If you’re a keen hiker and outdoor lover, it’s understandable that you’d want to pass on that passion for nature to your children. But what do you do when your kids are still infants?
The good news is you don’t have to give up your favorite hobby! Before you set off into the wilderness with your little one, read these essential tips and tricks for hiking with a baby.
There are some surprising benefits to hiking with a baby. Here are our top 5 to encourage you to get into nature as a family today.
Exposure to sunlight boosts melatonin, known as the ‘sleep hormone.’ Babies need a lot of good quality sleep to grow and develop, so this melatonin boost, along with the restful sounds of nature, is perfect for them.
Both you and your baby will benefit from fresh air, and the experience of being outdoors together in nature can be an incredible bonding experience.
Being outside encourages the development of a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system ensures your baby stays healthy and happy.
Postpartum depression is the more serious side of mental health issues after having a baby. But even if you aren’t struggling with this very real issue, you may take time to adapt to the new reality of family life.
Being outdoors in nature offers excellent mental health benefits like stress reduction. The bonding that hiking with a baby encourages will further enhance your early parenting experiences.
Last but not least, hiking is great exercise.
This will keep you in top-notch cardio-vascular health, ensuring you spend many years watching your child grow.
Hiking with a baby encourages them to accompany you on your hikes as they grow. Then they’ll benefit from this fun form of exercise, too.
Depending on your baby’s age, there are certain things you need to keep in mind. Assess their needs according to their age when going hiking.
Babies can’t cool off their body heat by sweating as you do. This ability is still developing in your infant.
Dress them in one layer, but increase the layers to keep your baby warm when hiking in cooler weather. Remove a layer if your baby cries, gets fussy, or overheats.
Newborns sleep most of the time, so you may find it easier to hike with a newborn than a slightly older child.
However, they cannot hold their head up for extended periods at first. Keep this in mind when selecting a baby carrier. Soft-structured carriers can still offer head support if chosen wisely.
Protecting young babies from the sun’s harsh rays is best with a good hat and cool and comfortable clothing. The FDA doesn’t suggest sunscreen for children younger than 6 months.
Baby carriers or strollers should be equipped with a sun shield. At 3 months, your baby can start holding their head up for short periods at a time. This will improve over the 3-6 months period.
It’s still a good age to go baby hiking, but as your baby approaches 6 months, it will become more active and might be more demanding.
At 6 months, your baby will be much more aware of their surroundings, making hiking more enjoyable for them.
Babies can now sit upright, support their body weight and hold their heads up. This will make it easier to transport them in a backpack carrier. Long hikes are still not advisable, though.
Not only will your baby constantly get irritated being in a carrier or stroller, but they may still need diaper changes. These will be less than the 0-6 months stage, but you’ll still need to pack diapers and spare clothing.
Your baby may now try to toddle along next to you from time to time. Encourage them to take small steps with you. But remember, rough terrain will trip up little feet, and no child this age can endure an arduous climb or challenging hiking trail.
Stick to shorter and gentler routes until your child is older. Your child will also be eating solid food now. So include healthy hiking snacks for them, too.
Sun safety is still important, just as it is at any age. Stay out of direct sunlight as far as possible and teach them the importance of wearing a sunhat and sunscreen.
Plan your trip before you go. Decide how long you want to hike, where you’d like to go, and what you’ll need. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, get a map and study it before you start hiking.
Choose a hiking backpack with enough space for all your hiking essentials. But don’t forget that when hiking with a baby, you’ll also need your baby essentials for the day.
A hiking backpack should preferably have spare compartments for different items and additional features like a blanket roll holder and water bottle pocket.
To minimize your baggage but still have all you need, select a baby hiking backpack with enough space for your baby hiking gear.
Family hikes can be fun and rewarding. You all get great exercise, and your baby gets to enjoy the new sights, sounds and smells that are so crucial for their sensory development.
But don’t put too much pressure on yourself at the start. No matter how seasoned a hiker you are, hiking with a newborn baby can be stressful.
The most important thing is to keep your baby happy while you enjoy the outdoors. A baby crying for attention can break that zen moment, fast! So celebrate every baby hike as another milestone, no matter how short.
Regular breaks are just common sense when hiking. But when hiking with a baby, they are even more important. Besides having to stop and attend to your little one’s needs, you’ll also need a breather.
It may take several excursions before you are comfortable with it. A soft structured carrier with padded shoulder straps is the best, as it won’t be as cumbersome as a more rigid carrier or pushing a stroller.
Hiking with the added weight of a baby in a hiking baby carrier will be something you’re unaccustomed to. Remember to drink some water when taking a break, your baby will get thirsty too.
It’s never a good idea to go hiking with a baby in adverse weather conditions or unfamiliar territory. But even when you’ve planned everything to the last detail, be prepared for anything.
You’ll find uneven ground far easier to cover with some dependable hiking poles. The type with wrist straps is the best, as they offer you greater stability on rugged terrain.
A reliable GPS can help you to navigate the territory and give clear coordinates should you need to call for help in an emergency.
Never go hiking without some form of communication. Keep your mobile phone tucked away safely if you need to call for help at any time.
Make sure you leave home with it fully charged and ready for calls. Program an emergency number into the speed dial list, too. It’s also a good idea to take a small spare power bank or solar-powered phone charger.
A mini first-aid kit with basic essential items like band-aids, disinfectants, and gauze is a safety must when hiking. Falls, cuts, and scrapes are always possible, and you must be prepared for them.
A comfortable baby carrier is one of the most important baby hiking gear items.
Hiking with a baby carrier frees up your hands and enhances bonding with your infant. Many models are available with features that offer shade from the sun and heat.
But remember that a baby will be unused to extreme weather. So keep your infant covered in the heat, and never go hiking with your infant in temperatures over 90F.
Besides diapers and a foldable changing mat, you’ll need prepared bottles of baby formula milk (or expressed breastmilk). If your baby is a bit older, consider some healthy toddler snacks.
Don’t forget to pack in extra water for drinking and cleanups. And include some scented diaper bags for storing any soiled diapers without mess or odor until you reach a trash can.
Baby hiking is much simpler with a stroller designed for uneven terrain.
It should also have a sun shield to protect your infant’s delicate skin from the sun and heat.
If there’s a chance of gentle rain showers, get one with a rain cover too.
Hiking boots are essential for any successful hike, with or without a baby. To ensure your safety and comfort in the great outdoors, invest in a good pair of hiking boots for men or hiking boots for women.
Cotton baby clothing is best for hiking with a baby. It’s natural, breathable, and moisture-wicking. Cotton helps you stay cool in the summer and warm in the colder seasons.
Soft, organic cotton baby clothes, including a sunhat, will keep your child comfortable and content.
You’ll also benefit from a cotton t-shirt and cotton or straw hat when hiking in the heat.
Finally, you must pack for yourself. SPF 50 sunscreen is a must for all outdoor activities. The sun’s UV rays can cause damage to your skin long-term, so never forget to use sunscreen and not just on your exposed skin.
UV rays can penetrate through clothing, so apply it all over your body and reapply it on exposed skin frequently when hiking. Never leave home without checking that you’ve popped it into your hiking backpack.
Include other items, like insect repellent, to make your next hike a memorable, easy experience.
Here is the packing list for when you hike with a baby:
- Sunscreen and hats
- Clothing suitable for the temperature
- A cellphone with a GPS
- Comfortable hiking boots and poles
- Snacks, baby formula, and water
- First-aid kit
- Diapers and a foldable changing mat
- a baby hiking carrier
Keep the overall weight range in mind. You don’t want to carry a baby and heavy hiking gear!
You’ve invested in a baby hiking backpack, and you’re ready to venture into the fresh air of the great outdoors!
But before you get swept up in the excitement of your first baby hiking experience, read these safety tips.
Hiking on your own can be a dangerous activity at any time, especially when hiking with your child.
If you can’t hike with a family member or friend, rather postpone the hike until someone can join you. There’s a very important safety reason for this.
If you have an accidental fall or another injury while hiking with your infant, you may be unable to continue while holding them and your baby can’t call anyone for help.
To be safe, start close to home. Pick a short, gentle hiking trail that offers plenty of shade or cover in places and that is popular with locals.
This will mean that you don’t overdo it, you’ll be in familiar territory, and if you get into difficulty, there’ll be fellow hikers around to help you.
Always let someone close to you know where you intend to hike. Don’t deviate from this plan. If you need help, you want them to have a good idea of where you are.
Hiking with a baby is much easier if you time it to coincide with your baby’s sleep schedule. A young baby sleeps most of the time and quickly gets into a nap schedule.
Plan your hike so that a part of the time outdoors will fall into nap time. This will make it easier for you to enjoy your hike, too.
The hiking trails that you find most challenging will not be suitable for hiking with a baby. Here’s how to choose a kid-friendly trail.
Go online and look for kid-friendly hiking trails and short walks on one of the numerous hiking safety websites.
Look for words like ‘gentle,’ ‘easy,’ ‘beginner’s trail,’ or ‘child-friendly.’ Avoid steep inclines and declines.
Be sensible about your new schedule. You need to factor in your baby’s nap times, feeding times, and your own free time.
The time of day you go baby hiking is also of vital importance. It’s generally the hottest outdoors between 10 am and 4 pm. Try to avoid long hikes during the hot summers.
Enjoy hiking with your baby. It can be the best family adventure on a budget. If you follow the helpful tips in this guide, you’ll all have a great time.
Just remember to do what’s right for you. If this will be the first hike with your baby and you aren’t ready just yet, give yourself time.
Adjust to your new parenting role before you wander into the outdoors with your infant. Join other parents on a day hike if you need support.
Hiking with a baby can instill a love of nature and exercise from an early age. It encourages bonding and is a fun and healthy activity for the whole family.
By being responsible about safety, respecting your infant’s needs, and investing in the best quality hiking gear, you’ll make every baby hike a success.