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Backpacking with Baby: Tips and Tricks for Success

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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.  Yes, you absolutely can go backpacking with a baby.  Almost anything, including backpacking with a baby, is possible after you have kids.  In fact, each of our kids has been backpacking with us since before they could walk.  Multiply that times five kids and we’ve done a TON of backpacking with babies.

backpacking with a baby

For us, a backpacking trip with a baby means that one of us carries the baby and some of the heavier items (food, fuel, etc) in the kid’s carrier pack.  The other person carries…everything else.  Sleeping bags for the three of us, clothes, first aid, diapers for backpacking…you get the picture.  When you backpack with a baby (or any little kid), you are essentially turning yourself into a pack animal of sorts!

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What Clothes To Pack for Baby Backpacking

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 pairs of wool socks (these are the best), 1 fleece footie pajamas, 1 Iksplor Mernino Wool Adventure Onesie (our absolute favorite for babies and kids),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 we were prepared with a clean set of clothes so we didn’t have to let that derail our trip!

backpacking with a baby

Does My Baby Need A Sleeping Bag For Backpacking?

Many people think that when you’re camping, baby can just sleep in the same sleeping bag as mom or dad.  If you co-sleep with baby at home, this can be an okay option for backpacking as well.  However, there are some major suffocation risks involved with cosleeping with a baby in a sleeping bag. 

The best option is to invest in a baby sleeping bag from Morrison Outdoors.  We absolutely LOVE these sleeping bags since they’re really warm, provide a safe place for babies to sleep, AND they pack up really small and are super lightweight, so they’re a great baby sleeping bag for backpacking.

morrison outdoors sleeping bag

Choose The Best Baby Carrier You Can Afford For Backpacking

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 Lillebaby carrier, since baby can be carried in 6 different positins. 

Israel 442

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).  A soft carrier is the best option for backpacking with an infant.

For bigger babies, get a structured back carrying pack for baby backpacking.  We are big fans of both Deuter and Osprey packs (they seem to fit us both incredibly well) and recommend this Deuter baby carrier or this Osprey Carrier for backpacking with baby.  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.

What to do about baby diapers while backpacking

We always carry several large ziploc bags where we can safely stash dirty diapers while backpacking and do cut down on the odor.  Also, we usually bring about 20% more diapers than our baby would normally use when we’re in the backcountry, just in case!

baby backpacking

Disposable Diapers for Backpacking with Baby

For short trips (3 days and under) we use disposable diapers.  Yes, that weight does add up quickly, so you won’t want to carry out much more than 3 days worth of disposable diapers for baby.  To help cut down on the weight, diapers that are just wet can be laid open to dry out a bit, but you still need to dispose of them properly since they are saturated in urine.  

Compostable Diapers for Backpacking With Baby

For longer trips when backpacking with a baby, you can take compostable baby diapers into the backcountry. Compostable baby diapers will eventually break down all on their own, so you can safely bury them in a deep cathole.  Do keep in mind that most compostable backpacking diapers do have a few pieces on them that will not break down (plastic tabs, etc), so remove those before burying diapers.  Check out these compostable diapers for backpacking with infants.

Cloth Diapers for Backpacking With Baby

Cloth diapers for backpacking with baby are also an option.  While we mostly use cloth diapers at home, this is my least favorite option for the backpacking diaper issue.  First of all, washing diapers in a stream can introduce extra waste into the water system, which isn’t a great thing to do.  Second, cloth diapers take a long time to dry because of all their layers, so if you plan to use cloth diapers while backpacking, you’ll constantly have wet diapers strapped to the outside of your pack to dry.  

Truthfully, a lot of how to diaper a baby while backpacking is a matter of personal preference.  

Stop Often For Eating While Backpacking With A Baby

Stopping often for food while backpacking with an infant is incredibly important, both for baby and for the parenty.  Babies already eat a lot, but especially at high altitudes, babies can have a difficult time, so keeping them hydrated and well fed can really go a long way.  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!

Remember that backpacking with a baby can also bring with it a lot of emotional stress and anxiety, since you surely want to keep your baby as comfortable and happy as possible.  Eating just a little more than normal is a great way for mom and dad to deal with those stresses without feeling completely drained of energy.  

Should I Take Toys When Backpacking With Baby?

I recommend strapping 1-2 toys onto your baby carrier while backpacking for your baby to play with on the trail.  These are a great way to keep baby focused and happy while you focus on getting down the trail.  When you’re at camp, this is a great time to let baby explore.  Let them hold rocks, touch pinecones, and simply explore nature (though do be careful giving them sticks as they often can poke their faces with them).  

baby playing with rocks while camping

Don’t Overdo The Mileage When Backpacking

If this is your first trip with a baby, don’t be overambitious when you choose your backpacking trip, or the entire experience 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.  A good starting point is somewhere between 3-5 miles.  If your looking to simplify your infants backpacking trip, hike in on your first day and set up a base camp.  On day 2, go for a good day hike, but camp back at the same place.  On day 3, pack up camp and head out.  This is a great way to see a lot and cover a lot of ground without having to haul as much gear around.

What Are The Best Foods For Baby Backpacking

For mom and dad, you’ll want to plan on eating dehydrated meals since they’re the most lightweight option.  For baby, squeeze packets of food are a great option.  Although it weighs more than dry food, babies don’t eat an incredible amount, and these pack up super small for backpacking.  We also love taking infant cereals like rice cereal and baby oatmeal as well as baby puffs.  Don’t forget a lightweight bib as well (since you won’t have many changes of clothes).  

Just Relax!

Seriously, try not to 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!  Remember that this trip isn’t a one and done deal.  When you adventure with your baby, you’re setting the foundation for your entire family to love exploring the outdoors together for years to come. 

 What tricks do you use when backpacking with a baby?

backpacking with a baby

5 thoughts on “Backpacking with Baby: Tips and Tricks for Success”

    1. Thank you so much Heather! Having four is a blast, but as I’m sure you know, it creates its own set of unique challenges!

  1. This blog have many important point for backpackers who just started travelling with kids. You have marvellously explained what to do what not to do.

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