Hiking with baby or toddler, best baby carriersMy husband and I enjoy hiking and were determined to keep hiking a part of our life even after we had children.  We therefore found ways to make hiking both possible AND fun with an infant or young toddler.So in the spirit of fun times ahead, here are a few tips for hiking with your baby.

1.  Only Hike In Good Weather

This may go without saying, but many adults have no problem hiking in the rain or the cold.  Babies, on the other hand, are not as able to regulate their body temperature like adults can and since they are not generating heat through activity, they can lose body heat quickly through their hands and feet.  What’s more, babies and young children  do not follow instructions even when it’s to their benefit to do so!  No matter what you do, sometimes your child will insist on hanging a foot, hand, or even head outside of the rain cover or poncho to get cold and wet. The end result?  Unhappy baby, unhappy parents.  Always check the weather forecast before leaving and bring inclement weather gear even if it’s not forecast.

2. Check Baby Frequently

Take frequent breaks to stop and check on your baby. Check arms and legs to make sure s/he is warm enough but not overheating. Check the diaper to make sure it’s dry and clean. Check to make sure the baby is not hungry. Also, plan to stop every so often just to give your baby a break from the carrier.  Let baby lay (or sit or crawl or stand) along the trail and explore. Babies usually enjoy gazing at trees, clouds, and other sights along the way.

3.  Plan ahead for diaper changes.

If you’re going to be hiking along a place that may not always be conducive to diaper changing, change diapers whenever the opportunity strikes.  Take a long a thick pad or blanket for a changing pad, and enough diapers/wipes to last the trip.  Also consider bringing a wet bag to put dirty things in until you are able to dispose of them.  Many hiking trails do not have regularly placed trash cans and you may need to pack your dipes and wipes out (yes, even if they are bio-degradable).   Don’t forget an extra set of clothing in the event of a blowouts.  Cause you know they’ll happen if you are not prepared!

4. Make getting in the baby carrier fun! Even the most chill baby can get fussy when asked to ride in a carrier for a long time.  When we took Jack on a week-long backpacking trip in the Sierras with my parents, he started to get fussy when I made to put him back on my back.  Our solution: all four of us stood around and cheered when I put Jack in the carrier.  We whooped and hollered until he started laughing and grinning.  We did this every time I loaded him up, and it made the whole trip a lot more fun for all of us.

5. Plan extra time for your hike. I always say that doing anything with kids takes twice as long, and this is certainly true for hiking!  The extra weight of carrying your baby will slow you down some, and you will need to take more frequent and longer breaks to attend to baby’s needs and give him/her a break from the carrier.  If you go into the hike planning for this extra time, you will have a much better time.  Try to be less goal-oriented and more experience oriented than you may have been when hiking with adults.

6. Bring the right supplies – a quick list:

  • Basic hiking supplies, including emergency shelter, food, water, and first aid kit
  • Enough diapers to last the entire hike.
  • A wetbag or plastic Ziploc for wet clothes and/or dirty dipes
  • Anti-bacterial hand wash
  • A blanket to serve as a changing pad as well as an extra warmth layer if baby seems cold.
  • Change of clothes for the baby in case of diaper messes.
  • Warm clothing, including a hat, socks, mittens, if there is any chance of the weather turning chilly or rainy.
  • Sun hat & baby sunscreen.  We love BabyLegs for covering up arms and legs from the sun and especially for that gap between the bottom of the pant leg and the top of the sock that always happens when we put our babies in carrier!
  • Snacks for baby.  If your child is eating solids, snacks are a great way to keep a fussy baby entertained while on the go.
  • A few toys that can be attached to your carrier with a toy clip.
  • A babywearing mirror for checking out your baby while on the go. Babies also love mirrors as toys.
  • A great baby carrier, obviously!  See next tip.

ERGo baby carrier for hiking

7.  Bring a baby carrier that is comfortable for both you and the baby I generally recommend carrying baby on your back for hiking.  This is both more comfortable for the wearer (our bodies are built to carry heavy loads on our backs) and safer in that you can watch your step and maneuver more easily.  My favorite carriers for day hiking are:

  • ERGO Baby Carrier - this carrier is a favorite for both men and women.  The padded waist is great for putting baby’s weight on your hips instead of your shoulders.  The ERGO is also comfortable for almost everyone.  and lastly, the ERGO has a great line of accessories that are great for hiking, including a backpack and a front pack so that you won’t need to carry an extra bag.  The ERGO can be worn on the back or on the front if you prefer.   Best for babies with good head control.  Consider the ERGO Sport  or ERGO Performance carriers if you get sweaty easily – they are much cooler than the standard and original version!  I have a slight preference for the Performance for hiking – it has more pockets.
  • Tula Carriers - these carriers fit the widest range of wearers, from petite to plus-sized and are super comfortable.  The Tula comes in two sizes, and the Toddler size is the biggest carrier we own – a must have for parents wanting to hike with a big kid who wants to walk, but may get tired halfway!
  • Beco Gemini Baby Carrier – rapidly becoming our best-selling baby carrier, our customers love the Beco Gemini for hiking.  This carrier is suitable for infants as well as older babies and even toddlers.  It has the benefit of allowing your baby to face out, which many babies love for hiking (warning: this position tends to be less comfy for you, after a while, though!)
  • Boba Carrier – this carrier is awesome for hiking, especially with an older toddler or child.  The foot rests on the Boba mean that your child’s legs can be supported instead of dangling, making this a very comfy ride for them, too.
  • Pikkolo Baby Carrier - our most versatile carrier.  For hiking, definitely consider the support belt accessory for kids over 20 lbs. The Pikkolo is a great choice if you’d like a small baby to be able to look over your shoulder or if you would really prefer for your baby to be in the front facing forward position.
  • Kozy Carrier Mei Tai – my recommendation for hiking with a very young baby.  The Kozy can be safely used in a high back carry even before baby has good head control.  Many people love to hike with mei tais because they are much more minimalist and streamlined than buckle carriers.  They also pack up more tightly!

For hikes of several days or more, I recommend a frame backpack.  My favorite was a Kelty carrier from REI.

Hiking with baby

Have you been hiking with your baby?  I’d love to hear about it!  Tell your story, in the comments.  Looking to buy a baby carrier for hiking?  Browse our recommendations, here.


*Originally published in May 2010; updated May 2012*


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