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Taking Your Baby Hiking: What To Pack

Hiking is something both Kirk and I love to do (we met on a hike!) and our oldest son, Ford, grew up hiking with us. Walker was on his first hike when he was a month old and we did many fun hikes over the spring/summer/fall and have gotten a few winter hikes in. With spring not far away I am gearing up for hiking again. But the big news is he is ready for a back carrier instead of his being carried on front. That is exciting for us as we can walk farther and I can see my feet once again…hah! Now that I am getting his backpack carrier ready for use it means figuring the gear I need. I treat his gear like mine – in that I have items just for his pack and nowhere else so that I don’t forget anything. It is never fun when as adults we forget say the granola bars, but for a baby not having diapers or a clean outfit….well, that becomes a huge issue. You can’t exactly run up to strangers begging for a diaper (a couple of months ago I had a woman run up to me in a parking lot looking very embarrassed and she pleaded “did I have a diaper I could spare?”, I look over and I see little feet kicking in her open trunk. And of course I helped her out!) When I go hiking I make sure I go through my pack after each trip and replace anything used – a good habit to get for kids as well. Then you don’t have to plan at all when you go to leave – you just grab your items and go. At the same time I encourage everyone to have an overstuffed diaper bag kept in their vehicle with plenty of duplicates so you are never without.

So what do I carry for the baby?

Backpack or baby carrier:

Currently Walker has moved up to a Deuter Kid Comfort III. The 2010 model is being discounted so look around. It isn’t the cheapest model but is designed to carry a kid for a longer time. Smaller babies will not fit into this pack well though.

Before this he used a Kelty Kangaroo Infant Carrier, two Bjorn front carriers (a standard one and a BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Active) and a Ergo Performance carrier. The Ergo we still use for short trips and he enjoys being in it – but for actual rocky/rooty trails a back carrier works better.

Walker in his Bjorn Active in late-fall in the Great Smokies:

Pack Accessories:

Since the Deuter line allows the use of a rain cover I picked one up,Deuter KC Deluxe Rain Cover. Different brands vary on this, but both Ergo and Bjorn make all-weather covers for front packs and are sold on Amazon and Ergo’s website. You can also use a Sammy Sack mini for front carriers. Not everyone needs this but if you live in an area with rain and wind this can be nice. We learned from experience that while you can tuck a blanket around front carriers they don’t block wind well enough. In summer of course this isn’t a huge issue in most places, but in the PNW you never know, so better to be prepared!

If you are using a back carrier check to see if it came with a mirror. If it didn’t you can pick them up online, Chums RearView Mirror. While not needed it is very helpful, think of it like the mirrors used in the back seat to keep an eye on baby while you drive! Some packs come with stirrups, which are nice for older children but not so much for young babies.

Check if your pack has the ability to take a hydration bladder. The Deuter we have does. This frees up pack space and the water is carried close to your back, distributing the weight better. Often baby backpacks seem to not think about the wearer’s hydration needs!

What To Carry For Baby:

If you are using a front carrier the easiest way to handle baby’s items is to wear a daypack on your back. First put the baby on, then the pack on last. It can be done and even be comfortable 😉 The picture below is of Walker and I on the Appalachian Trail in late fall. It is easier to wear a Bjorn with a daypack than it is an Ergo (due to the Ergo’s strap system). Bjorn and Ergo both make a daypack that can attach to your carrier, you may want to research this. I just opted for my pre-baby full size daypack (it carries a good 2000 ci).

If using a baby backpack check out the carrying capacity. Often the lower priced carriers have very little carrying capacity. So do consider this! Especially if you do not have another adult along to carry all yours and the babies items needed! You will of course need to carry a bit more gear if you are hiking in the wilds over say a city park.

The Baby Essentials:

Top row – Diaper changing kit (waterproof fold-out mat that holds 3 diapers, wipes and freezer bags for trash), made by First Years and found at Target for around $10. Extra outfit in a gallon freezer bag, a blanket sleeper is a good choice for winter. For summer I pack lighter clothes, a onesie and pants.

Second row – depending on babies age and what you feed them, you will most likely need to consider items if not breast-fed. For all hikes I carry one bottle of Similac Advance Early Shield Infant Formula, with a clean nipple and collar (you can find extra collars sometimes at Babies r’ Us). For longer hikes I carry a couple of them.

Us on a hike back in September, having lunch at a pretty lake.

When Walker was smaller I carried the 2-ounce bottles instead. I prefer to use premixed on the trail, it is simpler and less upsetting to the babies stomach if you bottle feed. Mixing up water and powder can be pretty messy with a small baby (and I found that at altitude last summer I couldn’t get dry formula to dissolve properly). Now that Walker is older I also tuck in a 4-ounce container of apple or pear juice. A nipple and collar fit on perfectly to the Gerber Fruit Juice containers. Each bottle gets it own nipple/collar so there is always a clean one. On short hikes I carry one container of solid food, longer hikes I tuck in 2-3 to be on the safe side. Also tuck in a spoon, I vary what I carry but either they are baby spoons from home or a Light My Fire baby spork. I prefer the baby food in squeeze pouches such as Happy Baby, Plum Organics or Ella’s Kitchen. They are very easy to serve and make less of a mess. Plum Organic’s sells a cool ‘spoon’ set that I found at Target, the screw onto any of the pouch brands. Not cheap at $4 but pack easily! You can also consider dried baby food, such the lovely food by Miles Outside Organic, but be sure to use clean water that you carry from home, so as not to upset the babies tummy.

Third Row – A bag of clean new paper towels, each one folded in quarters. Paper towels always handy. While for short walks I will take a small burp rag, for hiking it is just easier to take paper! And next to that is a resealable tub of Walker’s favorite munchies. Depending on the age of your baby and their taste is what one might carry. Walker loves them so I carry them. But do carry the container in a bag, it will keep out any moisture better.

Other Items – Not shown but depending on the weather/season.

Little babies do well wearing a bunting suit, usually made of fleece. They keep the majority of their body covered, with just their faces exposed. Look for clearance sales and at resale stores for the best deals.

Walker in a bunting suit in late fall:

Underneath it he wears a lighter outfit with socks. Makes changing him easy if need be while out.

If your baby isn’t wearing a bunting be sure their head, feet and hands are well covered. Especially in back carriers babies can get chilled easily. In summer they won’t need the heavy clothing but you should have a sunhat and light material that covers their arms and legs, to avoid sunburn. I found last summer that the one piece zip up sleep n’ plays worked well, you can find them very thin for summer use. Due to our hiking in the mountains I carry winter clothing for him year round. Wind can pick up or a storm blow in and suddenly you need to have the baby dressed warmly. I am not against having a blanket sleeper in the pack year round up here! I also tuck in a fleece hat when he doesn’t have a bunting on. As well I often have a Carter’s blanket with us as a just in case measure and it also gives him something to lay on if needed, or to wrap around him. The larger soft cotton ones work well (we use them for covering his lap in his car seat as well).

If your baby will allow it use a pair of sunglasses. But yeah, most babies hate them.

Sunscreen for babies. I have a tube of Aveeno Baby Sunblock Lotion, SPF-55 that I leave in his diaper bag. If the trip will be long I tuck it in my pack. Good to have for his little face, but be sure to get the OK for babies under 6 months of age!

And while this isn’t gear necessarily, one of the issues I had when Walker was younger last summer/fall was that I had nowhere to put him. We’d be hiking and would stop for a break. I needed another adult with me so I could hand him off to use the bathroom, get a snack, prepare a bottle, etc. Once they can sit life does get easier. But if you have a hiking partner with a strong back consider strapping one of the cheap baby seats, they are decently light, just so they have somewhere to sit that is clean, dry and comfy!

And what do I carry for me? Well… depends on the trip. How far in, how remote….but I usually carry a lot compared to most people. This is a list from fall of 2009 when I was pregnant with Walker. I know from my past experiences with Ford when he was little that with every year passing the trips get better again with little ones and the trails longer. I am very much excited for spring to come!

3 thoughts on “Taking Your Baby Hiking: What To Pack

  1. Have you tried backpacking with the pack? Is it big enough or strap friendly enough to get all your gear onboard? My wife and I are having our second child and trying to figure out how to back pack with a toddler and an infant.

    1. Sean,
      While it can work, I found that carrying much more than the kid and the kid’s gear was all I could handle. What that means is you need a second adult to carry the family gear for everyone. So it can be done….but it isn’t as easy as 1 kid 🙂 I should add that since you’ll have 2 kids close in age (like we do!) that you probably could get the baby and toddler items into the carrier. And if the wearer is strong, I see no reason why you couldn’t strap a roomy frameless daypack on the back of the carrier, to carry more light but bulky items (puffy jackets, sleeping bag, etc).
      Good luck!!

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