Whether your own family is growing, you have twins or you’re helping out a friend by watching their child, adding another heartbeat to your hiking routine can be a challenge. But rather than stressing about it, know you have options for getting out on a fresh-air adventure with everyone. On stroller-friendly trails, a double all-terrain stroller – or wearing one child and pushing one (or two) children – is a great option. But in the cases where you want to get farther out into nature, you’ll want to tandem carry.

If you’ve only ever worn one child at a time, wearing two at once will be an adjustment. There are lots of things to consider: Age of your children, mobility level, how they’ll want their snacks and last, but most important, your own comfort. We’re here to tell you that it’s totally doable and can be a lot of fun, so here are some helpful tips on how to tandem babywear your smallest hikers more efficiently!

Helpful Tips on How to Tandem Carry Your Smallest Hikers by Erin Pennings for Hike it BabyPhoto by Kim Ives

Tandem Babywearing Tips

1. Carriers

Yes, that’s carriers. Plural. It makes sense: two children, two carriers. There are a few notable exceptions like the TwinGo, which is designed to carry two children. Otherwise, plan on one carrier for each child. The type of carrier is up to you, but the most popular way to wear two children at once are using either soft-structured carriers like the Onya Baby or woven wraps.

We’ve seen people mix and match on the trail and, ultimately, it’s up to you. But if you’re new to carrying two, consider a soft-structured carrier simply for ease of using a buckle on and off.

2. Loading Them Up

The “standard” rule of thumb is one kiddo on the back and one on front. Typically, the heavier child will go on the back and the lighter on the front. You’ll want to load the back child first to avoid jostling the smaller front-carried baby. And, if both kiddos are the same age/size, you’ll want to ensure that the smaller child is old enough to ride on your back (typically 6 months or so with good head control, but, again, contact your local babywearing expert if you need assistance with determining this). Once the child on the back is securely in place, add your front child.

Tip: If you have an older child in back who likes to get up and down, an option is to strap that child in second for convenience. Natalie Kendrach includes a tip on how to do it successfully when you’re alone with no one around to help:

I personally prefer putting the baby on first so that I have the toddler’s carrier on top (for easy up and down). I put the carrier hood in my teeth to support the baby’s head when doing that method. That allows me to use the ‘Superman’ toss to get my toddler on my back. But when others are there, they just lift her to my back.

3. Get Help

Some ideas for getting the kiddos on board include using the back of an SUV or a picnic table to get loaded. But there’s no substitute for a friend’s help, so if you’re hiking with friends, wait until you have them nearby in case you need assistance whether that’s holding a child, keeping watch on an escape artist or helping with knots or buckles.

4. Clothing and Gear

You have an extra body with extra body heat, so you’ll want to keep that in mind in your own layers, potentially wearing one less layer. If it’s summer, you’ll have twice the amount of straps on your shoulders, so you may want to consider a tee shirt instead of a sleeveless top. Also, if you use cooling towels, you’ll want to have an extra on hand!

For your kids, you’ll want to utilize standard layering/clothing considerations. If in winter, you’ll want to dress your children in appropriate winter layers (more on this here). If in summer, wicking material will be your – and their – best friend.

  • Hiking poles  –  If wearing one child throws off your stability and balance, then two will do so equally. Hiking poles are a great idea anytime you’re hiking with kids, but especially when you’re carrying tandem.
  • Quality shoes  – Having great shoes is always important when getting out, but again, especially so when tandem carrying. See this article for tips on finding the right shoes.

Tips for tandem carrying your smallest hikers by Erin Pennings for Hike it BabyPhoto courtesy of Natalie Kendrach

5. Snacks & Water

If you have ever done anything with a toddler, you know that snacks are critical. In fact, many of us would consider it an emergency to not have snacks at the ready. With this in mind, consider how you’re going to carry snacks and other important things like a phone and car keys. (See how high snacks rank?) Remember, you’ll have limited access to your pockets.

Water is also top priority, as you’ll want to keep yourself AND the kids hydrated. Here are options for carrying snacks and water:

The carrier itself

Your carrier may have pockets designed for storage. Just make sure the items you need the most access to are in the front carrier so you can more easily get to them. Otherwise, that friend that helped you load up will need to get them out of the back carrier.

Attached to the carrier

Using a carabiner, you can attach a snack cup to your carrier so your kiddo can help themselves. However, if you have two snackers, you may want to be in control so one doesn’t end up with fewer snacks. In my experience, it’s tough to have too many carabiners out hiking. This isn’t quite as easy for water, but it can be done!

Another option for attaching to the carrier is a pouch like the Onya Hipster pouch. Think of it like a waist pack that slides on the carrier strap instead of another strap around your waist. It’s big enough to hold the essentials without being clunky and in the way.

Waist pack

A waist pack, the new hip way to say “fanny pack,” is a great way to carry extras. One of the best ways to wear them is underneath the back child, almost as a seat below the carrier. You can load these up with snacks and other essentials, and it doesn’t (theoretically) add much to your load. Some waist packs are also hydration packs. (Pro tip: if you have a child with new teeth and they chew through the valve you use to get water, purchase extra valves. In bulk.)

Mesh cinch backpack

These are awesome for wearing OVER the back carrier. The layering order for this is going to be back child/carrier first, then the mesh pack OVER the back of that carrier, then your front child in their carrier. You can load up this pack with snacks, other essentials and even a hydration bladder. The only challenge with a backpack is access. You’ll need to stop to get items from the backpack, or ask a friend to help.

6. A Dry Run

Last, but not least, a dry run is something you’ll want to consider. Try gearing up and loading up everything from snacks to kids in a comfortable environment, ideally your own home. That way you can get a solid feel for how it all pulls together, where you might need some help, and what is going really well.

In the end, we just want to see you on a trail and hope you and your family have a great time!

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We’d love to hear your experiences! Share your tandem carrying tips, tricks and questions in the comments below.

Disclaimer: We are not babywearing experts, but we’ve done a lot of hiking with kids. These are some top tips we’ve discovered from lots of hiking with lots of families over the years! 

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