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Backpacking with Babies: Everything You Need to Know

Backpacking with Babies: Everything You Need to Know

by Mikayla Merchant | June 08, 2020

Many people think they’ll have to put their outdoor adventures on hold when their babies are born, but that’s simply not the case. Backpacking with babies requires a bit of extra planning, but it’s absolutely doable, and it’s a lot of fun. 

So, why would you want to backpack with your baby? After all, they’re too little to remember the experience. First, you are going to enjoy and remember the sight of your little one taking it all in, and that alone is reason enough. And, one day you’ll be able to show your child photos and share memories of their first backpacking adventure. What could be more special than that?

Here’s everything you need to know about backpacking with babies so you can plan your trip with confidence!

Diapers and Wipes

When it comes to diapers and wipes, you have a few different options, depending on how long you’ll be on the trail, what might be available along the way, and how much you want to carry.

    • Disposable diapers: With disposable diapers, you’ll need to carry your entire supply with you, unless you’ll be passing a camp store that carries them. You’ll also have to pack the dirty ones out with you until you can find a trash can. For that reason, disposable are probably only a good choice on shorter trips of one or two days.
    • Cloth diapers: You might think cloth diapers would be the perfect choice because you can wash them along the way, but they may not be ideal. Washing diapers in a lake or stream pollutes the water source and possibly introduces pathogens like giardia. If you really want to go with cloth, you could pack in a collapsible bucket and biodegradable soap and wash the diapers far away from the water source.
    • Compostable diapers: Many people don’t realize compostable diapers are even available, but they’re a fantastic option for backpacking with babies. They’re a lot like cloth diapers because there’s an inner liner and a waterproof plastic cover. The inner liner is lightweight and completely compostable, so it can be thrown into pit toilets or buried along the way. Bring two covers so you have a spare to wash and hang dry if one gets dirty.
    • Wipes: The easiest option is to bring disposable wipes packaged in resealable plastic bags. They’re not heavy and they don’t take up much space, plus they come in handy for cleaning dirty hands and faces, both yours and your baby’s. If you’ll be washing cloth diapers anyway, you could go with cloth wipes and wash them at the same time.


Choosing Your Backpack and Baby Carrier

The Deuter Kid Comfort 2 is a fantastic option for little ones from 22 – 48 pounds. It’s a baby carrier/backpack hybrid that allows you to carry all of your gear and your baby comfortably at the same time. Awesome features include flexible footrests, a sunshade, a removable headrest, and a hip belt for comfortable carrying.

For smaller babies, you could opt to carry your baby in a front carrier and wear a standard backpack on your back. Don’t forget to plan for rain and bugs on the trail. Whatever option you choose, be sure it has a rain cover and a mosquito net for the baby’s comfort.

Packing Food for Babies on the Trail

Here are a few things to consider when packing food for babies on the trail.

  • Breast milk and/or formula: Breast milk is the perfect nutritious and portable food for babies on the trail. If you’re already breastfeeding, plan to continue doing that on your trip. If your baby is on formula, you’ll want to have a way to filter water and sterilize bottles on the trail. 
  • Baby food: For older babies who are already eating some solid foods, many companies make lightweight squeeze packets of pureed fruits and vegetables that are perfect for backpacking.
  • Snacks for the baby: Baby puffs and teething crackers are great snacks for babies on the trail.
  • Don’t forget to pack extra for mom: If mom is breastfeeding and hiking all day, she’s going to be burning a lot of calories. Be sure to pack nutritious, calorie-dense snacks like energy bars that she can eat on the go. 

Choosing Baby’s Clothes for Backpacking

When it comes to choosing baby’s clothes for backpacking, the first thing to remember is to avoid cotton. Cotton holds moisture and can actually suck heat away from your little one’s body if it gets the least bit damp. Wool, polyester, and fleece are much better options. Pack clothing that can be layered depending on the weather, and don’t forget to bring a sunhat to protect the baby's eyes and face from the sun. One-piece, zippered baby rain suits can also be a lifesaver on rainy days.

Sleeping Comfortably on the Trail

Sleeping comfortably with a baby on the trail requires a little advanced planning. If mom will need to breastfeed during the night, having the baby sleep between mom and dad is probably the most convenient option. If your sleeping pads are wide enough, you won’t have to bring an extra pad. If not, look for a multi-person sleeping pad to keep everyone comfortable.

If mom won’t need to breastfeed during the night, you put the baby at the head of the tent on a small sleeping pad. If the nights will be cool, fleece pajamas and a warm hat will keep the baby warm. If it’s going to be cold, snuggle your baby in close for extra warmth.

Keeping Baby Entertained

You will probably find that your little one is so enchanted with all the sights and sounds, keeping him or her entertained won’t be a problem. However, it might be nice to have some small toys for entertainment when you set up camp for the night. 

You might also want to bring a small baby tent that your little one can hang out in at camp. They’re made primarily for the beach, but it’s nice to have a place to put the baby down while you’re setting up camp and making dinner. Look for one that includes a bug net or bring your own to throw over it.

Final Tips

The primary concern when backpacking with babies is safety. Make sure you have a good first aid kit and at least one person in your group should be trained in infant CPR. And don’t forget to bring a camera so you can document your baby’s first backpacking adventure!

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