The Sling Lady’s Survival Guide to Hiking with your Baby – 2020

My 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 along 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 diapers and wipes out (yes, even if they are biodegradable).   Don’t forget an extra set of clothing in the event of a blowout.  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.

Hiking with a baby | Baby Hiking Carriers

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 wet bag or plastic Ziploc for wet clothes and/or dirty dipes
  • Anti-bacterial handwash
  • 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.
  • A weather cover to go over your baby carrier or babywearing clothing to cover both of you when the temps drop.  We love the Boba Hoodie.
  • 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!  (you can also BabyLegs with UV protection)
  • 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.

Boba Hoodie Baby Carrier Cover Hooded Stretchy Sweatshirt

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:

  • Ergobaby 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 Ergobaby is also comfortable for almost everyone.   The Ergobaby Carrier can be worn on the back or on the front if you prefer.   Best for babies with good head control.
  • Beco Gemini Baby Carrier – one of our best-selling baby carriers for infants. 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, though!)
  • Beco Toddler carrier – our favorite option for hiking with bigger kids (best for kids 2 and up).
  • 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.
  • Tula Carriers – Tulas are generally comfortable for a wide range of babywearers and the adjustable shoulder makes breastfeeding easy.  Tula’s Free to Grow carrier is amazing for hiking with smaller babies.  They also make  Standard carrier and the Tula Toddler carrier, which is a great choice for toddler baby carrying (suitable only for toddlers least 18 months, 25 lbs and wearing 2T or longer pants).  If you are hiking in warm weather or get hot easily, Tula has a Coast version, which has a center mesh panel for additional airflow and coolness – see the Tula Coast standard size and the Tula Coast Toddler size
  • Pikkolo Baby Carrier – our most versatile carrier.  For hiking, I recommend 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.
  • DIDYMOS Meh Dai great choice if you want something without buckles. Many people love to hike with meh dais 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 |Baby Hiking Carriers

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; most recenlty updated march 2020*

For more information on hiking with your baby and choosing a hiking carrier, check out these articles!

The SlingLady’s Survival Guide to Hiking with Your Baby

Baby Carriers for Hiking – why I love a soft carrier over a framed backpack for hiking with my baby any day!

Baby Carriers for Hiking: Framed backpacks vs. Soft Carriers – pros and cons

And for more information on Framed Backpacks:

Hard Frame Carrier 101

Framed Backpack Carriers

 

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24 Responses

  1. I love hiking with my baby! So far I have only gone hiking with him facing outward in a moby wrap or in my Pikkolo (which was absolutely crucial for the first 7 months!) Now that he is almost 8 months I have started to play around with putting him on my back. He doesn’t seem to fond of not being able to see past my back so far but I hope soon that he learns to enjoy the ride! I wonder how he can see over my shoulders in the Pikkolo? I also have an Ergo carrier which has been really nice lately now that he can spread his legs wide enough to sit. We live in Santa Barbara and have gone hiking up to Tangerine Falls, Seven Falls, and Lizards Mouth. When he is on the front I sometimes needed someone to help me get up onto big boulders by taking him out and playing pass the baby. It is all totally worth it though and he loves to be outside and on the move. I practice something called Elimination Communication to help reduce any diaper loads along the way. I give him Peeportunites and Pooptions 🙂 by holding him under his thighs in the sitting position over a bush and making a “psssss” sound. As long as he has to go..it works every time! Highly recommended. Especially for the early morning poo’ers..hold them over the toilet first thing after waking and you may be surprised what you’ll find!

  2. Hi Katie, thank you for the comment! Sounds like you are having some great experiences, both with some excellent baby carries and with EC. Hiking is definitely more comfortable with baby on your back, and one of the great things about the Pikkolo carrier is this: because it is a cross between a mei tai carrier and a carrier with a structured waist like the ERGO, you can use it without the support belt to achieve a “high back carry.” Push the belt up as high as you need to on your chest (sometimes as high as right below your breasts) in order for your son to be able to see over your shoulder. Then adjust the shoulder straps so they are comfortable for both of you. Kids love this carry when they are too little to see out otherwise and who can blame them? I’d hate to be looking at someone else’s back all the time, myself!

    Best regards,
    Laurel
    aka the SlingLady

  3. We’ve taken our now 2-yr old hiking in Sedona, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion! She has always loved the ride. We use a frame backpack, the Deuter II and we love it. My husband (the usual mule) preferred it over the Kelty because of the wider straps. We’re expecting our second at the end of the month and I’m dying to make some trail time in the late season. We’ve decided to wait until infant has had at least their first set of shots, so 2 months. I’m thinking of going with the Beco for kid2 and I’m dreaming of actually backpacking. Did you manage any backpacking during the infant time? I’m sure my 2-yr old would manage just fine, but I worry about overnights with the infant.

    1. Hi Elena, sounds like you guys have been super hikers! That is awesome. We got our Kelty as a hand me down, and it always worked fine, but I’ve heard great things about the Deuter II. Sadly, our hiking slowed down a lot with number two and we never did get out backpacking with both kids. I think it really depends on the infant, though! My daughter was a touchy sleeper and I never felt confident about taking her overnight. That being said, I would have absolutely done it with an infant whose temperament was more mellow. So you may have to wait and see! If you are hiking with a really young one, then I think either of the Beco Carriers would be an awesome choice.

  4. My son and I have been hiking since he was 6 weeks old. To protect him from the wind, rain and to keep him warm, I have used a CosyShell which is a baby cover that goes on all baby carriers. I was very happy and greatfull to have that as I was able to remain active with my baby.
    CosyShell is more than a baby carrier cover, it is a 3 in 1 cover that goes on the carseat and the stroller as well. It also has liner options to suit various weather conditions.
    For more information, you can visit http://www.bydaphne.ca. It will make your life a lot easier!
    Enjoy your hikes!

  5. Hi! We’ve just had number two and were also able to stay active, including a lot of hiking and one short backpacking trip in the 2.5 years since number one joined us! Until now we’ve been using an 20 yr old hand-me-down frame backpack and it’s worked fine, while not the most comfortable. Now with the infant we’ve been using a Moby, but as he closes in on 20 lbs I really wanted to be able to get him on my back, too, so we just got our first Tula.

    I’m interested to hear that you recommend a frame backpack for multi-day trips. Could you elaborate on your reasoning? I’m new to SSCs, but read that many people prefer them to frame backpacks for hiking (due to weight distribution, I guess). I didn’t see any other backpacking specific threads. We were hoping we could pair the SSC on one side (front/back) with a small backpack on the other to balance it out…. and bring extra muscle to carry plenty of food :). Do you have any thoughts on this or further reasons for your frame backpack choice? Does it have any extra storage capacity (ours has a bit of cargo room, but not anything useful for backpacking loads!)

    Thanks!! Sorry for being so late to the party here; hope you get this!

    1. Hi Katy! The main reasons I recommend a frame backpack for multi-day hiking trips are storage, child’s point of view and the suspension system. Storage: the best backpacking frame backpacks have lots of storage options, or at least more than soft structured carriers do. Soft structured carriers have one or two tiny pockets at the most, barely enough for one diaper (if that!). When I went backpacking with my son (at 1 year old, he was 25 lbs), I wanted to able to at least carry his clothing, diapers and other necessities when we were backpacking. I needed a frame backpack to be able to do that.

      Child’s point of view: younger kids who haven’t been on your back as much may prefer the higher vantage point of the frame backpack. When backpacking for several days, anything you can do to keep baby happier is key! Even my mellow boy got a bit cranky after hours in a carrier. However, if your child is used to being on your back or can see over your shoulder anyways, this may not be a concern.

      Suspension system: the suspension system on frame backpack distributes the weight over your body most evenly and may be more comfortable for serious backpacking. This is another your-mileage-may-vary situation. My husband loved our soft packs, but found a frame pack more comfortable for serious hiking. I preferred soft packs almost all the time, as the frame backpacks threw my balance off a bit (I’m on the shorter side at 5’4″), but for serious backpacking, I opted for the frame pack, both because of the storage and my thought that over time, a frame backpack might be least strenuous on my body.

      Obviously this is all anecdotal, not researched! I have not myself attempted serious backpacking with a Tula (or other SSC) nor have I read of anyone who has (hmm, this is a good idea for a blog post if I can find a guest writer to do it!).

      I think it quite possible that the Tula could work well for you, especially if you find it more comfortable than your current frame pack. However, I advise against wearing anything on your front (including your baby, unless they are too young to be on your front) if at all possible when hiking. It’s important to be able to see your feet, especially when you have a baby on your back and may encounter uneven surfaces.

      I hope this helps and let me know if you have more questions!

  6. Hi! I am in a Babywearing hiking group of mom’s from Las Vegas. We hike at least once amd sometimes twice a week. We do rock scrambling and crawl.over boulders. We are an adventure group for sure. I love my Ergo better than any pack but it’s hard being out for 4-5 hours and no where to put water and food. Any ideas on what to do while wearing the ergo?

    1. Hi Maygen,

      I hope this isn’t odd, but I found your post here – I just moved to Las Vegas and love hiking with my kiddo (we just did a backpacking trip in the grand canyon). I would love to have a group to hike with, is your group accepting new members?

  7. Hi,
    It is a great resource and helped me and my husband a lot. We are new hikers and going out on short trails. Hiking with out baby has been fun so far.

  8. Hi,
    My husband and I did a couple short hikes with my son when he was just a few months old. It was easy to carry him and breast feed him when necessary. However, now he is about 15 mon and we are planning on taking a trip to the grand canyon for a long day hike. We have an osprey poco plus that we will be trying out for the first time. Unfortunately, we have never hiked the grand canyon so I don’t really know what to expect. However, I have heard that the weather can quickly change from very hot to very cold, and 250 people a year get flown out from injury (usually heat stroke). So, my biggest question is how to dress him. I have read from quite a few different places that they should wear long sleeve shirts and pants, to avoid sun exposure, but I’m afraid it might make him overheat faster. Also, I’m trying to determine which kind snacks I should bring for him, and how much water to bring him.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you for writing! Wow, a day hike at the Grand Canyon sounds amazing! I always think layers are the way to go. Light, breathable long-sleeved items will indeed protect from sun but shouldn’t be too hot. The risk of overheating is much less strong for a 15 month old than small babies, as older babies bodies are able to self-regulate more. Also, at 15 months, you can use some baby-friendly sunscreen on him, and don’t forget a hat! As for water, I would bring roughtly half of what you are planning to bring for each adult. Snacks: it’s best to bring snacks that you already give him, so that he will be comfortable with them! I would probably plan on at least one two full meals if you are out for most of the day, plus two sets of snacks. What exactly is in them is less important because he will be riding, not exercising 🙂

  9. Hi,

    I am taking my 8 month old hiking in Zion next week. What brand of spf clothing do you recommend? I seem to only be able to find swim ware which is thicker material. I cant find anything from merrell, Columbia, rei, etc. I want something light and breathable for him.

    Thanks,
    Taylor

  10. Hi there,

    I’m planning on going on a hike with my friends in a few weeks. I have a 6-month old and only have a front carrier (Ergo Baby). I’m not sure if I’m being unrealistic with my expectations of taking her with me–it’ll be a long hike, about 3-4 hours roughly, and the terrain may be a bit rough. Should I get/borrow a back carrier for the hike? I’m wondering if I should skip on the hike altogether. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts? 🙂

    1. Hi Katie, assuming that you yourself are up for the hike carrying your baby’s weight, I don’t see why this can’t work for you! the good news is that your Ergobaby Carrier should be able to be used as a back carrier as well (unless it’s a wrap?). Most six month old babies with average development can be carried on one’s back in the Ergobaby and it should be relatively comfortable for 3-4 hours. I have certainly done it myself and in your shoes, I prefer a buckle carrier like the Ergo over a frame backpack carrier. At least that is my experience!

  11. Hi Sling Lady and other brave souls that backpack/hike with the little ones in tow. We do hike with the little one (well, now at 18 months, less little every day), and are getting ready to head to our annual backpack (now just hiking) get away. Last year I knew that he’d sleep through well timed hikes, but this year he likes to stay awake but gets bored after a while. Aside from taking frequent breaks to let him run wild, what toys have you ladies used for attaching to the backpack (mine is framed and I highly recommend it for comfort for all) for the kiddo to play with while hiking? He has previously been entertained for 45 minutes with my sunglasses, but are there other suggestions that anyone can offer?

    1. Hi Mandy, I love our Rearview Mirrors for keeping little ones entertained on a hike. They attach to your carrier and can be used for peekaboo and just for kids to play with. I’m also posting your question on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheSlingLady as you may get more suggestions there!

  12. Dear Sling Lady,
    This is great! My husband and I are expecting our first child and hope that he/ she will be able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we do! Finding the right gear is essential, and this guide gave me so much relief, because I didn’t know where to start. Knowing what is available and that so many parents are getting out with their young children is inspirational. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  13. Hi,
    this post is really helpful for me and my whole family. I am planning from 3-4 days ago that i want to go hiking with my family. I have a problem with my tiny baby. I want to take my child on hiking with me. After reading this post I am getting some essential information about hiking. I think Baby hiking backpack is more effective for any hiker.

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