7 Tips for Successful Hiking with Littles

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Mom on a hiking trail with a toddler by her side and a baby on her back in a backpack style carrier

I have always been drawn to nature. I love camping, hiking, and honestly, being outside just sometimes helps my stress levels decrease and gives me some mental clarity. Once I became a mom, I knew I wanted to continue these traditions with my children. My boys’ ages are 3 years and 8 months old. For the last couple of years, although I am still learning, I have collected some wisdom for day hikes and nature walks. As a mom who works only a few hours a week, I am mostly home with my boys. These nature walks have become part of our weekly routine in every season. Whether I am solo parenting or joining a group of friends, I have learned how to make hiking trips successful for our family.

7 Tips for Successful Hiking with Littles:

  1. Wear a supportive infant/child carrier. I have found that for these trips, wearing my infant (or my toddler) on my back is more supportive. Since I am carrying an infant and bringing just enough supplies for ourselves, I have a hiking backpack that carries a child and has storage space attached. We use our Kelty Journey backpack and it works well for us. The structure and support of the carrier help me feel like I can tackle these adventures alone, and still have fun without being completely winded from carrying everything (and everyone). 
  2. Bring plenty of snacks and water. This may seem obvious to a parent of toddlers, and I am here to say we have avoided lots of meltdowns and requests to be carried based on having a good snack on hand. When my toddler starts slowing down or showing signs of crankiness, it’s time for a snack break. Apple slices, granola bars, hard-boiled eggs, and other items that are easy to eat, won’t take up a lot of space in your backpack and don’t create much waste that you have to carry back are great. Also, the snacks are helpful for me too! 
  3. Lightweight backup clothes and supplies. Assuming you’re only going to be gone for a few hours, I have found it helpful to pack a light set of clothes for my toddler and infant. No jeans or heavy pants or sweaters since it’s just me carrying it. Usually, this includes a lightweight pair of pants and socks for the toddler and an extra outfit for the infant. Just in case someone gets wet or has an accident, it won’t require us to turn around and run back to the car. I also only bring one diaper and a set of wipes, just in case my infant needs to be changed. Most of the time diapers with pee can wait until we get back to the car. The wipes can come in handy in case your toddler needs sticky or muddy hands wiped off. 
  4. Make sure everyone has dressed accordingly. If it’s cold, dress warm, if it’s wet, wear waterproof. A general rule I go by is to dress my kids in something that they will be okay in if they either get wet or cold. No matter the season. 
  5. Keep safety in mind. This could mean different things depending on how long or short you plan on being out as well as the ages of your kids. With a toddler and infant, I look at the trail map before I show up or start the hike. It is not fun being stuck on a trail with exhausted littles with no end in sight. Also, know if your route includes bodies of water so you can prepare your kids to watch out, and avoid any water-related accidents. Dress your littles in bright colors so they are easily spotted in case they run ahead. A high visibility hat or vest can be an easy and affordable fix if they don’t have bright-colored clothes or jackets. In the summer, spring, and fall seasons, we also make sure to do a thorough tick check when we are done.   
  6. Be realistic with your expectations. Gauge all your energy levels and set your hike accordingly. Also, if your kids like to walk the trail, or stay in one spot to play, that’s okay! It doesn’t have to be a commitment to start to finish the trail. Be flexible.  
  7. Leave while you are still having fun. This one is important. If you wait until you are all exhausted and stressed, then you are going to leave the experience not wanting to do it again. This is meant to be a fun pastime with your kids and to relieve stress, not create it. If you leave while everyone is still feeling good, you’re going to build the confidence of being able to do this with your kids, and build their confidence too.

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