Warm Weather Hiking with a Baby
Whether it’s the longer days, higher temperatures, or a plethora of flora and fauna to observe, there’s something about the warmer months that screams “get outside!”. These months provide some of the most memorable family moments and experiences.
However, hiking and adventuring in the warm months present some unique challenges, especially if you have a baby in tow. We have put together some tips, hacks, and gear items that we swear by for those warm-weather adventures with baby. For more general tips on hiking with your baby, check out our ultimate guide to hiking with a baby.
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- Warm Weather Hiking with a Baby
- Safety Tips
- Choose Your Trail and Route Wisely
- Time it Right
- Choosing a Mode of Child Transportation
- Dress Appropriately
- Bring Along Cooling Accessories
- Freeze it
- Take Your Baby Hiking this Summer
- Hiking with Babies in Warm Weather
Our bodies are powerful temperature regulators. When the temperature of the body increases via exertion or environmental temperature, water (mixed with other chemicals, salt, and sugar) is released in the form of sweat to coat the skin. Once the sweat reaches the air, it evaporates and cools the body down. While this mechanism is pretty amazing, losing too much water can cause dehydration.
Make Water Easily Accessible and Drink Often
Staying hydrated with plenty of water and other liquids is essential when hiking and adventuring in warm months. I prefer using a hydration bladder, so I have no excuse to not take a water break with the straw within easy reach.
I taught both my kiddos to drink from the straw at an early age, so I could easily stretch it down to them and keep them hydrated. If you prefer bottles, keeping them within easy reach (such as in an outer pocket of your pack) can serve as a reminder to drink often.
One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was gearing up for a summer hiking adventure with my youngest was to pre-hydrate. I tend to sweat a lot, even when temperatures are moderate, so drinking plenty of water before we hit the trail is important for me to keep up with the water loss. This is also true for babies. Feeding your baby right before you hit the trail can make for a more comfortable hike with less frequent stops along the way.
Keeping Baby Hydrated
Keep in mind that babies under 6 months old should not drink water. That means they will require extra breastmilk or formula on hot days. Older babies can have small amounts of water, but until they reach at least a year old, their main source of fluids should be breastmilk or formula. If you are a nursing mother, that also means that you will need to be especially diligent about keeping yourself hydrated.
Watch for Signs of Overheating and Dehydration
The most important thing to remember is that young children (especially babies) are less able to regulate their body temperature. They don’t sweat as much as adults, which means their internal temperature can increase more rapidly than the average adult. Knowing the signs of overheating and dehydration is essential when hiking in warm weather.
An easy and quick way to check for overheating in an infant is to check their ears and neck. If the ears are red or the neck is hot and sweaty, your baby may be overheating. Some of the symptoms of overheating include red skin (especially the cheeks), warmth to the touch, rapid heartbeat, and lethargy or unresponsiveness. Check out this article for more information.
If you are babywearing and feel as though they may be overheating, take a break and remove your baby from the carrier. You can use a damp cloth to help cool them down and get out of the heat as soon as possible.
Symptoms of dehydration in infants and babies include dry mouth and lips, fewer than six wet diapers per day, fewer tears when crying, extreme fussiness, and excessive sleepiness. If you think your baby is getting dehydrated, immediately offer breastmilk or formula, or offer water if they are over 6 months old. Also, get out of the heat as soon as possible, and cool them down with a wet cloth or fan to prevent further loss of fluids through sweating. See this article for more information.
Choose Your Trail and Route Wisely
When hiking with young babies, shorter hikes with plenty of shade are wonderful options, especially when hiking in very warm weather. Shorter routes allow you to bail out quickly if it becomes too much for your little one, and shaded trails help reduce heat and exposure to UV radiation.
Consider choosing trails that include some sort of safe water source during hot days. Whether it’s a trail that leads to a beach or a route that follows a stream, having the ability to take a break to cool down makes for a more enjoyable hike.
When my oldest was a baby, he loved to sit right down in shallow creeks and watch the water flow over his toes. Just be sure to read up on the wildlife in the area and watch for critters such as snakes.
Time it Right
When it comes to beating the heat, timing is everything. Ultraviolet Radiation exposure is generally highest during midday (between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm), so starting your hike earlier in the morning can help reduce exposure and cut back on the heat.
Another option is to go later in the day once the Earth starts to cool down and the UV exposure declines. Post-dinner hikes can be a great way to burn off remaining energy and get your little one ready to settle down for bedtime.
Warm hikes call for frequent breaks, especially if you are wearing your baby in a wrap or soft-structured carrier. While I loved babywearing my kiddos, wearing those tiny human furnaces was tough at times during very warm weather. Frequent babywearing breaks helped alleviate the discomfort for both of us.
Choosing a Mode of Child Transportation
While there are an enormous number of carriers on the market, choosing a carrier that will keep both you and your baby comfortable when the temperatures rise can be a little tricky. Here are some options to consider when choosing a mode of child transportation.
Wraps, Slings, and Soft-Structured Carriers
If you are using a wrap, sling, or soft-structured carrier, the material can make all the difference. Since your child is right next to your body, you want to find a breathable, wicking material. Some options are even available in sun-protective material (such as this hybrid wrap from Boppy that has a UPF rating of 50+). Some of the highest-rated soft-structured summer carriers include the Lillebaby Complete Airflow and the ErgoBaby Omni Breeze, both of which can accommodate newborns without the use of an insert.
If your baby can sit up on their own and has good neck control (generally around 6 months or older depending on the manufacturer), you can graduate to a framed hiking carrier. These are a great option in the summer since your child is not right next to your body, generating extra heat. It allows you both to get more airflow and stay cool.
Many framed packs also have a sunshade that provides extra shade and protection for your little one. Check out our framed carrier comparison post for more information on the options available.
When all else fails, consider choosing a jogging-stroller-friendly trail. With the all-terrain wheels, these strollers are pretty amazing at navigating tree roots and gravel. The sunshade helps to keep your baby cool and protected from the UV rays. This also allows you to hike without a hefty pack since your gear can be stored right in the stroller.
A portable fan or other cooling accessories can be easily attached to the stroller. Just keep in mind the weight and age limits of your stroller and use the proper car seat attachments for young babies until they are old enough to go in the main portion of the stroller. Check out our stroller reviews to find one that works for your family.
If you have ever tried to get sunscreen on a baby or toddler, you know it’s a little like wrangling an octopus, with all their limbs flying everywhere as they try to escape. Add in that babies younger than 6 months old should not use sunscreen, and you may be wondering how on earth you can keep their sensitive skin protected from harmful UV rays while still keeping them cool. Fear not, we have your answer!
Sun Protective Clothing
Enter one of the best inventions for warm-weather adventures: sun-protective clothing. This type of clothing is made from fabric that provides a higher level of UV protection when compared to standard clothing fabrics. Sun-protective clothing will have a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ranging from 15 (blocking 93-96% of UV radiation) to 50+ (blocking at least 97% of UV radiation).
While it may sound counter-intuitive, dressing your baby (and yourself) in lightweight, UPF-rated long sleeves and pants is your best bet for protecting their skin. This Romper from UV Skinz is a good option for young babies and toddlers. For more options, check out our Review of Sun-Protective Kids Clothing.
Top off your baby’s (and your own) outfit with a sun hat with a high UPF rating (preferably 50+) to protect the face, ears, and neck. These three areas are some of the most common spots that can develop skin cancer, so protecting them is essential, especially for young babies.
I love the options from Sunday Afternoons, which range in size from infant to adults. We have used their Sun Sprout Hat when our kiddos were infants, the Clear Creek Boonie Hat now that they are older, and the Quest Hat for me. For more options, check out our rundown of the best sunhats for kids.
Even with the protection from a hat, baby eyes are sensitive to the UV rays from the sun. Consider purchasing kid-specific sunglasses, especially as your baby gets older and stays awake for most of your adventure. I prefer the options that come with a strap that wraps around their head so it is more difficult for them to remove. Check out this post for our picks of the best sunglasses for babies and toddlers.
Do you have a baby that refuses to keep their hat on? Or maybe you just want a little extra shade on the unprotected areas of their skin (like the hands or the neck). A lightweight burp cloth or muslin blanket can easily be draped over your baby without making them too warm. Another option is a UPF hooded towel like this one from LuvBug. These versatile towels roll up small, dry fast and can be used as a beach towel or as extra sun protection for your little one.
Bring Along Cooling Accessories
Sometimes hydrating and wearing the right clothing isn’t quite enough to keep you cool on warm-weather outings. Here are some of our favorite cooling accessories to bring along on those hot outdoor adventures.
Cooling towels are easy to use and highly effective at keeping you cool on hot days. One of the most popular products on the market (and a favorite of many on the TMM Team) is the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. This pad is made of a highly absorbent material (polyvinyl alcohol) that uses evaporation to help keep you cool and regulate your body temperature in warm weather.
Simply get the towel wet, wring it out, and wear it on your neck or head (or anywhere that is exposed to air). When babywearing, you can put the towel between you and your baby (with some portion exposed to air) to keep you both cool on hot hikes.
There are numerous options on the market for portable, battery-operated, or USB-chargeable fans that you can easily take with you on a warm hike. Both of my boys have ones they attach to their hiking packs to use when needed. Some fans can attach to a stroller or framed hiking pack with bendable arms (here is a TMM team member favorite).
At a very hot state fair a few years back, we picked up this handheld mister to keep us all cool. You simply add water and use the spray bottle to mist yourself while the fan is on. We now carry it with us in the side pocket of our hiking pack when we go on especially hot outings.
Water and Sports Drinks
We have a summer hiking tradition in my family. We freeze bottles of sports drinks overnight and stick them in our hiking packs to enjoy at the summit or in the middle of a hot hike. It provides an extra cooling option in case you need to cool down along the way (I would touch the bottle’s condensation and swipe my hand across the face of my kiddo) and a satisfying treat to enjoy on the hike.
You can also freeze your hydration pack overnight before a warm hike. Simply fill the reservoir halfway and lay it flat in your freezer. I usually blow air into the hose to make sure it’s free of water and won’t freeze up overnight. The next morning, fill it the rest of the way with water, and you have a personal back cooler as the ice melts.
For older kids and adults, taking along some frozen snacks can make for a refreshing snack break on a warm hike. Even if they completely thaw before we enjoy them, they are usually still cool enough to provide a break from the heat. They double as a cooling distraction for young babies as well. I would give the tube to my youngest to hold for a bit to help cool him down.
My boys love frozen yogurt tubes and applesauce pouches on the trail. I also love throwing some frozen grapes or berries in my pack to enjoy later.
Treats for Baby
There are various mesh and silicone baby feeders and teethers on the market (such as this highly-rated one from NatureBond. You can add frozen fruit for older babies or frozen breastmilk for younger babies and let them munch on them. They can help soothe sore gums while keeping your baby cool in warm weather. The baby-friendly design allows them to break down the frozen treat without the risk of choking.
Take Your Baby Hiking this Summer
There is so much to enjoy about hiking in warm weather with your baby. Whether you are taking a stroll around the local trail or hiking up to a mountain peak, we hope these tips will help you stay safe and keep your baby happy and cool on those warm adventures.
- Best Tips for Hot Weather Hiking with Kids
- Outdoor Family Summer Gear Guide
- What to Pack for Hiking with Kids
Hiking with Babies in Warm Weather
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