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Before having children I was adamant that I wouldn’t let parenthood take away from doing the things I loved. I liked the idea of ‘adding’ the baby in to the things I already enjoyed doing, Hiking, backpacking, visiting local breweries. While my rosy idea of just bringing the kid along hasn’t always panned out (I go to bed before 9pm more often than I would like to admit;) bringing my daughter backpacking at 5 months old was a great experience! If you are on the fence, I encourage you to take your baby backpacking!
(This post is specifically for the 0-1yo, check back soon for posts on toddler backpacking!)
Why Backpack With Baby?
For me the main reason was to ensure that even though we are raising my daughter in the city, she will also grow up with all the benefits of a childhood filled with natural beauty. It was also a way to challenge myself not to make excuses as to why I couldn’t do the things I did before having kids.
I was lucky enough to have friends to share their stoves, water filters etc with us to help lighten my load. Altogether my pack was ~26lbs, plus baby on the front. I used a soft structured (SSC) Lenny Lamb carrier that we used all the time at home so I knew we would both be comfortable.
We chose a site with a short ~3 mile hike in. This made me feel better about aborting the mission if needed, as the hike out wouldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t one I had hiked before, but other experienced members in my party had so I felt comfortable. I would recommend you do one you’ve done before unless going with others you trust.
- Water: You are going to need extra if you are still nursing. Both you and the baby will need more when at elevation and doing more strenuous exercise.
- Sun/Wind Protection: Babies skin is much more sensitive to wind/sun, so try to choose a site where you will have some protection from the wind. Ours was pretty exposed and it made changing her difficult.
- Sleeping: I did so much research on the best sleep solutions, although there isn’t much info out there. I’ll share what I did and then what I recommend you do;) It got down to about 40F at night, which isn’t terrible, but not balmy either. I brought a ‘sleeping bag’ I had made out of an old down coat from an REI garage sale, and kept her in her fleece suit and synthetic base layers. I was nursing and so mostly ended up halfway out of my sleeping bag and cold, while worrying that her sleeping bag was too close to her face… So, I recommend a double bag (if you are ok with co-sleeping, I know the debate is heated and I am not an expert, do what you are comfortable with.) This allows your little one to rely on your body temperature for heat regulation and makes it easier to nurse. Alternately you can use a nice down bunting bag like this. (although I don’t recommend white obviously;) Having their feet together helps to conserve body heat. My sleeping pad was a 3″ inflatable with ridges, and I would have preferred to have a thinner one to be on the same level as her (I cut a 1″ Therm-a-rest closed cell foam pad down to size for her.)
- Toys/Special Baby Gear: I brought a pacifier, wet bag, diapers and wipes, and some baby tylenol. I also brought a few dog poop bags to help ‘contain’ the diapers, any blowout clothes etc;) I love these bags because they are super light and great for containing all sorts of messes. Other than her clothes and sleeping gear that was it! It was really tempting to bring toys or other gear but I really didn’t need anything else!
I do recommend splurging a bit on some good synthetic base layers and some warm fleece or down layers as well. Mine were from REI and even though they weren’t cheap they did last us two years and I resold them online after. (I use the Kidizen app which is great for buying/selling secondhand clothes, and Patagonia sells quickly!) Make sure you avoid cotton since if it gets wet (ie baby sweat or leaking diaper) it can easily drop their body temp and since they can’t tell you, you might not notice right away. I found this pair on sale at REI (they fit generously and we used them for 2 years!) Fleece is less expensive but a good down/synthetic jacket will save you a bit of weight (and every bit counts when you are backpacking with extra baby weight!)
Get your baby backpacking!
If you are considering taking your baby backpacking I highly recommend it. It takes a bit of prep work and I will admit neither of us slept as well as I would like;) but seeing her soak in the sound of the wind in the trees as we hiked and stare mesmerized at the campfire made it all worth it.
Please ask any questions you may have in the comments! I’ll make sure to get back to you as soon as possible. Here are a few sites I used while preparing for my trip: