All avid hikers, after telling relatives and friends the good news of a new family member, may hear something like, “Well, the hike is now delayed for a few years ……”.
In reality, hiking with young children can be quite successful and enjoyable. The complexity and format of these trips may have to be modified slightly, but the difficulties are surprisingly few for parents with previous hiking experience. In this LCN Outdoors article, we reveal the answers to How to Hiking With Your Children the most popular question about this topic.
Just to clarify a few issues.
- By toddlers we mean children who are not yet able to walk or who are unable to walk for a long time and who are held by their parents. This means that they are around 3 years old. (Traveling with a child who has walked the entire distance on their own deserves a separate discussion).
- Walking trips are non-categorical hikes, completely autonomous, lasting several days, but without mountaineering or any other “extreme” elements. The altitude is up to 2 miles (3,218m), so we won’t talk about acclimatization either.
Now let’s answer the questions!
Why Go Camping With The Kids?
Why go camping with kids when they are too young to remember anything?
The answer is simple: parents need it. Being with mommy and daddy is good for babies – and if they are happy mommies and daddies who don’t have to give up their favorite hobbies, so much the better. Many parents have no other choice but to keep their children with them (unaccompanied and breastfed), while other parents just like to do everything with their children because they are a family.
It may be beneficial for the baby to see the world outside the unit and playground and learn to adapt to the ever-changing environment. Often, parents will notice a developmental spike after a trip, although this may just be a coincidence. No one has evidence of this, so don’t expect your child to start talking or walking earlier than their peers as a result of travel. But there’s no doubt that camping can be fun for young kids! That’s why our kids choose camping. Seeing your baby’s first impressions of the endless “big world” of moss, grass, dirt, rocks, sand and cones that even an entire toy store can’t achieve is priceless.
What Age Can I Take My Child Camping?
It’s scary when you’re little, so maybe you should let him grow up first. Experienced parents report that it’s always scary for kids …… So, in my opinion, the earlier the better. Of course, this period is different for everyone. We don’t take into account the first few months: the mother needs to recover, and the baby needs to get stronger, establish feedings, sleep – a time when families usually don’t have time to get out and play. But generally speaking, the first six months, if the baby is healthy and doing well, are a great time to travel, and it’s just a shame to sit at home because it won’t happen again!” .
Although babies can’t walk on their own yet, they have little to no problem when it comes to camping. It’s especially convenient if the baby is breastfed – you don’t even need to bring any food.
Later the baby starts to crawl – you have to make sure he doesn’t slip into the river or off a cliff somewhere. He pulls leaves, dirt and pine needles into his mouth. One parent gets to do the chores (pitching the tent, making dinner) while the other parent takes care of the baby. He starts teething and doesn’t sleep well at night. Then he starts walking and doesn’t want to sit in the baby carrier for long periods of time. Then he gets his own opinion and may not want to rest as much as you do.
In general, camping is just one aspect of normal life, and it’s all the same: relatively easy for parents at first, and requiring more and more attention, effort and time as the child grows. But with the experience of the first few months of travel, it’s much easier to tackle the challenges of the new arrival.
Will The Child Catch A Cold During The Trip?
Experienced hikers know that with good modern camping equipment, it’s hard to freeze. But there are still concerns when it comes to children. It is customary in our culture to dress children unnecessarily warm, and many of our compatriots in other European countries are surprised to see children dressed so lightly. A newborn baby appears to us to be very fragile.
In fact, it comes into the world with a powerful mechanism to adapt to the enormous conditions: the same species can survive both in the tundra and in the equatorial regions. All you have to do is not destroy this wonderful mechanism, all that is needed is a little: let your child experience at least some temperature contrasts and differences. It doesn’t cost anything, but it will pay off a hundredfold – an adult will grow up without fear of draughts and without getting sick from accidentally getting their feet wet, blowing out the window on the bus or having a colleague turn on the air conditioning.
Generally speaking, if a child is used to adults not wrapping him or her up from birth, but dressing for the weather as they do, nothing will happen to him or her when the temperature suddenly drops more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the parents don’t have time to put an extra top on him or her in time.
One important thing to remember in cooler weather: when we walk, especially when carrying a backpack uphill, we are much warmer than the child being carried. Therefore, in this case, you should dress your baby warmer than you are. Don’t forget warm socks and gloves – your child’s extremities will get cold during movement, even if you don’t need gloves on a hike.
Where To Start On Your First Hike And What To Expect
Obviously, it’s best to start with a familiar place you’ve already been. The first trip with your child is an equation with many unknowns, so make sure you learn as much as you can. It won’t be boring because even old familiar places will open up in new ways. For the first time, it’s best not to stray too far from the car – even if something goes wrong (or you don’t like it), you can always “evacuate”. The thought of this usually gives you peace of mind.
If you haven’t hiked with kids before and are just starting out, it’s important to find an itinerary that suits your abilities. It’s best to do it in a “gradual manner”. For example, it should start with a day trip, then an overnight stay near a car, then an overnight independent hike. After that, try going with two overnights, but keep them both in the same place where you will be walking radially from the campground. Finally, after this, you can do a linear hike, with each overnight stay in a new location.
Weather forecasts are now becoming very important. Whereas before you could take chances – “maybe it won’t rain as much as promised, and if it does, we’ll wait in the tent” – now you have to choose very good and stable weather because the kids don’t know how to wait yet.
Set aside twice as much time as usual for any movement. Feeding, changing diapers, changing clothes – all these delays, especially in the beginning, add up to hours. And you yourself are carrying more weight and walking more slowly than usual. Therefore, you should have plenty of time.
What Equipment Is Needed For Hiking With Children?
Parents are faced with the daunting task of making compromises. First, to save as much weight as possible, since one of them will be carrying the kids and the other will be carrying everything else! Second, save as much weight as possible. Second, don’t lose too much comfort at the same time.
In the beginning, when the child is very young, a tent that can sleep two people is enough, but as the child grows, a three-person tent is still needed.
- On the one hand, we pay attention to saving weight, on the other hand, a spacious tent is a big deal when you have a person inside eager to jump, run, scatter toys and sleep in a starfish position.
- Choose a model with an extra console that stretches the sides and increases the internal volume. LCN, for example, produces these products.
- Best of all, the tent should be designed so that it can be set up without any stretch marks that the child is bound to trip over.
- An ultralight tent may not be able to withstand the stress of a young explorer – if you have a very active child, a stronger fabric will last longer, although it will weigh a little more – look for a compromise.
B. Sleeping bag
There are two schools of thought for camping parents: some sleep in three-person sleeping bags, others bring a separate sleeping bag for their kids. How it’s better for you, you won’t know until you try. In the foreign world of camping, there are universal inserts in sleeping bags that increase their width dimensions. In my opinion, this is the most convenient solution for small children, especially breastfed children, but you will not find it on sale. Another option for small children is to replace the sleeping bag with a warm winter onesie.
Some nuances about children’s sleeping bags.
- There are almost no down sleeping bags for children – maybe because babies are likely to get their sleeping bags wet in the middle of the night?
- Some children’s sleeping bags have a cotton lining. This makes no sense (kids rarely sleep naked when camping, so the naturalness of the material is important), but cotton adds weight and bulk, and takes a long time to dry.
- Even if your child is still short, you shouldn’t be looking for a very small sleeping bag. Children grow quickly, and many sleeping bags have an extra zipper that can take away the extra length of the sleeping bag for your little one. If not, the extra length can be tied off with a rope or sling. A child’s sleeping bag that is no more than 50 inches (127 cm) tall is sufficient for 10 years (average height) – a good deal!
- Children like to sleep with their arms outstretched. Many of them don’t like to be covered at all. Be prepared that your child will refuse to crawl into a sleeping bag until their chin is down and a “cozy anatomical hood” simply won’t work. All other things being equal, if you have a choice between a “cocoon” and a “blanket”, go with the blanket. You may also have to use the edge of your down jacket or sleeping bag to cover this child. Happily, children have better heat exchange than we do, and they are not as cold as we are! (If they haven’t been overfed since birth, see above.)
- Serious manufacturers do not specify the temperature to be used on children’s sleeping bags. They do not have the opportunity to test them on children. If you see a temperature rating on a child’s sleeping bag, know that the numbers are very, very tentative.
C. Floor mats
Modern floor mats have an R-value – the higher the value, the lower the temperature you’ll sleep on. If you’re not going camping in the winter, then a “three-season” mat with an R-value of 2.5 will suffice – you can sleep in it at about 32 °F (0°C).
The shorter self-inflating mats are suitable for babies and children. They come in lengths of 35-50 inches (90-127 cm) and were originally designed for adults who save weight and are willing to put a backpack or other equipment under their feet. These sizes are often sold at a discount and take up as much space as a 0.2 gals (0.75 l) bottle when folded. 1 inch (2.5 cm) is thick enough for a child: he weighs less than an adult and sleeps better, so his body will be soft enough. Inflatable mats are light and warm but tend to rustle, which may prevent children who are already unfamiliar with their environment from falling asleep.
Modern polyurethane foam mats (with ribbed or honeycomb surfaces for more softness and warmth) have good properties, but unfortunately are quite bulky when rolled up, even when cut to the child’s height (in our case, as far as we recall, one parent would carry all three pieces of equipment).
The problem arises when using three different mats in a spacious tent when they all fall apart during the night. Use your own pad to press the baby’s pad to the sides, then the baby won’t slide down to the bare floor at night. Another point is that babies somehow roll down the slightest incline of the tent. To solve this problem, you can sew a piece of fleece to the carpet to keep the sleeping bag from sliding around.
Modern cooking systems save gas and thus weight. They are a set of burners and kettles, closely connected to each other, with a special design that minimizes heat loss. In addition, these systems do not require separate protection against drafts and boil water very quickly.
Tips: We are talking about systems like the LCN …… But you can’t cook porridge in such a pot …… Or rather, you can cook porridge by pouring boiling water, but more complex dishes are problematic ……
E. Baby clothes
The same principles apply to children’s outdoor clothing as to adults. We use three layers: a bottom layer (thermal underwear), a second layer (wool), and a top layer (waterproof and breathable membrane).
F. Thermal underwear
Children don’t exercise or sweat as much as adults, so they don’t need the synthetic thermal underwear we wear for outdoor activities. In warm weather during the day, regular cotton “town” clothes are fine. The kids are small enough that you can bring enough t-shirts in case they get wet and dirty. Just remember that synthetics dry faster and are lighter in weight. In cooler weather, in the evening, and at night, it’s a good idea to dress your child in wool or semi-wool thermal underwear.
Merino wool is not at all streaky, keeps you much warmer than cotton, and if your child sweats, it dries quickly and stays warm even when wet. Wool has antibacterial properties, and this underwear can be worn for days without odor. It’s durable, won’t lose its appearance through washing, and can serve multiple children at once. Of course, it’s not only comfortable to wear while camping but in the city as well!”.
- For children who can’t walk yet, it’s best to wear thermal underwear as work clothes. For older children, a separate set is even better.
- “A jumpsuit with buttons between the legs is more comfortable than a T-shirt – it doesn’t bulge in the back.
- Long pants are more comfortable than tights – you can buy “grown-ups” and tuck them in, and you can change socks as needed, or take them off and let them breathe.
- A turtleneck neck protects the neck from the cold, but many kids really don’t like wearing turtlenecks. If you come across a turtleneck sweater with buttons on the collar, this is the best.
- Socks made of merino wool are also best because cotton socks can sweat and freeze, while wool stays warm even when wet.
Finding the right hiking pants for your child can be a particular challenge. You need a fabric that breathes, dries quickly, and repels dirt. There are plenty in stores for adults, and you can find ones for kids’ gardens, but rarely for 18-month-olds.
G. Second layer of clothing
For very young children, the fleece layer needs to be used as overalls, while those who are already walking need a separate coat that will be more comfortable.
H. Outermost layer of clothing
These are waterproof overalls or separate pants and jackets that have insulation in cold weather. Many moms appreciate overalls more on normal walks because of the opportunity to lie in puddles without getting wet. But when it comes to camping, there are certain situations where a separate set would be more comfortable.
- When you’re sitting in a backpack, your pants will definitely be pulled up, so it’s best to take an extra size or two. (By the way, if they have cords, it’s a good idea to pull them over your boots; if not, you can sew them on yourself).
- You may need to buy a separate jacket as wind protection or just to keep warm.
- Wading through mud or wet grass and sitting on wet stuff may require separate long pants (the jacket may be hot).
- To change diapers in the cold, it is better to take off a pair of pants than a whole onesie.
In the mountains, even in the summer, a thin down jacket can come in handy – it doesn’t take up much space and can be worn at night when it gets cold without all the extra clothing.
Even if your child can’t walk yet, he or she will be crawling, so you need mud-proof shoes. Rubber boots also need to be brought along: if you have to ride in the rain, you don’t want your feet to get wet. One more thing: sitting in a backpack for long periods of time can impair circulation and make your feet cold. Woolen socks or down boots will come in handy. Although, to be honest, my daughter’s feet were still cold in her backpack on a cool day, no matter how much we insulated them. Remarkably, though, she never got sick or anything bad happened because of it.
J. Baby carrier
The last but most important item on our list of equipment to carry a baby in! We have divided them into two types: they are soft (frameless) carriers and frame carriers.
K. Soft (Frameless) carriers
This category is represented by sling bags and ergonomic backpacks.
- Ergo backpack. Not to be confused with “kangaroo”, we do not recommend hiking. They are very different from baby carriers. In an ergonomic backpack, your child’s legs are spread apart and the weight is distributed over your child’s hips. The soft fabric backrest supports the spine in a natural position. The wide backrest shifts some of the child’s weight from the shoulders to the lower back. The child can only sit facing the parent.
- “Kangaroo”. In the kangaroo, the infant’s legs hang vertically and all of the weight is in the crotch. The rigid backrest does not support the upper spine. All of the infant’s weight falls on the parent’s shoulders. The child can sit facing outward or forward. The backpack can be used to carry the child for short trips (from car to medical center, shopping), but should not be worn too far.
- The sling is a rectangular piece of fabric and it is not easy to learn how to wrap it properly, but, as they say, anything is possible for those with wisdom. However, taking off and putting on the sling while hiking is not very comfortable and it is hot when you are going uphill.
- The starting age of a baby carrier varies depending on the size of the child: the child’s legs must reach the width of the back to get into the correct position. Different models of carriers can be adjusted according to the size of the baby. In general, once you are about six months old and reach a waist of 27 inches (68 cm), the baby carrier will fit any size without any additional skill.
- Many backpacks allow the straps to be worn straight or crossed over the back. Crossed versions are more difficult to put on unassisted, but baby carriers are tighter, so crossed straps are recommended for infants under 6 months of age. In addition, they will be more comfortable for women with narrow shoulders.
- Baby carriers can be worn in the front or in the back. As the child gets older (from about 8 months), he/she starts to get in the way in front and wants to look around more, so he/she can be carried in the back.
- The weight limit for baby carriers is very high, up to 44 lbs (20 kg). It is too heavy for parents to carry their babies earlier than this.
Over time, carrying a child in a padded backpack can become too heavy. Although it has a supportive waist belt, the main weight remains on the shoulders. Baby carriers help in the form of carcass carriers. This means that your child must be able to sit upright for long periods of time! This means that he/she must be able to spend time (playing) in a way that sits up (rather than on his/her back as before) primarily. As with padded backpacks, there is no need to worry about their upper limits – they can hold up to 55 lbs (25 g) pounds before either parent or child will give them up.
L. Frame carrier
Over time, it becomes too difficult to carry your child in a soft backpack. Although it has a support strap, most of the weight still falls on the shoulders. Carrying a frame backpack to the rescue. The argument for starting to use this backpack is that the child should be able to sit alone confidently for a long time! This means that he spends most of his time (playing) sitting (rather than lying on his back as he used to do). The upper limits, like soft backpacks, are not worth worrying about – they can hold up to 55 lbs (25 kg) before either the parent or the child rejects them.
Advantages of framed backpacks over padded ones.
- Effective weight distribution between the shoulders, hips, and lower back.
- There is some space between the child and the parent so that the parent’s back and the child’s abdomen are not too hot (climbing a padded harness on a slippery slope can produce so much sweat that the whole child gets wet from the parent).
- These backpacks can be quickly and easily adjusted to the child’s height as well as the parent’s height. The latter is especially important because usually mom and dad alternate and you may need to adjust multiple times during the day to accommodate different sizes. (Remember, the range is not unlimited! If your height is below 65 inches (165 cm), make sure you try on the backpack before you buy – the minimum height setting on some models may not be enough to ensure the waistband fits snugly around your hips).
- A framed backpack has a compartment at the bottom for diapers, clothes, and food, all of which help to take some of the load off the other parent and give the first parent some autonomy in case he gets a little behind or wanders off.
- The backpack can be removed and placed on the ground with the child, and thanks to the footrest, it can stand up like a high chair. This is very useful if you need a change, for example when traveling. (Just be careful to keep it on a flat surface so it doesn’t fall over!)
- Sunshade is a very important feature, as well as protection from fine rain/snow and tree branches overhanging the trail.
Disadvantages compared to soft ergonomic backpacks.
- high price, comparable to a good stroller (in larger cities and popular tourist centers, you can rent a good backpack)
- large size: unlike padded backpacks, you can’t take them with you “just in case”; it takes up all the luggage in the car.
- the backpack itself weighs more than 6.6 lbs (3 kg) – (but distributes the weight better, so it’s still easier to carry an older child than a padded backpack)
- Depending on the height of the parents, the child’s head may be slightly higher than their own – one must get used to and take into account this change in size (for example, when entering a doorway or under an overhanging tree branch).
For baby carriers, there are accessories such as rain covers and sleeping pads. If you don’t have a pad, you can make one out of any jumper, rolled-up diaper, etc. A rain cover is recommended because while you can dress your child in waterproof clothing, you don’t want to get the baby carrier wet anyway. If you don’t have a sunshade, you can use a normal size baby carrier. A sunshade may or may not be included – it’s a must.
How Long Will The Child Stay In The Backpack?
How long can the child stay in the backpack? What if he doesn’t want to sit in it? Some children like backpacks so much that they prefer them to strollers even in the city.” I can sit high and see far!” But unfortunately, there are some children who refuse to be carried in a backpack. One might think that if you start early, your child will get used to it, but the experience of some acquaintances shows that it doesn’t always work. But it’s still worth trying.
If you take a child who is positive about the backpack and not naughty, you should still take regular breaks (every hour and a half), and it’s a good idea to plan your route so you don’t have to walk all day.
How To Arrange A Day Of Sleep While Camping?
Many parents ask: How to organize a day’s sleep and follow a day’s routine while camping? Is it healthy to sleep in a backpack?
If your itinerary allows for afternoon naps (and your child agrees to sleep in such an unfamiliar environment), then of course that’s great. But often a full day of walking is required. In this case, babies take daytime naps on the road, they get rocked in their backpacks and fall asleep easily. Sleeping in a backpack is far less comfortable than sleeping in a crib, so infants usually can’t take ‘long’ naps, averaging 40 minutes per cycle for toddlers.
Your child may split his usual two naps into four, one into two, and so on. All in all, he is likely to get his normal daily sleep, and if he doesn’t get enough, he will go to bed early in the evening. I believe that maintaining a daily routine in normal life helps the child to be flexible and adapt to the forced interruptions in his journey.
Is using a baby carrier to sleep harmful? From a child sleep expert’s perspective, the only way to be 100% complete is to sleep in a still crib, in complete silence and darkness. However, many parents find that by a certain age, babies only agree to sleep in a moving stroller, in a car seat, while rocking in their arms …… In any case, children are very flexible creatures, and sleeping in a baby carrier for 2-3 days in the afternoon won’t do any harm, especially since they can get a good night’s sleep.
A. What are the features of sleeping overnight with a child camping?
- One of the troubles of the event is that even the little owls in the tent struggle to wake up with the roosters because they go to bed earlier than usual and the bright sunlight wakes them up. Cheer up and use this as an opportunity to photograph the beautiful sunrise
- Prepare in advance and carry with you (in a separate bag or pocket of the tent) everything you may need for the night: extra diapers, tissues, a bottle of water, teething gel, a hot water bottle for diluted formula… . And of course a flashlight!
- Small children are helped to fall asleep by customary rituals. Some of these can be implemented on a hike (reading before bed, putting your favorite toy in bed, lullabies, or fairy tales). Others cannot be repeated (for example, swimming). You can try to create special “sleep” rituals that occur only on hikes.
A night of good sleep is very important for adults in order to recover and complete the route the next day. Therefore, during problematic night sleep (teething, etc.), it is better to take this into account and choose easier hikes.
About The Nutritional Characteristics Of Traveling With Children
Of course, the most convenient thing about hiking with a baby is breastfeeding, and when you travel, you begin to appreciate it especially strongly. The problem here, perhaps, can only be found in the fact that it is impossible to buy thermal underwear for feeding formula-fed babies, you always need to carry with your hot water and boiling cold water in order to dilute the mixture in the water of the desired temperature.
The mix dispenser allows you to pour several pre-measured portions of the mixture into separate portions. For daily feedings, many parents prefer to carry several bottles with them so they can use boiling water to clean and sterilize all of them at once.
For nighttime feedings, experienced mothers recommend keeping a bottle of prepared water in the sleeping bag to lower the temperature. Formula-fed babies usually start solids and finish adult foods earlier than their breastfed peers, so this technically challenging period won’t last long!