Baby On Board: Hiking with Infants

Simple solutions for backpacking with new babies

A new baby may deprive you of some serious sleep, but shouldn't rob you of your hiking time--it just changes it a bit. With a little planning, you can continue to enjoy the outdoors and introduce your child to the wilderness. Below, we address new parents' concerns.

How soon can we start? Short hikes can done be within weeks of birth, thanks to chest slings that provide head support. When your baby can sit, switch to a kid-carrier backpack. Make overnight trips as soon as you feel ready.

What's the best way to carry formula? Use a bottle with a disposable liner. Fill the number of liners you need with dry formula at home, and add purified water on the trail. Avoid iodine-treated water.

Where should we go? Hike familiar routes--this is no time to get lost. Skip places with biting bugs and temperature extremes. If it's your first time out, keep your destination less than 5 miles from the car.

What should we add to our first-aid kit? Baby Benadryl, liquid pain reliever, and antibiotic 1% hydrocortisone ointment, plus any medications your child is taking or that your pediatrician recommends.

What should Junior wear? A floppy hat, long sleeves, and pants to protect him from the sun. Use sunscreen and insect repellent on infants 6 months or older; keep younger ones in a front sling and use a light blanket or umbrella as a sun cover. In cooler weather, a fleece jumper with foldover hand and foot covers prevents lost mittens and booties.

Where should baby sleep? Small bodies lose heat rapidly, so zip your bags together and put your baby between you. Or consider the Sweetie Pie Bag Expander (best for a baby and one parent) or Bag Doubler (Editors' Choice Award, April 2002).