Last spring my husband and I talked about backpacking with our one-year-old, but the logistics seemed a little overwhelming, especially because our little guy wasn’t a great sleeper. So instead we decided to glamp it, but still get on parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (and other trails surrounding) for a week. Instead of heading to the Gorge, which is close to us, we opted for Southern Oregon, just above Crater Lake in a much less traveled area called Toketee Lake. We choose this spot because it had a number of trails leading just out of the campground ensuring if our little one was having a bad day, we didn’t need to drive to a trailhead, we could just zip our tent closed, throw the carrier on and head out.
1. HIKES WHICH WERE ONCE EASY FOR YOU ARE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT WHEN YOU HAVE A LITTLE ONE
My first piece of advice if you want to hit some trails with a little one is no matter how hearty a hiker you are, your life on trail slows way down with a baby. It’s dictated by the mood of your child that day and this can change quickly as you know. Plan easier hikes, with options to add more on if all is going well.
2. LOOK FOR EASY CAMPING SPOTS WITH TRAILS NEARBY
What was great about the Toketee Lake area was not only an easy campground to slide into, but also just up the road there was a hot springs, so if weather was not co-operating, we could still have a fun warm destination point on our hike. Not everyone is comfortable taking little ones in the hot springs for fear of bacteria and heat and those are things to be aware of, so obviously try to minimize water in the mouth and be aware of the heat. If it’s hot for you, it’s even hotter for your little one. At Umpqua we found a nice range in pools to dip in with Mason. If there is going to be driving to trails, make sure it’s not long drives.
3. THINK ABOUT WEATHER AND HOW A TRAIL CHANGES IN RAIN AND HAIL
A trail can seem pretty easy until a little weather blows in. Take note of this as you head out for a hike. On our last day at Toketee Lake some light rain came in and we did a little hiking that day, but the trails were definitely more slick. Ideally you want to make sure you always have stable footing when carrying baby, especially if it’s a new trail for you. As you head out, think about how long the hike you plan to do is actually going to take. And remember if you head out for 60 minutes, you have to hike back a similar distance.
4. DON’T SKIP THE NAPS
Just because your camping and trying to get some good sections of the PCT covered, you don’t have a hall pass to skip naps. We were pretty fortunate in that Mason has been a good sleeper on us for the most part, but not always and lately I have noticed this changing. Do you hike a lot with your little one on you? Then you should be fine. If not, start small. Think about starting early in the morning and making it back to camp by naptime. Break hikes up into smaller ones. Use the car time for naps. So one hike in the morning then drive to another spot and hike in the afternoon.
5. PLAN FOR LESS, BE EXCITED FOR MORE
When headed out on our hikes we look at all of the options around us and plan a day of long hiking followed by a day of a short hike or two. This way if you do make it on a long one and your baby cooperates, the next day you have a rest. This will allow you to enjoy more days on trail. Babies need recovery time and can’t go, go, go. Spend your first day scouting things by car. Look for easy outs to roads. The nice thing about a lot of sections of the Pacific Crest Trail is you can do it in small chunks and there are lots of outs. If you are with others on your camp trip, look for where you can shuttle so you can get a longer hike in.
Have you gone camping with your baby? How did it go? Tell us your tips/tricks here!!
Shanti is the Founder of Hike it Baby and loves to share her tips for getting outdoors with little ones!