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Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby?
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Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 09:05:40 MDT Print View

I received this question and I honestly don't know how to answer. The parents want to thru-hike the Pyrenees with their then 3 month old baby, a hike which should take them around 2 months. Even if not following the Pyrenean high level route, the trail will often cross rough terrain and high level passes. I don't think the parents can be persuaded not to do it with such a young shild. They do seem to have enough experience with long distance trails and have reduced their full pack weight to around 8 kg with some food and 2 liters of water. But even before trying, I would first like to hear from others which experience they have with backpacking with such a young child and if they think this is both possible and responsible.

Edited by Woubeir on 04/26/2009 10:17:50 MDT.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby on 04/26/2009 09:53:39 MDT Print View

A three-month old isn't going to be walking around or having to carry its own pack; it's going to BE carried the whole way, sleeping a lot of the time, and getting an eyeful of its new world from the comfort of the carrier. I'm jealous! I'd love to hike that way - all the views, none of the chores, someone else does all the cooking and even feeds me, and I can sleep whenever I want and play the rest of the time.

You said the parents are experienced outdoors types so I can't see any difference between taking the baby along or staying home with it. The parents are going to be caring for the little thruhiker constantly anyway.

Their level of parenting expertise/experience is not relevant. Society blindly entrusts the safety of new-borns to totally clueless and inexperienced parents every day in every country of the world. Whether they take that baby home to a mansion, a hovel, or a high country trail is irrelevant.

Personally, I think it would be a fabulous bonding experience, and just think of the stories the child will have to share with their classmates later in life at "show and tell".

Our youngest got unexpectedly potty-trained on a camping trip when my wife asked me to hand her the diaper bag, and my reply was simply "I thought you packed that". We all still laugh about it. No foul.

Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 04/26/2009 10:00:34 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 16:37:25 MDT Print View

I assume they are talking about the GR10.
It could be done, but they will have to be willing to be very flexible. I dare say Mummy will provide adequate feedback about baby's needs. You can find accommodation every night if you wander around a bit. If they want to do it by tent ... Daddy is going to have a VERY big pack!!!

Yes, we did some walking with little baby - great fun in the right conditions. Baby needs a big sunhat and light gloves to prevent sunburn.


Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 17:50:37 MDT Print View

My first multi-day backpack with our son was at 11 months but we were hiking with him at 3 weeks and car camping at 3 months.

That said, my longest with Henry (who is now 2 1/2 and has been on 7 backpacking trips) has been 3 days. 3 months is a different deal, but not that crazy.

I found my pack to be pretty light- a 3 month old will only weigh 10-20 pounds, split team gear and it's no big deal. I've even been on a father/son trip when Henry was 25 pounds and I was carrying him and everything else. If the couple is smart and careful with weight, this should be reasonable.

Diapers are an issue. A 3 month old can do up to 10 diapers a day. Management of that is an issue. But if they have frequent resupplies, that should be fine.

Roger is right on the sunhat and gloves- EVEN if the carrier has a sun/rain top. Kid sleep system is special too- a sleep sack (Patagonia is great here) and a down vest with a torsolite pad held together with a strap is a good combo that worked well for Henry. These days he uses a BMW quilt footbox and his fleece clothing. Works fine.

I think this is all doable and I would LOVE to see the story here at Backpacking Light! Tell them to contact Ryan Jordan- please! Parents need to know that adventures like this are possible!

Best, Doug

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 17:51:56 MDT Print View

I would highly recommend that these parents try some shorter trips first (which I assume they're doing). I'd also recommend trekking poles for dad to add safety and stability.

Mark McLauchlin
(markmclauchlin) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: Re: Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 18:59:00 MDT Print View

Not knowing the territory they are going to be walking I wouldnt like to comment on re-supply etc, however I would have some real safety concerns with taking a baby at that age out on such a long trip.
Playing the bad guy in this...what if the baby were to become sick? how fast can they get out and back to medical help? What happens if the parents get sick? Are they at risk of animal attacks out there?

I'm a little worried...

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 19:03:37 MDT Print View

(Removed by JGG)

Edited by regultr on 03/23/2013 22:13:33 MDT.

Mark McLauchlin
(markmclauchlin) - MLife

Locale: Western Australia
Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 19:28:43 MDT Print View

Good call James, this trip should be, IMHO, cancelled until the child is a little more self sufficient.
Working for a company that puts safety above everything, I think the same should apply here.

Robert Bryant
(KG4FAM) - F

Locale: Upstate
Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 19:46:10 MDT Print View

You wouldn't take a 3 month old puppy on a hike this long so taking a child that is even less self sufficient than a puppy is just dumb.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 20:55:46 MDT Print View

Backpack carriers are designed for babies that can sit up strongly--7-9 months old. A three-month-old infant cannot sit up so cannot ride in a back carrier without considerable damage to the neck/spine. He will have to be carried in a front carrier of some sort that supports the neck head. I wouldn't want to be hiking in rough country with an infant in soft front carrier--no protection for baby should Mom fall forward!

Three days, fine. For two months, I personally wouldn't do it (and I've raised kids). The logistics are just too daunting. If the parents can work out the logistics, fine.

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/26/2009 20:57:56 MDT.

Open Space
(OpenSpace) - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Lightweight Backpacker on 04/26/2009 21:23:06 MDT Print View

Removed by poster.

Edited by OpenSpace on 11/16/2009 19:35:49 MST.

scott burgeson
(DrDystopia) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
seriously? on 04/26/2009 21:52:51 MDT Print View

I have to agree with James on this one. I read the thread title and thought it was a joke. I was depressed to realize that it is not.

I think it is threads like these that give those outside the backpacking community the impression that most of us are nut bars.

Taking a 3 month old on a 2 month thru-hike is not a good idea.

I would love to meet the doctor who approved it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 22:10:45 MDT Print View

> I think anyone wanting to do a 2 month thru hike with their 3 month old is selfish and irresponsible.
That is a personal opinion only.

> access to medical care should be top priority.
On the GR10 you are never that far from a town. And one can carry a mobile phone. I do not think that is much different from living on a farm out back.

> How about the required weekly/monthly shots at that age?
Huh??? I do not recollect our kids needing anything like this!

> How about exposure to bugs and other things for which the baby doesn't have any immunity?
Oh, come on! Paranoia reigns supreme! Kids are at a greater risk at preschool and kindergarten. And by the way: baby will be getting sky-high levels of immunity from Mummy. That's one reason why breast-feeding is so good for baby.

> How about continued exposure to sun?
I did mention a large hat and gloves. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with a bit of Vitamin D. And a major part of the world's population lives under such conditions anyhow.

> How about the nutrition the baby will need to get presumably through mom when
> she'll likely be eating a "backpackers diet" which is completely different from the
> diet required to raise a child?
Crap. You should see what some mothers in the western world eat and drink! A healthy backpackers diet would be wonderful.

> How about the need to have a stable sleeping environment, one which won't smother the kid
> and which the parents won't roll on top of the kid?
Paranoia again. If the baby is warm and snuggled up to Mummy - it will sleep happily. And the idea that mummy will roll onto baby - chuckle. You obviously don't know mummies!

> sanitary issues,
Sigh. Living at home and going shopping, I get viruses regularly. Walking along the Pyrenees for 2 months - we were both very healthy the whole time.

> I'd have a hard time seeing this couple arguing intelligently in front of a judge
> and Child Services as to whether they were offering their child responsible care.
That may be more of a sad reflection on parts of American society than anything else.
Are Mummy AND Daddy both there 100% of the time to look after Baby? Or was baby parked off for 8 hours a day onto some quote-childcare-unquote business who had profit as their main motive in life, while Mummy and Daddy went off to pursue their own selfish interests?

> A 3 month old baby needs 16-20 hours of sleep which is usually spread throughout the day.
So what could be better than Baby sleeping in a front sling snuggled up against Mummy? Bear in mind that in many Asian countries that is the **standard** way rural women look after their kids - while working in the fields. Those women often regard anything else just unreal.

> Are they at risk of animal attacks out there?

OK, so many may have no experience in doing this. But some of us have, and we can report that it was a wonderful experience and that ALL concerned enjoyed it.


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby on 04/26/2009 22:23:57 MDT Print View

OK - I just have to say it:

"If you've never raised an infant from birth, your opinions - no matter how sincere - are meaningless here."

I was taught all kinds of theories in Marriage and the Family classes in college 40+ years ago. NONE of them prepared me for the realities of 24/7/365 child-rearing. Babies do not come with either a warrenty nor a manual. Parenting is a day to day learning process at the School of Hard Knocks. Naturally, it gets easier after the first one. Not surprisingly, children have managed to survive the experience for hundreds of thousands of years.

In the hiking community, we say "HYOH". For parents, it's the same thing. What works for me may fail for you and vice versa.

Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 04/26/2009 22:25:43 MDT.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/26/2009 23:44:29 MDT Print View

I certainly understand what others have said above and I made some assumptions that seem to be true- mainly that resupplies are frequent and near towns so items like fresh food, local health care, new diapers, etc. will be easy to reach. I assume this is not the PCT.

The carrier point is a good one- a full back carrier will likely not work for the child. However, many front Bjorn-style carriers might be great. There are many parents in the "attachment parenting" camp who cruise their daily lives with kids following their schedules. I'm not of this group necessarily, but it's a common mindset. I do know that my son had some of his best and most consistent sleep when traveling in a carrier.

Last, I don't think this is such a horrible and selfish idea. Sure- taking my son backpacking at a very early age was partly my own self interests at play, but these trips are things he loves and talking about backpacking has been a major part of his first words, conversations, and memories. The trip proposed is of a different scale, sure, but done correctly and thoughtfully, this could be a wonderful experience for the child.

And if the trip is as I imagine it, the parents could call it at many, many points on the trail if they need to.

Last, thank you Roger for your points about raising children. They have helped to cement my perspective on raising my child.


P.S. Isn't it interesting that we're all talking and the parents are not here at all. In all likelihood, we only talking theory.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/27/2009 00:24:20 MDT Print View

I have raised two kids, who are now adults.

We started tent and car camping at 6 months for each. Day hikes when they could walk (at 6 months they were to heavy to carrry).

Would I do this trip? No way. I can provide many reason why... relating to my personal perspective. But these are personal reasons and opinions.

However, many 'native' cultures for centuries were/are nomadic and the age of a child did/does not matter. Although they usually travel as a tribe, not a couple. It could be done safely, IF the parents know what they are doing.

I wouldn't encourage it. But let them make the decision themselves. If they need technical help/information, then advise them if you can.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/27/2009 02:03:06 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. Just a quick reply because I don't have any time to read it all at this moment. I will try to post their mail here this evening. Need a bit of time because I first need to translate it. What I already can say is that the mail is something like "don't try to change our mind, others have tried and failed, we just would like to know what the most appropriate route is".
Keep on posting.

Michael Williams

Locale: Queensland
Vaccinations on 04/27/2009 05:12:05 MDT Print View

It might be difficult for the baby to have all the required vaccines prior to leaving. For some catch up vaccinations later wouldn't be an issue but some things they should probably be immunised against before going.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Thru-hiking with a 3 month old baby? on 04/27/2009 05:56:06 MDT Print View

> we just would like to know what the most appropriate route is

I strongly recommend the GR10. The track is good and well-marked, there are other people on it, there are two guide books (English and French), it visits towns regularly.


Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Babies can get sick on 04/27/2009 07:57:59 MDT Print View

I have three children. There is simply no way I would do a trip like this with a little one and frankly I think it's reckless to even consider it.

My perspective on this is possibly a little different to most because two of my children have had serious illnesses - so I know that "it will never happen" can very quickly become "it did happen". And on one of those occasions we were only an hour and half from specialist medical care, but the point is that as we were racing to the hospital we didn't know if we would get there in time. How far could these parents go at night, in the dark, in the mountains, with a sick baby?

Our same child, after a perfect pregnancy, was born with an agpar of 1 (the parents out there will know what that means). For reasons that the doctors were not able to explain, his heart slowly stopped beating on his due date. After a crash caesar they managed to revive him, but he then he went into toxic shock due to meconium inspiration - it was genuinely touch and go for a day. But as my mother pointed out, because the pregnancy was so uneventful, my wife would have been a perfect candidate for a home birth or midwife birth - and if she had, it's extremely unlikely that my son would have survived. In the same way, it's irrelevant to say "it's OK for them to do this walk because the parents and baby are healthy" - the point is that healthy babies can become unhealthy babies very quickly.

Would I risk my children's lives because of unexamined romantic notions about "wilderness" that originated in the 18th century writings of a monied leisure class? No way.