Suiting Up: Preparing for Hiking with a Baby


Keep it healthy for you

  • Bring at least 1 L water per hour you plan to be out! More if it’s hot. Thirst is an early sign of dehydration!
  • Consider drinking electrolytes if you’ll be sweating and hiking extensively. You can buy several drinks with these, the most famous of which is Gatorade.
  • Carbohydrates will give you immediate energy. Gels and Gel Blocks are available at most sport stores, and can be taken with water, to provide an instant energy boost. Pack more complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein for longer lasting energy. Consider bringing snacks like cheese sticks, peanut butter, and dried fruit.
  • Stretch before and after hiking
    • Calf Stretch: While one foot is firmly planted on the ground, lower the heel of the other foot over the edge of a step or curve, until you feel a stretch in the calf. Repeat with other side.
    • Quadricep Stretch: While the left foot is firmly planted on the ground, pull the right foot up to the right buttock, bending completely at the knee. The top part of the leg should point straight down. Repeat with other side.
    • Hamstring Stretch: While the left foot is firmly planted on the ground, extend the right leg, resting it a step in front of you, with the heel down and toes pointing up. With the back flat, lower the body, bending the left knee and lowering the torso down towards the leg until a stretch is felt in the right hamstring. To extend the stretch, lower the right toe. Repeat with other side.
    • Hip Abductor Stretch: Lie on the back, with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh, then use leg muscles to push the right knee away from the body. Clasp the left shin and pull the left leg towards the belly, until a stretch is felt. Repeat with other side.
    • Lower back stretch: Lie on your back, with bent knees held close to chest. Slowly move knees to the left, while attempting to keep hips square to the floor – knees will move off of the chest and right hip will move up slightly. Extend right arm straight to the side and look to the right. Repeat with other side.
  • Focus on good posture. Before you start the hike, stand up straight and focus on the placement of the hips, pelvis, back, shoulders, and neck. It should be a goal to maintain this vertical placement throughout the hike, without tension in the shoulders and neck. Taking stretch breaks or reaching to the sky occasionally throughout the hike, can help to maintain this.
  • Focus on working aerobically; avoid going anaerobic. Aerobic training means that there is adequate oxygen to fuel your workout. Anaerobic training means that there is not adequate oxygen, and as a result, metabolism switches, resulting in lactic acid formation, which can make muscles sore. Your breathing rate will naturally increase as your workout gets more challenging; if your workout is aerobic, but not yet anaerobic, you should be able to maintain a light conversation while exercising. If you find yourself gasping for air over an extended period, then your workout may be going anaerobic.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug repellant.
  • Wear a hat and shades.
  • Wear clothing in layers.
  • Avoid local hazards such as ticks and poison oak (see Stroller Hikes’ Safety Page . Also be aware of other hazards that are usually posted at trailheads, often along with advice on how to avoid or deal with them (for instance, carrying pepper spray to fend off a cougar or bear).

Keep it healthy for baby

    • Are you thirsty? Your child may be too!
    • Limit sun exposure. My pediatrician said it was best to avoid sunscreen on my son’s skin, as it was so thin. Check with your doctor to see when you can start using sunscreen. In the meantime, dress your baby in clothes that cover his/her skin, without making him/her uncomfortably hot. Use the shade on your stroller when possible, and introduce your child to hats and sunglasses. If the shade on your stroller doesn’t cover the entire top of the stroller, bring a thin blanket / piece of fabric and a couple chip clips to affix the fabric to the edge of your stroller shade. This works really well for blocking all sun when your hike has you changing directions often or you are hiking when the sun is directly overhead.
    • Reduce jostling. Most of baby’s skeletal system may still be growing, but it’s still important to avoid too much shaking. Use your best judgment to do this – if you see a pothole, root, or change in trail conditions, slow down. When moving from pavement to gravel, gradually increase your speed to a standard pace, so you have a chance to watch your child and determine if the bumps are unsettling or not. For very small children, consider purchasing an additional seat liner with extra cushions around the neck and head. This greatly reduces lateral movement for small babies when they do not have sufficient neck control to right their heads after a big bump, on a trail or in the car. It can also help them keep their heads upright when they nod off, rather than slumped to the side.
    • Use brakes on hills. Hills pose a hazard that I would have never considered, before hiking with a baby. Strollers tend to be fairly heavy, and on an incline they provide a lot of resistance training. This is great, but right when you’re ready to take a break and move a bit faster going downhill, that weight on wheels can be dangerous! Go slow in steep regions, and use hand brakes if they are available. You can also traverse the hill as you go down, thereby making the hike less steep. If your stroller comes with a tether, use it!
    • Take breaks from the stroller / carrier. Be sure to take a break from baby when on a hike. Take off the carrier or backpack, park the stroller, relax, and stretch. You will likely realize how your posture has changed during the hike; prolonged poor posture can lead to injury, so straighten up and relax! Similarly, baby’s body could use a break if the hike is longer than an hour. Bring a pad or blanket and let baby lay on his/her back or roll around.
    • Dress in layers that are easy to remove or add, or use blankets.

Keep it healthy for the environment

    • Pack out all of your trash unless trash cans are clearly marked.
    • Use marked trails only.
    • Do not pick plants, rocks, or wildlife to take with you.
    • Do not feed wildlife (unless you can purchase appropriate food for them, as at some farms or petting zoos).

Pick the Best Baby Transportation Device for You, Baby, and the Trail

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    • Conventional stroller: A four-wheel stroller with small, hard plastic wheels that pivot, and brakes at the wheels. No hand brake that can be gradually applied and released. Hard plastic wheels mean that there is little shock absorption, and small wheels makes going over obstacles is difficult. Work best on flat, paved surfaces. There are strollers of this kind for all ages of babies.
    • Baby Jogger: A three-wheel stroller with large air-filled rubber wheels. Usually come with a hand brake that can be gradually applied and released. Rubber wheels absorb shock well, meaning gravel and dirt paths can be comfortable terrain. Large wheels make it easy to navigate bumps. Single front tire can make it easier to pick a path in the outdoors. Usually come with a tether than can be attached to the adult, so the stroller cannot roll away if the adult stops suddenly. There are strollers of this kind for all ages of babies; an infant seat adapter can be purchased for younger babies.
    • Backpack (and trekking poles in hilly regions): Much like an external-frame backpacking gear pack, this hold the baby on the adult’s back, providing a fabric seat, leg holes, and open top. Babies control their own head and upper torso placement, so this is only suitable for older babies that have good neck control (manufacturers recommend 6 months or older). Because the adult carries this weight on the back and hips, it is recommended that the adult wear good foot and ankle support and use trekking poles to add body support.
    • Baby carriers: Several fabric carriers exist; the most suitable for hiking is the front-pack, the most popular of which is the Baby Bjorn. Like the backpack, it has leg holes and the top is open, but it come with arm holes as well. It is made of soft fabric that can be adjusted to fit snug to the adult, so there is little room for movement by the baby. There are carriers of this kind suitable for all ages of babies. It is recommended that the adult wear a back brace when using the carrier, to maintain good back posture, reducing pain from long-term use.
 
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