Last September we took our 11 month old son on his first big hiking trip: an 8 hour day hike around the “Rim” in Cathedral Provincial Park from Quiniscoe Lake (Cathedral Lakes Lodge) to Pyramid Lake, Devil’s woodpile, Stone City, Smokey the Bear and back down through Ladyslipper Lake to Cathedral Lakes Lodge. In my opinion, this is one of the best day hikes in BC. Great alpine views for minimal effort.
Top 10 tips for hiking with a baby:
- Dress them warm;
you might be hiking, but they’re not moving. Lots of layers, toque, mitts, booties etc. You can even dig out one of your old fleece headbands from the 80’s – it’s the perfect baby neck warmer!
- Get them used to being carried in a backpack. Take baby on lots of short, local hikes before tackling the big day hike. We started carrying our son in a frame backpack as soon as he was able to sit up on his own, around 6 months. It took us 3 months for him to feel comfortable spending time in the backpack. My only advice here is to persevere!
- Be prepared and have the gear. You don’t have to spend a fortune – but your trip will be a lot more enjoyable when the backpack you’re wearing is actually comfortable and easily adjustable when you trade off with your partner. Look for a high quality used one, sometimes they are barely used and half the price.
- Take lots of breaks. An obvious break would be for breastfeeding and diaper changes, but also to let them move around & explore. There are so many exciting sticks and rocks to see!
- Bring lots of snacks. Some suggestions would be fruit leather, peanut butter on crackers, and yes, even cookies. Any food that is easy for them to grasp and eat while in the backpack… enough to keep them occupied while you keep truckin’. Our son doesn’t usually get cookies, but whenever I’m on hiking trips I always bring treats for myself; it’s just part of the experience.
- Try to plan diaper changes. I know this may sound ridiculous, even the most intuitive parents can`t plan for a poop explosion (!); but we tried to avoid diaper changes in the alpine. It can be windy and cold for their little bare behind. Plus, you don’t want leave it too long to risk a leaky diaper (which will certainly make them cold). We changed our son’s diaper prematurely just to make sure he had a fresh one on before tackling the most exposed sections of the hike.
- Plan the longest leg of the hike during nap times. In our experience the fresh mountain air leads to long restful naps – which are perfect for tackling those tough elevation climbs.
- Bring a couple different carriers (if you can). We brought our full frame backpack and our everyday carrier. Turns out the everyday carrier was extra handy when our son screamed bloody murder and refused to take his second nap in the frame backpack. Having options can minimize the meltdowns.
- Bring a sense of humour… like that time your husband had to jimmy-rig the frame backpack to his daypack so that you could wear the everyday carrier. That was “fun,” right? Chaos makes for good stories.
- It’s about the journey, not the destination. Before kids, I was that person who was so focused on getting to the top of a peak that only in the eye of a storm was willing to turn back. Lower your expectations, babies always throw wrenches into the best laid plans so don’t be disappointed when you don’t make it to the Giant Cleft (like I was). There will always bc next year!