Everything you will need to hit the trails and hike with a baby this year
I’m not sure about you, but my recent life highlights have been outings to the grocery store, Zoom sessions with family members, and the occasional socially distanced visit with friends. Needless to say, my children (and myself) have been going a little stir-crazy. I’m sure you can relate to this on a deeply personal level.
As a result, our family has been spending as much time out-of-doors as possible. One of our favourite outdoor activities has always been hiking, even when our children were babies. You may have a bub of your own and have been itching to hit the trails, but you’re unsure if it’s worth the potential aggravation.
Believe me. I know the feeling. Hiking with babies can initially seem intimidating, but I assure you that it’s possible to create beautiful memories with your baby and avoid emerging from the experience in tears. We’ve compiled several tips for hiking with a baby and some essential gear for that first nature trip together.
This post is part of our baby travel advice series and outdoor adventures – come check out all the handy advice on our site for new travelling families
NB – we are only going to talk in this guide about day hiking with a baby and short hikes – if you combine your outdoor adventure with a camping trip, check out our guide to the best camping gear for babies!
Beginner Tips for Hiking with Baby
Before we dive into the particulars of baby hiking gear, we wanted to discuss some general factors to keep in mind. These are meant to ease worries and frustrations on your end in order for you and bub to have the best experience possible on the trails.
While you don’t want to pack like you’re taking a 10-day cruise, it’s best to slightly over-prepare when hiking with a baby. This means setting out a few extra sets of baby hiking clothes, diapers, and even an extra bottle or serving of formula. These additional items won’t add much additional weight to your pack, but they will come in handy in any unforeseen situations.
The single most important piece of advice (in our lived experience and opinion), is to have patience. Hiking with an infant can be enjoyable and fun for everyone, but that doesn’t mean nothing will go awry.
If your bub has just had the second blowout in an hour, just take a deep breath and look on the bright side. You’ve over-prepared, remember? That’s where those extra diapers and onesies come in to save the day.
It’s tricky to time everything just right when travelling anywhere with a baby, and in this particular scenario, you know your baby best. Our personal recommendation is to begin your hike right after nursing or feeding. This way, bub is content to look around and enjoy the world around him/her before hopefully dozing for a good portion of the trails.
Do not take on longer hikes with young children until you’ve had the opportunity to tackle some short trails. You want to test that you have all the right gear, that everything works as it should, how bubs likes being in the carrier, and how you feel earning it.
Making sure that everyone is as comfortable as possible is extremely important when taking baby hiking. Dress both you and bub in weather-appropriate clothing, and make sure that you have a baby hiking backpack or carrier that fits your body type.
It’s always a wise idea to let a friend or family member know when you and your family are headed out for a day hike. Tell them when you’re planning on returning, and send them a quick text to let them know when you’re back. You’ll also want to pack a small first aid kit for those inevitable scrapes and bruises.
Essential Baby Hiking Gear to Invest In
In order to have the best possible experience on the trails with a baby, remember to pack this essential baby hiking gear.
Baby Hiking Gear – Baby Carrier
The single most important item to invest in when hiking with an infant is a method of carrying your bub. The most common options are a frameless baby carrier or a hard-frame baby hiking backpack.
There are numerous options on the market, and it really comes down to your preference and the duration and frequency of your hiking trips.
The best baby carrier for hiking should have several key qualities. You’ll want to choose a relatively lightweight carrier, as you’re also going to need a day pack and other supplies. If the whole family is embarking on a day trip, a lightweight baby hiking backpack or frameless carrier becomes even more essential.
Your baby’s age will also help determine which baby hiking carrier is best. For example, frameless soft carriers are more suited for infants because they’re not yet able to sit up without support.
We’re big fans of the Ergobaby Omni 360 as a front carrier; it has been versatile enough to use in a variety of outings – from city trips to the trails.
Once your baby is a little older, however, it may be more comfortable for both you and bub to move to a famed hiking backpack.
When seeking the best hiking backpacks, look for features such as
- A built-in sun shade
Finally, a baby hiking backpack or carrier should be made with breathable, water-resistant material that is easy to wash or wipe clean. Some even come with hoods or covers, which is definitely an added bonus for those surprise rain showers!
Leading Frameless and Baby Hiking Backpack options to consider:
Baby Hiking Gear – Pacifier & Toy Tether
Many babies get some form of devilish pleasure from playing the “drop game” whenever possible. To avoid leaving a trail of teething rings and sippy cups in your wake, pack a pacifier clip and a toy tether or two. These are also a great way to keep toys handy for entertainment purposes while bub is in the carrier or backpack.
Baby Hiking Gear – Baby-Safe Bug Repellent
Your baby’s skin is especially sensitive to strong scents and chemicals, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to protect it from mosquitoes, ticks, and other creepy crawlies on the hiking trail.
One way to shield bub from bug bites is to dress them in long-sleeved shirts and long pants. However, this may not be practical on warmer days, as babies have a hard time regulating their body temperature.
Luckily, there are many safe baby-safe bug repellents available that are both effective and gentle enough for your bub’s skin. Make sure that the bug spray does not contain DEET or other harsh chemicals, and consider options that are plant-based and made with natural ingredients.
Baby Hiking Gear – Hat
Your hiking gear for baby should definitely include a weather-appropriate hat.
- For summer, choose a lightweight sun hat with a wide brim for sun protection of their delicate skin.
- For fall and winter hikes, invest in a merino wool or fleece-lined hat that protects the ears.
Since babies are not especially tolerant of scarves, try a neck warmer instead. This will help retain body heat and keep bub snuggly warm.
Baby Hiking Gear – Feeding Supplies
One of the main worries for mum when considering hiking with an infant is the inconvenience of feeding while on the trail. Breastfeeding mums, as well as those who use formula, are equally affected by this because either way, your baby needs to eat.
This means either packing enough bottles and formula or breastmilk to last for the duration of your hike, as well as finding a comfortable place to sit. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a suitable rock to use as a chair at just the right time.
For mums using the formula, we suggest a bottle that has separate compartments. This way, you can easily mix them at the appropriate time without wasting anything if they’re not needed. Mums who breastfeed can also use these as well, and packing an insulated bottle bag would help maintain the correct temperature for several hours.
To prevent the possibility of clogged ducts, pack a milk collector that can be used either while walking or when bub is nursing on the opposite side. There are many silicone breast milk collectors that are discreet and easily portable, and the best part is that they don’t require batteries or electricity to use.
Finally, if you know you’re going to need a place to sit and nurse during your hike, consider taking a lightweight camp chair with you. This can easily be attached to a baby hiking backpack or carried in a friend or spouse’s pack until needed.
Don’t forget about your own hydration, too. Especially if you are breastfeeding, you will need to keep yourself hydrated. Bring lots of water for yourself, and for older babies, a water bottle with a suitable sippy nib or teat.
Is your baby weaning? Time to pop over and see all our favourite kids hiking snacks – healthy, portable energy boosters!
Baby Hiking Gear – Rain Cover or Rain Suit
A chance of rain showers is no reason to call off a hike as long as everyone has appropriate clothing for a wetter-than-normal trip. It’s also likely that you may be blessed with a few unanticipated raindrops while in the middle of your walk, and it’s best to have something on hand to cover your baby in your baby hiking gear.
If you know beforehand that rain is likely, consider dressing your bub in a lightweight rainsuit over their regular clothing. If you simply want to be prepared for all scenarios, an all-season waterproof baby carrier cover is also smart to have on hand.
Baby Hiking Gear – Baby Hiking Gear
No matter what the season, the right sort of baby hiking clothes are essential for your family hiking trip.
In summer, lightweight and breathable shirts and shorts will work to keep your bub cool and comfortable. Once there gets to be a chill in the air, however, layers are key to regulating body temperature.
Base layers, fleece onesies, and winter buntings are all excellent options to keep your baby happy and warm.
Baby Hiking Gear – Weather-Appropriate Shoes
An upside of hiking with a baby is that you really don’t need to concern yourself over much about their footwear for the first year or so (unless your baby is especially eager to walk!).
However, your baby’s shoes do need to be suitable for the weather in order to keep their feet adequately warm or cool. A lightweight pair of sandals will do just fine for the summer, and soft-soled sneakers or fleece sock slippers should be adequate for cooler weather.
More To Pack for a Day of Hiking
We’ve covered all of the crucial baby hiking gear, but please make sure to include these other baby hiking essentials, including supplies for diaper changes you’ll need on your next family hiking trip:
- Diapers, Wipes, and Ointment – This is basically the trifecta of baby items. Pack a few more diapers than you think you’ll need and a travel-size tube of ointment.
- Portable Changing Pad – it goes without saying that it is better to have a soft surface than to have baby directly on the hard ground.
Several Changes of Clothes – While you don’t have to bring two or three completely coordinated sets of spare clothing, a few extra onesies will save you from being stranded far from your car with a wet (or worse) baby in tow.
- Packing Cube – We love to use packing cubes for many different types of outings. They’re excellent for compressing clothing, diapers, and other soft items to fit easily into your pack.
- Durable Blanket – Choose a water-resistant blanket that can work as a picnic spot or emergency changing station.
- Lightweight Day Pack – Choose a lightweight yet durable day pack to store your essentials in. While not ideal, it is possible to wear a pack while using a front-facing baby carrier if necessary.
Depending on how many of you are hiking and how good you are at packing!! you shouldn’t need a separate diaper bag, but fit the supplies you need in your hiking day pack or in the storage compartment of a structured hiking backpack.
Learn More About Hiking With Your Kids
Before you set off on the trails with little ones, it’s important that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Be it short nature trails close to home or longer day hikes, you’ll want to read:
- Hiking with Toddlers – read for the next stage? Once your little one is moving more independently, here’s how to make it fun, keep them motivated and what to do when little legs are too tired!
- Best hiking shoes for toddlers – as your baby grows or is willing to start taking their own steps through nature, do you need a proper hiking boot or will a normal sandal or trainer shoe suffice?
- Essential Family Hiking Packing list – gear recommendations for the whole family + includes our downloadable family hiking pack list.
Learn more about travelling with babies
And for those seeking to travel further with their bubs this year, here’s more handy advice to get you going:
- 10 Baby Travel Essentials – We never leave home without these items, and why you will want these on every trip!
- Ultimate Baby Travel Checklist – everything you can think of you might need to pack for a baby + a downloadable packing checklist to keep you organised
- Flying with a Baby – covering all your questions and concerns from what to pack, booking infant tickets, seating and dealing with your infant on a plane – the right way!
- Bringing Baby to the Beach – handy advice for tackling infants & sand! What to pack, sun safety and extra precautions near the water.
- Our Baby Travel Advice home page has plenty more to keep you going
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