For many nature enthusiasts, backpacking can be one of the best ways to experience the outdoors. However, when some people get married and start a family they think that backpacking is going to become a thing of the past. What a lot of people don’t know is that backing with a baby is very doable and there are plenty of people who do this each year. You just need to know the necessary steps in taking your child along for your wilderness exploration.
The first thing to remember while planning your trip is that you need to lower your expectations. Traveling with a heavy pack and a baby adds a lot more strenuous work on you so don’t expect to travel as far as you usually do. Cutting down to three miles a day is a lot more realistic if you’re in shape. Remember that this trip is about spending time with your family in the wilderness and not about proving yourself that you can still do and travel as far as before your baby.
The number one thing experienced backpackers and parents alike cannot express enough is to be prepared. After packing the usual flashlights, emergency gear and backpacks, you will need to take warm baby clothing, infant first aid in case of any scrapes, bruises or stings. Travel near streams, and bring a water pump since you’ll be drinking more water than before because of the added weight carried. Be sure to bring lots of extra food and plenty of baby-friendly snacks to feed your child throughout the day. Also, it is extremely important that you notify the park rangers in the area about the planned route, number of backpackers and children, when you will be starting, and when you will be leaving.
Taking disposable diapers can be a hassle since you will have no way to dispose of these. However, while bring cloth diapers is a smart alternative, you will not be able to wash them in the streams along your hike. National Parks do not allow any human waste to be disposed within 100 feet of a water source, and washing cloth diapers in the streams is also prohibited. The best way to do this is to dig a hole about 6 to 8 feet deep, empty the cloth diapers of its contents, then clean the diaper in a bucket with soap at about 200 feet from the stream. This method is legal, better for the environment and will save you from spending money on disposable diapers. If you still choose to use disposable diapers, however, you can store the dirty ones in plastic bags until your trip is over and then dispose of them.
One thing you can expect to happen along your trip is that everyone and everything will eventually get dirty. Although at home you would typically not allow your child to be covered in mud, it becomes unavoidable while backpacking in the wilderness. Wiping your baby with a damp cloth or bandana will keep them somewhat clean but remember to just enjoy the trip and look forward to a clean and refreshing bath when you return home. Although it’s okay to get yourselves dirty, it’s important that you don’t get your surroundings dirty as well. Leaving behind crumbs, spills and even baby throw up can attract bears and other critters so be cautious of this.
Any parent knows how easily a temper tantrum can come on and how difficult it can be to stop them. Packing a few favorite toys, a book, music and favorite snacks can be an easy fix to keep your child from getting upset when they’re tired and hot from the trail.
While backpacking with your baby, it’s easy to get frustrated by the new difficulties you will face. Adding more weight on your body, being responsible for another person completely and temper tantrums can all lead to a breakdown. Keep in mind that you are here to experience backpacking with your family and to not the little things get to you. Look at the big picture and stay calm, even amidst all of the new stresses. Practice makes perfect and will make every trip easier once you have finished your first backpacking trip with your family.