Spring is approaching! It may not feel like it for those of us experiencing extra cold temperatures right now, but it’s true. While you’re stuck indoors, take some time to get everything ready for the first gorgeous spring day (or just a break in the weather). Below is a list of three basic items you need to get out on a trail. This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it is a great starting point to get you and your little one hiking outdoors, fast.
Here are three items to have ready to go:
Baby carrier. Make sure you have a way to carry your baby. This can be a stroller or carrier. If you haven’t used it before, practice at home and check it over to make sure it’s in working order. If you have toddlers or bigger kids who will be walking alongside you, you don’t need to worry about this.
Consider getting a carrier that will go the distance for the weight of your child. Remember, when you carry a 12 pound baby a ring sling might work but it’s a lot different then a 20 pound baby. While frame carriers can look a bit overwhelming and big and might see like they are heavy, the ergonomics of them make carrying a wiggling 20 pound kiddo a lot easier. As your child grows, consider going to a local store like REI, EMS, or similar outdoors store and look for Kelty, Deuter, or Osprey. You can look for used frame carriers but if they are old make sure the buckles and frame are still in good shape.
Proper footwear. Ensure you have suitable footwear for a hike. The most important aspects here are comfort, support, and tread. Everything else (waterproofing, ankle support, lightweight, etc.) depends on the type of terrain you’ll typically be hiking and the weather in your area.
Light lo-top hikers or runners with trail tread are great for many trails, but as your baby grows consider looking for a heavy duty shoe with more ankle support and a Vibram sole or something similar that can hold up to hiking on gravel and rocks on trails. Also a waterproof shoe is awesome in rainy, muddy places.
Wool or a wool/poly blend sock can also make a big difference in wet weather and help keep your feet dry. While things are warming up, a rainy day can be fun to hike in if your feet are warm (even if they’re wet). Costco carries some good, reasonably priced socks!
Protection from the elements. You’ll need appropriate clothing for you and baby. This differs wildly with the different seasons, different climates, and type of weather you will be hiking in. The biggest thing is warmth in the fall and winter, and sun protection in the spring and summer. Since spring is up next, focus on clothing that protects your little one from the sun and helps keep them cool and dry. This can be done with floppy hats, sun shades, lightweight but full-coverage clothing, muslin cloths, and sunscreen for those over 6 months. Ideally, clothing should be wicking as that helps regulate body temperature for you and your child as you’re both sweating. Layers are always a good idea too so you can adjust clothing as temperatures change.
One thing to keep in mind, cotton as a first layer isn’t ideal. If you or baby are sweating, once it gets wet it stays wet and that can cause you or baby to feel cold, especially if a hot day starts to cool down. Consider looking for a polyester first layer for baby. If it’s not too hot, Carter’s fleece sleepers are great and can help wick moisture away. Many other companies make swimshirts for babies which would be perfect for hot and warm weather. A good rule of thumb is to keep an eye on your little one’s body temperature as you hike and when you finish up, no matter the season. In the spring and summer, after a sweaty hike, babies can quickly get cold once they come out of the carrier from all the sweat.
That’s it! One of the coolest things about hiking is that you don’t need a ton of equipment to do it. Sure, you can have every gadget under the sun (and yes, some of them do make it easier on the trail) but when you’re just starting out, it’s nice that you can hit the trail with just a stroller or a carrier and a pair of sneakers. That said, make sure you have the right gear if you are heading out for a longer hike.
Now you’re ready for hiking with Hike it Baby in the springtime. Until then, think warm thoughts and we’ll see you on the trail!
Caitlin Venczel is the Branch Lead for Hike it Baby Pittsburgh. She, her husband Rob, and daughter Henrietta are having a blast hiking all over their lovely city.