How to Backpack with a Toddler
Backpacking is not an easy task by ourselves or with another adult and adding a toddler to the mix can make life even more difficult. Luckily, there is no need to get stressed! Bringing a toddler is completely doable and will even be a lasting lifelong memory that you can share with your child.
A toddler is around the age of one to three. With this age range, a lot of problems can arise. For example, temper tantrums may arise, diapers must be changed, and the child will get bored. These are all potential problems that anyone must plan for when bringing a toddler along for the hike. Toddlers are going to bring up problems along the ride but it’s all about expecting the unexpected with them and figuring out ways to keep them interested.
Bring a Carrier
One of the best things you can do for yourself when bringing a toddler is to bring a carrier. There is no way that a child in the age range of one to three is going to be able to walk alongside you nor can you carry them a mile nevertheless for a five-mile backpacking trip. To avoid this problem, bring a carrier so that the child can sit in the carrier. You can choose to get a front carrier that would attach to the front of you or a back carrier that attaches to your back and you can still carry your pack as well. By simply bringing a carrier, you will see that you will decrease potential problems arising majorly.
To keep your toddler interested, it is always a great idea to bring snacks that they love. Snacks are something that can keep your toddler distracted and keep them full. A hungry toddler is an angry toddler, so make sure you give them snacks often. Also keep in mind to bring snacks that can hold without refrigeration because they will most likely not stay good for the duration of your hike. Good snacks to bring would be dry cereals, bananas, cookies, and trail mixes.
Having a carrier that your toddler can sit in through the backpacking trip is a major asset but they will not want to sit in there the whole time. Just like adults don’t like to sit in the car for five hours straight, neither do toddlers. Toddlers also have a lower threshold so they will most likely fuss around more often than we would for a long trip. To avoid tantrums, stop here and there to let your toddler out. You can sit in a safe enough area with you toddler to look and show them flowers, the wildlife, or any streams. Stopping to smell the roses will keep you toddler in good graces and facilitate fewer tantrums.
When you are going on your first hike with your toddler, it is important to start small. Do not go on a two-night backpacking trip for the child’s first hike. Just like when training for anything you start with maybe thirty minutes a day to get adjusted and used to the feeling. With toddlers, you must do the same thing. Go on thirty minute hikes on a trail a couple times. See how the toddler reacts and if you could bring anything to help them through the trip. This is a good trial run that will help you and your toddler get adjusted. The next step would be to go on a backpacking trip, only spending a day overnight. Once you have done this a couple of times, guaranteed your toddler will get used to it. You are basically training your toddler to be patient, tolerant, and to be adjusted to doing long backpacking trips.
Keep them Entertained
Along the hike it is important to remember that you actually have your toddler with you. By this I mean to acknowledge them and get them really involved along the hike. Talk to them constantly and point out anything along the trail that may interest them. Things like colorful flowers or streams can really amaze a toddler and keep them distracted for the next thirty minutes. Also, just talk to them now and then. By doing this you will keep them distracted and not cause them to spaz due to epic boredom.
Bring Anything Important
A major step that is important to take when hiking with a toddler is to bring everything they (and you) need. You will want to bring wipes, diapers, a bottle or sippy cup, juice/powdered milk, extra clothing, a footy to keep them warm, blankets for sleeping, and food. You also do not need to pack a whole week’s supply of all this gear or else you will have a huge pack, so only bring what you need for the designated length of the trip.
When going on a hike with a toddler it is also vital to stay safe. You not only have to care for your life but also your precious toddler. Choose a trail that is very safe and does not have any potential hazards. Stay away from trails that require you to cross bodies of water or go down steep hills. Luckily there are lots of trails to choose from and most of them are very safe. If any situations that are dangerous do arrive, because life is unpredictable, just keep in mind to make the safest choice possible. If you have to just go back another day or choose a different trail, then do so. Don’t risk it!
By following all of these tips, you are sure to have a great time with you toddler! Also keep in mind to take care of you along the trip as well. You are not only going to be carrying your pack but also your child as well so it is important to keep hydrated. You are also going to be burning a lot of calories, so bring high calorie food for you as well to keep up. Good luck and happy backpacking!