Backpacking with Babies

“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…” We sang a lot of different tunes heading down the trail. It helped take our minds off the weight of our backpacks. Other hikers never thought we were strange.  We came with a license to sing – our daughter. 

Tents are great fun when you're 10 months old! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Her inaugural backpacking trip was two months shy of her first birthday. I carried her and her gear on my back; my husband carried everything else. She was thrilled with the campsite, tickled pink with yet another dinner outdoors, ready for bed right on schedule and she slept like a log, having spent previous nights in the tent on car camping trips.

The trip was a resounding success, not because of luck, but because of careful consideration given to the logistics of backpacking with babies.

Tips for Getting Started

  1. Whether your kids are pulling your hair to make the “pony” go faster or snoozing in a snuggly, be realistic about the distance and degree of difficulty you can handle. 
  2. If you’ve car camped and your child is used to the tent, move on. If not, take a few trial runs (in the backyard or a nearby park campsite) and see what works, what doesn’t and what can be improved. Do you need an extra sleeping pad? Do you need a child’s sleeping bag or can they sleep with you? Try it again and again until you have the kinks worked out.
  3. Think carefully about what you need to take. If your child is still in diapers, pack sufficient supplies, but as with everything, don’t overpack. Instead, start with a destination within a kilometre or two of the parking lot. If you’ve underestimated amounts, it’s only a short jaunt back down to the car to pick up more. 
  4. When packing, follow a checklist and add the child’s clothes and any special food as well as one or two small books (more down time with little ones) and lightweight toys.

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