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Advice From a Pro: Keep Your Kids (and Yourself) Comfortable on Trail

Posted by Anna Roth at Feb 07, 2017 09:55 AM |

Käryn Gaffney, Branch Ambassador for the Seattle chapter of Hike It Baby, shares what sorts of tips or gear she packs when she hits the trail with her two-year-old.

Käryn Gaffney, Branch Ambassador for the Seattle chapter of Hike It Baby, knows a thing or two about hiking with kids. We wanted to know what sorts of tips or gear she packs when she hits the trail with her two-year-old, and she was happy to let us in on her secrets.

Lola taking a snack break
Snacks help keep kids' energy up on outings. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Keep kids fed

Snacks are super important when hiking with little ones. When I hike with my two and a half year old, I can't get by without some cheddar Goldfish crackers to keep her motivated. She's at the point where she wants to walk on her own, but has a hard time maintaining forward movement. When it's time to go back in her carrier, it's easier to get her in it if I can offer some fruit leather or something.

The best kind of snacks are ones that are easy to pack:

  • granola bars
  • apple slices
  • bananas
  • little crackers (Goldfish or Wheat Thins work great)
  • freeze dried snap peas or fruit
  • fruit leather
  • applesauce pouches
  • cheese slices or cubes

Don't forget the water bottle to wash it all down. I usually share with my daughter so I only have to carry one water source, but she recently got her own backpack with a small water bladder to help motivate her and to teach her about being prepared.

WTA Tip: Keep things that might crush easily (crunchy crackers or freeze dried fruit and veg) in hard-sided Tupperware containers. It'll keep them from getting crumbly, and usually Tupperware's a little easier to get into on a cold hike than the original packaging.

Keep them warm and dry

I have had hikes cut short because my daughter was too cold. I always dress her in layers and try to keep her in one more layer than what I am wearing, so I know she's warm.

Last month when it was so cold, we had a difficult time staying outdoors for too long, even with those extra layers.

I always have a back up fleece or wool hat and waterproof mittens for her hands. My goal is always to start out with them on her before she gets too cold. It's harder to warm up once you're chilled.

The base layers she wears are invaluable on our fall, winter and spring outings. We always use wool, or synthetics like fleece or polypropylene. These types of materials will keep you warm even if they get wet or damp -- a common occurrence with young children.

My toddler has a few waterproof trail suits that have completely changed the way we get outdoors. We no longer fear the drizzle and treat rainy days just like any other. Between the Oakiwear rainsuit and her MyMayu boots, she's waded into puddles up to her knees and come out dry. I no longer worry about her getting soaked clothes, and if she falls in a mud puddle, it's no big deal!

WTA Tip: Cold snaps or rainy days are good times to explore around your immediate neighborhood -- take a walk around the block and look for as much greenery as you can.

Shorten your outing

Now that she's walking and hiking a lot on her own, we do shorter trails and I can get away with not carrying around my framed kid-carrier at all. I do grab my Deuter fannypack, which will fit water, several snacks, and couple bandaids just in case, a cell phone and keys, a backup diaper and a small bag of wipes. It's perfect for carrying the essentials and keeping my hands free. I relish trips where I don't have to have anything on my back!

moms hiking with kids karyn gaffney
When you're properly prepared for an outing with your child, it's enjoyable for everyone. Photo by Käryn Gaffney.

Care for yourself, too

My own personal favorite hiking gear are my boots. I trust them and wear them all the time. When you're carrying a baby on your back, you need the ankle support and the confidence of a good shoe. I've owned my Asolo boots for about a year now and they have over 600 miles on them and are still going strong!

Definitely invest in a good, reliable, supportive pair of shoes -- you don't want to get four miles out and then realize they're falling apart or that they don't fit properly. Oh, and bring a spare pair of laces just in case. You don't want to lace up your boots at the Mount St. Helens trailhead and have one snap in half, trust me on this one.

Ready to step out on trail with your little one? Join Käryn on a Hike It Baby outing, or find one near you!

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