Backpacking with a Baby Won’t Slow You Down

Backpacking with a baby can be a wonderful bonding experience for your new family. And let’s face it – you’re already a hardcore backpacker. Backpacking with a little one is just a new challenge for you – and it’s a rewarding one. 

The biggest part of having a successful first backpacking trip with a baby is about the prep work. But isn’t always? This time, though, your new family will have some awesome moments to remember. Your little one will like it, too. 

A Few Things Babies Like about Backpacking Trips

  • Friendly new sounds
  • Sleeping while you carry them
  • Gentle breezes
  • The movement of trees
  • Fresh air
  • Being the center of attention

At What Age Can a Little One Go Backpacking?  

Most hikers agree that taking a newborn on a backpacking trip is probably too young for their first time. This is mainly because the parents are still learning how to take care of their little one themselves. The right age for the first backpacking trip seems to be between 4-8 months. 

There are a few other baby backpacking considerations as well: 

  • Weather
  • Breastfeeding
  • Sleeping
  • Diapers
  • The health of the mother and baby
  • Camping gear
  • Having more than one little one

Obviously, you will not want the first backpacking trip with your baby to be in the middle of winter. So just because your new backpacker is ready to go doesn’t mean they can. The best time to go for the first time may be in the fall, but spring and summer will work too. You will just need different camping gear. 

It’s better if your first time backpacker is still breastfeeding because there will be less food to carry. You also won’t have to worry about as much special food for your baby to eat. If your baby is bottle-fed, you will have to carry dry formula and water. 

Pro Backpacker Tip

Your first backpacking trip with a little one may mean starting with day hikes or a national park. The backcountry may have to wait, as a first backpacking trip may just be for practice anyway. This may be especially true if you have more than one little one. 

Also, don’t make the backpacking trip too far away. Babies do better with a shorter car ride. Staying close to their pediatrician is always a good idea as well. 

Your First Time Backpacking With a Baby: When Are You Ready? 

There are other considerations to think about as a parent:

  • What’s my physical fitness level?
  • What’s my skill and strength level as a backpacker?
  • Do I have other hikers to partner with me?
  • Will my baby sleep when carried?
  • How long will they stay asleep?
  • How strenuous is this hike?

As someone who is caring for (and carrying) a little one, you will have to be in better shape. You will also need some help. Although, help with a baby in the backcountry is never a problem. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. A baby in the backcountry always creates enthusiasm from other hikers. You’ll be stopped by other hikers on the trail who will want to see your baby. 

Pro Backpacker Tip

You will be exhausted by the time you get to camp with a little one. If one of the hikers in the camp wants to babysit while you set up your tent – let them. The hikers will all want to hold your baby and your instincts will tell you who to trust. This will give you a chance to get your sleeping bag out and make dinner. And take a breath.

Backcountry Food for Your Little One

Besides breast milk or formula, food for a little one is pretty much what they eat at home. Babies who eat dissolvable finger foods and baby puffs at home can eat them in the backcountry. 

There are also pureed veggies and fruit pouches as well as fruit snacks. You will need a baby spoon if you are feeding your little one from a pouch. You will also need a handkerchief to wipe their mouth and hands after eating. Other than that, backcountry eating is no different from home. 

Pro Backpacker Tip

If you are a nursing mom, make sure to bring more food for yourself than normal. It will take a lot of calories to hike, care for a little one, and make breast milk. All in the same day!

First Time Camping Gear: Diapers

Diapers will always be the biggest concern for any backpacker with a baby. The “leave no trace” principle in the backcountry is still a hard and fast rule. Even with a little one. So hikers with babies will have to be creative to work around it. This will add to your backpacking trip experience, though, not necessarily take away from it.  

There are three types of diapers you can use:

  • Disposable Diapers. Disposable diapers don’t really go with a lengthy backpacking trip. However, as a backpacker with a little one, they always come in handy in an emergency. Disposable diapers can be used on one of your practice day hikes or a trip to a national park.
    A national park, or a loop hike designed for day hikes, will have a place for dirty diapers. Or, you can always take them home with you. This isn’t exactly adhering to the “leave no trace” credo. But you’ll have fewer things to worry about on your practice day hikes in a national park. 
  • Cloth Diapers. Cloth diapers would seem to be the way to go for a green backpacker, but they have their drawbacks. Washing them out means you have to dry them – and that takes a while. Also, you can’t just wash them out in a stream as the baby feces can spread pathogens. You can wash diapers out in a collapsible bucket away from water sources, but it’s a lot of work. As well, if you use a cloth diaper at night, expect to wake up wet yourself.
  • Compostable Diapers. Compostable diapers for little hikers seem to be a good compromise between cloth and disposable. Compostable diapers come in two parts. There is a plastic outer shell and an inner liner that is biodegradable. When it is full, the liner can be buried in a cat hole or thrown in a pit toilet. 

Pro Backpacker Tip

Diaper-Changing Things to Take on a Backpacking Trip

  • One 12-hour disposable diaper for each night
  • The calculated number of diapers for each day
  • Baby wipes in a zip-lock bag
  • Odor-control 1-gallon zip-lock bags for dirty diapers
  • Small pad for diaper changing
  • Collapsible bucket for washing (cloth diapers)
  • Clothespins for hanging wet diapers to dry

First Time Camping Gear: Backpack

There are basically two kinds of baby carriers for hikers: a hard-frame carrier or a soft-structure carrier. The hard-frame carrier requires the use of the head and neck for the baby. The soft-structure carrier does not, and lets the baby sleep more comfortably. 

Here are some more pros and cons for backpacking carriers:

Hard Carrier:

  • Heavy, but easier to lift
  • Can see where you are walking
  • Allows for airflow
  • Lots of extra features

Soft-Structure Carrier

  • Can use along with a backpack
  • Keeps baby warmer
  • Can monitor baby more easily 
  • Increases strain on shoulders

This backpacking choice is something you will have to figure out, maybe on one of your day hikes. If you go to a national park, you may get some good advice from other new parents. At any rate, there are a few other things to look for in a backcountry carrier for your baby. This is a rain cover and a mosquito guard. If the carrier doesn’t have one, you will have to improvise. You don’t want your little one to get wet or bitten by insects in the backcountry.

Pro Backpacker Tip

Whoever carries the baby on a first backpacking trip will find that also carrying the baby supplies works best. This person will need a baby-compatible backpack to go along with the baby carrier. Also, it’s not a bad idea to switch hikers after a lunch break. 

First Time Camping Gear: Clothing 

The first rule of clothing for a baby on a backpacking trip is the same as everyone else: no cotton. Although, for a little one, this may prove to be difficult. This is because many clothing companies push all-cotton baby clothes. Nevertheless, cotton on a baby in the backcountry holds in any moisture and is slow to dry.

The materials you want to look for are polyester, nylon, and fleece. Wool is great, too, if your baby isn’t allergic. Nylon pants are especially helpful if your baby is already crawling. These can be dusted off easier and dry quickly if they have to be cleaned.

If it’s chilly, a one-piece full bodysuit is the best. In the spring and fall, you can dress a little one in layers. Layers can be adjusted with the temperature. 

Clothing Checklist for a First Time Backpacking Trip

  • Long shirt & long pants (non-cotton)
  • Non-cotton short-sleeve onesie
  • Fleece pajamas (zippered)
  • Fleece or wool hat
  • Sun hat  
  • One-piece rain suit (zippered)
  • Full-body fleece suit

Pro Backpacker Tip

Google “baby athletic clothing” when you are looking for first time backpacking trip clothes for your little one. Baby athletic clothing is more likely to be made of synthetic materials and more suitable for camping gear.  

First Time Camping Gear: First Aid Kit

The largest concern for any adult who takes their little one into the backcountry will be their safety. The most important thing you should do before a first time backpacking trip is to learn infant CPR. It also doesn’t hurt to take a basic first aid course, either. 

Remember, you are taking an infant into the backcountry, so you have to be extra careful and alert. If something goes wrong on a first backpacking trip, you also have to be extra prepared.

It is also essential to take a reliable GPS satellite phone with an emergency beacon. Call friends or family twice a day to let them know your progress at predetermined times. The quicker someone knows where you are, the quicker they can get you help if you need it.  

Here are a few things to add to your first aid kit for baby:

  • Thermometer
  • Diaper Cream
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Baby Pain Reliever
  • Baby Benadryl (for bee stings, etc.)
  • Baby Sun Screen 

Pro Backpacker Tip

Satellite phones will work where cell phones won’t. In fact, they will work almost everywhere on the planet. There are even satellite phones with an SOS function that will alert emergency services if you need immediate help. Whether you have a little one or not, a satellite phone can save your life on a first time backpacking trip.   

First Time Camping Gear: Sleeping Bag

Sleeping in a tent with a little one and a sleeping bag is a challenge for everyone. A sleeping bag and a sleeping pad combination will have to be modified to fit your sleeping habits. For the first time backpacking trip, there is no right answer – only trial and error. 

Keep in mind, you don’t have to use a sleeping bag. You can use a down quilt in place of a sleeping bag or whatever works for you. Generally speaking, it helps if one parent sleeps on their side on a double mat with the baby.

The baby will not like sleeping in a tent or a sleeping bag. One remedy for this is to bring something from the crib, like a blanket. The familiar smell of their crib will help a baby sleep better if they don’t like the sleeping bag. Anything from home that helps your baby sleep is essential to bring.

Pro Backpacker Tip

Try your sleeping bag arrangement out for a night at home with your baby before you go backpacking. Make sure to spend the whole night in your sleeping bag to see what adjustments you need to make. It’s too late once you are out in the backcountry and it’s the middle of the night.  

Although, as you can see, all you have to do is plan ahead. Then, it’s exciting to take your baby on their first backpacking trip! With a few things from home, you can make the backcountry enjoyable for your new little backpacker!

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]
Sam Brooks

Sam Brooks

Hi, my name is Sam Brooks and I'm a huge hiking, fishing and camping enthusiast. I bring my dog Max as often as I can because he also loves the great outdoors. Although I consider myself a private person, I really want to share my passion and knowledge with the readers here at outdoorcommand.com