“I want to go home!” whined my almost 3-year-old as he sat down in a huff on the trail. My usually adventurous little dude had lost his desire to explore, and I couldn’t blame him. It was a hot, humid summer morning in upstate New York, and we were only about a half-mile into our hike. I realized then that I had made a number of mistakes when planning this adventure: 1) I chose a trail that had little shade and no water, 2) We started the hike later than expected and it got hot FAST, and 3) There wasn’t enough water. I decided to forgo the rest of the hike, strapped my kiddo on my back in a carrier, and quickly made my way back to the air-conditioned car. I needed to re-think and better prepare for hiking in summer and the weather it brings!

How to keep kiddos cool on trail when hiking in summer by Becca Hosley for Hike it Baby

Whether you are hiking, camping, playing at the beach or taking in a gorgeous sunset, summer is a wonderful time of year for families to enjoy outdoor fun in the sun. However, as temperatures increase, it can be hard to enjoy the outdoors with the constant “it’s too hot!” complaints coming from our tiniest explorers. Whether you have a baby in a carrier or an older child, here are some tips and tricks from our Hike it Baby community for keeping your kiddos cool on the trail in summer.

Location and timing are everything

  • We started doing shorter toddler walking/carrier hikes to alpine lakes where we can take a nice break to cool down! – Shari, Reno-Tahoe, NV
  • I have a 1.5-year-old who is mostly in the carrier. We go early in the morning to beat the bugs and heat, and typically go for a trail with a water source. This time of year, we stay away from the beaches because of tourists, so we cool off in streams and freshwater ponds. – Lauren, Rhode Island
  • We go in the morning and try for shaded trails or trails near a splash pad for the kids to get wet after. I also want to add that kids who wake up at the crack of dawn helps. LOL – Tracy, Louisville, KY
  • Water parks and shorter hikes that begin or end somewhere with A/C, such as a coffee shop. – Jeannie, Kansas City, MO
  • We include water of some sort in most of our hot-weather hikes. Hikes that don’t include a water element start earlier. I like to be done or onto the water portion by 10:30 a.m. We wear loose-fitting natural fibers and hats. And of course, we pack plenty of water. We usually fill our water bladder with ice on hot days. – Courtney, Charleston/Lowcountry, SC
  • Peppermint oil on the back of the neck! Hikes near creeks or shaded places. We also tend to hike earlier in the morning, but we are from the land of the midnight sun. So it’s hot all day! – Juliana, Fairbanks, AK

Carrier tricks

  • When putting the kids in soft carriers, I tend to strip them down to just shorts (and sunscreen). That way they have fewer layers. Mine get super hot easily and this seems to help. In strollers (if they let me), a muslin blanket helps shade them and keep bugs out. – Tracey, Anchorage, AK
  • A towel wrapped in an ice pack between baby and me while I wear her. – Martha, Annapolis, MD
  • For my son, I 86 the pants and shoes and utilize the sunshade on our pack. I carry a water bladder that we share to keep us hydrated and him entertained. – Lauren, Rhode Island
  • My second child was born in May and she went hiking a lot her first 6 months. I could not have lived without our Luv Bug UPF towel. It is thin and light, has a hood, and is UPF 50+. I’d have baby in a onesie, put her in our wrap, put the towel hood over her head, tie the side corners around my waist, and then tuck the bottom corner under the carrier. Her entire body was protected from the sun and we were both comfy! – Vanessa, San Diego, CA
  • I’d use the Osprey sun shade so she didn’t have to wear a hat.– Sandy, South King County, WA
  • The mesh Lillebaby toddler carrier has helped keep us cool on long hikes. – Cherise, Eugene, OR
  • For carriers, I stick to single layer carries in a cotton or linen woven wrap and ring slings, and my husband uses a Kinderpack with koolknit. While babywearing in the heat, especially with younger babies, dressing them in one less layer of clothing than yourself (often just a diaper) and frequent breaks are the best way to prevent over heating. – Courtney, Charleston/Lowcountry, SC

Clothing and accessories to keep you cool

  • Two favorites: misters and umbrellas. I bought this professional hair mister on Amazon. It provides continuous fine mist for 3 seconds each spray. I’ve found some pretty cool pump misters on lanyards at the county fair; there’s so many misters you can’t just have one. Evapotranspiration baby. Also a rain umbrella shades you and baby WAY better than the hat they will pull off. – Christine, Reno-Tahoe, NV
  • We have been using a Luv Bug towel with a hood. SPF 50 makes me feel like he’s protected on the beach and in the sun. When we hike in full sun, we toss it over him. If you get it wet first, it adds a layer of cooling moisture. It’s a swimsuit-like material so it’s very lightweight. – Kyla, Vancouver, WA
  • Frogg Togg neck coolers, a portable fan that can clip on either stroller, frame carrier and even SSCs. If I can find breathable sunshirts, I try to use those. I keep myself as cool as possible so I’m not sweating on them. I sometimes wear a sun shirt that is very breathable meant for horseback riding. – Keira, Lexington, KY
  • Hats, popsicles, Frogg Toggs! – Mindy, Myrtle Beach/Conway, SC
  • I’ve been known to soak the hat before putting it on to keep my 3-year-old cool. Also, use bandanas you can get wet and wear around your neck. It’s not heat-related exactly but I also prefer using a zinc stick sunscreen on my kids’ faces (mine too). I’ve found it runs less with sweat than other options even if they do look like Casper when I put it on. – Jeannie, Kansas City, MO

How to keep kiddos cool on trail when hiking in summer by Becca Hosley for Hike it Baby

Cold snacks

  • End with getting ice cream! – Juliana, Fairbanks, AK
  • Cold, juicy fruits to snack on. – Martha, Annapolis, MD
  • Frozen yogurt tubes are our go-to summer snack. While on the trail they melt a bit but still end up being a cool snack. – Jennifer, Houston, TX
  • Frozen grapes! – Lacey, Kanai Peninsula, AK

Be prepared

  • I’d carry 3+ liters of water for a day hike, 2 liters in a bladder and the other in a water bottle. Leave a couple hydroflasks in the car full of ice water for a refreshing drink when you get back to the trailhead! Hike to lakes so you can all cool off when you have lunch and bring extra socks for yourself, putting sweaty wool socks back on is terrible. – Sandy, South King County, WA
  • We like to freeze small Gatorade bottles and take them with us to enjoy in the middle of the hike or at the top of a peak. They are super refreshing! We also try to keep a small cooler with colder drinks and snacks in the car to enjoy a picnic after the hike. Be sure to know the signs of heat exhaustion and how to treat it just in case. – Becca, Kistsap Peninsula, WA

How do you keep your little explorers cool on the trail in summer? Let us know in the comments below!

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Photos by Kyla Phillips and Arika Bauer.

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