I cannot pretend to be an expert in getting babies outdoors. I have only one offspring thus far, and what works for one family may very well be hell for another. Every baby is different and develops at different speeds. I am lucky(?) to have a very active, outgoing kiddo who likes going outside. He will actually get fussy if we stay indoors too long. No joke.
Below are a few tips and gear recommendations that have helped my family immensely on our outdoor adventures with baby.
Very early on we would strap him into a baby carrier (like this) and go for long walks. Now, at nine months old, we take him on bigger adventures and even overnight camping trips. Longer hikes are a snap when we use a kid carrier like the Deuter Kid Comfort 3. When hiking with a squirmy baby, I advocate passionately for using trekking poles. They will help your balance and endurance, especially when you find yourself “exploring” a bit more than you planned.
When adventuring outdoors with babies, versatile baby clothes are needed. It’s important to manage their body temperature, as temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day. Plus, it can get hot in their little packs when you’re hiking uphill, but then cool down on the downhill. Performance baby merino wool and synthetic base layers are key to comfort. I really like the merino wool layers from Wee Woolies. Wool is warm when wet and my guy is a drooler extraordinaire! Along these lines, I also invested in a few pairs of little Smartwool Socks. I recommend the toddler size, as they are more of a crew height. I have noticed infant socks will be kicked off in no time at all.
For cool summer nights and weather, polar fleece items are an excellent investment. Fleece is soft and low maintenance, thus pairs well with babies. My little outdoor dude has fleece buntings, jackets, pants, hats, and blankets. To best protect him, I add water-repellency to all his polar fleece items with Nikwax Polar Proof. It helps keep him dry in a surprise rain shower (although it’s not a substitute for rainwear in longer squalls) and prevents drool and spit up from absorbing into the fabric – keeping things cleaner for longer. Bonus!
We also splurged and bought the baby a Patagonia down jacket. It is just the cutest thing ever (see picture below). However, down does not perform well when wet and, as I mentioned above, babies are drool machines. We clean it frequently with Nikwax Down Wash and add water-repellency as needed with Down Proof. These two steps help down perform at its best and keep the little guy warm and toasty.
One more item that makes our outdoor adventures more comfortable (in the absence of a crash pad) is a big waterproof blanket, like the Meadow Mat by Alite Designs. They make a great outdoor play area for the wee one, and a nice picnic blanket to boot.
The most important thing to remember when getting outdoors with a baby is to go at your own pace. Some babies are born wanting to explore the great outdoors, and others may take a little while to warm up to the experience. Now go have fun outside with your little ones!
By Heidi Allen
Heidi is the Marketing Director for Nikwax North America. You can find her and her family exploring the Pacific Northwest’s mountains and rivers with baby, pup, and craft beers in tow.