Greetings from the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, AKA Minnesota, AKA the Land of Ten Zillion
Yes, Minnesota is known for its miles upon miles of untouched wilderness, pristine lakes, silver winters, and magical summers. But this state, filled with so much outdoor paradise, also has an unofficial state bird; the mosquito.
As an avid outdoors-woman who is, married to an avid outdoors-man, grooming our son to be a true outdoors-kid, the mosquitoes have always been a challenge while hiking, camping, or even spending a day at one of the many lakes here in Minnesota. As a California girl, born and bred, mosquitoes were never really a problem for me. Sure, California has its fair share of these bloodsucking mongrels, but the mosquitoes that I have encountered here in Minnesota not only trump the Golden State’s mosquitoes in numbers, but also in size, so much so that I don’t question their unofficial title for a moment.
I’m a new mother. Our son is eleven months old. As “the hiking friend” (yes, that is MY title that has been given to ME unofficially) I’m looked to for advice on the dreaded mosquito subject, so I have been doing countless hours of research as to how we, and all of my mother and father friends, can enjoy all the nature that this beautiful state has to offer with our little ones without coming home having to shower ourselves in calamine lotion.
The first place I started was searching for anti-mosquito products that would be safe for babies and young children. As for my husband and I, we use OFF. Yes, I know it is not “all-natural,” but it definitely does the job, and well. However, there is no way we’d use that on our baby boy.
My favorite product that I have found is Bite Free Waterproof Insect Repellent Cream. It is a scentless, light cream that is safe to rub on children (and animals) and has proven its worth on our son. We spend at least 3 hours a day, 2-4 days a week hiking in mosquito infested wilderness, and he has come home with zip, zero, nada mosquito bites! Eureka! You can also go the all-natural, homemade route. But if you are like me and barely have time to pee, let alone whip up a magical batch of this goodness, spend the $12 and buy this stuff. IT WORKS.
My next challenge was to figure out how to dress the little one during our hikes. If mosquitoes are a problem for you, chances are you live in a hot, humid climate. Dressing a baby in long pants and shirts can be harmful to their health in heat like we experience during the summers here, which is why investing in a safe sunscreen for babies along with a safe mosquito repellent is crucial. We use Babyganics Mineral Based Sunscreen Spray. Again, this is a product that I would swear by. Time and time again this product is on lists of top sunscreens for babies, and most importantly it is very affordable and accessible. We buy ours at Target for around $10. We have been using it since our son was about five months old, and we haven’t had a sunburn incident yet. Plus, it allows him to be dressed in light-weight, sleeveless clothing which keeps him cool in the brutal heat and humidity. And as always, make sure you include a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun of their fragile scalps and faces.
The final challenge was finding a carrier that is comfortable for both parent and child and one that keeps him sheltered from heat and bugs. Now, there are tons of carriers for babies; Bobas, Ergos, Mobies, the list goes on and on. For hiking however, we knew we needed something that went above and beyond an everyday carrier. After hours spent at every outdoor store in the area, we finally settled on the Osprey Poco Plus Kid Carrier that we purchased at REI. It is a tad pricey, but was by far the best money we have ever spent on any piece of outdoor equipment before and after baby. It is so incredibly comfortable that I sometimes forget I’m wearing it with a twenty-pound toddler on my back. The carrier is breathable, so much so that our son has yet to break a sweat, and it also has a sun-shade which has proven invaluable on long hikes in the blistering heat. He can eat in there on our breaks, and always takes a nap while we are on the move. Plus, it does a darn good job of keeping the bugs at bay as the child is sheltered from head to toe. It is priceless.
As any outdoorsy family with little ones knows, hiking can be a challenge, especially when mosquitoes are an issue. How miserable are we, as adults, when we get a hundred bites? Now imagine being a helpless child who doesn’t know how to manage those bites. Yeah. It would SUCK. So do yourselves and your little loves a favor and don’t begin any hike without being 100% prepared for the elements. Introducing our children to the great outdoors should be a memorable and enjoyable experience, so start off on the right track.
Mary Beth Burgstahler was born and raised in the Southern California Mountains and attended college at Cal State University Monterey Bay where she majored in Human Communications. Having lived her entire life in Wilderness areas, she gained an affinity for the outdoors and outdoor activities, one of the main reasons Mary Beth agreed to moved to her husband’s home-state of Minnesota in June of 2013. Outdoor adventure abounds in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Shortly after their move, Mary Beth and her husband, Jacob, welcomed their first son, Jackson, in August of 2014. They now reside in White Bear Lake, MN.