This past summer, we traveled across the US and Canada, stopping at National Parks full of mountains that called to us along the way. With a 15 month old, we wondered how much hiking we would be able to do, considering his high energy level and his weight that we would carry on our backs. But alas, we went for it, threw Zay in our Kid Comfort III, and hiked our butts off.
Halfway point of an 18 mile hike in Glacier National Park
In our time hiking with our toddler, we discovered 6 things that you should know before you take on the trails.
YOUR REST TIME IS THEIR PLAY TIME
While you're busting your butt, hiking up grueling hills and bulking your quads, your baby is chilling on your back and not moving a muscle. Babies have a lot of energy (news flash) and need to get it out, so when it's "break time" and you want to just sit on a rock and eat trail mix, your little one will want to run around. With this in mind, try to make stops that give your baby room to move without the risk of falling off cliffs, or tripping over big boulders. The more open the space, the more you'll be able to calmly eat your snacks and watch your baby from a safe distance.
A tired momma playing with her very energetic son
I wouldn't recommend going for a 15 mile hike for starters. Start slow, start small, and build up to longer hikes. You'll need that time to get used to carrying an extra 30 pounds on your back anyway. Start small also means ... start when they're small. The younger your baby is when they start hiking, the more likely it will be that he or she will have an affinity for mountain life and going on hikes. If you start at a later age, like in toddlerhood, you may find that you have a more defiant baby that doesn't want be stuck in a pack.
MAKE IT FUN
You're able to have your fun by hiking and enjoying what you love to do, so make sure you make it fun for your buddy on back. We sing songs, point everything out we see, from birds to flowers to trees, and play "1,2,3 jump!" that gives us even more of a leg workout. The more fun you make hiking for your baby, the more you'll be able to do it, and the more you'll foster a love for the outdoors for your child.
You're not going to be able to hustle and move as fast as you could without a baby, so be prepared to be patient. The hike is guarenteed to take longer than it used to in your pre-baby days, so plan accordingly. From diaper changes to snack time to a squirmy baby that needs to burn some energy, extra stops are going to be in the cards.
This is a tip that transcends any topic in keeping a baby happy and satisfied. Snacks = your savior. We like clean snacks that allow Zay to eat while in the carrier. Some favorites are an almond butter sandwich, cashews in a small bag, and apple slices.
Zay protecting his almond butter sandwich from a very daring marmot.
ITS EXHAUSTING, BUT IT'S WORTH IT
It's obviously more work hiking with a baby, from preparation, to carrying the extra weight, to singing and bouncing while hiking, to chasing your little one during your "breaks". But oh my, is it worth it. There is nothing quite like being unplugged and in the outdoors, working hard towards a goal with your whole family, teaching your child about nature, and soaking in the beauty of your surroundings. Every last bit of the "hard" part of hiking with a baby is worth it ten fold.
Look at those smiles! Family fun in the great outdoors!
With those six tips, I hope you're ready to take on the trails and enjoy some QT with your little one. Enjoy!
Keeping it real: There is an affiliate link for the Kid Comfort III in this post. If you decide you want the pack and purchase it through that link, it sends a small commission my way at no extra cost to you. I only recommend things that I truly believe and this pack certainly is. By purchasing it through the link, it helps me keep this blog going.