Hiking is an excellent way to get back in shape after having a baby. Exploring the great outdoors with your little one is very rewarding. For me, it was a good way to get out of the house, get some exercise, and start exposing my baby to the joy and contentment that only nature can bring.
It’s understandable that there are many concerns when going on a hike with a baby.
The purpose of this article is to address some of those concerns and to help prepare you for longer hikes.
My husband and I have been camping and hiking in the great Canadian wilderness for over 40 years, and here are some of our best tips for your successful hike with bab
Table of Contents
How Old Should My Baby Be to Start Hiking?
Can you hike with your baby? YES, you certainly can, and, it’s been a long-known and much-loved technique to putting babies to sleep for decades!
The gentle rocking and rhythmic movements of walking almost always calm even the fussiest baby, and most will be asleep in mere moments!
While it is a good idea to wait until your baby has some neck muscles to support their own head, it is still possible to hike with your baby using a proper carrier of some type that offers the baby a position whereby his/her head is supported (ie. sling or a backpack carrier that keeps the baby in a vertical, upright position). 6 months is a good ballpark target to use a structured backpack carrier.
Carrying your baby
If you aren’t already a fan of babywearing, then you soon will be! There’s no other way to hike with a baby given that most hiking trails aren’t exactly stroller friendly. Choosing the right carrier for hikes is a big decision.
Carrier, Wrap, or Sling?
Structured carriers are the best type of carrier and is used most often for hiking excursions.
A wrap is a traditional way of carrying a baby. It involves a piece of long fabric that can be wrapped and tied around the baby in various positions. Many mothers like to use wraps with newborns since it keeps them so snug, but they can also be used into toddlerhood.
Since they are only made of cloth and do not offer a ton of support, wraps are not ideal for hiking, though I have seen mothers using them.
Slings are essentially a more modern variation of wraps. They are worn on one shoulder and are adjustable, but still not the ideal option for hiking for the same reasons as wraps.
Buckle carriers, also known as soft structured carriers, are the most popular choice in general today, and they also make the best choice when hitting the trails.
Backpack carriers like this one are the best option for most parents in most conditions
There is a huge variety when it comes to these, both in price points and in different features/functionalities. I chose a higher quality carrier from Ergo that can be used for front-carry, front-facing carry, back-carry, and hip-carry.
All carriers offer some form of back support and have adjustable straps that are comfortable for you and your growing baby. Some have head covers for rainy or windy weather and extra pouches for miscellaneous items.
Ultimately the choice of what you use to carry your baby while hiking is up to you. You have to choose something that you are most comfortable with and offers a decent level of security.
Whether you start with a wrap or sling for closeness and then choose to graduate to a carrier or decide to only use a wrap, in the end, you’ll figure out what’s best because you’re the one who’s walking and carrying!
One more thing to take into consideration when choosing a carrier is if your partner, friends, or other family members will be taking a turn carrying the baby.
If they are, you’ll want to find something that they are okay with too. This may be a long process but it will be worth it in the end!
Tips for carrying a baby while hiking
Get baby used to the carrier of your choice before going on a hike. Start around the house, then around the block, and finally on some short errand outings.
Babies must be carried in the front until they reach 6 months old and have very good neck and head control. I know I was dying to have a cute “baby backpack”, but you have to be patient!
My baby is on the smaller side so I had to wait until almost 7 months. You’ll know when your baby is ready.
Only use front or back carry positions (not hip or front-facing).
Check the weather before hiking and make sure your baby is wearing the right clothes. Skin should be covered, sun or no sun, but there isn’t a big need for an extra jacket unless it’s super cold because your body will keep them warm and vice versa.
Go with the flow of your baby! His needs come first!
Babies often fall asleep in their carriers because they are so comfy cozy. Take this into consideration if you have your baby on a schedule. You could go hiking during naptime in hopes of not disrupting the sleep cycle.
What Items Should I Bring While Hiking With my Baby?
One little baby can require quite a bit of extra paraphernalia. This doesn’t change when going on a hike.
The good news is that a lot of the stuff you need to take with you is light in weight. They include:
- Diapers: Exactly how many will depend on the age of your baby and how long you intend to hike. I use 3 as a rule of thumb after changing my daughter into a fresh one right before we head out.
- Wipes: Take along a travel-sized wipes package. Probably the one in your diaper bag will do.
- Changing pad: If you can’t find some soft ground, at least you’ll have a thin changing pad for your baby to lay on top of (even if it’s right in the middle of the trail!).
- A plastic bag: Where will the dirty diapers go while you are out on the trail? You aren’t going to want them to be floating around with all your other things. A plastic bag, or a wet bag if you want to get fancy, is a good idea to bring along.
- Burp cloth (one or two): These are handy for everything- not just spit up!
- An extra outfit (or two!): You know what I’m talking about. That’s right. Poop explosions. They always seem to happen when you least expect it.
- A small emergency/first aid kit: Always be prepared for the worst. Baby toiletries are nice to have too, such as lotion for those chubby baby cheeks.
- Snacks: If you’ve started your baby on solids, it’s a good idea to bring a small snack or two. Snacks are great for you too! You deserve and need it after carrying the extra weight.
- Water: With or without baby, hydration is important. It’s even more important to stay hydrated if you are nursing.
Can You Breastfeed While Hiking?
Yes, it’s actually possible to breastfeed while babywearing in an appropriate sling or carrier. If that sounds like something you are interested in then head over to YouTube to find out exactly how. There are a lot of great videos by other moms.
In my opinion, it’s better to stop and breastfeed. Uneven footing can make for some complications if you nurse on the go, but I say, to each her own!
Wearing a top that makes it easy to nurse is obviously ideal, but not necessary. To make it easy on yourself, take some time right before you start hiking to offer a feeding.
Then you know you’ll have a good amount of time before needing to stop again for this purpose.
If you are formula feeding, pack it. Put the formula into the bottle ready-made. That’ll end up taking less space than bringing powders and water jars, etc. just for the purpose of mixing.
Diapers- check. Snacks- check. Wipes- check. Now, where to put it all!? The simple answer is in a backpack. Even if you are just on your own, a comfortable and light backpack is a practical and easy way to carry everything you need even while using a front carrier.
However, if you are carrying your baby on your back things get a bit trickier.
The truth is, you shouldn’t go hiking with a baby alone. This solves the problem of carrying a backpack because whoever you are with can carry it for you.
That being said, I know that sometimes I simply prefer to hike on my own with my baby. It’s so peaceful and sometimes other people are busy.
The best advice for these times is to keep your hikes short and on well-populated trails that you have done many times before.
That way, you won’t really need to take anything since you can get back to the car within a reasonable amount of time.
Choosing a trail
Choosing a trail is an important part of the experience of hiking with a baby. Even for very experienced hikers, hiking has taken on a completely different feel and form.
This means you will have to be more aware of what’s best for you and the baby while out on the trail.
The most important things to look into are steepness and length. This is something that you will really have to judge carefully because you won’t actually know if the trail is a good idea until you attempt it. Length is the easier of the two to deal with.
Just remember that whatever time it took you to get where you are is the same time it will take you to get back, if not longer.
If you are aiming to complete a circuit, then pace yourself appropriately and don’t be afraid to go back the way you came instead of finishing.
Steepness is something that will be trial and error. Just start flat and build up from there. Don’t ever attempt a hill (up or down) that you aren’t 100% comfortable with. Just remember- if you fall, so does your baby.
A challenging part of choosing a trail is not being able to know if it will be a good fit or not. Do a Google search and see if you can find some reviews from other hikers to get an impression of what to expect.
If that doesn’t help, you’ll just have to try it for yourself!
Quick Tips of Safety for Mom and Baby
- Choose a carrier that has great back support and fits comfortably
- Make sure baby is in a wide ergonomic position
- Baby’s head is supported (either in a carrier or by itself)
- Carry water and nutritious snacks to stay at optimal strength
- Baby’s chin is not to chest (can block airway)
- Wear proper hiking shoes for greater stability
- Check the weather forecast!
Benefits of hiking with baby
My daughter absolutely loves to be in the carrier while hiking once we get on our way. The sights, smells, and fresh air seems to do her good.
When I did some further research about the benefits of hiking with a baby, I found that there is scientific evidence that it does us good! No turning back now!
Being outside in fresh air has been associated with good early language development and healthy sleep according to a study in 2014 published in the Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research.
We all want the best for our children and hiking sounds like the perfect way to jumpstart this (not to mention it’s worth a shot to see if it’ll help them sleep through the night!).
It’s good to get out. There is really no doubt about that. As obvious and overdone as it may sound, connecting with nature really is one of the best things we can do for our mental health.
Often times you won’t realize how good it feels and how much you needed to do it until you’re out there with your feet on the ground.
When can I get started?
After reading about the fabulous benefits of hiking with your little one, you are probably chomping at the bit right!? …… (I hope) You can get started today with one exception- if you have a new, “super-fresh-out-of-the-oven” newborn.
My definition of a new newborn is anything before 6 weeks. I started when my daughter was 8 weeks, but I know someone who started hiking at 4 weeks postpartum! I think 6 weeks is a happy medium.
Again, it comes down to what makes you feel comfortable.
Don’t let age hold you back for too long though! You are more capable and your baby is more tolerant than you think.
Tips for hiking with a newborn (1-3 months old)
- Take it very slowly- nothing strenuous. Remember, you are still recovering yourself!
- Always hike with a friend
- Use an infant insert in your carrier
- Start with “walks” and build to “hikes”
Get involved with the local community
Hiking with a baby isn’t as uncommon as you may think. If you live in a relatively major city chances are you can make some hiking friends either directly on the trail or through some good resources like:
There are countless mom hiking groups on meetup. All you have to do is go to the website and do a search. Many groups meet frequently and are very supportive.
Hike It Baby is an entire online community of families that enjoy being outdoors with their children from birth to school age. It has grown to be a national movement and is non-profit. There are many hosted hikes in every state.
Hiking Long Distance With a Baby
- Once you build up your stamina, have been on several successful longer hikes, and feel comfortable and confident enough to go longer distances, there shouldn’t be much holding you back. Anything is possible and as long as you are prepared there is no reason you can’t stretch out your hike for longer periods of time.
- Make sure to take frequent breaks. Your baby will appreciate getting out of the carrier. Have double of everything you need to make sure all your bases are covered. The most important thing when hiking long distances is to be healthy and fit enough to properly care for your baby while on the trail.
- For more information and a fascinating story on long-distance hiking with a baby check out this article. 40 days with an 8-month-old!- A bit extreme, but it just goes to show that you can do it too!
- Know that there will be some hiccups
- Babies are unpredictable. If you go in with the mindset that not everything will be perfect or go smoothly, you’ll be ahead of the game. Know that it will take more time than you expect to complete your hike, and plan accordingly. There is no reason to rush or get upset. Deal with things as they come.
After all this, you might ask “what’s a good carrier?” I own several (front and back carriers) and I know there’s a lot of variety if people’s body styles, comfort levels, and preferences.
We do, however, know that one brand stands as a virtually undisputed leader in the market of hiking child carriers. And the winner is ……. Osprey! See it on Amazon and check out this video – then you’ll understand why it’s an elite carrier.
Yes, there are other great ones and we invite you to check them out HERE.
If budget is a concern, Amazon has a great carrier at an affordable price. It’s called a Luvdbaby Premium carrier and it’s very similar to one that I have used for each of my 3 “little hikers”.
There is also no reason that having a baby should stop you from doing something you enjoy, or stop you from starting something you haven’t done before that can be challenging.
I’ve done my best to prove that hiking with a baby can be safe, fun, and a great workout. And, I hope I’ve been able to offer you some encouragement and incentive! What are you waiting for?
About the Author: As a mother of 3 and a lover of all things outdoors and natural, I spend a good deal of my time thinking about, planning for, and then actually hiking and climbing! I live in a farmhouse not far from Buffalo, NY with my family, and I’m always ready to help anyone who cares to hear me, with advice regarding pregnancy and maternity issues and how it all relates to a variety of exercises and activities.