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Hiking in Cold Weather with Babies

Your Guide to Hiking in Cold Weather with Babies

There’s something different about hiking in cold weather. Yes, it’s cold, and yes, it takes effort to bundle everyone up to get out the door. But it’s also quiet, peaceful, and even a little magical.

I love picking out animal tracks in the snow with my kiddos or making up stories about what the hibernating animals are dreaming about. Some of my favorite family memories involve teaching my kids to catch snowflakes on their tongues or listening to their sleepy sounds as they doze in the carrier on a snowshoe adventure.

If you’ve never taken your baby or kids hiking in cold weather, it can seem a little daunting at first. Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here we have listed everything you need to know about hiking with babies in cold weather, from what to wear, what to bring, how to stay safe, and how to pick a trail.

We end with some tips we have picked up along the way to make things easier so you can focus on having fun and making memories with your little ones this winter.

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Woman Hiking in a snowy forested landscape with a child on her back in an Onya Outback baby carrier.

Why Go Hiking in Cold Weather?

Hiking in cold weather takes more planning and preparation than in other seasons, but the benefits are so worth it! Here are some reasons we think donning the multiple layers and braving the cold are worth the effort:

Torch Calories

Hiking and exercising outdoors in cold weather burns an impressive amount of calories since your body is also expending energy to keep your body warm. In addition, you increase cardiovascular endurance, boost immunity, and improve energy levels when you make cold-weather outdoor adventures a habit.

Add in some hiking or snowshoeing through snow to burn even more calories!

Fight off the Winter Blues

Dreary, cold days mixed with fewer hours of sunshine can make us all feel a little blue. Time in nature, especially chilly nature, boosts endorphins and serotonin levels in the brain, which can drastically improve your mood. The best part? These mood-boosting effects can last for several days!

Bonding Time

Cold-weather hiking can be a delightful experience. With fewer crowds, little to no bugs, and the quiet of the chilly air, hiking in winter can be magical. This allows for new experiences and memories to be made with your little ones, significant other, family, and friends.

This is also a great time to establish some family traditions, such as opt-outside on Black Friday or a “first-day” hike on New Year’s Day.

Building Resilience

Exploring nature in the cold can be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Being willing to get a little uncomfortable to experience the beauty offered by all the different seasons can help our little ones learn to be resilient.

Model a Love of Nature in Every Season

When our kiddos spend more time in nature, regardless of season, they tend to learn to respect and protect it. Even as babies, experiencing the outdoors in every season teaches our little ones about the cyclical changes we experience each year, and how beauty can be found in both the blossoming flower and the frozen waterfall.

A person pushing an all-terrain stroller on a snowy trail with a child next to her pushing a doll stroller and wearing a doll on her back.

Choosing a Mode of Child Transportation in Cold Weather

Choosing how you want to transport your baby on the trail will depend on your chosen activity, the terrain, and your personal preference. What works for one person may turn out to be uncomfortable for you or your baby. Some of the main options available to transport your child on a cold weather hike are: Babywearing, pushing a stroller, or pulling a sled.

Baby Wearing in Winter

A carrier is the most common form of child transportation when hiking. With so many options on the market, it can be hard to choose what will work best for your family. Here is a brief description of the different types of carriers along with the pros and cons of using them in the colder months.

For more detailed information, check out this article on choosing a carrier for hiking with kids.

Check out our full list of carrier reviews!

Wraps, Slings, and Hybrid Carriers

These carriers are grouped together because they all generally involved long pieces of fabric and a learning curve to use properly. Wraps are made from one long piece of stretchy or woven fabric that can be wrapped and secured in various ways.

A ring sling is a large piece of fabric with two rings attached to one side that wraps around the caregiver and baby where it is then looped through the rings. Hybrid carriers involve less wrapping and combine the closeness of a wrap carrier with the ease of a soft-structured carrier.

  • Pros:
    • Many can be used with newborns, unlike the other carrier options.
    • You share your body warmth with your baby, keeping them warm and snuggly against you.
  • Cons:
    • They tend to have long ends that can drag on the ground or get in the way.
    • A steep learning curve gets even steeper when the weather is cold.
      • I would highly recommend practicing with these carriers until you are completely comfortable using them before venturing out into the cold.

Soft-Structured Carriers

Soft-structured (also known as “buckle”) carriers are a widely used option for hiking in all weather. You still keep baby close, sharing body warmth, but they tend to be much easier to use. They generally have multiple carrying options including front carry (baby on your front, facing you) and back carry (baby secured against your back). Others also allow you to wear your kiddo on your hip or on your front facing out (not recommended for an extended period or on rough terrain).

  • Pros:
    • They are generally easy to use.
    • You still get to share body warmth with your baby without having loose ends dragging on the ground.
    • With various possible carrying options, they grow with your baby, and some are specially designed for toddlers and preschoolers.
  • Cons:
    • They may require the use of an infant insert for younger babies.
    • They are also not as easily stored when compared to a wrap, sling, or hybrid carrier.
Helpful Attachments

Many companies have carrier covers available that help keep your baby toasty and warm and/or dry in cold, wet conditions. One option we love is the Cozy Dry Rain Cover from Jan and Jul which keeps moisture out while keeping body heat in. You may even find that the company of your chosen carrier has an option available, such as the Ergobaby All-Weather Resistant Cover.

A woman wearing an ergo baby carrier with a carrier cover with two little girls in an outdoor location
TMM Team Member Jami Keeping Her Baby Warm with a Carrier Cover

Framed Hiking Packs

If you have an older baby who can sit upright on their own with full head and neck control (usually around 6 months and 16 pounds depending on the carrier), you can consider using a framed hiking carrier.

These packs come in handy for longer treks when you need more room to store gear and essentials. Just keep in mind that you will not be sharing body heat, so you will need to layer them for warmth and keep a close eye on their body temperature (especially those little extremities).

  • Pros:
    • They offer plenty of storage for longer treks and they make it easy to share the load with a partner since they can adjust to different torso lengths.
  • Cons:
    • They can be cumbersome for those of us on the petite side.
    • They can also feel bulky when you are dressed in multiple layers.
    • Your kiddo will not benefit from shared warmth, so you will need to closely monitor their body temperature.
Woman hiking with a little girl in a cold Landscape using an Osprey Poco Child Carrier.
TMM Team Member Cait on a Chilly Hike with her Little One Using a Framed Carrier

Best Stroller for Winter: All-Terrain Stroller or Multi Function Trailer

If you’re exploring on mostly dry or well-groomed trails, an all-terrain stroller is a great option. These strollers typically have 3 large air-filled tires to allow traction on a variety of surfaces.

Get more use out of your stroller and check out a multifunctional trailer instead! It can works as a bike trailer, stroller, jogger, or ski chariot to give you variety for your family’s outdoor adventures.

Just be sure to pay close attention to the age and weight requirements for these strollers. Generally, a baby should have good neck control (at least 6 months old) to sit in the main part of the stroller. You may be able to use a stroller on gentle terrain with younger babies with the use of a car seat adapter that allows you to safely attach their infant car seat to the stroller.

Check out all our Stroller Reviews for recommendations on all-terrain and multifunctional stroller options.

All Terrain Stroller

If jogging and hiking are your main (or only) focus, an all-terrain stroller is a good fit. The large tires allow you to maneuver well on rough terrain, and they provide storage for your gear. You can add skis to the wheels by purchasing a conversion kit through the stroller manufacturer or another company (just be sure it is compatible with your particular stroller).

  • Pros:
    • It allows you to easily add or remove blankets or layers to your baby as needed.
    • It also takes the stress off your body from carrying your little one along with your gear.
  • Cons:
    • You are limited on where you can go in an all-terrain stroller, and attempting to traverse unplowed snowy landscapes can be a challenge or unsafe in some situations.
    • Air-filled tires may burst or spring a leak unexpectedly, so bring a bike pump just in case!

Multi-Function Trailer

If your family enjoys a variety of activities, a multifunctional trailer may be the way to go. Many brands offer conversion packages that transform easily between a bike trailer, a jogging stroller, and even a ski chariot.

  • Pros:
    • You get a built-in weather shield to protect from the wind, rain, and sun.
    • You can switch between biking, jogging, and skiing by simply switching out the attachments.
    • Most brands are roomy and comfortable for your kiddos while also providing storage for your gear.
  • Cons:
    • They are bulky to transport and may require some creativity if you have a smaller car (you may need to remove the wheels).
    • Most brands are quite wide, which can make it difficult to navigate on narrow trails (or through doorways).
    • Trailers can be heavy and a bit awkward to maneuver when storing.

Helpful Attachments

Stroller Blanket

Blankets are a great way to add or remove an extra layer depending on the needs of your kiddo. However, using a regular blanket with a stroller can result in loose ends getting caught in the stroller wheels or dragging on the ground. A specially designed stroller blanket attaches to the stroller in a way that won’t block the straps or cover your baby’s airway.

This Cozy Dry Rain Cover from Jan and Jul pulls double duty as a carrier cover or a stroller blanket that attaches to the stroller!

Weather Shield

If you don’t have a multifunctional trailer with a built in weather shield, picking up one for your all-terrain stroller can help keep your little one more comfortable, especially on windy days! Check out these weather shields: Bob Stroller Weather Shield, Thule Urban Glide Rain Cover, or a Universal Stroller Cover

Skis

There are various ski kits on the market that attach to the wheels of your stroller to allow you to easily push or pull your kiddos on snowy terrain. I would recommend using the stroller-specific skis from your stroller manufacturer if possible to ensure a secure, safe fit (such as the Burley Bike Trailer Ski Kit).

Stroller Mitts

Keeping the parents hands warm are just as important! Check out these awesome stroller mitts to keep YOUR hands warm! They attach to the handlebars and stay there. Just slide your hands out when you need to help baby and slide them back in. On really chilly days, put some thin liner gloves on your hands to keep them warmer when you have to take them out.

A man pushing a small child in a Bob Jogging Stroller on a snowy path.

How to Keep Baby Warm in Winter and You Too!

Probably the most anxiety-inducing question regarding cold-weather outdoor adventures: What should you wear? This anxiety is understandable since the clothing you choose can mean the difference between enjoying some chilly outdoor fun and having to cut your outing short due to discomfort.

However, once you add a few key pieces of clothing and accessories to your family’s winter wardrobe, staying warm and comfy will be a cinch. Here are some basics to get you started, along with links to other articles for more information.

Layering Basics

Layers will be your best friend when hiking in cold weather. The most important guideline to follow is to AVOID COTTON. It retains the moisture from your sweat and the environment rather than wicking it away, which will leave you feeling chilled and can lower your body temperature quickly in cold temperatures.

Layer One – The Base Layer

Hands down the most important layer, it sits right next to your skin and should fit snugly. The main purpose of this layer is to wick away moisture that would otherwise leave you chilled. 

Best Materials

I prefer Merino Wool when possible, but synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon can work well and usually come with a lower price tag.

Winter Gear for Babies

A wool or synthetic body suit and pants with wool socks. Check out this article for tons of great base layer options for babies and kids.

Options for Adults

Whatever you call them, long johns, long underwear, etc. those are base layers. Just make sure they are wool or synthetic and fit snugly. Finish it out with some warm wool socks and you’re set. Check out this article for tons of information and recommendations for Women’s Base Layers.

Two small children wearing Purple and Green Iksplor base layers in a tent.
TMM Team Member Stephanie’s Adorable Children Rocking their Iksplor Base Layers

Layer Two – The Mid Layer

This layer goes right on top of the base layer and its main purpose is to provide an insulating layer of warmth through the retention of body heat. You want this layer to be close to the body, but not so tight that it restricts movements. You can customize this layer based on the temperature and level of activity. Of all the layers, this will be the first to go if you or your baby get too warm.

Best Materials

You have several options here. A few of my favorites are thick knit wool, polyester fleece, down insulated, and synthetic insulated.

Winter Gear for Babies

A wool or fleece jacket and pants are great options for babies. If you choose to use fleece footie pajamas as a mid-layer while babywearing, be sure you size up to avoid them riding up and putting pressure on your baby’s feet. These Tubes from Ella’s Wool are a great, comfortable option for babies and kiddos (hopefully back in stock soon!)

Options for Adults

Fleece jackets, insulated vests, and winter leggings are great choices for adult mid-layers. Check out our winter gear guide for women for tons of different options we love.

A small child wearing a green Ducksday Fleece Suit in an outdoor setting.
TMM Team Member Cait’s Little One Staying Cozy in a Ducksday Fleece Mid-Layer Suit

Layer Three – The Outer Layer

This layer protects against the elements such as wind, rain, snow, etc.

Best Materials

Depending on the weather, you’ll need water-resistant or waterproof, breathable shells. While waterproof, non-breathable shells are an economical choice, water can condense on the inside of the shell from sweat, so they are not ideal for more than light activity.

Winter Gear for Babies

An insulated snowsuit or bunting work great as outer layers for babies. If you are babywearing, a carrier cover with a hood or a babywearing jacket may be able to serve as an outer layer since your little one will be sharing body heat with you. Check out this article for more information on outer layers and keeping baby warm.

A baby wearing a The North Face Snowsuit outdoors while standing near a row of skis.
TMM Team Member Mary’s Baby in a The North Face Snowsuit Outer Layer
Options for Adults

Jackets listed as Snow (or snowboard/ski) jackets are generally insulated, waterproof and breathable. If conditions are less severe, consider a women’s fleece or soft-shell jacket. Check out our recommendations for jackets in this post.

A Note on Babywearing Jackets

There are some pretty incredible products on the market nowadays that allow you to zip your baby into your own jacket to keep them warm and toasty. These include jacket extenders (such as the MakeMyBellyFit Jacket Extender) and babywearing jackets (such as the Mountain Marsupial).

“A babywearing jacket makes taking out small babies in super harsh weather totally easy as you share body heat and can nurse easily (or you could stick a bottle in there with you).”

~TMM Team Member Kristin
A woman in an outdoor setting wearing a black Twiga babywearing jacket with her baby on her front in a carrier
TMM Team Member Kristin and her Baby snuggled in a Twiga Softshell Babywearing Jacket

Accessories to Keep Warm

Even with the best layers, you won’t last long in the cold without quality accessories. Here I have broken it down and given links to gear recommendations to keep your family warm, from head to toe.

Gloves/Mittens

Little bodies haven’t quite perfected the ability to regulate their body temperature, and the extremities are the first to get cold. Speaking from experience, those cute little cotton mittens just won’t cut it when you’re hiking in chilly weather! The goal is to choose mittens that are easy to pull on, hard to take off (for baby), and keep little hands warm and dry. Check out this post for some of our favorite gloves and mittens for kids.

For adults, I like to start with some liner gloves with touch-screen capabilities (such as the REI Co-op Liner Gloves 2.0) so that I can easily take photos, pull up the trail map on my phone, etc. If the weather turns colder, you can slip on some warmer, weather-resistant mitts over your liners (such as the REI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Mittens).

Socks

As with their hands, baby feet tend to get cold quickly without the proper gear. I always suggest sticking with wool socks for both babies and adults since it wicks away sweat and regulates temperature better than other fabrics. Check out this post for some tips and tricks for keeping feet warm in cold weather.

Head and Face

For babies, choose a warm hat that completely covers their ears and Velcro’s at the bottom. This will help ensure that they keep it on and that their little face stays warm. For adults, choose a hat, headband, or tube (such as the Buff Polar Multifunctional Headwear) depending on your activity. For both adults and babies, look for wool or synthetic blends to wick away moisture and keep the head dry and warm.

Footwear

Cold toes can quickly turn outdoor fun into epic meltdown territory. Even for non-walkers, footwear can help keep those cute little feet toasty warm, especially if they are riding in a carrier. Check out this post for more information and recommendations for choosing winter footwear for babies and toddlers.  If you have older kiddos tagging along, check out this guide for the Best Winter Boots for Kids.

For adults, the right footwear will depend on the conditions and activity. You can find quality all-around hiking boots that will work just fine for most conditions (check out our post on the best hiking shoes for women). If you prefer a more minimalist approach that will work in even the coldest of conditions, Mukluks are a great option as well.

A baby sitting in a car trunk wearing a silver snowsuit and Stonz Baby Booties.
TMM Team Member Jami’s Baby Sporting Stonz Booties

For extensive information and gear options for outdoor exploration in the cold, check out our posts on the Best Winter Gear for Kids and the Winter Gear Guide for Women.

What to Bring when Hiking in Cold Weather with Babies

The 10 Essentials

You have likely heard of the 10 essentials of hiking (if not, check out this article for more information on what to bring on a hike). In case you’re wondering why it’s important to carry these items when hiking with your little ones in the cold, here is a brief explanation of why each one can come in handy during cold-weather excursions. This may seem like a lot, but I have managed to fit all of these essentials into a shoulder bag while back-carrying a toddler.

Navigation Tools

If you’re hiking on snowy terrain, it can be easy to lose the trail. Having a map and compass as a backup in case your phone loses reception or power can give you peace of mind that you won’t be lost in the cold.

Light Source

With fewer hours of sunlight, you may find yourself still on the trail when the sun sets. Having a light source such as a headlamp or flashlight (other than the one on your phone) is always a good idea.

First Aid Kit

While you should always carry a first-aid kit regardless of the season, cold weather can bring slippery conditions, which can lead to more falls. Having a kit ready makes doctoring scrapes and bumps easier.

Sun Protection

Even in the colder months, the sun’s rays can cause damage to the skin and eyes. This is especially true in snowy climates where the sun’s reflection off the snow can cause snow blindness. Bring along some sunglasses, sunscreen, and some sort of shade protection for kiddos that are too young for either.

Insulating Layers

The general rule of thumb is to bring 1 more layer than you think you will need. I prefer to carry a warm, packable mid-layer (such as a fleece jacket) for myself and my kiddos just in case the temperature drops unexpectedly.

Knife/Multi-Tool

You never know when you’ll need a knife or multitool, but you don’t want to go without it. I’ve used one to fix a loose part on my hiking pole, cut tinder and kindling for a fire, and open a snack bag that just wouldn’t budge with cold fingers.

Fire Supplies

If you get stuck on the trail overnight in the cold, a fire could save your life. Bring a lighter or fireproof matches along with a Firestarter that will light quickly (such as lint trappings).

Emergency Shelter

An emergency blanket or tarp can double as a blanket if the temperatures drop unexpectedly. I’ve used one as a makeshift poncho while babywearing when we got caught in an unexpected chilly rainstorm.

Extra Water

During cold excursions, people tend to drink less water, which can lead to winter dehydration. Bring extra water or a water filtration device (such as the Lifestraw) and aim to drink at least 4 quarts of water per day. Feed your baby on demand either by nursing or with a pre-prepped bottle.

Extra Food

Walking and hiking in cold temperatures can burn more calories than doing the same activity in warmer weather. Your body is forced to work harder to keep your inner temperature within comfortable ranges, so be sure to bring extra snacks to make up for the calorie loss.

Baby Essentials

Hiking with babies requires a little extra preparation and gear to ensure the comfort of your littlest winter explorer. Thankfully, these items won’t add an excessive amount of weight to your pack.

Extra Layer

Choose a warm mid-layer that can double as an emergency change of clothes in case your little bundle has a massive blowout.

Diapers and Wipes

Disposable diapers are generally easier in cold conditions and they keep baby’s bottom warm and dry when checked and changed regularly. The number of diapers you bring will depend on how long you plan to be out. I generally carry 3 diapers for an adventure that is 3 hours or less in case of a blowout.

If you prefer cloth diapers, opt for synthetic or natural fiber inserts, and avoid cotton if possible. Also, you will need a way to pack out the diapers and soiled items, so be sure to bring a wet-dry bag or a plastic bag for dirty items.

Nourishment

If you are nursing, this part is easy. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water to keep up with the water lost through sweat. If you are bottle-feeding, be sure to bring enough breastmilk or formula to last the full hike along with a little extra just in case.

Also, bring along a thermos with warm water to make your bottles so your little one isn’t drinking ice-cold formula. If your baby is old enough for baby snacks, yogurt melts and baby puffs are great options to keep your baby happy and occupied in the carrier.

Skin Protection

The cold, dry air can do a number on sensitive baby skin! Face balm (such as Aquaphor, coconut oil, or Vaseline) can protect your baby’s skin from windburn while also adding a layer of moisture to prevent dry, cracked skin. This is especially important if you have a drooler since the drool can add to the breakdown of skin.

Entertainment

While your baby may be pretty confined with all those layers, bringing along a soother or small toy attached to your carrier or stroller may help prevent fussiness on the trail. My oldest preferred a pacifier and monkey while my younger kiddo preferred a teething banana and toy that rattled.

Blanket/Burp Cloth

A soft, thin baby blanket can double as a burp cloth, changing table, sunshade, etc. Plus, you can easily drape it around your baby in the carrier to add another layer of warmth if needed.

A baby wearing a snowsuit riding in a Deuter Kid Comfort framed carrier on a snowy trail.
My Kiddo, Always Calm with His Favorite Pacifier

Helpful Extras

Between icy, wet conditions and cold temperatures, adding some of these items to your gear pile will prepare you for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.

Hiking Poles

These are lifesavers when the terrain gets rough or slick! They provide extra stability, which comes in handy while babywearing. They can also be used to test the terrain, which is important when hiking in deep snow or around frozen bodies of water.

Microspikes

If you will be hiking on icy trails, even the best boot traction can be useless. Microspikes help you dig into the ice and find purchase with every step. The best part? They fit right over your boots and are small enough to throw into your pack when not in use.

Snowshoes

If you are venturing out onto trails completely covered in 5+ inches of snow (especially fresh, powdery snow) snowshoes are the way to go. They distribute your weight to keep you on top of the snow rather than constantly sinking in with every step.

Gaiters

If you live in a snowy landscape, gaiters are a great option for keeping your pants dry and preventing the snow from entering your boots. The Outdoor Research Crocodile Gore-Tex Gaiters are a great option for snowy excursions.

Hand and Foot Warmers

Adding hand warmers to your gloves or foot warmers to your boots can allow you to last longer in chilly temperatures. While there are various disposable options available, they generally aren’t safe for sensitive baby skin.

A great alternative that we love are the reusable options from Aurora Heat. They use ethically sourced beaver pelts and are made by Indigenous women of the Thebacha community. The fur naturally provides warm insulation without the use of chemicals and they will last fur-ever!

Warm Beverages

Bringing a thermos of hot chocolate, cider, or your warm beverage of choice is a great option to help you warm up from the inside out. There’s something incredibly satisfying about taking a break to drink something warm on a cold winter hike!

Two women wearing babies snowshoeing on a snow-packed, tree-lined  trail
Snowshoes and Poles Make Snowy Hikes More Stable and Fun

When to Go (or Not Go)

Hiking in cold weather can be very different from warm weather adventures. Here are a few things to consider when planning your next chilly outdoor excursion.

Follow the Sun

With fewer hours of sunlight, you’ll want to keep a close eye on when sunset will occur. You don’t want to end up hiking back in the dark (unless you are prepared for it). For shorter excursions, consider hiking during the warmest part of the day (usually between 12:00 pm and 3:00pm) to soak up as much sunlight and vitamin D as possible.

What is “Too Cold”?

While we agree that there is no such thing as bad weather if you have the right gear, it’s important to remember that babies are not yet efficient at regulating their body temperature. If the wind chill falls into the danger zone or schools/businesses are closed due to icy conditions, consider staying home or around your neighborhood.

If you’re in doubt, don’t go out. There is no shame in being cautious when little ones are involved! Still unsure? Check out this article on How Cold is Too Cold to Take Kids Outside.

Choosing a Trail/Route

I love visiting my favorite trails in each season to see how the landscape changes. However, visiting in colder months calls for a bit more planning. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your destination, even on trails you visit often.

Plan on Shorter Routes

Even familiar trails can be tough in cold months, especially if there has been a good amount of snow recently. Choosing shorter routes can help ensure you make it back to the car before your little one gets too cold. Alternatively, you can choose a “check-in” spot along the trail to see how everyone is doing before deciding whether to continue or turn back.

Check That the Trail is Open

I’ve made this mistake more than once. Winter storms can do a number on trails. Whether there are fallen branches blocking paths or unpassable snow drifts, it’s always a good idea to check the trail website (or websites/apps like AllTrails) for recent updates.

Avoid Creek/ River Crossings if Possible

Water crossings can be much more dangerous in the cold months, especially if you are babywearing. Unless the water is a trickle or includes a sturdy bridge crossing, consider a different route or trail. Falling in can quickly lead to an uncomfortable hike back or even hypothermia.

A woman snowshoeing near a snow mound with a baby in an Ergo Original Baby Carrier
Someone Forgot to Check for Trail Closures… Luckily We Found Our Way Around the Snow Mountain

Tips for Hiking with Babies in Cold Weather

Hiking with a baby in the cold can be intimidating at first, but with a little practice it becomes easier and so rewarding! Here are some tips, tricks, and hacks we have picked up along the way to keep you safe, prepared, and warm on those chilly outdoor adventures.

Safety First

Keep a Close Eye on the Weather

Fall and winter weather is unpredictable. Keeping a close eye on the forecast can help prevent getting caught in an unexpected storm or weather front. Be sure to check more than just the air temperature before heading out on your adventure. You want to also check the wind, precipitation probability, and the “feels like” temperature as well. Thankfully, many phone apps and websites list this information so you can easily check on your way out the door.

Avoid Overheating

One of the most common mistakes when hiking with a baby in cold weather is to over-dress them. If you’re wearing your baby close to your skin, you will be sharing your body heat. That means they may not need as many layers to maintain their body heat.

Check that they are not overheating by feeling the back of their neck. If they feel hot or sweaty, reassess their layers. When using a non-framed carrier, your baby will likely not need as many layers.

Check Those Little Fingers and Toes

Since babies haven’t developed an efficient method of temperature regulation yet, their little hands and feet are prone to get cold and fast. Check their fingers and toes often, rewarming andadding layers as needed. Some good options are adult wool socks over their wool or fleece baby-sized mittens and socks.

“Check tiny hands and feet often, especially when hanging from a carrier.  We sometimes put three or four layers on tiny toes and they still get cold.”

~TMM Team Member Anna

Car Seat Safety

When strapping a child into a car seat on the way to your adventure, be sure to dress them ONLY in base layers and mid layers (if they are snug). A bulky jacket or snowsuit poses a safety hazard in the event of a car crash since these layers flatten and leave extra room between your baby and the harness. This can result in your baby slipping through the straps and being thrown from the seat.

Instead, you can add a blanket on top of your baby after the harness is buckled to keep them cozy. Just be sure to check for overheating, especially if you have a car that warms up quickly!  Outer layers can then be added at the trailhead, and you’re ready to go.

Be Prepared

Keep Extra Clothes and Warm Drinks in the Car

After a chilly excursion, there’s nothing better than slipping into some dry clothes and enjoying a warm drink. Keeping extra clothes, warm blankets, and warm beverages in the car gives everyone something to look forward to after the hike.

Carry Microspikes

Microspikes (like these from Kahtoola) can be incredibly useful when hiking in winter, and they are super packable. If the trail you choose has any chance of icy spots, having microspikes in your pack can prevent slips and falls on slick spots. Simply pull them out and slip them on whenever needed.

Keeping Warm

Hand Warmers

On especially cold days, using hand warmers between layers on little hands and feet can make a huge difference. Just remember to not use them directly on the skin unless they are made from natural materials (such as the Aurora Heat warmers we mentioned previously) rather than chemicals.

Warm Beverages

For adults and older kiddos, bringing along a thermos of hot chocolate, hot cider, or tea can make a big difference in warming you up. For babies, nursing on demand or bringing along a thermos of warm water for formula can help keep their little bodies warm from the inside out.

Cover Your Carrier

Carrier covers and babywearing jackets are a great way to keep your baby nice and warm while babywearing. However, these items can get pricey. One hack I loved when my kiddos were babies was to use one of my old cozy jackets to cover the carrier.

I had a soft-structured carrier that unclipped so I could feed the arms of the jacket through the straps and clip it back up. The hood slipped over my little one’s head and I could roll the bottom around their feet if needed. It worked like a charm!

Enclose Them for Warmth

“I mostly use a ski trailer in winter with my littles. Then I can tuck them into a lofty down jacket and put the cover on to keep the wind out.”

~TMM Team Member Mary
An older child and a baby riding in a Ski Trailer bundled in winter gear on a cold adventure.
TMM Team Member Mary’s Kiddos Staying Warm in the Ski Trailer

Lower Your Expectations

I tend to throw distance expectations out the window on cold hikes. Sometimes we made it a quarter mile from the parking lot, exploring animal tracks and icy puddles. Other times, we made it multiple miles along the trail. Don’t be afraid to turn around if your baby just isn’t into it. There’s nothing wrong with trying again another day!

Hit the Trail with Your Baby this Winter

Outdoor adventure doesn’t have to stop when the temperature drops. With preparation and a little practice, you can continue exploring the trails safely with your baby in tow, no matter the season. You may even discover that winter is your new favorite time of year to hit the trail and make memories with your family!

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Hiking in Cold Weather with Babies

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