You're a new parent, you're a seasoned parent and you want to get on the trails more. We hear you. Some weekends we think it would just be easier to cut the cord, but whenever we power through it, we are glad we made the trek outside. And over the last 7 months, we've had some ah-ha moments.
Gear: You don't need that much for the infant/baby. However, what you do need, make sure you do it right.
Time of Day: Guess what, sleep routines are going to put a wrench in that sunrise hike. But guess what, we found that sunsets are just as amazing.
Crying Children: They're cold, they're hungry, or they're just done with the day.
The big thing is -- if you adventured outside a lot before, you can do this. Remember when you just started your first hiking adventure or outdoor excursion? If you're like me, you had to learn a few tricks, learn things the hard way, and in the end, you got a rhythm. The same goes for adding a child or infant to the mix. It's going to be an absolute '$#!% show' in the beginning. You're going to have an hour-long screaming car ride when your Apple watch is going to be buzzing with excessive sound volume notifications. Embrace it.
So to get started, here are some tips that we have learned over the past few months with over 25 hiking trips in the books. And that doesn't count the 2-3 mile mini-trips to Manassas Battlefield on Sundays. Where talking +3 miles, 1000-2000ft vertical change and 2 hour car rides with the little one.
1 | Gear for Baby and Infant Hiking
You don't really need much. When I first started, my brother said, "diaper, wipe, and ziplock." I laughed at him. Of course, I was new to parenting. He's right.
Wipes - bring a hefty amount in case of emergency
Plus, a diaper-changing pad
Food, if no longer breastfeeding
Nothing more, nothing less. In our opinion.
2 | Time of Day
When people give me advice about my child and sleeping, I absorb it and sometimes laugh a little inside. Here is the thing, ALL children sleep differently. So this is our game plan and perhaps it will work for you.
6:30am - Wake-up, Feeding, Play time
8:30am - First Nap
9:30-10:00am - Up and at it
That means, if we're doing a long hike, she is going in the car seat at 8:30am to sleep on the way to the park. If we've lost the battle, we get everything ready for a quick departure around 9:30-10:00am. For us, this puts us on the trails by 11:30-12:30pm.
Allocate time at the trailhead for feeding
Sling the child in the carrier by 1:00pm
She's probably asleep in the carrier by 2:30pm to about 3:00pm (this is the part where you can laugh, "my child would never do that" type stuff)
And we finish by 4:00-5:00pm for a nap on the car ride home
The first few times were an absolute nightmare and we almost threw in the towel. But in talking to said brother, yeah the one that said, "diaper, wipe, ziplock" ... he was adamant that we needed to keep living life and keep trying. He was right.
The point is -- seek out the ideal time to go. Substitute the times that you would be doing routine items with checkpoints. Perhaps you only go to one park and every time you go, you know you have to feed the child at the Wawa and get gas. Turn it into a routine.
You can do this.
3 | Crying Children
If you have cracked the code on the crying child, please write a book. But we suggest you start a list of things that could cause a meltdown and keep it handy on a note card.
Hot or Cold
Or they're just pissed off
We have found it's 1 of 3 of those. We're lucky that our little girl is relatively low maintenance most of the time, but when she is upset -- she lets us know. My most favorite was 4 miles from the car, on the upper ridge of Shenandoah National Park, it started to snow and the wind was a good 30mph. Impossible to feed her and it was just miserable. She cried for 30 minutes all of which during a rendition of the Ants Going Marching On. My wife is a saint.
Make a checklist of the things that you think could upset the child. Write it on a note card and put it in your pocket. Do it at home and make sure it's comprehensive. When you're on the trail you'll forget the little things because, well, it's stressful. Game time is not the time to be guessing, it's the time to call the audible and execute.
Diaper, wipes, ziplock. Follow this sage advice. No need for the do-dad, whatchamacallits, or every little thing that you can pack to get outside. Keep it simple. Go light, go fast, go prepared.