Hike it Baby works so well for people because, first and foremost, we are conscious of safety on trail when we gather together. We watch each others children and we are clear in suggesting if a hike is carrier only or if it can be toddler-led. That said, whether hiking with a group or hiking on your own, here are a few safety tips to think about when choosing the trail and thinking about gear.
1. Your Child’s Mood
How is your child feeling today? You may have a carrier-only hike planned, but if your child is not interested in being carried, you might need to modify and look for a more toddler friendly trail. Toddler-friendly means trails that are wide and where kids can run on without risk of steep terrain drops. It also may mean adjusting your expectations on how far and steep you hike that day.
2. Trail Hazards
Make sure you understand the hazards on the trail. Is there cell service? Is there a good turn around point that you can note? Have you been on this trail before? Is it open and exposed where weather come in quickly? Are there bears, moose, rattlesnakes? Are there mountain bikes, horses, or trail runners? These are all helpful things to know ahead of time so you can properly prepare.
3. Hiking Experience
How comfortable are you with hiking? Are you new at it? Did you hike a lot pre-baby? Now that you have baby it will be different, so think about what adjustments you need to make in gear and expectations. If you’re brand new, go with a group or take it slow.
What kind of carrier do you have? Make sure you have a good carrier for the age your child is. Make sure he/she can’t arch out of the carrier or slide out of straps.
Do you have good footwear? Sneakers are comfy for flat trails, but as you get into steeper trails and hiking with weather and unstable muddy, root-covered, rocky terrain, it’s important to make sure you have correct footwear for the trail.
7. Trail Knowledge
Have you been on the trail before or are you with someone who knows it? A preliminary web search on the trail can help, but keep in mind that often guides and reviews are not considering a parent carrying a 15-35 pound child. Trail guides may also not have information about stroller accessibility, steep drop offs or water access — which all contribute to safety when hiking with younger children and babies.
Did you check the forecast? In places like Colorado, weather can start out sunny and 70 and drop to freezing temps or lightening storms over the course of a couple hours. In Oregon, we have a lot of rain which can quickly change a stable trail to an unstable trail. Know your weather patterns for your area and take them seriously. Never hesitate to turn around early if the weather changes quickly, or if you’re unsure if it is safe to continue.
9. Medical Essentials
Accidents happen and kids (and adults) occasionally get scrapes, stings or bruises on the trail. Carry a small first aid kit, even if it only contains band aids, duct tape, a safety pin, gauze and first aid tape. With these, you can mend cuts and minor issues until you get to somewhere to get more help. Adventure Medical Kits make great, compact kits pre-filled with anything you may need on the trail.
10. Light, Water, Food
If you are hiking in the latter part of the day, carry a small headlamp or pen light. Why? If a hike takes longer than expected and you end up in the dark, getting back to your car will happen a lot faster and safer if you have light. Also make sure you have water and extra snacks so you’re fueled up and hydrated if the hike takes longer than expected.
Lastly, make sure someone knows where you are going and when they should expect you to arrive back. Consider purchasing an emergency beacon ($200-300) if you plan on hiking further out. With these you can send a message in the case of a serious emergency. There are less expensive options if you will be in cell range and you can also set your smart phone with a “find me” option.
Whether you’re a seasoned or beginner hiker, these tips will help you stay safe while hiking with your little ones. What safety tips would you add to this list? What questions do you have about safety on the trips? Comment below!
Hike it Baby hikes are hosting by volunteers who have no professional training and are not experts to guide families on hikes. They are people who want to raise a generation to love the outdoors and they accomplish this by facilitating outings for all to join. Our tips are gathered from collective experience. As with any physical activity, please be sure to check with your healthcare provider and other experts when hiking with your children.
Some of the brands listed in this piece are sponsors of Hike it Baby. We may have received financial compensation and/or product from the company but did not ask for this for inclusion in this blog. We are writing this blog based on personal experience. We do not review products we have not personally used. We stand behind all of the products we share with you because we think they will make your life on trail a little bit easier. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Shanti Hodges is the founder of Hike it Baby. She started the organization so she could find other families to hike safely with her and Mason when the husband was away at work. This blossomed into Hike it Baby as we know it today!