Hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors with your baby. Exposing our daughter to nature and adventure at an early age through hiking was very important to us. However, the logistics of hiking with a baby can feel overwhelming. With the unpredictability of an infant, in regards to pretty much everything (feeding, sleeping, changing, fussiness, etc.), and the logistics of hiking with a baby (supporting their head, carrying all your/their gear, protecting them from the sun, etc.), going on a hike with a baby can seem impossible.
However, with the right mindset, gear, practice and dedication, it can be done successfully. After we spent a week hiking with our 5-week-old in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (even doing a 10+ mile hike one day), completed many hikes in Hawaii when our baby was 3-months-old, and numerous hikes around our home, friends and family asked us to share our tips on how we completed these hikes and enjoyed doing it in the process. Below are our tips for hiking with your baby.
For details on our first hiking trip with our baby, please see Pictured Rocks/Upper Peninsula of Michigan Guide. For details on our Hawaii Trip with our baby, please see Maui, Hawaii Quick Guide, Haleakala National Park Quick Guide, Big Island, Hawaii Quick Guide, 5 Stops on the Road to Hana and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide.
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When it comes to most aspects of life, including hiking with your infant, attitude really is everything. Be patient and flexible with your adventure. Know that your baby will be in charge and you are going to just have to go with the flow. When our daughter is sleeping (she loves sleeping in her carrier), we hike as far as we can. When she needs to eat or is fussy, we stop and take our breaks. We stop as much as she needs. For example, on a 10 + mile hike with her, the first 6 miles of our hike, we only had to stop twice because she was mainly sleeping but the last 4 miles, we had to 5 times as she was cluster feeding. If we would have had a rigid attitude about when we were stopping, this would have certainly frustrated us. However, knowing we needed to be flexible and were going to roll with the punches set us up for success.
Set Realistic Expectations
Not only is having a flexible attitude important but also setting realistic expectations. Everything takes longer with an infant, including hiking (and even writing this post) so set realistic expectations in regards to how long a hike will take you. For example, when we set out on a long hike with our 5 week old, we knew that between stopping to feed, changing her diaper, doing tummy time with her, etc, it may take us twice as long to complete the hike as it normally would without her. In reality, it didn’t take quite that long, but it was better to mentally prepare for a longer day than a shorter one. Having these realistic expectations prior to starting this hike really helped us have a good experience.
Have the Right Gear
Having high quality gear for hiking with your baby will make a big difference in both your comfort and your baby’s comfort. Here are the items we use and recommend:
Front Carrier: Ergobaby Omni 360 Cool Mesh Baby Carrier
Having a comfortable and high-quality carrier is, in our opinion, the most important item to invest in for hiking with a baby. This Ergobaby Omni 360 Cool Mesh Baby Carrier is great because it can be used from 7lbs-45lbs and you do not need a separate infant insert to use it with a newborn. It offers great head support–on our hikes it keeps our daughter’s head still and supported.
This carrier was recommended to us by our pediatrician for hiking as well as by family and friends for everyday use. It is very comfortable for whoever is carrying the baby. Natalie has hiked over 12 miles with it at one time, while also wearing a backpack, comfortably. With the way it is designed, it puts most of the weight of the baby on your hips. Further, this specific Ergobaby Carrier has a cool mesh design that helps keep the baby better ventilated. It also has an included head sun/rain cover that comes in handy often.
Beyond hiking, this carrier is great for everyday use. Natalie often wears it around the house when our daughter is fighting sleep as she really likes sleeping in it. Natalie tried on a lot of different brands of carriers prior to purchasing this one and it is hands down the most comfortable (for both parent and baby) and easiest to use. Some of the other carriers she tried on, especially the Infantino ones, had so many straps and felt very awkward. Make the investment in this carrier.
Back Carrier: Osprey Poco Baby Carrier
If you have an older and larger baby who can support his/her head, we recommend the Osprey Poco Baby Carrier to carry the baby on your back. This carrier really has it all–a shade for sun protection, ventilated side panels and a drool pad. This carrier is another very high quality item and much more comfortable than other carriers similar that we have tried. We plan to use this carrier once our daughter is a bit older.
Breastfeeding Tops: Bearsland Breastfeeding Tops
These breastfeeding tops make breastfeeding anywhere discrete and easy. Bearsland Breastfeeding Tops make it easy to nurse her while sitting off the trail on a log. Natalie has been living in them since our daughter was born, while traveling and at home, and owns 6 of them. These particular tops are more economical than most breastfeeding tops which is a plus as well.
Portable Changing Pad: Skip Hop Portable Changing Pad
This changing pad is easy to lay on the ground and change your baby along the trail. The Skip Hop Portable Changing Pad wipes off easily and has a place to store diapers, wipes and diaper cream as well. It also fits compactly in your hiking backpack. We use it when we are out and about during our day to day life too.
Compact Umbrella: UV Protective Compact Umbrella
A compact UV protective umbrella will allow you to create shade wherever you need it while hiking. When we hiked in Hawaii, this was particularly helpful as the sun was plentiful while shade was minimal on many of our hikes. We use it to create shade for our baby while hiking (especially important early on since babies cannot wear sunscreen until 6 months) and to create shady spots for our baby while changing her or doing anytime out of the carrier. Also, when we unexpectedly got rained on while hiking in Hawaii, it kept our baby nice and dry. This particular umbrella is great because it is compact and UV protective.
Diaper Bags: Munchkin Diaper Bags
You will need to pack out all your diapers and these contain them well in addition to keeping the smell down.
Do a Trial Hike
Before going on a long hike, try out a shorter hike. We started with a 2 mile hike with our carrier at a nearby park. This helped us navigate using our carrier with our baby and bringing all of our supplies with us. It also helped us figure out when we were ready to do some longer hikes.
We were ready to do some longer hikes and travel with our baby when she was 5, almost 6 weeks old. However, a lot of people will not be ready at this point and that is okay. Giving birth is major and takes most mothers 6 weeks, if not longer, to recover. Also, some babies will not be ready this young. If you have a baby who hates the carrier or is colicky, a hike at this age may not be right for you.
Be Dedicated and Don’t be Paralyzed by Fear
That being said, do not let your anxieties about hiking with your baby paralyze you. To be honest, we were a bit nervous to take our baby on her first hiking trip. We were mainly fearful of the unknown and what kind of days she would be having on days we planned to do different things. However, we are so glad we did not let those anxieties stop us and ripped the bandaid off. We made our days flexible, nothing was set in stone and everything was on our own time. With the right gear and expectations, we had a great first hiking trip with our baby girl and many other successful hikes since then.
Many people told us hiking and travel would not be possible with a baby. However, that is absolutely not true. Adventure is still completely possible with a baby. People who say you can’t adventure with your baby are either too scared and/or not dedicated enough to make it happen. Everything takes longer and requires a lot more planning with a baby, but once you accept that fact and work with it, you’ll realize it can be done. The reward and accomplishment of trying and completing traveling adventures with your little one is worth it.
To read more about our hiking adventures with baby, please see Pictured Rocks/Upper Peninsula of Michigan Guide, Maui, Hawaii Quick Guide, Haleakala National Park Quick Guide, Big Island, Hawaii Quick Guide, 5 Stops on the Road to Hana and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide.
For other traveling tips with baby, please see our Flying with a Baby post.
We hope this guide helps you plan a hike with your baby. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!