This summer hiking became our new favorite family activity. Hiking with a baby or toddler offers a great alternative way of training. Plus you get to spend time with your family and enjoy the great outdoors. So here are my top tips for hiking with a baby or toddler.
Get a good baby carrier
When our son was quite young we would carry him in a normal baby carrier or baby wrap. However this was only a solution until he wanted a bit more view. We were given a used baby backpack carrier, which can be used when they are around 9 months old and can sit fairly stable. However we didn’t like the model and looked for a better one. Because this is key for making hiking with a baby or toddler fun and comfortable.
What to look for in a hiking carrier
- Adjustable shoulder and hip straps for the carrying adult: of course you want to adjust the backpack to the personal size of your back. This helps to make carrying comfortable and to avoid back pain.
- 5 point safety harness for the child: you want your child to be safe, even when it moves around or falls asleep
- Adjustable seat for the child: The carrier should be able to accomodate a growing child
- Foot rests: so your child’s feet don’t get numb after a while
- Soft pillow: at one point your child will fall asleep. This will make them sleep even more comfortably
- Sun and rain cover: some baby hiking carriers offer sun covers. As your child’s skin is still very delicate, I would highly recommend it. In addition, I always carry a rain cover because the weather is sometimes unpredictable in the mountains.
- Enough pockets for your stuff like diapers, changing mat, food, drinks, toys…
We got a Deuter Kid Comfort Active Baby Carrier, with extra pillow, sun roof and rain cover. And we are very happy with it because it offers great value for money. But there are also other brands we looked at, like these carriers by Thule, Vaude or Osprey.
Take enough breaks
In the beginning we were really ambitious with our hiking goals. We would try to hike long routes with lots of vertical ascent. But this got more and more difficult the older our son got, and the more active and mobile he became. Because he also wanted to explore and walk himself. So we now plan our routes in a way that we can take enough breaks and have lots of activities for him.
We usually look out for:
- Restaurants with children’s playgrounds
- Flat open spaces and lawns where he can run around freely
- Everything with animals like cows or goats. (children are usually fascinated by animals)
- Small streams or ponds where he can play in the water on a hot day
Places we avoid:
- Fancy viewpoints (because this usally means steep surroundings)
- Places with lots of people (just harder for him to run around freely)
- Routes that are completely in the sun
Bring enough snacks
And with enough I mean a lot of snacks. Hiking will make you hungry because the extra weight on your back will burn a lot of calories. And snacks also can distract your child for while when you can’t take an immediate break. I know that as parents we are told not to comfort our kids with food, but sometimes it just works wonders when hiking with a baby or toddler. And there are a lot of healthy snacks that you can bring along and feed your child while in the carrier without making a huge mess.
My favorite hiking snacks are.
- Rice or corn crispies
- Bell peppers cut in into stripes
- Thin italian sausages (not so healthy, but super yummy)
- Apple slices
Do you have more tips for hiking with your kids? Let me know in the comments!