Getting fresh air while being surrounded by nature can be the perfect way to spend quality time with your baby. One great way to experience this is on a hike. Though you may not have considered hiking a baby-friendly activity, it actually can be! Getting out is really important for both of you, and this is a wonderful way to do it. Here we've lined up our best hiking tips along with one of our favorite on-the-go gadgets (it's the Baby's Brew!) to help make hiking with your baby an enjoyable activity you'll want to do again and again.
1.) Choose your hiking trail wisely.
Getting off the beaten path while hiking with a baby is a risk you don't want to take. You'll want to stick to trails that are easy to navigate that you know exactly where they lead to. Choosing somewhere that you know other people will be also makes for a safer excursion. Lots of areas have the trails listed on a website for you to check out ahead of time. You can find out which ones are open, where the route will take you and how long it is. Look for ones designated as "easy" as you're starting out.
We suggest choosing a loop path or shorter out and back - at least while you and your tot are getting your bearings together in the world of hiking. With a loop, you can always go around another time if your little one is still enjoying themselves.
You'll also want to know if there are picnic tables along your route, or good places to stop to rest and let your little one have a snack and play.
2.) Time it right.
You'll want to decide when the best time is to go on the hike. Here are two factors to consider:
- Weather - If you're hiking in the summertime, a morning hike will be best. You'll want to get outside during the coolest part of the day, and have your hike completed before the sun gets too hot. Depending on where you're at and the day's temperature, a spring or fall hike could go well starting a little later in the day.
- Nap time - With baby in tow, you'll also want to consider when your he or she naps. For many babies, the movement of a hike will lull them right to sleep. So, you may want to plan your hike during a nap time. On the other hand, if you know your little naps better at home, plan to go when you think they'll be wide awake. Just know that you'll probably have to be more flexible on a hiking day when it comes to your baby's sleep. It's worth it, though!
3.) Know the weather and prepare your baby for the conditions.
Though you personally may be fine hiking in colder or warmer temperatures, the best time to hike with your baby is when it's mild. Between 32 degrees and 75 degrees is a good range to stay within. Once you know what the temperature will be, dress your baby accordingly.
Layers - When hiking, you always want to dress in layers. It's better to be over prepared than under prepared as far as having your baby properly clothed for the conditions. Next up we'll talk baby carriers, and as long as you have a good one, you can easily stash any extra clothes.
Keep skin covered - If you're going to have your baby out of the carrier and toddling around the ground, long sleeves and pants are best to protect their skin from insects, etc. (When your hike is over, be sure to check both your baby and yourself for ticks.)
Safe in the sun - And don't forget the sunscreen and hat! Even on cool, cloudy days, these are important to use for a little one.
4.) Use a quality baby carrier made for hiking.
You'll want to wear a baby carrier that's specifically made for hiking. This will make it much more comfortable for you to wear your baby for an extended period of time walking at an incline and decline. It also allows your baby to sit up higher so they can have a wide angle view of the beautiful surroundings. Here are some characteristics to look for in a carrier:
- proper fit
- sturdy frame
- kickstand (for when you put the backpack down on the ground)
- removable shade hood
- hydration reservoir included for you
- lots of storage space and pockets
- diaper pad
You need to note, however, that most of these carriers require that your baby is at the stage of development where they are able to hold up their heads on their own with ease (usually around 5-6 months of age).
5.) Plan for baby's mealtimes.
You definitely don't want to be stuck out on the trail with a hangry baby. Just as you would plan snacks for yourself, you'll need to do the same for your baby.
Mealtime can make or break your hike depending on how well you prepare ahead of time. If your baby doesn't get their hunger needs met, they're going to be upset (for good reason!) and you'll be headed home in no time. Here are a couple of mealtime tips for hiking:
For bottle-fed babies, bring a portable bottle warmer - If you bottle-feed your baby either breast milk or formula, you'll need to have that with you. If your baby is used to taking warm milk, this isn't going to change on your hike. The Baby's Brew battery-powered bottle warmer is perfect for this. We recommend giving your baby a heated up bottle in the car before you head out for your hike. Because of its sleek design, you can also throw the bottle warmer into your hiking backpack to make another on the trail.
For breastfed babies, have a nursing strategy - Many moms like to top their baby off with a feeding before heading out on the trail. This will ensure your baby is full, hydrated, and happy before you even start. Wear a nursing friendly top to make breastfeeding comfortable and easy for you both if baby gets hungry on the hike.
Prepare with snacks - Fun snacks solve a lot of problems for our favorite little people, don't you think? This can occupy your baby's time while you hike (if they're old enough to feed themselves) or can give them something to look forward to when you stop for a break. If your baby is too young to feed themselves, make sure you have they're favorite baby food on hand so you know they'll eat.
Bring a baby bottle with just water - Normally babies under one don't need water beyond what's in breastmilk or formula, but it's good to have extra on hand just in case.
6.) Let your little one explore.
One of the best parts of hiking for babies is all the exploring they get to do. Even though they probably enjoy the scenery sitting up high, remember that you're the one doing all the work.
Even though they're little legs won't take them very far, get them out of the pack a bit and running around. You'll be amazed at what they'll notice that you probably wouldn't. They'll be learning and getting the physical activity they need at the same time!
7.) Bring a buddy.
Until you have your hiking routine down pat, we suggest either both parents going together or heading up with a friend. This way, if anything doesn't quite go according to plan you can work through it together. If you do decide that you just want it to be you and your little, make sure that you're headed out to a trail where you'll be around other hikers.
8) Quit while you're ahead.
Don't expect to go on the long excursions you may have been used to before your baby came along. You'll want to keep your hikes short initially - probably 2 hours tops. This will help both you and your baby have an enjoyable time.
If you do find your baby getting upset and cranky mid-hike (and it's not fixed by a bottle or snack), it's probably best to start heading back and call it a day. We recommend not having too many expectations when going hiking with your tiny sidekick. Consider any time you get out together on the trails a win!