Apr 26, 2009 at 8:05 am #1235889
Woubeir (from Europe)BPL Member
I received this question and I honestly don't know how to answer. The parents want to thru-hike the Pyrenees with their then 3 month old baby, a hike which should take them around 2 months. Even if not following the Pyrenean high level route, the trail will often cross rough terrain and high level passes. I don't think the parents can be persuaded not to do it with such a young shild. They do seem to have enough experience with long distance trails and have reduced their full pack weight to around 8 kg with some food and 2 liters of water. But even before trying, I would first like to hear from others which experience they have with backpacking with such a young child and if they think this is both possible and responsible.Apr 26, 2009 at 8:53 am #1497064
A three-month old isn't going to be walking around or having to carry its own pack; it's going to BE carried the whole way, sleeping a lot of the time, and getting an eyeful of its new world from the comfort of the carrier. I'm jealous! I'd love to hike that way – all the views, none of the chores, someone else does all the cooking and even feeds me, and I can sleep whenever I want and play the rest of the time.
You said the parents are experienced outdoors types so I can't see any difference between taking the baby along or staying home with it. The parents are going to be caring for the little thruhiker constantly anyway.
Their level of parenting expertise/experience is not relevant. Society blindly entrusts the safety of new-borns to totally clueless and inexperienced parents every day in every country of the world. Whether they take that baby home to a mansion, a hovel, or a high country trail is irrelevant.
Personally, I think it would be a fabulous bonding experience, and just think of the stories the child will have to share with their classmates later in life at "show and tell".
Our youngest got unexpectedly potty-trained on a camping trip when my wife asked me to hand her the diaper bag, and my reply was simply "I thought you packed that". We all still laugh about it. No foul.
Wandering BobApr 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm #1497130
I assume they are talking about the GR10.
It could be done, but they will have to be willing to be very flexible. I dare say Mummy will provide adequate feedback about baby's needs. You can find accommodation every night if you wander around a bit. If they want to do it by tent … Daddy is going to have a VERY big pack!!!
Yes, we did some walking with little baby – great fun in the right conditions. Baby needs a big sunhat and light gloves to prevent sunburn.
CheersApr 26, 2009 at 4:50 pm #1497140
My first multi-day backpack with our son was at 11 months but we were hiking with him at 3 weeks and car camping at 3 months.
That said, my longest with Henry (who is now 2 1/2 and has been on 7 backpacking trips) has been 3 days. 3 months is a different deal, but not that crazy.
I found my pack to be pretty light- a 3 month old will only weigh 10-20 pounds, split team gear and it's no big deal. I've even been on a father/son trip when Henry was 25 pounds and I was carrying him and everything else. If the couple is smart and careful with weight, this should be reasonable.
Diapers are an issue. A 3 month old can do up to 10 diapers a day. Management of that is an issue. But if they have frequent resupplies, that should be fine.
Roger is right on the sunhat and gloves- EVEN if the carrier has a sun/rain top. Kid sleep system is special too- a sleep sack (Patagonia is great here) and a down vest with a torsolite pad held together with a strap is a good combo that worked well for Henry. These days he uses a BMW quilt footbox and his fleece clothing. Works fine.
I think this is all doable and I would LOVE to see the story here at Backpacking Light! Tell them to contact Ryan Jordan- please! Parents need to know that adventures like this are possible!
Best, DougApr 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm #1497141
I would highly recommend that these parents try some shorter trips first (which I assume they're doing). I'd also recommend trekking poles for dad to add safety and stability.Apr 26, 2009 at 5:59 pm #1497154
Mark McLauchlinBPL Member
@markmclauchlinLocale: Western Australia
Not knowing the territory they are going to be walking I wouldnt like to comment on re-supply etc, however I would have some real safety concerns with taking a baby at that age out on such a long trip.
Playing the bad guy in this…what if the baby were to become sick? how fast can they get out and back to medical help? What happens if the parents get sick? Are they at risk of animal attacks out there?
I'm a little worried…Apr 26, 2009 at 6:03 pm #1497156
Jolly Green GiantBPL Member
(Removed by JGG)Apr 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm #1497166
Mark McLauchlinBPL Member
@markmclauchlinLocale: Western Australia
Good call James, this trip should be, IMHO, cancelled until the child is a little more self sufficient.
Working for a company that puts safety above everything, I think the same should apply here.
CheersApr 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm #1497172
You wouldn't take a 3 month old puppy on a hike this long so taking a child that is even less self sufficient than a puppy is just dumb.Apr 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm #1497185
Mary DBPL Member
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Backpack carriers are designed for babies that can sit up strongly–7-9 months old. A three-month-old infant cannot sit up so cannot ride in a back carrier without considerable damage to the neck/spine. He will have to be carried in a front carrier of some sort that supports the neck head. I wouldn't want to be hiking in rough country with an infant in soft front carrier–no protection for baby should Mom fall forward!
Three days, fine. For two months, I personally wouldn't do it (and I've raised kids). The logistics are just too daunting. If the parents can work out the logistics, fine.Apr 26, 2009 at 8:23 pm #1497195
@openspaceLocale: Upstate New York
Removed by poster.Apr 26, 2009 at 8:52 pm #1497197
@drdystopiaLocale: Upstate NY
I have to agree with James on this one. I read the thread title and thought it was a joke. I was depressed to realize that it is not.
I think it is threads like these that give those outside the backpacking community the impression that most of us are nut bars.
Taking a 3 month old on a 2 month thru-hike is not a good idea.
I would love to meet the doctor who approved it.Apr 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm #1497203
> I think anyone wanting to do a 2 month thru hike with their 3 month old is selfish and irresponsible.
That is a personal opinion only.
> access to medical care should be top priority.
On the GR10 you are never that far from a town. And one can carry a mobile phone. I do not think that is much different from living on a farm out back.
> How about the required weekly/monthly shots at that age?
Huh??? I do not recollect our kids needing anything like this!
> How about exposure to bugs and other things for which the baby doesn't have any immunity?
Oh, come on! Paranoia reigns supreme! Kids are at a greater risk at preschool and kindergarten. And by the way: baby will be getting sky-high levels of immunity from Mummy. That's one reason why breast-feeding is so good for baby.
> How about continued exposure to sun?
I did mention a large hat and gloves. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with a bit of Vitamin D. And a major part of the world's population lives under such conditions anyhow.
> How about the nutrition the baby will need to get presumably through mom when
> she'll likely be eating a "backpackers diet" which is completely different from the
> diet required to raise a child?
Crap. You should see what some mothers in the western world eat and drink! A healthy backpackers diet would be wonderful.
> How about the need to have a stable sleeping environment, one which won't smother the kid
> and which the parents won't roll on top of the kid?
Paranoia again. If the baby is warm and snuggled up to Mummy – it will sleep happily. And the idea that mummy will roll onto baby – chuckle. You obviously don't know mummies!
> sanitary issues,
Sigh. Living at home and going shopping, I get viruses regularly. Walking along the Pyrenees for 2 months – we were both very healthy the whole time.
> I'd have a hard time seeing this couple arguing intelligently in front of a judge
> and Child Services as to whether they were offering their child responsible care.
That may be more of a sad reflection on parts of American society than anything else.
Are Mummy AND Daddy both there 100% of the time to look after Baby? Or was baby parked off for 8 hours a day onto some quote-childcare-unquote business who had profit as their main motive in life, while Mummy and Daddy went off to pursue their own selfish interests?
> A 3 month old baby needs 16-20 hours of sleep which is usually spread throughout the day.
So what could be better than Baby sleeping in a front sling snuggled up against Mummy? Bear in mind that in many Asian countries that is the **standard** way rural women look after their kids – while working in the fields. Those women often regard anything else just unreal.
> Are they at risk of animal attacks out there?
OK, so many may have no experience in doing this. But some of us have, and we can report that it was a wonderful experience and that ALL concerned enjoyed it.
CheersApr 26, 2009 at 9:23 pm #1497208
OK – I just have to say it:
"If you've never raised an infant from birth, your opinions – no matter how sincere – are meaningless here."
I was taught all kinds of theories in Marriage and the Family classes in college 40+ years ago. NONE of them prepared me for the realities of 24/7/365 child-rearing. Babies do not come with either a warrenty nor a manual. Parenting is a day to day learning process at the School of Hard Knocks. Naturally, it gets easier after the first one. Not surprisingly, children have managed to survive the experience for hundreds of thousands of years.
In the hiking community, we say "HYOH". For parents, it's the same thing. What works for me may fail for you and vice versa.
Wandering BobApr 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm #1497215
I certainly understand what others have said above and I made some assumptions that seem to be true- mainly that resupplies are frequent and near towns so items like fresh food, local health care, new diapers, etc. will be easy to reach. I assume this is not the PCT.
The carrier point is a good one- a full back carrier will likely not work for the child. However, many front Bjorn-style carriers might be great. There are many parents in the "attachment parenting" camp who cruise their daily lives with kids following their schedules. I'm not of this group necessarily, but it's a common mindset. I do know that my son had some of his best and most consistent sleep when traveling in a carrier.
Last, I don't think this is such a horrible and selfish idea. Sure- taking my son backpacking at a very early age was partly my own self interests at play, but these trips are things he loves and talking about backpacking has been a major part of his first words, conversations, and memories. The trip proposed is of a different scale, sure, but done correctly and thoughtfully, this could be a wonderful experience for the child.
And if the trip is as I imagine it, the parents could call it at many, many points on the trail if they need to.
Last, thank you Roger for your points about raising children. They have helped to cement my perspective on raising my child.
P.S. Isn't it interesting that we're all talking and the parents are not here at all. In all likelihood, we only talking theory.Apr 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm #1497218
Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I have raised two kids, who are now adults.
We started tent and car camping at 6 months for each. Day hikes when they could walk (at 6 months they were to heavy to carrry).
Would I do this trip? No way. I can provide many reason why… relating to my personal perspective. But these are personal reasons and opinions.
However, many 'native' cultures for centuries were/are nomadic and the age of a child did/does not matter. Although they usually travel as a tribe, not a couple. It could be done safely, IF the parents know what they are doing.
I wouldn't encourage it. But let them make the decision themselves. If they need technical help/information, then advise them if you can.Apr 27, 2009 at 1:03 am #1497228
Woubeir (from Europe)BPL Member
Thanks guys. Just a quick reply because I don't have any time to read it all at this moment. I will try to post their mail here this evening. Need a bit of time because I first need to translate it. What I already can say is that the mail is something like "don't try to change our mind, others have tried and failed, we just would like to know what the most appropriate route is".
Keep on posting.Apr 27, 2009 at 4:12 am #1497233
It might be difficult for the baby to have all the required vaccines prior to leaving. For some catch up vaccinations later wouldn't be an issue but some things they should probably be immunised against before going.Apr 27, 2009 at 4:56 am #1497235
> we just would like to know what the most appropriate route is
I strongly recommend the GR10. The track is good and well-marked, there are other people on it, there are two guide books (English and French), it visits towns regularly.
CheersApr 27, 2009 at 6:57 am #1497246
Arapiles .BPL Member
I have three children. There is simply no way I would do a trip like this with a little one and frankly I think it's reckless to even consider it.
My perspective on this is possibly a little different to most because two of my children have had serious illnesses – so I know that "it will never happen" can very quickly become "it did happen". And on one of those occasions we were only an hour and half from specialist medical care, but the point is that as we were racing to the hospital we didn't know if we would get there in time. How far could these parents go at night, in the dark, in the mountains, with a sick baby?
Our same child, after a perfect pregnancy, was born with an agpar of 1 (the parents out there will know what that means). For reasons that the doctors were not able to explain, his heart slowly stopped beating on his due date. After a crash caesar they managed to revive him, but he then he went into toxic shock due to meconium inspiration – it was genuinely touch and go for a day. But as my mother pointed out, because the pregnancy was so uneventful, my wife would have been a perfect candidate for a home birth or midwife birth – and if she had, it's extremely unlikely that my son would have survived. In the same way, it's irrelevant to say "it's OK for them to do this walk because the parents and baby are healthy" – the point is that healthy babies can become unhealthy babies very quickly.
Would I risk my children's lives because of unexamined romantic notions about "wilderness" that originated in the 18th century writings of a monied leisure class? No way.Apr 27, 2009 at 7:29 am #1497253
Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
On vaccines…that is a touchy subject in the US. They are not required no matter how much a school/Doctor will tell you in most states here in the US. You can object under religious beliefs in most and or moral/ethical/philosophical in quite a few.
As with anything, it is up to the parent to make those decisions.
Babies are very resilient overall – not all will be, but most are. There are still many babies born in this world who on day 2 of their life will be put in a sling and go out into the world – a harsh one at that.
From day 5 on my son rode in a front pack on me nearly all day. He was a preemie so he could hear my heart beat and it regulated him. So being in a carrier isn't odd by any means.
Most likely the couple will have the child and their minds will change, but you never know – babies are pretty easy to haul around before they start walking.
Then again, I am thinking of the family story of the Olympian skier, Picabo Street, whose hippie parents took their first born as a baby, loaded up a donkey or whatever with the baby and some food and went off to live off the land for a summer. They got pregnant with her that summer. ;-PApr 27, 2009 at 8:59 am #1497270
I sent this thread to both of my now-grown children. This is what my youngest (now 28) had to say.
"I think they should absolutely take the trip! I've carried an infant in a front carrier (from 3 months age to just over a year, when she got much too heavy) for extended periods of time, and she slept quite well.
As for the safety of a front carrier vs. a back carrier, a backwards fall is much more dangerous. An older, very mobile baby would be more of a concern to me, because it would not relish being carried all day, but a 3-5 month old generally wants to be held as much as possible.
Diapers would be the largest difficulty I could see, but they could take cloth diapers, wash them out as needed and hang them to dry in camp or off the back of the packs as they hike. I would advise some disposables as backups for times of rain, but cloth would eliminate the issue of trash.
Sounds like a fabulous trip and a wonderful bonding experience for the family! Keep baby's ears clean & dry (to avoid an ear infection), and have a wonderful time!
-Mary"Apr 27, 2009 at 10:03 am #1497282
@jcarter1Locale: Pacific Northwest
I'm suprised no one has mentioned the energy levels of the parents issue. She will likely be up for several hours each night, and then be expected to put in a 10-15 mile day and repeat. Assuming they are sleeping in the same tent, this means he will be up too. At what point will their exhaustion affect their itinerary?
There is a reason nomadic tribes almost always have pack animals and move in larger social and family groups, where extended famly can share childcare duties. And nomadic doesn't mean always on the move. It means following the food and the seasons, which involves long periods of stay in abundant valleys. This trip will be more of an isolated forced march in comarison. Going it alone with small children has historically been a more dangerous route, so I wouldn't entertain romantic notions that they are somehow going back to their nomadic roots.Apr 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm #1497362
> As for the safety of a front carrier vs. a back carrier, a backwards fall is much more dangerous.
Could be a good case for mummy carrying a pair of light (CF) trekking poles and using them.
And of course, if they change their mind after a couple of weeks, no worries. They will still have had a great time.
CheersApr 27, 2009 at 9:27 pm #1497441
Very good point John- that didn't enter my thinking. After 3 months the worst all-nighters have passed but this would still be a big issue.
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