Backpacking with Baby: Tips and Tricks for Success

As soon as you have a baby, you realize that everything changes.

Then you realize that not everything changes, you just have to change the way that you do things.

After all, just because you have kids doesn’t mean your adventures have to end:)

Just because you have a baby, does not mean that you have to give up your time on the trail – you just have to modify how you do things.  Almost anything, including backpacking is possible with a baby.  In fact, each of our kids has been backpacking with us since before they could walk.  Multiply that times four kids and we’ve done a TON of backpacking with babies.

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For us, a backpacking trip with a baby means that one of us carries the baby and most of the heavier items (food, fuel, etc) in the kid’s carrier pack.  The other person carries…everything else.  Both sleeping bags, clothes, first aid…you get the picture.  When you backpack with a baby (or any little kid), you are essentially turning yourself into a pack animal J   For short trips (3 days and under) we use disposable diapers, but to cut down on trash to pack out, I know many people use g-diapers on longer trips since you can compost those.

Here are some tips and tricks for making your trip a success:

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DO:

  • Invest in a good pack to carry your baby in.  Just like when you pick a pack for yourself, each person and their build is different, so make sure you try several on to get a good fit.  For a baby under about 6 months old, you will want a front pack and I highly recommend the Onya Outback (reviewed here).  It’s rugged and strong, yet comfortable to wear all day long.  It can feel a little big on small babies, but it fits me well, so that goes a long way.  Wearing your baby in the front, also gives you the option of still wearing a backpack (though make sure not to load it down as you normally would).
  • For bigger babies, get a structured back carrying pack.  We are big fans of Deuter packs and recently tried out their KidComfort Air, which has a lot of nice features (stay tuned later this week for the full review).  Nearly all good structured kid carrying packs also have storage area which you’re going to need on a backpacking trip.  As with all packs, make sure that you try several on to get one that’s a good fit for you, and your little one.  If possible, find one that is easily adjustable so your spouse can wear it as well.
  • Stop often to feed the baby, especially at higher altitudes.  Dehydration is a major contributing factor to altitude sickness, so plan on giving your baby a bottle or nursing more often than you normally would.  If you’re nursing, make sure to drink a lot of extra yourself too!
  • Be smart about the clothes you bring for baby.  No, you don’t need to spend a fortune on high end outdoor gear, but a few good pieces go a long way.  Here’s what we would bring for a 3-day trip:  3 onesies, 1 long sleeve shirt, 2 pants, 2 socks, 1 fleece footie pajamas, 1 rain suit (Ducksday are the absolute best for baby), crib shoes, and a hat.  By layering and combining these clothes, you can be prepared for just about any trip with a little one (this is exactly what we packed for our baby on our recent 5 day backpacking trip).
  • Plan on the baby completely soiling at least one outfit.  On our last trip, the baby had the biggest diaper explosion ever, but hey, it happens and you move on.

 

DON’T:

  • Bring a sleeping bag just for baby.  Babies tend to wriggle out of them anyway, so just plan on having them sleep in your bag or zip together two bags and make a family bed for more comfort.
  • Bring too many toys.  We usually tie one or two onto the baby pack (so we don’t have to pick them up all the time) and call it good.  When your in camp, kids would much rather play with sticks and eat a little dirt!
  • Overdo the miles.  If this is your first trip with a baby, don’t be overambitious or it might leave a bad taste in your mouth afterwards.  The real accomplishment here is actually taking your baby out to do something awesome, not how many miles you rack up.
  • Pack jars of baby food.  They take up a lot of space and are heavy.  Go for the pouches instead (don’t forget a bib and spoon).
  • Stress.  It’s going to be okay.  In fact, we’ve noticed that most babies are mellower on the trail than at the store, so just enjoy it.  Hit the trail hard when they’re sleeping and don’t be afraid to sit on the ground and play with rocks too!
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 What tricks do you use when backpacking with a baby?

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