If you follow our family, you know that we spend a lot of our free time outside. I get asked a lot of questions about how we hike and camp with little ones, especially in the colder months. So, I wanted to share with you all how we’re still able to get outside during the winter!
The Older Kids
Holden (4) is at the age now where he can hike mostly by himself without being carried in the pack. So, it’s important to make sure that the older kiddos have good hiking shoes that will keep their feet dry and warm. We got Holden a pair of Keen’s that are super durable, waterproof, and supportive. His are super similar to these. But I also love these kids boots because of the velcro – they seem much easier to get on too 🙂
It’s not necessary, but if you’re really wanting to keep their feet warm (or if they don’t have waterproof shoes), I’d 100% recommend these Smartwool socks. Tyson and I have them too and they are AMAZING.
We also got Holden a good pair of hiking pants (also waterproof) and can convert to shorts too for the warmer months. For coats – there are so many options. Just make sure they have something waterproof, with a hood, and pockets (for snacks and their hiking supplies – flashlight, compass, binoculars, or if you’re Holden, for collecting rocks). Holden has a North Face down jacket (550) that he wears for the wetter hikes with snow and a North Face hardshell that he can wear other times for the windy and dry hikes.
Holden has been hiking with us since he was 3 months old, so he is pretty used to the whole experience and enjoys it. (He just requests that there is a waterfall at some point). If you’re just starting your toddler out with hiking, you’ll need a lot of patience. It’s normal for kids to complain, want to stop, and sometimes, be poor sports about the whole thing. Be patient, be ready to be flexible, and don’t have high expectations. Kids are unpredictable and you never know what kind of mood they’ll be in. If Holden is struggling to hike, we try to create a game we can play that distracts him from the actual hiking. We play I Spy, sing songs, or his favorite – pretend that he’s on American Ninja Warrior and he’s on a course. You wouldn’t believe how well this works for him sometimes! I mentioned hiking supplies earlier. This could also be great incentive for getting them outside and exploring on their own. Amazon has some great outdoor gear for kids. We have this exploring kit and love it!
The Little Ones
First things first – GET A BABY CARRIER THAT YOU LOVE. We have the old Ergo. It was a hand-me-down given to us before we had Holden. If your little ones are being carried on the back, get one of these retractable mirrors that you can wear so you can peak on them.
Also, I was apart of an awesome mamas hiking group called Hike it Baby when Holden was really young, so I learned how to use that Ergo like a boss. I’d recommend learning how to nurse while baby is in the carrier, and also learn how to put them on your back in the carrier (by yourself!) If you have a carrier (not a fabric wrap) and don’t know how to do either, I will personally help you learn how. Maybe I’ll post some video tutorials?! Both have changed our whole hiking experience (plus, people think you’re pretty badass too 😜).
Coven has been hiking with us since he was only a week old! Honestly, the younger the babies, the easier (I think) it is. Less to pack, they sleep more, and many mamas are breastfeeding so it’s on-the-go meals! (If you have a little babe and on a bottle, don’t count yourself out! You got this and you’ll find a routine that works for you if you just stick with it). *UPDATE* A friend of mind and avid explorer sent this amazing tip about hiking with babies that are bottle fed:
We found that the easiest was to carry a small hydro flask of hot water and to-go packets of formula (they look like crystal light packs) the water stayed warm the entire time.
A lot of people are really surprised that we did this with both kids when they were so young, but we strongly believe that kids will adapt to your activities if you just stick with it and YOU are confident in what you’re doing! (Even if that means you’re faking the confidence a bit).
A lot of people always ask me, “but what do you dress them in?!” Well, to start, something warm! 😉 Don’t be too worried about what kinds of clothes to dress the babies in. If you’re wearing them most of the time, they will stay pretty warm! My favorite outdoor baby items include: Waterproof booties; warm baby mitts (I love these Patagonia ones); warm fleece body suits, (THE ZIP UP KIND! Aint no one got time for all those buttons when you’re on the trail.) And don’t forget to layer, layer, layer. I usually put C in some fleece leggings, a long-sleeve thermal, a fleece zip-up full bodysuit, socks, booties, a warm beanie, and warm mittens. If you don’t have really warm mittens, put a pair (or two) of warm socks on their hands. We typically wear him in the Ergo on the front, because it’s warmer and we can see what’s going on with him and if he needs to be covered up anywhere. If you have mobile babies, get a waterproof body suit, like the Tuffo Muddy Buddy, which is easy to get on and off and will keep them dry! We got a size 18 month and Holden wore it from 6 months – 2 years. This will give you some peace of mind when they’re crawling/walking around on the ground in the wet dirt. We also use this body suit in the snow and sand and it works great!
And don’t forget ALL. THE. SNACKS. Our favorite trail snacks include:
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
- Pouches (applesauce and baby food pouches)
- Lara/Cliff bars
- Baby snacks (puffs/yogurt melts/etc.)
A couple more tips: Don’t forget the diapers and wipes. To save yourself the weight and space, get a handful of wipes and put them in a Ziploc baggie so you don’t have to take the whole container of wipes. Also, if you have a travel changing pad, bring it!
We also bring at least one hammock with us on most of our hiking trips. It’s a great way to take a rest in the middle of the forest. Usually, the boys and I will enjoy the hammock while Tyson goes out and fishes for a bit. I am obsessed with this hammock from Wildish (they’re from Bend!) This hammock also opens up and can be used as a large waterproof blanket or even a canopy. (P.S. you can get 20% off this hammock by using code: TAYJGREY at checkout!)
Picking the Right Trails for Kids
You probably know this already, but be sure to do your research. Check ahead of time to make sure that the trails you go on are “easy” and “family friendly”. Check the total elevation gain to make sure your kiddos (and you) can handle it. We have a handful of hikes in the Gorge and around Portland that we love and do a lot with the kids, that way, Holden is used to them and he looks forward to the things that he remembers. If you’re hiking for the first time with your kids, you can also pick some hikes that you know have good resting areas (benches/picnic areas) for eating and/or nursing.
Do you have any other questions that I haven’t answered in this post? Please let me know! As I think of more tips + tricks, I will add them.