So you are thinking about hiking with an infant? Awesome! Getting out on the trail has been one of the most important experiences we’ve shared as a family. The fresh air and scenery helped us shrug off the cabin fever that set in while we were recovering after birth. Whenever you feel ready (and get the okay from your doctor), make a move! We found that getting out sooner rather than later helped us gain momentum early. Hiking has since become part of our weekly routine. Getting out on the trail can be tough at first, but having the right gear makes doing it easier and more enjoyable for everyone..
7 GEAR TIPS FOR HIKING WITH A BABY
1. BABY CARRIER
A carrier is THE fundamental piece of gear to make hiking possible with an infant. There are several options to choose from including wraps, slings, and structured carriers. It can get overwhelming to consider all of the different styles and brands. We preferred structured carriers because they distributed the baby’s weight to our hips. This style is a great long-term option as well. As she grew, a structured carrier offered safe and comfortable support when compared to slings and wraps. Ours came with an infant insert to help keep her an ergonomic position, supporting her head and neck when she was small. You can also nurse in this carrier while you hike! We LOVE our Ergobaby 360 with infant insert.
Now that she is bigger we’re ready to start doing longer hikes and even some overnight trips. That’s why we’ve switched to the Osprey Child Carrier. We love hiking with this carrier because it has a full frame which distributes her weight like a dream. Plus, it has a special stand so we can place the pack with her in it on the ground and it won’t tip over. There are tons of options that keep her safe and comfy on longer hikes. Oh, and the gear storage capacity is one of the best on the market.
2. BABY CLOTHING
Our first consideration with clothing selection is temperature. We always aim for long sleeves for sun protection, and then we pick different fabrics depending on the temperature to help keep the baby comfortable.
Expert tip: make sure to pack an extra outfit in case of a blowout.
Mild Conditions/Short Hikes
Typically we’ve gone the simple route and put our daughter in a sleeper that protects her from the sun. Sleepers with built-in footies are nice because they stay on. Often socks or shoes fall off as you go. Make sure the sleeper isn’t too small because their feet can get bound up when they go into the carrier. We always make sure once she’s in the carrier that the footies are nice and loose on her foot.
Warm Conditions/Longer Hikes
Let’s be honest, if you are carrying your little one in a carrier against your chest and are exerting yourself on the hike, you are probably going to start sweating. Some of the sweat and heat is going to transfer to the baby. An outfit that breathes, wicks away moisture, and dries quickly is important. Cotton is not great because it can trap heat and doesn’t dry quickly. We really like Patagonia’s infant capilene set.
When the weather is cold, we love buntings! They are a one-stop-shop because they cover the baby’s head, body, hands, and feet. Plus you won’t have to worry about losing mittens or boots that never stay on. There are many buntings on the market and most will do for chilly conditions. If it’s really cold, consider a down version. Our favorite bunting is the Patagonia infant high loft down sweater bunting. This bunting is pricey, but the down is incredibly warm. The bunting can also double as an excellent sleeping bag for camping.
Expert tip: we always put on a base layer underneath in case of a diaper blowout. The Capilene outfits we mentioned above make great base layers.
3. SUN HAT
This is pretty self-explanatory. We prefer hats with neck straps to keep the hat in place. We also like hats that are easy to fold down and have a neck cape to cover the baby’s neck. Our current favorite is Sunday Afternoon Kid’s Play Hat. This hat stays on the baby so well and the brim is large so she has more protection on her face. They also have a great version for infants..
4. BABY SUNGLASSES
If we are hiking around snow or lots of water where there’s sun reflection, we bring baby sunglasses. We like the Ro Sham Bo Baby Sunglasses. They are flexible and chewable, both of which always seem to get tested when she wears them!
5. DIRTY DIAPER BAG
Leave no trace and be prepared with a bag to carry out the dirty diapers. We’ve gone the simple route and packed a plastic bag on our hikes, but you can find cool reusable wet bags to store the dirty diapers in until you get back to the trailhead or home. Just pick a bag that holds the moisture in and away from your bag!
Once you reach the destination on a hike or decide to stop and have lunch, having a mat or blanket to let the baby stretch out on is nice. It can also double as a changing pad too. We usually pack a small mat that rolls up and has a little padding so if the ground is rocky it’s still comfortable.
7. RAIN PROTECTION
Rain can pop up unexpectedly, so be prepared. We picked a rain cover that was compatible with our pack. If you are using one of the front carriers like an Ergo, an extra raincoat or poncho to throw over them will work.