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So, you’re ready to start hiking with your baby! I’m excited for you. Hiking with your baby is such a rewarding experience. The fresh air, the stunning views, and the joy of exploring nature together can be a great way to bond. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and boost your confidence as a hiker and a parent. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Take it from me.
The first time I took my baby on a real hike, I made a lot of mistakes. It was like Murphy’s Law. And the worst part? All of them could have been avoided with a little more planning.
I’m not an inexperienced hiker. In fact, I’ve been hiking my entire life. However, hiking by myself and hiking with a baby are two entirely different adventures. Our first day hike, which ended up being a total disaster, taught me that I had to do a lot more planning to conquer even the shortest and easiest trails with my baby.
When starting this blog, I vowed to be open and honest about my experiences in order to help others. All too often, we see the glorified version of what it’s like to adventure with a baby. But, it’s not all sunshine and successful summits. All of us are going to fail and face a challenge or two. It’s the reality of being out in Mother Nature. That’s why in each section of this blog, I’m sharing my own personal experiences with each of these mistakes. Hopefully, we can all learn a thing or two by learning from my mistakes.
Without further ado, here are the mistakes I made during my first hike with my son, Parks. By sharing these, I hope to help you have a fun and safe hiking experience with your baby.
- Mistake #1: Overestimating Your Abilities and Comfort Level
- Mistake #2: Forgetting to Download Trail Maps for Offline Use
- Mistake #3: Not Bringing a Personal Locator Beacon or a Satellite Messenger With You
- Mistake #4: Not Checking the Latest Forecast
- Mistake #5: Not Choosing Well-Traveled Trails
Mistake #1: Overestimating Your Abilities and Comfort Level
When it comes to hiking with a baby, it’s important to remember that it’s not just you hitting the trails anymore. Your little one is joining you on this adventure, which means you need to consider their safety and comfort above all else. Sometimes that means choosing shorter trails and easier hikes.
Assess Your Physical Fitness
Before embarking on a hiking trip with your baby, take a moment to evaluate your own physical fitness. Hiking can be physically demanding, and carrying a baby adds an extra challenge–not just in weight, but they’re wiggly and you can feel it. Not only are you carrying a baby, but you’re also adding all of the gear that you’ll need. Consider your stamina, endurance, and overall fitness level to ensure you’re prepared for the hike. If you’re not used to long walks or strenuous activities, it’s a good idea to start with shorter and less challenging trails until you build up your strength and confidence to tackle long distances.
Consider the Terrain and Difficulty Level
When selecting a trail, pay attention to the terrain and difficulty level. Some trails may have steep inclines, rough terrain, loose gravel, or obstacles that can pose a challenge when hiking with a baby. Opt for trails that are suitable for your abilities. Even if you’re ready for more difficult hikes and you’ve trained for them, start small and work your way up to the longer, more difficult trails. The last place you want to realize you’re in over your head is when you’ve just reached the halfway point of an out-and-back trail. Hiking with a baby isn’t a competition and you’re not any less of a hiker by choosing smooth paths, well-marked trails, and gentle inclines.
Mistake #1: My Personal Experience
I took Parks out for walks in my hiking backpack every day for two months leading up to our summer-long trip to Montana. I increased our mileage as we went so I knew I’d be comfortable and have the endurance to do longer hikes with him. The hiking back carrier I chose, the Osprey Poco Plus, adds 8 pounds to the weight I’m carrying. When training close to home, I didn’t carry all the hiking essentials with me: diapers, wipes, bear spray, bug spray, first aid kit, rain cover, sunscreen, snacks, water bottle, camera, lenses. Needless to say, when I got on the trail with my hiking backpack loaded up and a 25-pound baby, it was a lot heavier than when I was accruing mileage in our neighborhood. While it didn’t make hiking impossible, I had to consider the added weight and my abilities. I decided to scale down my ambitions and build up to longer distances with the added weight.
Remember: Safety and comfort should always be the most important thing to keep in mind when hiking with a baby. It’s not about you anymore. Always use your best judgment and consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns. Happy hiking!
Mistake #2: Forgetting to Download Trail Maps for Offline Use
When it comes to hiking with a baby, being prepared is key. And one mistake you definitely want to avoid is setting off on a trail without downloading the necessary maps for offline use. Trust me, you don’t want to be left clueless in the middle of nowhere with a baby in tow. It’s important to download your trail maps before you leave the house. You’re not always going to have a cell signal when you arrive at the trailhead. It’s important to always have those trail maps accessible, especially when you’re off the grid.
The Beauty of Offline Trail Maps
Having offline trail maps on your smartphone brings numerous benefits:
- No reliance on Internet connection: Whether you’re hiking in a remote location or simply experiencing spotty network coverage, you can trust that your downloaded trail maps will be there for you, guiding your way.
- Battery-saving: By using offline maps, you can conserve your phone’s battery life. No more draining your battery trying to keep your GPS going while you navigate the trail.
- Peace of mind: With offline maps, you can hike confidently, knowing that you won’t get lost or miss any important landmarks or trail junctions. You’ll have all the information you need right at your fingertips.
Trail Maps Can Be Confusing
Don’t rely on the trail map you’ll find at the trailhead. Those can be confusing and not all hiking paths have trail maps posted. The last thing you want is to show up at a hike and not know which path is the one you planned to take.
Google Maps is a great tool for navigating city streets and highways, but did you know you can also find and navigate hiking trails? Just as you can search “restaurants near you” on Google Maps, you can search for hiking trails. Clicking on one will give you some information about the hike and if you’re lucky, some recent reviews from other hikers. You can also download Google Maps for offline use.
How to Download Google Maps for Offline Use
- Open the Google Maps app on your device.
- Tap on your profile picture in the top right corner.
- Tap “Offline Maps.”
- Tap “Select Your Own Map.”
- Move the rectangle over the area you plan to visit.
- Click “Download.”
Google Maps doesn’t have information about a hike’s difficulty level and terrain. That’s where AllTrails comes in. AllTrails is a fantastic app specifically designed for outdoor adventurers who want to explore the beauty of nature. This app offers a vast database of trails, including detailed maps, trail difficulty ratings, user reviews, and even photos.
How to Download Trail Maps for Offline Use
Downloading a trail for offline use on AllTrails is very straightforward:
- Install the AllTrails app on your smartphone (available for both iOS and Android).
- Open the app and search for the trail you plan to hike with your little one.
- Once you’ve found the trail, tap on it to access more information.
- Look for the “Download” button, usually located near the top right corner of the screen.
- Click on “Download” and choose the area you wish to save for offline use. Make sure to select a large enough area to cover the entire trail.
- Wait for the download to complete. This might take a few minutes, depending on the size of the map and the speed of your internet connection.
By avoiding the mistake of not downloading trail maps for offline use, you’re ensuring a smoother and safer hiking experience for both you and your baby. So, remember always to be prepared, tap into the power of Google Maps or AllTrails, and let the adventure begin!
Mistake #2: My Personal Experience
On my first hike with Parks, I picked a hiking trail on the AllTrails app. It was supposed to be an easy, 1-mile loop around a lake. The trailhead was only about 10 miles from our house. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized that despite the proximity to town, the trailhead itself was very remote and I had no cell service. I had to take a very rugged road to get there and there was nobody else around. There were two pathways available at the trailhead, and I had no idea which path was the short and easy 1-mile hike I planned. I ended up bailing on this hike and resorting to my backup plan (more on the backup plan later).
Mistake #3: Not Bringing a Personal Locator Beacon or a Satellite Messenger With You
When it comes to hiking with a baby, safety should always be your top priority. It’s important to be prepared for any situation that may arise, especially when venturing into the great outdoors where anything–literally anything–can happen. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring along a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or a Satellite Messenger. These devices can be a lifeline in case of emergency, helping you stay connected and ensuring that help is just a button press away.
Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
A Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB for short, is a compact and lightweight device that can be a real game-changer in an emergency situation. It works by transmitting a distress signal to search and rescue authorities, providing them with your precise location. PLBs are designed to be rugged and reliable, capable of functioning even in the most remote and challenging environments.
By having a PLB with you while hiking with your baby, you can have peace of mind knowing that help is just a call away. Whether you encounter unexpected weather conditions, get lost, need medical assistance, or maybe your car won’t start and there’s nobody else around to help. Activating your PLB will ensure that rescue teams are notified promptly, minimizing response times and increasing your chances of a safe outcome.
One- and Two-Way Satellite Messengers
Another invaluable tool to consider when hiking with a baby is a One- or Two-way Satellite Messenger. These devices utilize satellite technology to enable communication in areas where cell phone coverage is non-existent. They offer more than just a distress signal, allowing you to stay connected with friends, family, or emergency services throughout your hike.
One-way Satellite Messengers, such as the SPOT Gen4, allow you to send pre-programmed messages to let others know that you’re okay or request assistance. These devices have a simple interface and are ideal for hikers looking for a cost-effective option.
On the other hand, Two-way Satellite Messengers, like the Garmin inReach Mini, offer two-way communication capabilities. This means you can not only send messages but also receive replies. They provide more flexibility and peace of mind, allowing you to have real-time conversations and receive updates on weather conditions or other critical information.
By bringing a One- or Two-way Satellite Messenger with you, you can keep your loved ones informed about your progress or request assistance if needed. It’s like having a lifeline that connects you to the outside world, even when you’re miles away from civilization or a cell signal.
Remember, when choosing a PLB or Satellite Messenger, always consider their battery life, durability, and ease of use. Opt for devices that suit your specific needs and ensure they are fully charged before embarking on your hiking adventure.
These devices can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable hiking experience for you and your baby. Stay connected, stay safe!
Mistake #3: My Personal Experience
As I mentioned in Mistake #2, I had chosen a fairly remote hike for my first hiking adventure with Parks, but I didn’t realize it until I got there. It was close to town, but I still didn’t have a cell signal and there were no other cars parked at the trailhead, so I knew that nobody else was on the trail. Sure, it was a short and easy hike which is no problem–in theory. However, things can go wrong in the great outdoors quickly. One wrong step and I could sprain my ankle. What if I packed up to leave and my car wouldn’t start? I had no way to contact anyone if I needed help. I realized that I should carry a PLB or a Satellite Messenger if I want to do any hikes that take me off the grid.
Mistake #4: Not Checking the Latest Forecast
When it comes to hiking with a baby, there are a number of mistakes that can turn your adventure into a dangerous misadventure. One such mistake is failing to check the forecast. It may seem like a minor detail, but it can make a huge difference in the success and safety of your hiking trip.
Check the Forecast in the Morning
Before you head out for your hiking adventure, take a few minutes to check the forecast in the morning. Weather can be unpredictable, and it’s essential to be prepared for any changes that may occur throughout the day. Knowing the forecast will help you decide when to hike, what to wear, what gear to bring, and whether it’s safe to go hiking at all.
To check the forecast, you can rely on various sources. Weather websites and apps are readily available, providing accurate and up-to-date information. Look for details like temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and any potential weather warnings. This will give you a good idea of what to expect during your hike and allow you to plan accordingly.
Check the Forecast Again Right Before You Walk Out The Door
While checking the forecast in the morning is a great first step, it’s also crucial to check it again right before you leave for your hike. Weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in mountainous or remote areas. By double-checking the forecast, you can ensure that you have the most current information and make any necessary adjustments to your plans.
Look for any sudden changes in weather patterns or severe weather alerts that may affect your hike. If you notice any significant changes, consider postponing your hike or choosing a different trail that is safer and more suitable for the current conditions.
Remember, the weather can greatly impact your hiking experience, especially when you have a baby in tow. By checking the forecast both in the morning and right before you leave, you’ll be well-prepared and able to make informed decisions that prioritize your safety and the well-being of your little one.
Mistake #4: My Personal Experience
The morning of my first hike with Parks, I checked the forecast. It looked clear! However, I didn’t check the forecast again before I left in the afternoon. Had I checked it again before I left, I would’ve noticed that it had changed–big time. We were only .3 miles into our hike when it started sprinkling. The sun was still shining and there were scattered clouds, so I pressed on because I don’t mind a light rain shower. Within 10 minutes, it was pouring and hailing on us. Hailing! The hail was tiny, but it was hail nonetheless. The Osprey Poco Plus carrier that I use has a rain/shade cover so Parks was covered, but that cover doesn’t protect from a downright downpour though; he still got wet. Lucky for me, he’s an easy-going baby, which made this experience laughable rather than miserable. This is an embarrassing and rookie mistake that could have been avoided had I confirmed the weather forecast before I left the house.
Mistake #5: Not Choosing Well-Traveled Trails
When it comes to hiking with a baby, choosing the right trail is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. When you’re just starting to hike with your baby, it may not be the best time to explore the remote and backcountry trails. Instead, choose the tried and true well-maintained and well-traveled trails.
Remote and Unkept Trails Have Unpredictable Obstacles
Remote and unkept hiking trails present unforeseeable challenges. Hikers must exercise caution and be prepared for a variety of potentially hazardous conditions. Fallen trees, loose rocks, overgrown vegetation, and uneven terrain can impede progress and increase the likelihood of accidents. It is crucial for hikers to possess the necessary skills, equipment, and knowledge to navigate these trails safely. And doing so with a baby just isn’t a good idea unless you’ve been at it for a long time. Your hike will be a lot less stressful if you choose a well-maintained trail.
Other Hikers Are Likely Around in Case of an Emergency
When choosing a more well-traveled trail, there will likely be other hikers nearby. These fellow hikers can provide assistance and support if needed. At the very least, it’s reassuring to know that help may be just around the corner.
Mistake #5: My Personal Experience
When I chose our first hike on the AllTrails app, I picked it because it was short, easy, and offers beautiful views as you walk a loop around a lake. What I should’ve noticed is that the last review on the AllTrails app was from a month prior. The most popular trails will have a lot of recent reviews. This should have been a clue to me that it’s most likely not as well-traveled as others, and there’s probably a reason for that. The reasons ended up being that it’s actually very remote despite being close to town. The gravel road to the trailhead was overgrown and filled with potholes. It was a lot to go through for a 1-mile, easy hike. That’s probably the primary reason that more people are avoiding it.
Mistake #6: Not Having a Backup Trail in Mind
Let’s talk about one crucial mistake that many adventurous parents make when hiking with their little ones: not having a backup trail in mind. Trust me, it’s a rookie mistake that can turn your family hiking trip into a chaotic and frustrating experience. So, buckle up, and let me enlighten you on why a backup trail is important and how you can do adequate research to ensure a smooth hiking adventure with your baby.
Reasons a Backup Trail is Important
Picture this: you’ve planned the perfect hike with your baby, packed all the essentials, and you’re ready to hit the trail. But wait, what if you arrive at the trailhead only to find it overcrowded or closed for maintenance? Or worse, what if the weather takes an unexpected turn and makes your chosen trail unsafe or inaccessible? That’s where a backup plan comes into play.
Having a backup trail in mind provides you with flexibility and peace of mind. It ensures that, regardless of any unforeseen circumstances, you’ll still be able to enjoy the great outdoors with your little bundle of joy. Think of it as a safety net, ready to catch you when your initial plans don’t go as expected.
Do Adequate Research on Your Backup Trail
When it comes to hiking with a baby, thorough research is key. Start by identifying potential backup trails in the same area as your primary choice. Look for trails that offer similar features and difficulty levels, ensuring they are suitable for your baby’s needs. Websites, hiking forums, and local hiking groups are excellent resources to gather information about these alternative trails.
Pay attention to important factors such as trail conditions, elevation gain, and length. Keep in mind that you want a trail that is safe and manageable for you and your little one. Look for reviews or testimonials from other hikers who have experienced the trail with their children to gain insights and make an informed decision.
Remember, the purpose of a backup trail is to provide an enjoyable experience for both you and your baby. So, consider factors like beautiful scenery, wildlife sightings, and rest areas along the trail. These elements will contribute to creating a memorable adventure for your family.
And don’t make Mistakes #2 and #4 with your backup trail. Download the offline map and check the forecast for all your trail options to make sure that you have what you need if you need to resort to your backup plan and take a different hike than you originally planned.
By having a backup trail in mind and doing adequate research, you are ensuring that your family hiking expedition won’t be derailed by unexpected obstacles. Remember the old saying, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to outdoor adventures with your little one. With a backup trail in your pocket, you’ll be ready to tackle any challenges that come your way and create incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
Mistake #6: My Personal Experience
When I finally arrived at the trailhead of the hike I had chosen for Parks and myself, I realized it was much more remote than I expected. There wasn’t a single vehicle in the parking lot and I had no cell service. Because I had no cell service and I had forgotten to download my offline maps, I couldn’t tell which pathway was the trailhead for the 1-mile, easy hike I wanted to take. I ended up bailing out and I decided to park at another trailhead we had passed on the way. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot, so I decided it would be a good option considering we still didn’t have cell service. At least there were other people around. The problem was that I still hadn’t done adequate research for this as my backup option. The trailhead map was confusing and didn’t list the distances, so I accepted the fact that I’d have to pay attention to my own mileage and turn back when I was ready. Remember that unless you’re hiking a loop, you’ll have to hike back the way you came–so count that into your desired mileage.
If I had done the research and had a backup plan ready to go before I set out for the day, I would have felt more comfortable on the trail. I would’ve known which path to take and how long it was. I wouldn’t have had to think as hard and worry about my distance, which can cause stress during an activity that is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable.
When it comes to hiking with a baby, it’s absolutely worth all of the preparation to enjoy this quality time with your new baby. However, there are a few common mistakes that you should avoid, and most of them all come down to good preparation.
Firstly, make sure to choose a suitable trail that is safe and manageable for both you and your little one. Now is not the time to conquer challenging hikes. It’s smart to choose short hikes over long hikes and make sure you’re comfortable before pushing all your limits. Make sure to pack the baby essentials like diapers, extra diapers, wipes, plenty of water, a first-aid kit, bug repellant, and a change of clothes. It should all have no problem fitting in your backpack carrier, and you’ll be glad you did when the time comes. And if you’re hiking with toddlers and older kids, be sure to visit my friend Molly’s blog, Camping Critterz, to learn about the 10 essentials you should never forget to bring when hiking as a family.
Secondly, remember that it’s not a competition. You have nothing to prove to anyone, so it’s best to stay safe and choose shorter hikes or family hikes that you and your kiddo will enjoy. Also, pack a PBL or Satellite Messenger in case of emergencies. Having the right gear will bring you peace of mind and hopefully, you’ll never have to use it. Additionally, be mindful of the weather conditions and dress your baby accordingly. This will also help you choose the best time of day for your hike. Lastly, don’t forget to do your research!
By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure a fun and enjoyable hiking experience with your little adventurer! So, lace up those hiking boots, grab your baby carrier, and hit the trails with confidence. By avoiding these rookie mistakes, you’ll be sure to have a successful hike and a memorable experience with your baby.