Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tips for carrying small children when day hiking

Baby carriers are a great way to
take children on long hikes.
If your child is an infant or toddler, you’ll have to carry him. Until infants can hold their heads up, which usually doesn’t happen until about four to six months of age, a front pack (like a Snugli or Baby Bjorn) is best. It keeps the infant close for warmth and balances out your backpack. At same time, though, you must watch for baby overheating in a front pack, so you’ll need to remove the infant from your body at rest stops.

Once children reach about 20 pounds, they typically can hold their heads up and sit on their own. At that point, you’ll want a baby carrier (sometimes called a child carrier or baby backpack), which can transfer the infant’s weight to your hips when you walk. You’ll not only be comfortable, but you’re child will love it, too.

Look for a baby carrier that is sturdy yet lightweight. Your child is going to get heavier as time passes, so about the only way you can counteract this is to reduce the weight of the items you use to carry things. The carrier also should have adjustment points, as you don’t want your child to outgrow the carrier too soon. A padded waist belt and padded shoulder straps are necessary for your comfort. The carrier should provide head and neck support if you’re hauling an infant. It also should offer back support for children of all ages, and leg holes should be wide enough so there’s no chafing.

You want to be able to load your infant without help, so it should be stable enough to stand so when you take it off the child can sit in it for a moment while you get turned around. Stay away from baby carriers with only shoulder straps as you need the waist belt to help shift the child’s weight to your hips for more comfortable walking.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.