Tramping with Babes in Backpacks (0-1.5 years)

Sonia Barrish offers some great tips and tricks for tiny trampers.

Just wait till the baby is born!

As soon as the baby arrives you won’t be able to do that anymore

You’ll realise once you have kids for yourself why it’s not possible

That was some of the comments we heard before our daughter was born – about lots of things, but mainly about tramping. Which is why I’ve decided to write a few blog posts on how it IS possible to go hiking, and our adventures while at it!

Bethany’s first peak bagged was at 9 weeks old. She bagged Ben Lomond, and had her first nappy change at over 1,700m ASL, as well as a feed and a nap. Her first night in a DOC hut was Christmas Eve, when she was 2 months old. So here are some of the lessons we learnt, as well as what we did that worked.

hiking tramping baby kea nz ben lomond queenstown

Ben Lomond Summit at 9 weeks old. With a Kea and a view!

How do you choose your hikes?

Well, we did have to tone it down. It took till Bethany was closer to twelve months old before we took her out on a multinight tramp, as winter did make us a bit more hesitant, but with more knowledge now, I definitely think we could have taken her out on multi-nighters in winter earlier!

We were used to picking huts with about a dozen visitors a year – but now we were pretty much picking the more popular trails, as we knew these would be better maintained – and there is so many places to go that return visits aren’t high on the priority list yet!!

The younger Bethany was, the easier distance was to cover. When she was little she just slept. And she loves sleeping in the carrier! So, we didn’t have to stop as much or for as long as when she got older, and just wanted to explore for herself! Then we started having longer breaks so that she could enjoy the scenery and feel it in her own toes!

The hardest bit was definitely when she was getting quite big to be on the front, but was still not big enough to go in the tramping carrier! When you’ve got a baby on your front, it’s quite hard to see your toes! (Even worse than when pregnant! ) So we had to go on flat well-trodden walks till B was big enough to go in the backpack.

Toning it down is something I am still working on though. There have been days which have been longer than expected – 13 hours from hut to hut?! – but taking it at Bethany’s pace has meant she’s been happy, even if I’m exhausted! That’s the challenge lover inside of me!

hiking welcome rock trails baby tramping nz

You almost can’t even see the sleeping baby in the wrap!

How did the baby sleep?

Better than at home! B loves the carrier, and sleeping in it. So during the day, we didn’t have any issues. And at night, sure, Bethany spent about the first 10 months of her life waking up every 2 hours or less, but boob is magic. She would stir, and before anyone even noticed anything, she would be boobin’ back to sleep!

One morning, after waking up at the hut, a girl said to Bethany: “I’d take you as a flatmate anyday. No snoring, and not a peep all night! Much better than most flatmates”

sleeping baby hiking camping

Catching up on missed sleep

Where did the baby sleep?

In my sleeping bag. We squeeze up. She’s warm too – win win! Usually if at a DOC hut, we’ll take a bottom bunk, and I try keep her on the wall side, but being squeezed into my sleeping bag with me, it’s not too much of an issue if she wants to feed on the other side.

tent sleeping baby hiking tramping

Nothing more precious than a sleeping baby!

What about nappies?!!

Ah, the magical most important question that everyone always asks. Well – what do people in developing nations do? And what did our ancestors do? The answer is Elimination Communication – except our ancestors didn’t have a fancy name for it, as for them, it was just what they did. Pretty much, from about 7 months old, Bethany has slept without a nappy on – and she has been doing at least the occasional pee in the potty from 5 months old – but this will have its own blog post, as there is just so much to write!

But, we did for the first 12 months always take a back up – I just didn’t want to get stuck in any messy situations! I like to live on the edge, but not quite that much!

At home we use cloth nappies as a back-up, and because everything you carry into the bush has to be carried back out again, we figured we may as well be carrying cloth out than carrying disposables out! And besides – with cloth – if the weather is nice, you can always hang it up to dry – even on the outside of your pack!

hiking potty elimination communication baby nz view

Potty with a view

What does the baby eat?!

This was an actual question we were actually asked by a real lady at a hut. “The same as us” was my confused response. But really, the first 6 months of hiking was pretty straightforward – as my husband said: “You’ve got baby’s hydration pack on you!”

Once solids were introduced, we just had to make sure some of our snacks were more baby friendly – I’m not sure I want to see my daughter high on gummy lollies!!

Nuts I would sometimes chew up for her, and then give her. She loves sultanas. We took fresh apples & capsicums.

For meals, she just shared off my plate, as she does at home. Though now she’s gotten into doing the rounds & seeing who’s plate looks the best!

hiking tramping baby feeding food view nz

Snackies with a view

What do you dress the baby in?

Again, similar to what we would do for ourselves. Merino, and lots of it. We also have a few fleece and polyprop layers for her – mainly from the op shop or handmade!

Pretty much mini tramping clothes – and gosh does she look cute in them! We got given a pair of soft shell pants too, and those are perfect for if it starts bucketing down, as the tramping pack has a great rain cover, but it just doesn’t cover the ends of the feet!

hiking baby warm clothes wool merino fleece nz

Getting ready to face the storm outside!

What about mozzie bites?!

And this is where Bethany is lucky that I make natural alternatives (which I sell on my blog)! But not when I forget the insect repellent – ARGH!!

How do you entertain the baby?!

Another question which surprised me the first time – this has never been an issue! Think about how much there is to see, take in, and explore from a babies perspective!! All the trees, birds, clouds – everything is amazing to them.

Bethany has entertained herself singing (well, trying to hum) songs, pointing out objects, trying to name colours, just watching peacefully, chasing birds at huts, trying to climb over tree stumps, splashing in puddles, watching other people at huts… seriously, if you don’t know how to entertain a baby, then go hiking. It’s so much easier! We took her one favourite toy for the first few months, but then just gave up on the extra weight, as she wasn’t even that interested in it!

hiking cooking baby nz view outdoors

There’s plenty of toys here!

Is your pack really heavy?

Well, yes. But it’s a small price to pay to be able to head out into nature with our little family.

Currently, mine and hubbys packs are around 25kg each. But one day, Bethany will grow up, and be walking on her own, and we will miss the days of everything being so new and exciting to her, and showing her this whole backyard we have to play in!

hiking baby walking tramping outdoors

The whole happy tramping family 🙂

FMC thanks Sonia Barrish for her permission to reproduce this article, first published on her Back to the Wild blog.  Sonia makes and sells a range of home-made ointments, rubs and products such as insect repellent which are non-toxic and baby friendly.  

This resource is part of FMC’s Outdoor Community campaign, celebrating and encouraging Family Tramping. Check out the other articles on Family Tramping here on Wilderlife. If you’ve got stories, tips or encouragement that you’re willing to share, please get in touch.

Last updated: 12 September 2019

Wilderlife