Six Tips for Preparing to Backpack with a Baby
Baby’s sleeping! I have a few minutes to write without little fingers adding in special typos. I think blogging with a baby is harder than backpacking with one. No time to waste. Here we go!
Note: I am assuming a party size of two adults and one baby.
1. Accustom your baby to riding in your chosen carrier (and get in shape at the same time!)
First, decide how you would like to carry your baby. Some people use a front pack for the baby and a back pack for gear. We used and external frame baby backpack and tied gear onto the frame. My husband wore the baby pack and I carried the rest of the gear in a large capacity backpack.
If you usually walk with your baby in a stroller, start using your backpack or front pack instead. You don’t want to plop a baby into a brand new carrier when hitting the trail for your first overnighter. The carrier should be a place of comfort and familiarity. Plus, you can get a better workout this way, which is great since you’ll probably be carrying the heaviest load of your backpacking career.
2. Accustom your baby to daily fluctuations in temperature.
Of course, it is probably best not to take your baby on her first backpacking trip in the middle of winter or during a scorching summer, but even when you chose the best time of year, it will still be different than being indoors. A baby who has only known a 68 degree room temperature will be ill prepared for the reality of outdoor life. Spend time outdoors, from morning to evening. Open windows at night. Camp out in the back yard…
3. Find a comfortable sleeping arrangement.
Try out your sleeping arrangements before you’re at camp trying to get enough sleep to hike the next day. I found that the rustle of nylon was disturbing for our girl. Maybe if we had spent more time in sleeping bags beforehand, she would have been used to it.
If you aren’t used to sleeping with your baby, it may take some adjustment. Backpacking brings us back to a time when the safest place for baby was right next to mom. She provided warmth and safety from predators. If you are nervous about sleeping with your baby, read The Baby Sleep Book by Dr. Sears and try setting up a safe co-sleeping arrangement at home. Most importantly of all, stay sober (that includes sleeping pills).
Five Sleeping Options:
1. Baby zipped into mom’s bag.
You’ll need an extra wide bag for this option.
2. Mom and dad’s sleeping bags zipped together with baby in the middle.
If any of you tend to move a lot during sleep, this will be tough.
3. Baby in his own bag.
It is harder to monitor baby’s temperature this way and babies tend to wriggle out of the bag.
4. Bunting bag.
I ended up zipping my bag up half way, pulling my baby close to me, and draping her sleeping bag over our shoulders. Nighttime temperatures were in the forties. I wore my lightweight down jacket and put her in a couple layers of warm fleece.
5. Choose a hike that is 200% within your comfort zone.
This is not the time to go big or go home, because you will end up going home and you will have spoiled a great experience. You should be completely confident that you can handle the mileage (remember your extra heavy loads and mom’s changed body). You should be familiar with area: it’s weather patterns, animals, and geography. In time, you can explore as a family, but for now you need to get used to the extra responsibility of caring for a tiny person on the trail.
6. A sample packing list for baby (two nights).
- Diapers (15 flats, 2 PUL covers, 1 wool cover) *I’ll be writing more about this soon!
- Mini spray bottle
- Cloth wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- 3 medium plastic baggies
- Sun hat
- Bug hood
- Warm hat
- 2 fleece sleepers
- Long underwear
- 2 pairs of leggings
- 2 long sleeved tops (non-cotton)
- 4 pairs of socks
- My Mayu boots
- Appropriate outer wear (Insulated snow suit or rain jacket)
- Sleeping bag
- Small sleeping mat
- Sun screen
- SPOT Messenger or similar device (so this isn’t just for baby, but it will give you as well as grandma and grandpa reassurance)
Alright, that’s what I’ve got for this post. And baby is still asleep! How have you prepared for a backpacking trip (or other new experience) with a baby? What are your essential items?