Good news mountain mamas and papas: having a baby doesn’t require you to toss your hiking boots into storage to make room for those cute little baby booties. Hiking with babies is entirely possible and can be quite enjoyable. Go into it with the right mindset and the right gear.
Try not to let your newborn curb your passion for hiking. Getting your baby into nature early is a great way to introduce them to the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors. Plus, a little boost of Mother Nature can do wonders for a new parent’s morale, which is often much-needed after plenty of time spent cooped up indoors trying to figure out the whole parenthood thing.
Hiking with your youngin’ will be the first of many adventures you’ll share over the years to come. Here are some key elements to consider before you hit the trails in tandem.
1. Hold Your Horses
Outdoorsy types tend to get a little overeager when it comes to getting their nature fix—especially if you’ve been holed up at home or in a hospital room in recent days. If you recently gave birth, it’s a good idea to get the thumbs up from your doc before heading out for a hike. Most medical folks encourage walking and being outside but give your body a bit of time before tackling more rigorous trails.
2. Get a Good Pack
While you’re waiting for your doctor’s approval, start shopping for a device to carry your baby in while hiking.
Little babies are generally best carried in front carriers. These can be nice and cocoon‑y for your little one, encouraging on-the-go naps as you hike (bonus!) However, as cozy as it is having your baby nestled against you, it is also the recipe for a sweaty mess on more physically demanding hikes.
Babies that can sit up independently (usually around six months and up) can be put in a backpack-style carrier, which allows for much more airflow. Be choosy when picking one of these out—they are a bit of an investment piece and you’ll likely be wearing it for a couple of years. Babies are surprisingly heavy—even young ones—so check for good padding and comfortable, adjustable straps.
3. Bring Layers for Both of You
Any hiker knows that the key to staying comfortable is to bring plenty of clothing layers. Don’t forget to do the same for your baby.
Even though you might be working up a sweat, your baby isn’t doing any actual work—they’re just along for the ride. While you could be at a comfortable temperature, your baby might need an extra layer or two to stay warm. Bring extra socks for your little one: not only is this handy in the very likely event that they lose one along the way, but they can also double as mitts if their little hands get cold.
4. Start Short, Go from There
Your first hike with your baby probably shouldn’t be a multi-day trekking expedition. We’re not saying it’s not possible to do that with your baby. It’s just that you want to build up to that type of distance rather than diving in headfirst.
A hike that you consider easy and that you’ve done before is the perfect first adventure to take your baby on. This will do wonders for building your confidence. The goal is to finish the hike thinking, “Wow, that was awesome, I could have kept going for another hour or two!” Next time, you can amp up the difficulty or the length a little bit, and keep going from there.
5. Start Early and Don’t Rush
Give yourself lots of time for your hike. As you can probably guess, it’s going to take longer to hike with a baby in tow than it would be hiking childless. Take off earlier in the day rather than later—you don’t want to be caught racing against daylight in case things go slower than anticipated (and put a headlamp in your pack, just in case). Try not to have any set-in-stone commitments post-hike that you need to rush back to. Fewer time constraints mean less stress and more fun.
6. Take Frequent Stops
This is not a power hike. Hiking with your baby is not the time to suffer through discomfort of any kind. Stop to re-adjust straps. Stop to fix your baby if they have tipped over heavily to one side. Stop to feed your baby if they get hungry. Stop to fish your water bottle out of your backpack.
Just think—all of this stopping will be great practice for the frequent pit stops you’ll take when you’re hiking with your mobile kid in a few years!
7. Bring the Right People
A solid crew makes even the best hikes, better.
Your partner is a great companion if they like hiking, too. You can switch off between who carries the baby and who takes a break.
Other parents with babies are likely to be patient and understanding. If your baby starts crying, the other parent won’t mind—they’ll just be grateful it’s not their own who is wailing. Plus, if one of you runs out of wipes or diapers, the other can share.
Baby-less companions can be excellent, of course. Just be sure that you’re all on the same page in terms of what you hope to accomplish on the trails.
8. Braid Your Hair
A final bonus tip: if you’re carrying your baby on in a backpack, beware the ponytail. New moms are already dealing with post-partum hair loss and a ponytail makes a tantalizing toy for a bored baby. Just say yes to the braid!