaper and some wipes. It works for newborns up to 33lbs and comes in some really cute patterns and colors. A more structured hiking backpack is something you should invest in if you’re going to be doing longer hikes. The general rule of thumb is that you can use hiking backpacks once your baby hits six months and has good head and neck control. We have the Poco Plus but also recommend the Kid Comfort. The main difference between the two would be a side entry, which allows you to get bigger kids in and out of the carrier a little faster! The Poco Plus is also more robust. This means it can potentially store a lot of stuff — which is great for backpacking because it can double duty.
- Take frequent breaks: If your little one can walk, let them out and take some breaks or have them hike part of the trail themselves if the terrain allows. This will keep them from getting bored.
- Time your hikes appropriately: Like I also mentioned above, you’re going to be on their schedule. Time the hike when you know your kiddo will be in the best mood. Usually, mornings or evenings are best for us — especially weather-wise. We time our hikes around nap time too. If your babe can sleep in a carrier or backpack easily, bless you — you can go for much longer!
- Snacks: If baby or toddler is eating solids, snacks are key! Our little one is easily distracted by snacks. Also, a full baby is a happy baby!
- Pack the essentials: Sunscreen, water, food, bug spray, hats, diapers, wipes, a disposable doggie bag to store dirty diapers, and maybe an extra set of clothes for baby. Logan loves to play in the water on hikes so having an extra dry set is always nice.
- Plan ahead and practice: Do your research and find kid-friendly hikes and nature trails to practice on first. It helps you understand how your little one will interpret hiking and being outdoors for an extended period of time. We practiced the hiking backpack with Logan by walking around our neighborhood with her in it. Babies are creatures of habit.