If you’re planning to go hiking with a baby or a toddler, then naturally you may feel apprehensive. But it is definitely possible, if you plan and prepare accordingly.
As a family, we enjoy hiking, which means that we often venture out with out two-year-old son. This is something we have done since he was newborn. So what are the main considerations? Here, I explain everything you need to factor in and think about, before heading out to enjoy your hike with your baby or toddler.
Invest in a decent toddler hiking carrier
If you’re going out walking with a baby, or a toddler, then you’ll need kids hiking gear. When our son was around six months old, we purchased a LittleLife Ranger S2 Child Carrier and honestly, it’s been one of our best family buys; the perfect toddler hiking carrier.
This lightweight carrier is suitable for children from six months to three years, it is sturdy, lightweight and has a 5-point harness with anchor point for stability. It really was worth the investment and I’d recommend that anybody planning on hiking with a baby, or a toddler, buys their own.
You might think that your toddler is competent enough to complete your planned hike on foot. But what happens if they decide to put the stoppers on twenty minutes into your family hike? Do you turn back? I personally wouldn’t gamble on my toddler walking, so if I was planning a hike, I would always take the carrier.
Some fitness is required for hikes… especially if you’ll be carrying a toddler
If you’re a parent that wants to go hiking with a baby or a toddler, then some level of fitness is required. You need to be physically capable of strapping a LittleLife Ranger S2 Child Carrier to your back, or carrying little legs when they start to get tired.
You don’t need to be a marathon runner, but you need to be competent carrying a couple of wriggly stones of extra weight. If you’re worried about your fitness levels, then start small and build your walks up. Nobody said you had to complete family hikes up mountains.
Don’t just head out on a hike – practice, practice, practice!
If you do buy your own LittleLife Ranger S2 Child Carrier, then you can’t just expect to whack it on and climb a mountain. You don’t want to discover, half way up a steep hill, that your carrier is too uncomfortable to continue with. So it’s paramount that you wear it in on easy, familiar routes, before venturing out somewhere new. By practicing on familiar routes, you’ll also build yours and your child’s confidence. We routinely took our carrier out to our local park, before venturing out on a family hiking adventure.
Work around meal times – as babies and toddlers get hangry
Babies and toddlers have pretty set feeding routines and they won’t be prepared to wait because you’re half way around a nature trail. So before you venture out on any type of family hike, make sure you work out the timings. Find out how long a particular walk or hike will take and work around it.
For example, when my son was a small baby, he would want feeding every three hours. So when planning a family hike, we made sure that we had milk in the backpack. We also looked at the route beforehand, to determine where we could potentially feed when the time came.
The same rule applies if you’re hiking with a toddler. Make sure you’ve brought lunch with you if your walk is going to bleed into their usual lunch time. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a hangry toddler on your hands.
Take extra milk/water and plenty of snacks for the kids
Although babies tend to have routines when it comes to eating, we all know that they can catch you out. So if you’re hiking with a baby, take extra milk. Just in case.
Toddlers will also let you know that they’re hungry, no matter how inconvenient it is. You could be scrambling with them on your back, but if they’re hungry, then they will let you know. So don’t venture out on any type of family hike without an array of snacks for the whole gang. Make sure you have plenty of fluids too.
My other tip is to have a secret stash of jelly babies, that you keep to one side and pull out when the family starts to lag.
Prepare for every weather eventuality when you’re hiking with kids
The weatherman might have promised that it’s going to remain overcast all day. But what happens if there’s a torrential downpour? Or if the clouds clear and the sun starts to shine brightly through? Your baby or toddler may feel uncomfortable if this happens, so make sure you’re prepared for a sudden change in temperature. This means going armed with sun cream in your backpack, a sun hat and an all-in-one waterproof for your baby or toddler.
If you’re looking for a waterproof recommendation, then I highly rate the Regatta Kids Paddle Rain Suit. We were so impressed that we bought it in two different sizes! You should also check out my guide to buying affordable hiking gear.
Getting the right toddler hiking gear
If you’re going on a hike with a toddler, then make sure they’re wearing children’s hiking boots, even if you’re intending to carry them the whole time. This is important because you may stumble across terrain that they can manage and you’ll want to make sure their feet are protected if they do walk unaided.
You’ll also reach a point where you can no longer carry your little one, so you’ll need them to have confidence to hike alone. In order to build this, you need to allow your toddler to walk little and often. That’s why it’s important to have children’s hiking boots, even if you are planning to keep them in the LittleLife Ranger S2 Child Carrier to your back. Otherwise, when the time comes that they physically cannot fit in the carrier any longer, you might find that you have a reluctant hiker on your hands.
Make sure you’re clear about your hiking route
Before heading out on a hike, you should have a clear idea of where you’re going. But pack a map and a compass just in case. This is particularly important when you’re out with a baby or a toddler. The chances of something going wrong are slim, but what if you do? Prepare for the worst, but expect the best, that’s my motto when it comes to hiking with a baby or a toddler!
It may also be worth reading other people’s experiences of your proposed route. There are plenty of resources out there; for example, I have written about walking up Pen-Y-Ghent with my family.
Keep the toddler hiking carefree and fun
If you want your little one to enjoy hiking, then you need to keep the atmosphere relaxed. If you’re hiking with a baby, make sure you focus on being calm yourself, as your baby will pick up on any parental stress.
Whilst it’s important to keep the vibe relaxed, if you’re hiking with a toddler, you also need to ensure that you keep it fun. Point out any animals you see and ask them what colours various things are. You can also ask them questions like: “What can you see?” As well as discussing your environment, you could use the time to chat about other subjects, like nursery and family life.
Take your time and if in doubt, bow out
Hiking with kids can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to know when to give up. If you’re worried about the weather conditions, or if your baby or toddler seems unwell, or under the weather, then remember that you can always bow out. It’s not about continuing on regardless, it’s about having fun in the great outdoors, bring up nature-loving kids and responding to your family’s needs. You can always go back out next week, or the one after.