Backpacking: Baby on Board

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Backpacking: Baby on Board

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    Addie Bedford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    Companion forum thread to:

    Backpacking: Baby on Board

    Mary D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge

    Many congratulations to Nick, Fany and Flora for a great trip! You were obviously making it Flora's trip, which was as it should be.

    Someone posted just yesterday wondering how your trip went, which set me to wondering too–and today, here's your article! Thank you very much for taking the time to write up such a thorough and delightful trip report!

    David Noll
    BPL Member


    Locale: Maroon Bells

    I really enjoyed your report. Sometime in the future my wife and I hope to do that trip.

    Bob Bankhead
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon, USA

    What a great way to bond a family.

    Your daughter has obviously been cursed with parents who love her. She will just have to get used to it. You can remind her of this fact – as we did with both of ours – when she reaches the terrible tweens. She learn soon enough that not all children are so fortunate.

    Happy trails.

    Mark McLauchlin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Australia

    Very inspiring, and to think I have hesitations about taking my 4 year old son out.

    Well done, you should all feel very proud.


    Larry Dyer


    Locale: Texas

    Very nice read. Very inspiring.

    Steven Evans
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canada

    Love it! Way to go!

    Laurence Beck
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Your baby is beautiful! What are your plans when the baby gets too heavy to carry? My friends have one that they take backpacking as well. He is 15 months old now so next summer he may be too heavy.

    Kris Hofmans


    great story, beautifil pictures, wonderful smiles.
    maybe i'll see you next summer in the Pyrenees
    or probably a bit earlier :-)

    Tony Burnett


    Locale: OH--IO

    >>What are your plans when the baby gets too heavy to carry?

    With my children (now, 6, 9, 12), once they hit about 2yo, we had to change our plans a bit. Shorter hikes and base-camping like trips. Once they hit 4-5yo, we were able to start "backpacking" again, though the days were typically limited to 4miles or less. But we have done as many as 6.5mi with a 4yo, but that was on the way out over fairly easy terrain. So, the thought of pizza helps makes the miles fly by.

    The key for my family is to make sure the children have "fun" once they reach the stop for the night. Water, big rocks to climb on, bugs, frogs, etc. If we were to stop at a boring wooded site with nothing nearby but sticks to collect and burn, it makes for a tougher trip. The key is to scout out the location before you make your trip with the children so you know what is available, how difficult the terrain might be, etc.

    Nemesio Rodriguez-Fernandez


    Locale: Spain-France

    Congratulations. Great trip.
    By the way, I don't see sunglasses for the baby in your list.
    You did not take them?

    Pieter Kaufman


    Great article!

    Tony, thanks for the insight.

    I've been wondering about this, as my son is 14 months old, and already almost 27 lbs (he's tall). In his first year, he spent more time in a sling than a stroller (and I'd say the authors are correct that there are so many benefits to keeping your infant in a sling rather than a stroller or pram), and hiking was easy. But soon, he's going to be simply too heavy, but not grown enough to be able to do any sustained hiking at anything other than a snail's pace. That he's a ridiculously curious little guy who stops at every flower or plant or rock makes progress that much slower (but more enjoyable too!).

    I'd love to hear other parents' comments on the adjustment from infant to competent hiking-age child.

    On another note, it's great to know that there are other parents who aren't afraid to get their infants out in the world. Our son was visiting our favorite local park as early as six days old, and he's remained eminently healthy, with a wonderful, curious, sweet disposition, and is highly social. I think partly because of the way we kept him out in the world, he's also an extremely well behaved child, and can manage 14 hour flights, cheap and fine restaurants, off road in the snow in the desert, and long on and off road trips with no real problems. I can't encourage the type of activities the authors are writing about enough. I really do think it makes for wonderful, well-rounded, well-adapted children.

    Ruth Dobsevage


    You've captured the flavor of several peak experiences: backpacking, Europe, life with a new baby. As an AT section hiker and new grandma, I can most certainly relate. Your daughter is one very lucky person.

    Nick Meynen


    Nemesio: we did not take sunglasses for our baby. Her eyes (and all the rest) were always in the shadow of her hat and usually also the shadow of the umbrella and as we did not walk on snow I think she did not need any. By the time the sun was getting really bright we usually arrived on our destination anyway. But its a good suggestion, especially in case you're going to walk in a highly reflective environment.

    Glad to see the report inspires people!

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    What a great report. That's for writing it up. I am glad that your family could have such an awesome adventure together. My family stopped backpacking and limited camping trips in the diaper era because we thought that was going to complicate things too much. I am still not sure whether we were wrong, or this is one of those different people have tolerance for difficult levels of change. Your example is certainly a challenge and in invitation to consider our boundaries. Thanks.


    Christopher Kuzmich


    What a cool trip!

    As a new father (Whitney is 2.5 weeks old), I am looking forward to a new stlye of backpacking. Your article is an inspiration for my wife and I.

    We are looking at an overnight car camping trip, then an overnight backpacking trip to hone our technique.

    Was this your first overnight backpack with her, or did you do shorter trail runs?


    Jonathan DeYoung


    Locale: New England

    What a great trip. Flora sure seems happy to be along for the hike. I hope to get my 1 year old out in the summer for some nice day hikes (by then he will be 1 1/2 and I am sure i will be chasing him down the trails!)

    how did she do sleeping aside from that 1 night of screaming for 22 minutes?

    Tony Wong
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Great article and cute photos of your family.

    Your daughter is lucky to have you as parents who are getting her exposed and comfortable with the outdoors at a young age.

    My daughter is now 6.5 yrs old, but we have been taking her out on short weekend trips (3 days the longest so far) since she was 2.5 yrs old.

    After my daughter, Mei, turned 3 yrs old, it was a mix of having her walk with us and me carrying her on my shoulders with her grabbing hand fulls of my hair to hold on…or my ears. :)

    In my case, my daughter is small/light (she is only 42 lbs now as a 6.5 yr old) it was not too hard to carry her on my shoulders while she was 22 lb to 30 lbs.

    I thought of it as carrying a "normal" load of 40-50 lbs.

    My experience matches much of what Tony Burnett has said….find a good place to camp at with a nice "pay off".

    A lake is a great place to let play in the water…small boulders to climb on or around are favorites for my daughter.

    Expect a pace of no more than 1 mile an hour with plenty of breaks.

    The longest that my daughter has hiked has been 5.5 miles in one day while she was maybe 4 yrs old, but that was with a group of some eight other kids.

    The more children around the same age, the better.

    They keep each other motivated and "distracted" so that they will just fly down the trail.

    Other things that I have found out that works for us is that my daughter has a small day pack from REI that has a 0.5 Liter hydration system.

    I put in some powdered drink in there, which allows Mei to drink as she pleases and we don't have to stop to give her water.

    Also, having her carry her own "treasure" mesh bag is a nice distraction.

    She has picked up a few small, pretty rocks, flowers, and stuffed them into her treasure bag to look at later. This sometimes can be a nice distraction or game to play for her to look for something on the trail.

    One of the things that she enjoyed the most was while in the Santa Cruz mountains, she was hunting for yellow banana slugs…thankfully, she was not putting them in her treasure bag.

    As Mei has gotten older, I have done night time treasure hunts by taking chocolate "coins" with us to hide around the campsite for her to find.

    Small glow sticks attached to a string are fun to at night for other children and her to play with.

    Involve your daughter in some of the camp chores as she gets older…llike gathering fire wood.

    My daughter loves to put wood in the fire.

    Surprisingly, my daughter runs really warm…maybe most kids do. As a result, I have often only used my 40 F down sleeping bag for her to use, tucking the excess/unused part of the bag under her. She has burried herself inside of the bag and with her clothing on, she has been warm and toasty, even in chilly weather. (it might seem disturbing to have your child "suffocating" deep inside the bag, but my daugther has been fine).

    Also, my daughter does not seem to care if she is sleeping on a thermarest pad or a foam pad…hell, even without a pad (as a result of tossing and turning she often is off the pad), so don't worry about needing to use a heavy, cushy pad for your child.

    For safety, I have given my daugher her own headlight, which she keeps in her pack and I have a large orange safety whistle for her. We make her now carry her own rain gear, fleece jacket, hat, gloves, and a few snacks…nothing too heavy but everything she needs to be safe if separated from us for a short time.

    She has been taught to always have it around her neck and if she is separated from us, she will stay where she is and to blow it three times and wait for us to use our whistles to respond back with two sharp blows. We have drilled this into her head quite a bit and had her practice a few times blowing it. (At first she was hesitant to blow on it for fear of being to loud for people around her….we have her carry this whistle when we go on vacations too even when we are in urban areas).

    Anyway, just ranting here about what I can think of that might help you out.

    Would love to hear what other parents have to pass on as advice.

    P.S. The Rainshadow 2 Tarptent has been a great and recent addition for us as a family.



    Wow. That was inspiring just by looking at the pictures. The baby must've bonded well with the mother.

    Tad Englund
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Nick, glad to see the trip turned out well- I knew it would. Thanks for the report and especially the pictures.

    Art Sandt


    Oh look. It's those… ** This post has been edited as it was a bit tasteless. – sharalds **

    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Oregon

    Thanks for taking the time to write up your trip!

    My wife is due in January and we've been discussing summer hiking trips with the baby. It's encouraging to see others out doing the same. I hope to instill a love for nature very early on : )

    Kathy A Handyside
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Michigan

    To the question of whether this was a great family trip or a bad idea, I say look at the smiles on little Flora's face – that should tell you that it was a great idea for her and her parents!

    What a wonderful story! I'd love to be Nick's and Fany's daughter! :)

    Marek Janda


    Great report, thank you very much for writing it.

    We were often thinking about you during summer, wondering how it turned out. And it's nice to know everything went ok.
    And her smile is really amazing…she must have had great time there.

    And about the bug bite…you're lucky it "only" bit her…few weeks later, she would probably try to eat it :-)

    Erin McKittrick
    BPL Member


    Locale: Seldovia, Alaska

    Congratulations! Now off to plan my next expedition with a 1.5 year old…

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