I love being outdoors. I grew up with the countryside on my doorstep and the fresh air reminds me of my childhood and the bliss of nativity that comes with it.
I didn’t really discover hiking until I was in my mid 20’s but now I find myself longing for a good long walk. However, now I have children I have found that there are limitations to how far I can go and the routes that I can take. This is my quick guide to helping you strike the balance between getting your hiking fix and ensuring your children can manage the distance or route.
These tips are for those who want to go on hikes that are not pushchair friendly.
1. Invest in a good quality child backpack
These can seem pricy, especially when you can pick up much cheaper child carriers but you are paying for structure and support which you will need if you are on a long hike. My backpack is made by Osprey and has a sunshade for my little one, can be adjusted for my child’s size and also has backpack capabilities for storing the days food and the essential nappy changing facilities. It allows for ventilation around the baby and you for added comfort.
2. Avoid the rain
I personally have avoided going on a hike when there is a likely chance of rain. I can’t think of anything worse than having a wet baby or toddler and being miles away from somewhere warm and dry. This is mainly because with my backpack I can’t actually keep my baby completely out of the rain. On these days I’ve chosen to visit a local park instead where we can walk with a pushchair and cover or be close enough to a cafe or the car to keep dry if a shower does hit.
3. Take the right protective clothing.
This means in winter your baby or toddler should have enough layers on along with a hat and gloves to keep them warm. You need to remember that if they are in a backpack or pushchair they will not be keeping warm though exercise like you can can easily get cold if they aren’t properly dressed.
Being properly dressed goes for other extremes as well. In the summer you should have factor 50 sunscreen on hand to apply and reapply during your hikes. Children have more sensitive skin than us oldies and need to be protected. They should also have a sun hat or be kept in the shade where possible. If you are babywearing a smaller baby make regular checks that your baby is not overheating next to your body. If you need to stop and find some shade then do so. A Muslin cloth creates a good shade if you can’t find natural shade where you are so keep that in your hiking pack.
4. Plan hikes with regular pit stops
It is completely feasible to change nappies in the great outdoors and have regular snack and water breaks as needed. However, having a cafe/pub to look forward to is a nice motivator when you’re pushing yourself to get up that steep hill. If you are out in either hot or cold weather, it’s also good to know you have a place where you can reapply suncream or check baby is coping with the layers for the cold. You can assess whether your children are going to be able to cope with the remaining hike. Sometimes you can get caught out, maybe it’s windier than you were expecting and the best thing to do is to have someone fetch the car while you keep the kiddies protected from the elements. In any case, pit stops are good for morale.
5. Build up your distance over time
When I first started hiking I followed a 4 mile circular walk in the Lake District from a pocket guide. After falling in love with hiking I walked larger distances and eventually settled on walking around 13 miles every Sunday. I followed a similar pattern when I started walking with my children. One reason for this is I had delivers my first baby by C-section and I was unsure of my limits: I didn’t want to be miles from a road or civilisation and realise that I had reached my limit and couldn’t go on. In addition, I wasn’t sure if my baby would have handled being carried for a longer distance and didn’t want to make him ill or have a dreadful day because I wanted a longer walk. It is important you build up your walking distance to ensure you don’t exceed the limits both for yourself and your children. Safety should be your top priority.
I hope you have found these tips useful. Generally you just have to be sensible. I walk on a regular basis around Derbyshire, UK. Don’t forget to follow me or drop me a comment if you are interested in hearing more about my hiking or want to know any routes I follow.
Thank you for reading. Have fun hiking.