Since becoming a member of Hike it Baby I wanted to learn what the best gear was and what to avoid spending my hard-earned money on. I wondered how other families balance the want and the need of hiking gear, especially when it comes to infant/toddler/child equipment.
Balance. As a single parent and someone who loves to get outdoors with her little one I have learned the art of balancing in so many ways. Balancing parenthood and life in general. Balancing with a 30lb toddler on my back while hiking a slippery elevation. Balancing a budget in a whole new way.
I have also learned to love the $1 section at my local retailer and our local dollar store. However, before my child came into my life I had a taste for quality and durability when it came to gear and clothing. There are certain items needed for hiking that I do not want to have to buy again for many years. Quality is important. On the opposite end, there are items that I do not want to pay an arm and a leg for and don’t mind having to buy again if they do not last that long. Here is how I gear up for everyday walks in the park and trail hikes while keeping to a reasonable budget.
Things I have learned not to skimp on:
I bought a soft-structured carrier (SSC) when my son was born. I paid about $15 for it and used it once. It killed my back and my son was only 8lbs. Lesson learned. Go for a high-quality SSC that you can use around the house or out in the wilderness. Try before you buy at an official Babywearing Meeting or at a Hike it Baby get-together. I tried many before purchasing and was able to find mine at a clearance site.
I also purchased a hard-framed backpack carrier when my son was able to sit upright for longer periods of time away from my body. I bought a good quality name brand from a local classified ad to see if this type of carrier was something I would want to invest in. It was. I now own a very high quality framed backpack carrier that I was able to snag on a site for 25% off.
Velcro snack/drink cup grippers.
Who wants to continuously stop and pick up a kiddo’s dropped cup or toy on a hike? My little guy learned very early on how to pull up his dangling snack cup from our carrier and toys brought in a stroller don’t get dropped and left on the path.
I was given an amazing travel system as a baby shower gift. It was so great for popping the baby’s infant carseat to while going on walks around the neighborhood. It was not so great for bumps or gravel. I found an all-terrain jogging stroller that was compatible with my infant carseat on a warehouse deal from Amazon. My son quickly outgrew the carseat but we continue to use the stroller a year later.
Years ago I was improperly informed on how to buy hiking boots. I was told it was best to buy a size up so that thick socks could fit. I bought a cheap waterproof pair that I would double layer my socks in. This was ok for short 2-3 hour hikes once a month or so. However, when I began hiking every day I ended up with blistered and bloody feet. This led to a trip to my local outdoor specialty store during a sale on hiking boots. I went in knowing that I wanted a pair that was good for all-seasons (waterproof, breathable yet warm and above my ankle). I tried on 2 of the most expensive brands and the store brand and ended up loving the fit and feel of the store brand. Bonus! Great quality and fit my budget! If you can’t go to a store locally, make sure you order online from a company that guarantees satisfaction so that you can return them if they do not fit well from the start. You should not have to “break in” your shoes!
I received a great pair of hiking poles as a present and they have helped me accomplish hikes that I would have had a hard time with before. They can unscrew to adjust for when you aren’t using them which make them easy to keep in the car.
Stroller Rain Protector.
I bought a very cheap rain cover for our jogging stroller and after one night of it being stored in the car in below freezing temps the plastic cracked and rendered it useless. I bought a different cheap brand and it doesn’t fit without leaving some of the attachments undone. Useless. If you use your stroller quite a bit in winter and rainy season just bite the bullet and buy the expensive version made for your stroller. It can also double as a backpack carrier cover!
Mosquitoes LOVE me. Ticks are very attracted to my Dad. When we go out we spray our shoes/leg bottoms for tick repellent and I liberally apply repellent to any exposed skin on myself. I use Avon Skin So Soft on the kiddo for now and my cloud of repellent seems to keep the bugs off of him. We always do a tick check before getting in the car after a hike and showering when we get home for a double check for those nasty critters.
I have sun protector shirts and hats for my son but let’s face it, hats get pulled off and shirts can ride up or move. Always have sunblock on under the clothing and on the face. Even when they are in a carrier or stroller with a canopy they can still get sunburnt and that is no fun.
Items that I’ve learned NOT to spend an arm and a leg on:
Clearance sales for next season base layers, hats, mittens and wool socks.
I recently went to the clearance section at our local outdoor retailer and bought all of the end of season clearance items for next year. One size up base layers for the baby and size extra small wool socks (I use as mittens and leg warmers in the winter). I also scored extremely discounted hats and mittens. Now there will be no scramble to buy winter gear in a few months time. We are set and at a huge discount!
I used to have amazing polarized and uv protected sunglasses. I lost them once and when I replaced them with a second expensive pair they got cracked in our pack. Now I sport a $7 pair from Target and can barely tell a difference.
Water bladder bag.
I have been eyeballing the Camelbak water systems for a long time now but we get by with a plain bladder bag and bite straw that I fill and put in the back of our backpack carrier.
I use these to hang my keys on an umbrella stroller or SSC, water bottle from carriers, diaper clutch, purse, toy, hat etc hanger. I buy them at the dollar store.
Retractable card holder.
At the dollar store I bought a retractable badge/card holder. I keep my HiB business cards and other discount cards in it for easy reach to pass to prospective members. I also keep my driver’s license and cash if we are going on a longer hike.
First aid kit.
I make my own. I use a zippered pouch I had from a free makeup sample but a ziplock baggie would work too. Band-Aids and a roll of compression tape and gauze from the doctor’s office along with antibiotic ointment are light and compact in my little kit.
Plastic bags for water protection.
Trail guides and 2 diapers are kept in a gallon sized ziplock bag. On long treks I also throw an extra outfit. There is plenty of room if it does start pouring to put anything else in that needs water protection.
I stopped using my phone every 5 minutes to hold up and see how the little man is doing on my back. The mirror is fun for both of us and no draining my phone battery! We sell these in the Hike it Baby shop for $8!
I found a great deal on a sunshade canopy for our jogging stroller on Amazon. I had previously bought a fancy clip-on version with a UV sensor but it kept blowing around with the slightest breeze and had to be moved every time we switched directions.
Another dollar store find. Lightweight and can clip easily to a hook if doing an evening hike.
Travel sized roller can be used to remove ticks from clothing if you are like me and don’t like to touch them with your bare fingers
Also can clip to a hook for those hot hikes with no breeze.
Stick it in the mesh of your stroller or carrier and use it for other members to find you and to entertain your kiddo!
Huge bottles for kid-led walks can refill little bottles or just store in your stroller.
Also, check out our blog on how to dress for winter weather with some great money-saving tips here.
Stay tuned for more Hike it Baby Hacks!! How do YOU hike on a budget? What hacks do you have that make hiking easier on you and your little one(s)?
Christel Peters is the Branch Lead for HiB Spearfish and the Mama to Sebastian. When she isn’t chasing her adventurous toddler on the trails she is one of the Blog Editors for Hike it Baby. Do you have a story that should appear on our blog? Let us know!!