How to hike with babies and children!
Although my quality days on the hill are limited at the moment and have been for the past couple of years, my experience of hiking with family in tow is growing.
Sure, hiking with the limitations of kids can be frustrating. However in other respects, it makes you think a whole lot differently about your level of preparedness, and route planning.
Without kids, you can, for the most part just plot a rough route of sorts, and just go. So long as you have the essentials (food water, first aid kit, layers, map, compass), you are adqauately preparared. Getting lost is fine, as it just offers you a fun opportunity to find yourself again.
However with kids its different. Their time on the hill will be limited, their tolerance to being lost (and possibly cold) is also lower, and their need for more stimulation than just straight walking for hours on end is also high.
I hope this guide helps you to get the most out of hiking with your baby, toddler, or young kids.
Buy a good quality sling
I’m guilty of cheaping out when it came to buying a good baby carrier and I regretted it. Babys are heavy, moving objects, which unlike static items on your back, like to shift their weight. Baby carriers come in many shapes and sizes, but don’t got for an excessively engineered one. You want to be looking for a carrier which has the baby as comfortably close to your back as possible.
Slings are great for this, as they keep the baby tucked right in to your back, and therefore stop you from getting pulled back with the heavy baby seated at the top.
Also, don’t buy one of these shoulder baby carriers. They may look great, but I can guarantee that having baby sat on your shoulders for several hours of hiking is not good for your spine.
Treat carrying a baby like carrying any other heavy load.
90% of the weight needs to be on your hips, and 10% on your shoulders.
The littlelife adventurer is probably one of the best carriers out there, simply because it keeps baby quite close to your body.
I personally rate, and use the ergo-baby which allows me to keep baby really close to me, and has a lovely thick velcro band which fits around my waist, keeping the weight evenly distributed.
Bring snacks & water
The first time I took my little boy out on a proper hike I was woefully under-prepared.
I took him, with a couple of friends on an 8 mile look of the Strines in the Peak District on a grey, wet and windy day.
I had packed some flap jacks, which were more for me than Noah, and some sandwiches. His cold little hands couldn’t eat the sandwiches very well, and he really wasn’t into the fap jacks.
What he needed was sweets, dried fruit, warm drinks, and simply lots of little snacky bits and pieces rather than the manwich (man sizes sandwich) I had made for him.
He was hungry, cold, and not happy.
Fortunately he fell asleep after I wrapped him up in my insulated layer, and woke up in sunshine feeling much happier with himself.
I had learned my lesson, and that was to pack an endless supply of snacks rather than a big lunch. Think of snacks like motivation to keep going. Kids march on their stomach.
Some snack suggestions are:
- Dried soft fruit, such as rasins, berries, figs, apricot
- Jelly babies
- Mini picnic foods, such as small pasty’s, sausage rolls, boiled eggs
- Fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas
- Things you can forage on the trail such as blueberries and blackberries
- Breadsticks and crackers
You get the idea. Anything packable, exciting and snack worthy is great for kids. Have food prepared for a lunch stop, but don’t forget to pack food to eat throughout the day
Give your kids their own packs
I remember when we first purchased Noah his little life backpack. It had a stripy black and yellow bee design on it and allowed Noah to store his own little bottle of water, hat gloves.
Giving him ownership of a few essentials was, and still is really exciting for him.
Now he is older, he has a hiking bag. This bag is filled with his water bottle, waterproof, hat (sun hat for summer, warm hat for winter), gloves etc. He also carries a pocket knife too.
This works great for us as it makes Noah feel like a grown up, wearing a pack like mummy and daddy, all the while taking some weight of our backs.
Prepare for the weather
Preparing for the weather, especially with children is really impotant. I’ve got this wrong on occoason, and the anxiety aroudn our changing british weather can cause you to pack too much.
This is an issue in the spring and autumn months, when its still likely to be hot, but also likely to rain.
The consequencei s that you end up taking everything you think you need but you only use 10% of the kit.
My advice here is to invest in two things.
Buy lightweight waterproofs, and insulation layers rather than big heavy things. If you do need to carry everything at least make it lightweight kit.
Instead of rummaging around at the bottom of your pack for your kids sunhats devide up your family kit into seperate bags. That way you can easily access what you need.
Pick an awesome route
You probably already know that kids love variety. 4 hours of walking along flat canal paths is just not going to cut the mustard.
Instead pick routes which offer adventure.
Remember ‘We’re going on a Bear hunt’?
Forest, stream, mountain if your kids are ready.
And if you don’t have these things close by at least mix it up with some woodland, some views, and somewhere that the kids can be let loose to climb, crawl, and generally be messy.