Hiking With Your Baby by Megan Peach
May 14, 2014
Posted By: Shaunescy
In Montana we have the unique opportunity of having access to wilderness areas and hiking trails straight out of our backyards. Who better to share that outdoor adventure with than your new baby? Hiking is great medicine for the mind, body, and soul, and your baby will appreciate the fresh air and new scenery, too. Today’s baby gear market offers a variety of options for hauling your baby just about anywhere, so ditch the stroller and find a trail.
During the past few months as a new mom, I’ve learned some pros and cons about different types of carriers and use a variety to make every trip as enjoyable as possible.
1. The wrap. A variety of wraps and wrap techniques exist for babywearing. My personal experience is with the Moby wrap. A wrap is great for an infant younger than 6 months because it allows baby to be close to mom or dad, offers good head support when needed (or for naps!), and is safe for baby’s hips. You can use the wrap in multiple carry positions (in front, on back, cradled, etc.) and it can also be used to carry a toddler. Using a wrap allows the child freedom to look around, snuggle up for a nap, all with the comfort of staying close to mom or dad. It’s also very easy to clean! On the down side, wraps can be a bit pricey ($40 to over $100), and there is a learning curve to using the wrap properly so baby is safe.
2. The ergonomic baby carrier. Familiar brand names include the Baby Bjorn and the Snugli. I used the Snugli and while it was great up to about four or five months, I was a little nervous about the integrity of the snap closures as baby became heavier. This is a good ergonomic option for mom and dad, they are generally very quickly adjustable and user-friendly, and baby can face forward or backward in an ergo carrier. Ergonomic baby carriers are available in a variety of brands and prices ($25 to over $100), and are readily available at most stores that carry baby products and occasionally at resale stores. However, the ergo baby carriers are not safe for babies with hip issues.
3. The backpack. (Seen at the top of the page.) A great option for an older baby who has good head control and is able to sit on his or her own. The backpack offers good visibility for baby to look around and many brands also come with a small storage space for gear or snacks. Carrying baby in a backpack is very similar to carrying a pack for backpacking – definitely heavier than using a wrap or ergo carrier but has the option of extra storage and a rain cover depending on the brand. My experience is with the Sherpani Rumba and the Kelty Kids FC 1.0. Both packs are surprisingly lightweight with durable material. The Sherpani has a few more bells and whistles – hip pockets, more storage, rain or sun cover, and a few more adjustment straps – but baby seems to slip a little to one side because the straps don’t always remain tight and the frame is a bit small for a larger person. The Kelty seems a bit more suited to medium or larger adults, the straps are more difficult to adjust but stay tight on the trail, and the rain cover is not included. The backpack carriers are probably best for serious hikers or those to frequent the trails as they cost between $150 to $300 new.
Baby carriers are not only good for hiking, they are also great options for walking the neighborhood, throwing the ball for the dog, fly fishing - the main point is to get everyone outside and have a great time! The cost of a new carrier can be somewhat discouraging but used carriers (often in great condition) can be found at garage sales, on Craigslist, and in facebook classifieds for a fraction of the cost. In my personal experience, I loved the Moby wrap when baby was little (<6 months), it allowed me to have her close enough to monitor but she could still look out and enjoy the scenery. The Sherpani backpack is my new favorite as I get a bit more brave with the distance I’m willing to hike as baby starts to enjoy longer hikes – I love the storage space for gear and snacks, the rain/sun cover is a necessity, and she loves to look out and babble along (she thinks she’s the trail guide). No matter which carrier I choose for the day, I try to keep in mind that it’s not the length of the hike that is important because sometimes we just don’t make it very far, but what is important is sharing the experience of the outdoors with my trailbaby!
Megan Peach, DPT, CSCS of Excel PT , was born & raised in MT, loves hiking, rafting, running, photography, and travel. She spent a lot of time in the past 10 years living in other states and a lot of places, but couldn't find anything better than Montana. Mama to an 8 month old little girl who believes the best way to raise a kiddo is to lead by example. MTP is happy to have her sharing her experiences in the great outdoors with her little girl.