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 than later helped us gain momentum early, and hiking has quickly 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.
A carrier is THE fundamental piece of gear to make hiking possible with an infant. There’s a bunch of options out there to choose from including wraps, slings, and structured carriers, and it can get overwhelming to look at all of the different styles and brands. We preferred structured carriers because they distributed the baby’s weight to our hips, and we could use them as she grew since they can safely and comfortably support more weight than slings and wraps. Plus, the one we bought came with an infant insert to help keep her an ergonomic position, and supported her head and neck when she was at her smallest. It’s also great that you can nurse in this style of carrier to while you hike! We LOVE our Ergobaby 360 with infant insert.
Now that she is bigger and we also want to start doing longer hikes and even some overnight trips, 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, and it has 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.
Our first consideration with clothing selection is the 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. Make sure to pack an extra outfit in case of a blowout.
Typically we’ve gone the simple route and put our daughter in a sleeper that covers her from the sun. Sleepers with built in footies are nice because they stay on. Often socks or shoes fall off as you go, just 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.
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 aways 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.
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’s lots of buntings on the market and most will do for chilly conditions, but 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. As a side note, we always put on a base layer underneath in case of a diaper blowout. The capilene outfits we mentioned above are great base layers.
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 the extra fabric on the back 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.
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!
Leave No Trace! 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 hold the moisture in and off your bag.
Once you reach the destination on a hike or decide to 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.
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 rain coat or poncho to throw over them will work.
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