It wasn’t a great morning to be outside, in fact it was pretty miserable. The temperature was cool and the rain was steady – certainly not the type of day you’d expect for a mom with a toddler and a baby to get out and hike, but being outside has been essential for me and my mental well being. Walks in the neighborhood, runs, or just sitting in the driveway have helped and I’m not alone! Recently, there have been a few large scale studies published on the benefits of being in nature, but HOW on earth do we unplug our kids, pack them up, with all of their shoes (the struggle)? How do we know where to go, what to pack, and how to deal with the whining? What are we to do when we’re craving more than a trip to the playground, but we’ve got babies? Here are my seven essentials for taking a hike:
- Nature – There is a handy Ap called AllTrails that can help point you in a new direction. Think of it as the Yelp of the outdoors. You may even find there is more to your town than you ever knew.
- Time – This is tricky. You see, studies show that as little as 30 minutes outside is beneficial, but 2+ hours a day is ideal. Hiking with kids is unpredictable at best, so aim for being out as long as most everyone remains in good spirits.
- Carrier – Carriers come in all shapes and sizes, and if you’re like me you need to carry more than one child at a time, so choices have to be made. I opt for a soft carrier (Ergo, Tula, Moby Wrap) to wear baby on the front, and a structured carrier (Kelty, Osprey, Dueter etc.) for the toddler on the back. BONUS those structured carriers have all the storage for snacks, diapers, wipes, and extra clothes and wearing two babies plus all of their stuff elevates you to Sherpa status.
- Patience – Oh, nature certainly teaches you patience if you didn’t already have it. Kids and the weather are unpredictable (mentioned twice for emphasis), and if you’ve ever hiked with anyone under the age of 10 you’ve realized pretty quickly that you must stop every three feet to examine some rock or blade of grass. My motto is smiles not miles. If it takes me one hour to hike one mile, so be it.
- Clothing – Our rule of thumb is that dry feat and warm heads make for happy hikers. Rain boots, rain jackets, and a good hat make hiking in the rain a fun activity. Snow shoes, and snow pants with good gloves make the snow a winter wonderland. Sun hats and bug spray make summer a sweaty, happy time to camp. This is one time that saying yes to your toddler wearing her plastic princess shoes will come back to bite you.
- Buds – I don’t mean THAT kind. I mean friends! Hiking with a group has its challenges, but seeing your kids laugh and play with others and having another grown adult commiserate with you when your son decides that a tree is a urinal is priceless. See if there is a branch of Hike it Baby in your area to find other moms and dads getting out there with their kids.
- Snacks – sometimes the only thing you can do when everyone is having a meltdown is stop and have a snack. Sitting down on trail and eating, allowing little ones to explore without the pressure of moving forward, is often all you need to crank out the last couple miles. Just be sure to pack out your trash!
In the beginning it may feel as if the odds are stacked against you, and there may or may not be a few ice cream bribes, but in the end you will feel change. You may even see change. Memories will be made and if nothing else, your IG account will look like your outdoorsy even if you’re just faking it until you make it.