Hiking With Toddlers: An Essential Guide of Tips and Gear

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As an active couple before we had our daughter, we knew that we wanted to share our love of travel and hiking with our baby girl. So it was a no brainer to start while she was several months. The first trip was an Outerbanks roadtrip, and the following year was her first National Park (Glacier NP, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons). Her third trip was Washington State to Olympic National Park but in between those trips are always heading into the mountains for a mini road trips and or short hike.

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glacier national park

Hiking with Toddlers

I know most parents could be intimated at the thought of going out hiking with a baby or toddler but you really don’t have to feel that way. The first thing you have to think about before venturing out in the mountains to hike with a baby is to see if it’s the right time. If your baby can’t hold their head up yet (usually 6-8 months) then they are too young in my opinion. Secondly, you have to be well prepared with extra diapers, changjing clothes, the right clothes, shoes and enough food and water.

Besides the baby and toddler items mentioned in the following sections, they are few other things to keep in mind.

  • sunscreen and bug spray for yourself

  • depending where you are hiking, bear spray

  • mini flashlight

  • couple of bandaids and anti-itch cream (incase of bug bites or poison ivy)

  • travel size blanket for that picnic

  • ziplock bag for those dirty diapers

As far as toddler carriers go, we absolutely love our Deuter hiking baby carrier. We first got this before she turned one. She wasn't walking yet and we still wanted to go out hiking so this was a perfect fit. She is almost three and are still using it as it is good for up to 50 lbs.

Family hike using a Deuter baby carrier.

Family hike using a Deuter baby carrier.

Reason we love the Deuter Baby Toddler Carrier:

  • RAIN SUN SHADE - You can add thisremovable sun/rain head cover which is perfect for protection from the sun and short rain showers. In addition to this if you are going when it's heavy rainy season you may want to get an addition cover protection for the sides.

  • YEARS OF USAGE- It has a high weight limit. To be exact the limit is 48 lbs which means that it will be good for up to a 4-5 year old. So that's alot of years of using this durable toddler backpack. It's well worth the price.

  • POCKETS - It has two side pockets for water bottles, small toys or snacks and a larger one in the back for your phone, lunch, diapers.

  • It has a kick out stand for easy loading.

  • And several adjustable straps for your baby/toddler as they grow.
  • SIZE - Fits in a large suitecase if flying somewhere.

Besides having the Deuter toddler carrier I use a Deuter backpack to carry snacks, diapers, my tripod and camera equipment. It’s perfect as everything I I need fits in and makes it easy to carry.

Snacks and Water

essential hiking with toddler guide

You definitely won't want a hungry baby or toddler on your hands while hiking in the mountains. This will not make for a fun and adventurous hiking trip. Depending how long your hike is and where it is in reference to your home or restuarnts/grocery store you will need to prepare. Think of ahead of time. Will you and your family be picnicing or will be a short hike and all you need are snacks?

Toddler Snacks:

  • Nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)
  • Trail mix
  • Fig bars
  • Grapes
  • Rice cakes
  • jello

Recently, I found these reuseable bags for snacks and sandwiches. I absolutely love these because I started to realize how many sandwich bags we were using for our trips and just everyday use and felt bad.

Lunch ideas:

  • almond butter and jelly sandwich
  • cheese sandwich
  • Cheese and crackers
  • fruit (apples, bananas, pear)
  • bottle or formula
  • food packs for baby

You can never have too much water so don't forget a water bottle. I love this one. It's small enought for a side pocket in the toddler carrier.

Proper Clothes and Shoes

The last thing you want to happen while out in the elements with your kids is to be unprepared. Depending the time of the year and location the weather can change quickly and without warning. Also, you want to be prepared if your hike takes longer than you originally thought.

If hiking in the fall or winter:

  • Jacket
  • warm hat
  • leg warmers
  • gloves
  • warm socks
  • rain boots if a rainy day
  • comfortable shoes, maybe hiking shoes if a toddler over 3 (they can be expensive)
  • sunglasses (even if there is snow, these are important)

If in the spring or summer:

  • water shoes
  • small towel for drying
  • swimwear
  • sunglasses

Some Other Things To Think About

hiking with a toddler tips

Protection From the Elements

Believe me it's no fun to get sun burn or to hike while soaking wet. Even less is for your toddler to be soaked or burning hot. Be prepared and check the weather forecast before hand but also know that in some areas the weather can change without warning. You could be walking in the sun in moment and the next clouds are moving in and a thunderstorm is occuring. Somethings to carry are.

  • sunscreen
  • a thin rain jacket if in the summer
  • hat for sun protection
  • rainboots for toddlers
  • plastic shoe cover for the adults
  • some chemical free bug spray for kids

Capturing the Moment

Hiking with your kids can be awesome adventure and alot of fun but you will want to capture the experience in photos and or video. If you don't, later you might say to yourself, "I wish I had taken pictures. It was our first hiking trip." Photos are the best way to never forget the best of times and the funnest moments especially when traveling with your family. Here are some ideas on what to take to your next or first hiking trip.

  • cellphone (good camera on your cellphone if not alot of space)
  • a digital SLR camera
  • fisheye lens for selfies with the whole background in frame
  • kit lens will be just fine for hiking
  • tripod if you want to take selfies with a remote control or if you want to take photos of waterfalls (if waterfalls you'll need at least two neutral density filters)
  • a waterproof camera carrier if it rains but not neccessary

Check out this post about what's in my camera bag and my Amazon List Shop of favorite camera items.


Another important thing to keep in mind is to have your navigation tools with you unless you are super familiar with the area and have been there many times before. It is best to be prepared. Here are a few ideas of what to take.

  • compass
  • map
  • print out of the hike
  • screen shot of the hike on your phone
  • maps from the visitor center

National Parks and Local Forest

There more dozens and dozens and more dozens of places to start your hiking adventure. Between local areas, National Parks, state parks and National Forests you can find plenty of place to hike. Check out these sites to find hiking trails near you:

National Parks

National Forests

State Parks

Click here to see the items mentioned above on Amazon.