hiking babyAs we get older, our lives can change in drastic fashion. One day we’re climbing trees and then before we know it, we’re telling our own kids to be careful while they do the same. My wife and I have even been talking more about the prospect of kids lately. The notion of babies and toddlers in tow as we tackle trails can be a little intimidating to some, as many associate it with the cessation of their own enjoyment and solitude on the trail. However, you can still be an avid hiker and a parent with a little bit of planning and preparation. Keep reading to learn how.

In the case of infants, it’s probably wise to wait until they’re at least one month old before taking them along on the trail. Before a month, infants are too sensitive to be exposed to inclement weather, such as sun, heat, and rain. You may have to forego your own hiking adventures for the first month or so, but you just had a baby; be there to take care of them.

Once your baby is old enough, it’s time to pick up some age-appropriate baby-carrying gear. There are plenty of of trail-friendly baby carriers on the market, ranging from newborns all the way up to 60-pound children, so you shouldn’t have any trouble there. A front carrier is best for 1 to 6 month old children, while a back carrier will work well for children 6 to 12 months old. If you’re just tackling flat, easy trails near your home, there are strollers that are designed for trails, as well as some that have interchangeable wheels for cement and trail use.

Once you’re geared up and ready to hit the trail, I’d start with an easy hike. If you don’t know of any trails nearby, you can search for more online through sites such as Trail.com, EveryTrail.com, or even visit the websites of your local state parks system. When you find a few potentials, try the trail yourself first, solo. At first, you may even want to plan on hiking only portions of the trail, instead of the whole thing. While you scope it out, look for stretches of the trail that might be too risky for an infant. Also, survey potential rest spots, such as areas with plenty of shade.

Again, the most important thing is to have fun. Use the time to take in views, nature, and burn some calories, but also be sure to bond with your child. If they’re old enough, singing songs with them, or pointing out various animals and trees will help them enjoy the wilderness as well. As you get more comfortable and your child ages, try hiking a longer section each outing.

Obviously, the important thing here is being there for your baby, whether you hit the trail or not. Once you decide to venture into the woods with your infant, though, you can find the experience to be safe and fun by planning ahead and tackling the trail one segment at a time. Baby steps, if you will.