Wondering how to hike with a baby? Well first of all, congrats! You (like myself), have just entered such an exciting, joy-filled season of life with your little one. However, if you've been a frequent adventurer until now, you may find yourself worrying that you can no longer pursue that part of your life. Well I have good news for you - you absolutely can. I, too, worried about this when I was pregnant with my baby, Juniper. When we found out we were pregnant, we were living in a sprinter van traveling the country and hiking 5x per week. That lifestyle came to a screeching halt when I had severe morning (all day) sickness and we bought a house in preparation for the arrival of our little one. However, I started hiking with her when I was about 3 weeks postpartum and haven't stopped since! And I'm going to give you the tips and tricks I've learned thus far to hike with a baby and still get out for adventures of all kinds!*Note: these tips are simply what has worked for me and are in reference to hiking with an infant (under 1 year of age)*
Find a size-appropriate carrier
When we first started researching carriers, we assumed she would immediately be in the type of pack that goes on our back and has room for all of our other belongings. However, we quickly learned that until babies are about 16 lbs (weight guidelines differ per pack), front carriers must be utilized. Until then, they simply aren't big or strong enough to hold up their own heads, so they need the extra support.
When choosing a carrier, you'll want to consider factors such as temperature control, coverage from the sun/rain, comfort, wash-ability, and extra storage space. Below are carrier options for each weight range.
*Note: this is NOT a pack. This is simply a child carrier*
Recommended child weight: 7-45 lbs
All Complete carriers are machine washable - just toss it in a cold cycle with a gentle detergent and hang to dry
All of the Complete carriers may be worn with the straps crossed or parallel.
These carriers can be worn in the front, side or back, with the seat adjusted to grow with your baby
Temperature control panel
Removable sun hood
Head and neck support
Recommended child weight: 16 to 40 lbs
Ventilated back panels and shoulder straps reduce sweatiness
ErgoRide child seat is breathable and cushioned for the tots
Seat is removable to easily clean up food spills
Deployable sunshade shields them with UPF 50+ protection
Designed for hassle-free access to gear compartment while wearing
Dual access loading lets you put them in from the side or top
Recommend child weight: 16 to 48 lbs
Water resistant fabric and padded shoulder straps
Comfortable child-carrying pack with all the tech bells and whistles
Aircomfort Sensic Vario back system for optimal ventilation
A steel, sturdy frame that allows a good hold on your kid and pack
Vari Flex Pivoting articulated 3D hip fins for responsive flexibility
Vari Slide length options allow a wide range of fit adjustments
Washable snack area behind shoulders for no-hassle snack breaks
Integrated, removable daypack that can be attached to chest straps
Rearview mirror in hip pocket that helps keep your tiny one in sight
Comes with sun/rain cover
2. Choose trails with tree coverage
Did you know that infants under six months should not be exposed to the sun due to the thinness of their skin? This means that you will want to be strategic when choosing a trail to take your baby along on. While the carrier you choose should have some sun protection, your little one's legs or arms still may be exposed to the sun at times. Your best bet is to choose a trail that has ample tree coverage on sunny days. This will also help with temperature control (for you and baby). Carrying a warm, heavy body can be no joke on hot days! As you're adjusting to this added weight and body heat, avoiding completely exposed trails is advisable.
3. Pack the essentials
When packing for your baby to come along on hikes, you want to stick with the essentials so you're not even more weighed down. Here are the items you definitely will need:
Diapers + wipes in case of diaper changes
A lightweight changing pad that folds down
A source of food for your baby. You can opt to breastfeed on the trail or bring bottles along. If you do bring bottles, you'll want to also bring ice packs.
A extra outfit in case of a blowout
A sun hat + sunscreen (sunscreen only for 6 months and up)
A portable sound machine if they need it to sleep
Portable fan optional if it can clip onto your pack
If you are hiking solo in the early months before you can graduate to a pack carrier, remember you will be carrying a pack on your back and your baby in a carrier on your front. With that in mind, you will definitely want to seat out lightweight gear!
4. Expect some setbacks
The reality is, hiking with a baby does add a layer of potential for setbacks and stress. Especially in those early months, you never know when your baby may be fussy for no reason, or in a full-blown bawling mood! I've been on hikes with my baby where she was happily sleeping the whole time, and hikes when she's screamed the whole time and we had to turn back. It's important to go into each hike knowing it could go well, or it could not. While it's hard adjusting to this unknown, remember that it is temporary. Here are some situations you may want to mentally prepare for so that you aren't caught too off-guard:
Blowouts or messy spit-ups
Your baby crying/screaming inconsolably
Dealing with heat, wind, rain, or hail
The hike taking longer than expected because of more frequent stops
More difficulty doing technical trails because of the added weight
5. Prepare your body physically
If you've been given the green light from your doctor to exercise again and you're feeling good physically to do so, I recommend doing what you can to prepare for the added difficulty on the trails! The ugly truth is, if your core is not strong enough to handle the added weight, you'll likely feel the effects in your back. Nothing sucks the fun out of hiking like chronic back pain! As a personal trainer who specializes in preparing people for hard hikes who has also personally gone through this, make sure you are cross-training! This means adding in resistance work to your hiking/cardio so that your body is strong and agile enough to handle the added stress of carrying an extra person. If you're just re-entering exercise postpartum, I recommend my Mountain Strong or Fit for Hiking Beginners programs for easing back in!
I hope you've found this helpful as an intro to hiking with your sweet babe! While hiking may not look exactly like it did before, you are so capable of adjusting and rising to the challenge!