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Backpacking with baby?
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Ian Rae
(iancrae) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 11:10:00 MDT Print View

Hey All,

We had our first little one on Halloween, which will make him 8months old at the beginning of July. We're planning a couple of overning trips with him, and looking for advice on the following:

-Sleeping: Put him in the bag with mom? She'd need to get a wider bag for this to work. I'm way too active of a sleeper for this to work for me. Get him his own bag? Wrap him up in a down vest with the arm and waist holes closed up?

-Backpack: I'm assuming we'll get one of those heavy frame packs (he's 19lbs now, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. This puts him in the 95th percentile for height and weight!) Seems like most people have one person carry the baby pack with a few more things stuffed in it and one person carry all the other stuff?

Anyone have a favorite pack?

-Diapers: I like the idea of a reusable cover and a biodegradable liner that we can put in a pit toilet. GDiapers make such a thing. Anyone use these?

-Clothes: Seems like there's lots of fleece stuff out there for kids; any suggestion for windproof layer? I'm thinking most of the packs have rain covers, so most of the bulk water should run off that.

Any other suggestions?

Edited by iancrae on 03/15/2011 11:12:06 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 11:12:20 MDT Print View

I saw a guy backpacking with a baby this weekend. He had the baby in the front and an enormous pack full of what looked like car camping gear on his back.

Ian Rae
(iancrae) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Re: Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 11:23:24 MDT Print View

Thanks, Piper! Now that we know what NOT to do...

We've been accused of being overly ambitious before, but we've got some 12mile, 6000' days in there, so we may have to ditch the car camping gear.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 11:52:10 MDT Print View

Buy a decent framed backpack for the baby - do not go UL with this if your child is larger - they are only going to get heavier. With larger babies front carriers just don't work well. We have a Deuter Kid Comfort III - as Walker is not a small baby either. While you can add some gear to the largest packs (this is really what you pay for in $ and whoever is carrying the baby will be carrying the baby and the baby gear, nothing else. Walker at a shy 1 year his fully loaded pack with his stuff, my water and my day items is over 40 lbs!!

So yes, the other adult will be sherpaing most everything.

Diapers...this is a personal area. I don't mess with anything but disposables when we hike or even travel. What I am all about is the least mess - and no blowouts. Always bring more diapers than you expect to use. And triple the outfits just in case. And triple the wipes. Make sure the wipes/diapers are scent free. And a ton of gallon freezer bags for sealing up wet clothing or diapers. And a bag dedicated to this for hanging at night. IMO I wouldn't leave even the G-Diapers behind, I would pack them out.

REI carries a ton of baby and toddler clothing - when they were clearancing it this winter I snapped up tons of it, up to 3 and 4T :-D It was 25% of the original price!

On rain covers...they are not created equal by any means. For example, Deuter makes an actual pack cover for the AC III and II that covers the entire pack and shields the baby from wind and rain but the other packs not so easy to find. The sun shades on nearly all baby packs don't work well - they don't shade the arms and legs. Another reason we went with the III pack is that the baby has a seat over a sling so it is more comfortable for extended periods.

I will add...I did a lot of hiking with Walker on my front while wearing a pack on my back - it isn't so easy as you cannot see your feet. Not so safe on rocky trails. I was happy when I moved him to the back!

BTW, on sleeping...look on Amazon. There are portable cribs that look like tiny tents. Can't think of the name....but anyhow, they are between 2 and 7 lbs depending on the style - and can be used in or outside a normal tent so the baby has a clean and safe place to play. Once the baby starts standing and walking....they have to be able to roam.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 19:44:44 MDT Print View

Thanks for bringing up the topic and for the responses.

I'm thinking about trying it with my 18 mo old daughter. It's going to have to be very short and very simple because my wife is quite petite and can't schlep a lot of gear. We're talking a 4 mile quick overnighter here.

Wearing a front baby pack and a regular backpack is no easy deal, but it does allow the primary sherpa (uh, that would be me), to carry more stuff. We did this for some day hikes last summer. My daughter is way too big for that front pack now.

We've already got a aluminum frame baby carrier, but it has minimal capacity. I'm thinking of tying some side pockets to the frame for a bit of capacity. Probably pretty jury rigged stuff for now.

Love to hear more on the subject.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Backpacking with baby? on 03/15/2011 19:56:01 MDT Print View

Hey Jim,

This was Walker back in fall, on the AT in Tennessee:

On the PCT in summer last year:

At Rainier, with the little one:

Hiking in Washington in February this year (with the Deuter):

I had 4 front carriers for him that I varied him through. He is a big boy, 93% height. His nickname is Triple B (Bowling Ball Buns). I can say honestly I prefer my BOB Revolution jogging stroller to the packs ;-) But yeah, that doesn't happen unless I am on logging roads/NF multi-use trails or rail to trails. We are planning a spring trip coming up soon but we will be able to take the jogger so I am excited - then I can wear a full pack and push him - and his gear will be on the jogger (I did this same thing with my older son, Ford, when he was little).

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Also..check this site out! on 03/15/2011 19:56:59 MDT Print View

Lots of parents to share ideas with :-)

Rebecca Ribbing
(joyfulmama) - F

Locale: Alexandria, VA
Re: Backpacking with baby? on 03/16/2011 13:05:34 MDT Print View

I totally agree with Sarah about the Deuter III. I love it and I think it's on sale now at REI. I had a kelty and that killed my back. I too had a chunkie baby, so that was a life saver. My son loves the camelback bladder and learned how to drink out of it around 14 mo. It keeps him well hydrated because he loves to play with it and drink from it.

As for sleeping, we've done a couple things. He's slept with dad (I'm the light sleeper), he's slept in a snow bunting suit, and he's slept in a sleeping bag. The problem is that he hates the sleeping bag. I'm really glad I tried out one of my old ones first. Now I'm in the process of making him a quilt. The only way he would sleep in the sleeping bag was if I but the mattress in the bag too so that he could roll over easily. I think I did this when he was about 18 mo., before that he was either with dad or in the snow bunting.

As for diapers, I've done the GDiapers, but the gdiaper covers are horrible. If you really want to go this route, I would get some good quality cloth diaper covers, such as bum genius. Obviously, you can't bury the inserts, but I have thrown them in pit toilets. Now that my son's going through far fewer diapers, I'm just shlepping the dirty diapers.

The only other thing I would recommend is leg warmers. I knit, and made a pair of wool ones for my son, but the cotton ones would work as well. Their pants ride up in the carrier, so it keeps their legs from being exposed. It also keeps them warmer during outdoor diaper changes.

We have been ridiculously fair-weather campers since having our son, so I haven't had to test out rain covers, but I will say that the only one I would trust to keep baby at all dry is the deuter one. REI makes rain pants/jackets for little tykes though. I would go ahead and get a much larger size and just use the velcro adjustments. My son has been using a 4t rain jacket and 3t rain pants since he was in 18 mo size. This I have tested as we use them around the neighborhood for puddle splashing.

For what it's worth. I know this sounds like a lot, but it's a lot easier to take a baby out than it is to take a toddler out. It's good to get used to it now, before they are also running around trying to hug the tree with poison ivy.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
wilderness baby tips on 03/18/2011 19:58:37 MDT Print View

We've done a lot of backpacking with our now 2 year old (up to a week at a time in the Alaskan wilderness, since infancy), and I have a whole post on our strategies here (with some gear weights):

We use gDiapers backpacking - I think they're the best solution for the purpose, though it might be even better if the cloth outsides weren't cotton.
A note on the compostability: I've composted wet gDiapers extensively at home, and if you tear them in half lengthwise, and shake out the insides, all that wet "filler" really does disappear nearly instantaneously. Far quicker than toilet paper (the outside is probably similar to toilet paper). If you left it in a pile on the ground (which I don't recommend), you wouldn't notice it after the next rain. And the "filler" holds nearly all the water weight, so just getting rid of that part will save you so much weight! So I have no compunction whatsoever in composting the wet diapers as I would deal with adult waste. We usually burn poopy diapers in campfires where we hike. If it was just an overnight though, it might not be worth bothering to use a different diaper system than you do at home.

We've always had the little one in our sleeping bag (doesn't take a whole lot of room in the crook of mom's arm), partly for ease of nursing and ease of keeping track of how warm baby is. For carrying baby, I've always used a wrap (long piece of cloth). It keeps the weight closer to your body than any pack, and can be worn on front or back. But it can't carry extra gear by itself, so we've supplemented the baby-carrying parent with a front pouch and/or lumbar pack (when babe is on the back) or a regular pack (when babe was on the front). For an outer layer, when he was too young to walk, we mostly kept him under an adult raincoat while walking. Now that he's a toddler, we use the standard cheapest REI raingear.toddler in wrapbaby on front

Edited by mckittre on 03/18/2011 20:30:23 MDT.

Ian Rae
(iancrae) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: wilderness baby tips on 03/21/2011 16:35:07 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the insight.

Diapers: We haven't had good luck with the GDiapers covers, but are considering using the inserts with the Flip (BumGenius) covers, which seem to have fewer blowouts and are synthetic. I'm glad to hear that someone else has has success with the GDiapers inserts.

Packs/Carriers: I tend to find carrying baby on the front to uncomfortable at home and for the short hikes we tend to do (we are currently using an Ergo Performance, which can be used on the back as well, but I'm not sure the baby is quite ready for this so we haven't tested this yet.) Seems like you would have a weight advantage with a sling and waist pack, but I'm not sure it would work for me, so I'm thinking the Deuter III is worth checking out and paying the weight penalty.

Bags: sounds like maybe we should try a wider bag for Mom and baby; this certainly seems like the simplest and lightest solution.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: wilderness baby tips on 03/21/2011 18:01:37 MDT Print View

On the Ergo, I know everyone raves about them and yeah, I own one...but for hiking it never won me over - he was never in the right position for comfort. Frankly the "evil" Bjorn Active worked the best for front carrying. It kept him tight to my body and that took all the stress off my neck and shoulders! It also made it better for my balance.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: Re: wilderness baby tips on 03/21/2011 18:16:33 MDT Print View

Most of my friends around here hike with Ergo carriers. Try it on the back now and see how you like it? (assuming the baby has good enough head control). I know I'd find a 19lb kid uncomfortable on the front in any carrier, and I wear my 2 month old on my back frequently (not in an Ergo). As far as the Ergo vs frame pack, frame packs hold the weight much farther from your body, and many find them more uncomfortable than soft carriers for extended time for that reason.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: wilderness baby tips on 03/21/2011 20:40:51 MDT Print View

Erin, I'd agree with you on that - one reason I hated my oldest son's Kelty back in 98-99 was it sat so far out, killed my back! Never did like it - it was one reason I helped Ford become a strong hiker at a young age.

Walker will be one this week :-) He is a tall boy - I can't do front carry anymore as his legs smack into mine...but yeah, been thinking of trying the Ergo for back carry. My only issue is getting it on by myself - need to master that still. I can get the Deuter on solo.

Though I have to say the Deuter III is amazing in comfort. I have never felt a kid carrier that carries like it does. It rides like an actual backpack, unlike the horrid packs I used with Ford! It was the only external frame pack that felt good out of all the ones we tried (pretty much every model out there for sale)

James Fiedler
(deefeed) - F

Locale: NYC
Re: baby wilderness tips on 03/22/2011 12:37:05 MDT Print View

Sarah, you mention having difficulty getting the baby on your back in an Ergo. Similar to the Ergo is the Beco carrier – one difference is that the latter has a piece of fabric between the carrier and the baby. I think this makes getting the baby on the back much easier, and it also makes it possible to switch the carrier between partners without taking the baby out.

Another carrier option that seems like a compromise between the Ergo/Beco-style carriers and the big, heavy aluminum frame carriers is the Kelty TC3. We recently purchased one and I’ve been happy with it so far (granted, my daughter is less than 20lbs). One thing that I like about it is the baby sits up higher than in a Ergo/Beco, thus getting a better view of her surroundings.

Sander Private
(zuma_nl) - F
Baby carriers are not really save for baby health on 03/30/2011 04:01:41 MDT Print View

Th kind of baby carriers where the baby has to sit up right are no good for long hikes. Too much pressure on a spine which hasn't enough muscles to keep it straight for a long time...

A carrying system which can relieve the spine is far more saver for small babies. Something like a baby-sling is oké, you can vary the way you cary the baby, lying curled up on it's spine or sitting/hanging upright for a small amount of time.

When babies are able to sit-up right by themselves totally confidently and long enough you might switch to a carrier. With carriers beware of too hot or too cold extremities like hands, head, ears, feet etc. Beware of sun or cold wind. Kids are hard to protect against those influences in a carrier.

We choosed to use a stroller (the three wheeled kind you use to run with, soo big wheels easier going over rougher terrain) this gave us the oppurtunity to transport the baby totally flat or in a comfy half lying position when awake. With the second baby (soon after the first) we invested in a special outdoor cart with big wheels (

Needles to say that carts or strollers give some better oppurtunities to haul baby stuff like diapers etc.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Baby carriers are not really save for baby health on 03/30/2011 09:51:58 MDT Print View

While joggers are nice for kids you cannot use them on most trails - unless bikes are allowed - since they are classified the same as a bike.

On strollers as well - a baby should not be taken off trail on a bumpy/uneven surface until they are a couple months old (usually 8 weeks is recommenced in the US) and not jogging till 6 months (and then the baby should be in an upright position - because joggers become unstable the farther back the baby is lying. So it can tip over easier.

Don't get me wrong - I use my BOB whenever I can, I much prefer it to carrying. I enjoy pushing him along. But yeah, we are limited to where we can go.

As for the whole front carrying, I don't buy the theory that Bjorn's (and similar) are the devils work. Especially when people talk about babies "becoming over stimulated" by looking out, instead of at Mom. Walker was bored looking at me and would wail till I flipped him around. I couldn't do that with some of the carriers.

With any carrier - front or back - frequent stops and being taken out is key. All babies need to stretch and be held.

And be wary of slings for the outdoors - do not hike with one unless you have mastered it at home first!!!! There are real dangers to them if done incorrectly.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
babies have always been carried on a parent on 03/30/2011 11:18:17 MDT Print View

There's nothing wrong with strollers where they make sense (not where I live). But babies throughout history have spent a lot of time being carried upright, strapped to a parent (usually mom) in various kinds of slings and carriers, while that parent goes about their life and chores. Modern baby backpacks are merely an extension of a very old practice (the piece of cloth I use basically is a really old practice). Clearly, you need to make sure the carrier is the right size for the baby, and you use it correctly (as Sarah points out), so baby is well supported. My kids have been happy for long periods of time in the wrap. And when they want to come out, they tell me! Babies are good at crying when uncomfortable.
As far as facing in or out, well, babies can cry when they're overstimulated too, so I don't really worry about that. However, since I've learned to put a little one on my back with this second kid, I've got to say that having the baby looking over my shoulder is way way more comfortable than having them in front looking out, and still lets her see. Of course, you can't wear a backpack that way.