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Hiking and camping with your toddler/baby.

Aug 10, 2021

Adventuring in the mountains with a baby in tow is a whole other adventure in its self. It's amazing! I've learnt a lot on my last trip and I want to share it with you so you can have a smooth trip and be prepared and know what to expect!

We set off for our first family backcountry camping and hiking trip to Helm Creek and Panorama Ridge. I packed Benjamin in my pack along with some clothing, sleeping pads and a bit of food. My husband took the tent and all the other gear! In a regular overnight pack you pack the heaviest items on the bottom to make it more ergonomically for your hips and back, but in the child carrier the heaviest item (the child) is at the top. This does place a greater load on you hips and back. Keep this in mind when loading up your pack, a 60 lb over night pack probably feels the same as a 40 lb child carrying pack. 

As we started hiking my hips were screaming, but after I got warmed up they were OK. Poles are key to help on both the way up and the way down! Be prepared for blisters with the heavier load, make sure your hikers fit well. I highly recommend to apply body glide on your toes and heels and wear a compression sock to minimize blisters. Bring mole skin and stop to apply if you feel like a blister is coming. 

On the hike its important to remember that this hike and experience is really for the little one and that you can't be on any sort of timeline, don't try and rush to get to camp. Plan your trip with lots of time to reach your destination.

I wanted this to be a positive experience and fun for Ben. We sang songs, let him touch the trees a ton and passed him rocks, leaves and sticks to hold and touch as we hiked. This was also to keep him from pulling on the back on my neck and hair.

We let him out of the carrier and had him walk parts of the trail before he got antsy from sitting too long. I had him looking for the orange markers and hugging trees along the way to keep him moving.  He eventually got tired and sat on the side of the trail and when asked if he wanted back in the carrier he said "Backpack, Backpack", he was stoked. If you try and rush them back into the pack, when they still have energy to burn they will get upset and it won't be pleasant for either of you. 

Keeping snacks and water readily available is key too. Try to anticipate their hunger and keep their bellies happy so they don't get hangry. I found dehydrated mango to be perfect for my 21 month old, it took him a longer time to eat it and kept him occupied.  Having a hydration pack with a long tube that he could reach was good to keep him hydrated.

Setting up camp is super challenging, you really need one parent to set up and one parent keeping eyes on the lil guy. It is super fun to watch them explore around camp and try to help set up. 

The bugs are bad when camping in an alpine meadow near a creek, so having a legit 3 person tent was great, we had an escape from the bugs with plenty of space to play around in. 

Speaking of bugs... I covered the child carrier with a bug net designed for a pack & play. See photo below. It's key as the lil guys can't swat all the bugs away and you probably don't want to cover you child in deet.

Going to bed in day light is challenging, but making the environment more like home with a portable sound machine helps. Putting a cover like a t-shirt over the sleeping pad is a good way to absorb some of the moisture from your child's drool. Ben woke up in a puddle of drool and wasn't to happy about it, then wanted to sleep on my chest the rest of the night...

Morison Outdoors makes a baby/ toddler sleeping bag, which is just like a insulates sleep sack with arms. I wish I had this.. it's on order now! A regular seeping bag is not recommended for children under the age of 4.

Morning was slow and just perfect. We set out to hike Panorama Ridge. Note that the sun is powerful and hard to hide from when up in the alpine,  a sunshade for the carrier and a nice big brimmed sun hat is key. Keep in mind they can still get hot under all those layers and air flow is slightly restricted. 

Again frequent stops to let the little guy out to run free, burn off some energy and cool down is important. Being in the alpine you will get limited with where you can safely let them out of the carrier, so make sure  plan this before you get into a steep or technical area that its not safe for them to be out of the pack. 

When you do reach a summit or ridge, make sure to keep a hand and eye on the lit guy at all times! 

Be prepared for blow outs, carry extra clothes and diapers (they are light) and a zip lock or zippered wet bag to contain them. Pack out what you pack in, the zip helps to contain the smell. 

As summary of the essentials ( in my opinion)

  • Hiking poles
  • Body glide/ mole skin
  • Snacks accessible in hip pockets
  • Hydration pack with easy access to the hose for both mama and baby. 
  • Bug net to cover the carrier
  • Patience, stop and let them run free, burn off energy and cool down
  • Large tent to have space to hang out in if buggy or raining
  • Sun hat with long back to cover neck along with sunscreen
  • T-shirt to cover sleeping pad 
  • Baby seeping bag - Morrison outdoor has a rad one I wish I had
  • Extra clothes ( warm ones for the summit)
  • Extra diaper and a zip bag to enclose them
  • Portable sound machine
  • Hold their hand/ keep them close and safe on summits or ridgelines
  • Proper footwear for your child so they can walk outside of the carrier
  • Bear spray

Its a bunch of work to get organized and loads of sweat equity to get up into the alpine, but so worth it. Memories were made, a love for nature was fostered and my heart is full!

Follow along @moutnianmomstrong on Instagram for more postpartum tips and to see our adventures!

Photos by my talented husband @ericmpoulin

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