When my son, Mason, was born, I didn’t have very many friends with kids, so like many new moms, I joined a wonderful new mama group that I loved, but most of our time was spent indoors. No sooner had I joined when I began spending most of my time there daydreaming about being outside.

One day, my wanderlust got the best of me, and I asked a few women if they wanted to go walk with me in Forest Park, an urban park in Portland where there are easy trails I could negotiate in my early postpartum state. That first week, five women showed up. The next week, ten women showed up, then fifteen and so on.

Within a few weeks, it became clear that this was a way for new moms with kids to gather, get on trails, and spend time together. From there, the hikes started to quickly grow in popularity. Friends of friends would share pictures of hikes and soon, requests came flooding in from enthusiastic moms interested in how to start something similar. It wasn’t long before Hike it Baby was born.

How hats help keep families safe outside by Shanti Hodges for Hike it Baby

The idea for Hike it Baby was simple. Everyone needs nature, and my goal was to make it easier for families to get outdoors with their newborns, regardless of ability, fitness or hiking experience. Basically, Hike it Baby was a need that I saw in the outdoor world that wasn’t being filled for me—and so I built it.

Hike it Baby grew just as quickly as my son Mason, who is now 5 years old. And as the organization grew, we began connecting with like-minded companies committed to getting thousands of families out on a trail with children. 

About a year ago, we started talking to Sunday Afternoons, a 25+ year, family-run, technical headwear company based in Southern Oregon. Why hats? Well, one of the main reasons was practicality. As our family hikes became more and more frequent, we needed the right gear, and hiking without a hat was out of the question. But my son, like many infants, didn’t like hats, so I needed something that could clip onto his head and stay put. As Mason got older, he continued resisting hats because he was very particular about his style, so it was also important that he liked how they looked. When we sealed our partnership with Sunday Afternoons, I was excited, not only because I loved their kid-friendly designs, but also because I immediately saw how their kids’ hats would help everyone enjoy the outdoors longer.

How hats help keep families safe outside by Shanti Hodges for Hike it Baby

Sunday Afternoons Kids’ Hats feature innovations for little ones that just make practical sense, like Smartstrap chin straps that keep hats on and sun-protective neck coverage. They are packable and washable and have super cool designs like the Artist Series Trucker Hats that get us a million comments whenever wear them. It’s easy to see why our community loves Sunday Afternoons!

Beyond Sunday Afternoons’ products, one of the things that felt right from the start was an alignment of values around our love of the outdoors and family heritage. Sunday Afternoons was founded by Angeline and Robbin Lacy, parents who loved taking their family hiking, picnicking, windsurfing, and adventuring around the Northwest. Angeline started making blankets for her family so they could comfortably enjoy adventures together outdoors.

Before long, the Adventure Blanket was a hit, and Robbin and Angeline began selling them to families attending festivals on the weekends. Sales soared and the scraps from the blankets started to pile up. As true inventors, they decided to use the scraps to make sun-protective hats for adults and kids. The hats evolved and customers were thrilled. An entire business was built to shade the whole family.

I founded Hike it Baby in much the same way. As a new mom looking for a way to stay active and get outdoors with my baby, it became clear that a big part of the Hike it Baby community was a chance to make connections and seek out advice from other parents (especially moms) on what products improved the experience of getting outside with kids.

One of the things I have grown to really appreciate about the Hike it Baby community is its authenticity. When a parent asks what outdoor gear works best, everyone chimes in with their opinion. Sunday Afternoons has always been a “go-to” piece of gear in the Hike it Baby community because they make a product that we really believe in and have tested thoroughly. Connecting with the Sunday Afternoons team has been a natural fit.

Why do we love these hats? Because they are tried and true. We can personally tell you stories of how they have been beaten up by faithful wearers, handed down from older to younger kiddos, shoved into packs filled with cheddar bunnies and squeezie packs, dropped in mud puddles, stomped on in sand, covered in baby burps and who knows what else. It also means these hats are kid-approved, and they will happily wear them, rain or shine.

How hats help keep families safe outside by Shanti Hodges for Hike it Baby

8 Reasons Why Hats are a Must-Have Gear

  1. You don’t need to use as much sunscreen on your kiddo when you have a hat.
  2. They look cool when you have crappy matted-down hiking hair.
  3. They can keep the rain, snow, sleet and sun at bay and let you be outside longer.
  4. They make it easy to play peek-a-boo when your baby is having a meltdown and you need something to distract him/her.
  5. They give you something for your toddler to hold when you need to keep their hands busy.
  6. Place your hat on baby’s head and there’s no need for a nursing cover if you are shy.
  7. You can form a total “mom squad” and all rock the same hat if you want to look like a hike army! You might have noticed our 10k Trailblazers all wearing Sunday Afternoon hats.
  8. They support Hike it Baby (we have a hat coming out with Sunday Afternoons later this year, so stay tuned for that!).

This originally appeared on Sunday Afternoons on July 13, 2018.

Photo credits: Tais Kulish, Molly Porzel and Deanna Curry

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