Family Travel: Hiking with a Toddler

Hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world.  Jed and I have loved hiking together since we first started dating.  Many of our first dates included exploring the mountains of western North Carolina together.  We were excited to take The Bear hiking for the first time during our trip out west.  He LOVES being outside, so we thought he would really enjoy it.  We were so right.  We took many hikes with him this summer and while we did some things right, we made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about hiking with toddlers.

Our Top 5 Hiking with Toddlers Tips
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one.    
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.
5. Know exactly where you are going.

I’ll explain a little more about each tip.  Some might seem like common sense, but believe me when I tell you we had to learn some things the hard way.  
1. Bring a comfortable carrier – comfy for you AND your wee one. We love our Ergobaby carrier.  I won it off a blog giveaway and it is by far the most comfortable one we’ve tried for big babies.  With a toddler, a carrier with a back carry option is going to be your best bet.  Front carry will kill your back after a few hours.  We were able to hike comfortably with the Bear (27 lbs) for 3-4 hours wearing the Ergo.  We loved the Moby Wrap when the Bear was teeny, but he weighs a lot more now and we need more structure.  We also used our Bob stroller (handed down from Sam and Michelle) for flatter trails.  It was awesome.  To push a hiking/jogging stroller up or down any kind of incline you need serious strength, so be prepared for that.  Always use the safety strap.     
2. Be prepared to go slow and stop a lot to play.  If you are used to hiking pre-baby, the pace is going to be completely different.  The Bear can go for 3-4 hours happily if he gets to get out and play every 30 minutes or so.  We hold his hands and let him walk for a bit, throw rocks in creeks, throw sticks, explore, etc.  This makes a HUGE difference in his attitude.  
3. Bring snacks and drinks – for all of you.  On one hike we packed plenty of snacks for the Bear, but not enough for us.  We were starving and cranky by the time it was over.  Not fun.  Bear loved hiking with his snack trap full of cheerios, and a few chipmunks may have been fed during the process.  Water is so important for the whole family, especially at high altitude.  Bring more than you think you need.  
4. Layer clothes and sun protection.  When you change elevation, the temperature can change quickly and drastically.  We knew this but sort of forgot during one hike, and the poor Bear got so cold.  I felt like such a rookie.  The sun is also more powerful at higher elevations.  We used sunscreen and hats for ourselves and the Bear.  We love Babylegs legwarmers for layering.  We use a pair that is breathable and SPF 50, as well as the regular cotton pairs.  They also have ones with bug protection now, but we don’t have those yet.  They are great because they make on the trail diaper changes super easy, and are easily removed and stored if the temp rises.  

5. Know exactly where you are going.  Ah yes, our biggest mistake.  We got lost.  For a long time.  With a one year old.  Not good.  We had a map but forgot it, and decided to keep on going.  This was not a wise decision.  Thankfully we finally ran into a family on four wheelers that pointed us back to civilization, but it could have gotten ugly.  From here on out we will always have a map or a well marked trail to follow.  Even if you are an experienced hiker, don’t take it for granted that you won’t get lost.  It happens all the time.  We’ve been hiking for years and it happened to us and was pretty scary.

Have you ventured onto a trail with your kids?
What hiking tips do you have to share? 

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Hiking is one of our favorite activities as a family too! We have taken Will on several mountain, hill, and river hikes. We have a used Kelty frame backpack carrier that makes life sooo much more enjoyable. Will is 32 lbs and we have an Ergo too which I use for shorter walks and daily use but I can’t imagine taking him for several miles without the Kelty. Will always falls asleep in it! You might look into one as he gets bigger. I think your other tips are great! I hadn’t thought about babylegs for keeping the sun and bugs off. Good idea! We were just using an herbal bug spray.

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