5 Tips to Hiking with a 2 YO

In this Evergreen State, it seems that the Subaru Outback is quintessential of an outgoing and nature-loving Seattleite. When we moved to Seattle from Boston in 2015, we were quickly captivated by its lushness, got into hiking and has been our family’s favorite sport since. I have listed 5 tips (but not limited to) that might help make your hiking experience with a toddler a more enjoyable one.

  1. A comfortable hiking rack 

When we first started hiking, Sushi was only 3+ months old and we carried her in our BECO gemini carrier. She was tiny, could not sit up on her own and a baby carrier is light, convenient and hugging.

As she grew older, we quickly realized this was dangerous and we decided it was time for a back-carrier system.

The hiking rack is useful because:

  • It anchors the parent’s centre of gravity with harnesses that strap the child in place
  • It secures the weight around the hip of the parent
  • It helps to cushion a fall with the aluminum poles and prevent the parent from crushing onto them
  • Your tot can now enjoy the scenary at an elevation in a deluxe cockpit. Wiggle less, whine less, hike more.

There are different permutations to how fancy a rack can be, we got the Osprey Poco AG Plus Series that comes with a built-in sunshade. We opted for this additional function as we knew we are going to use this in a different weather and terrains.

2. Choose to wear long and light

In Spring and/or Summer, during the early hours of the day, temperature in Washington is fairly cool and even colder when you hit the trails where you are covered by the lush greenery. So do not worry about over-dressing!

Other than keeping you warm and fuzzy, wearing long-sleeved clothings can help prevent sharp twigs and sticks that might side-swipe your tot during the hike.

As the weather starts to warm up, bugs such as ticks (risk of transmitting Lyme Disease) can resurface quickly and their favorite hiding spots are tall grass and bushes. By wearing long, you have at least an extra protection up against these bugs.

3. Insects Repellent

I gravitate to using products that are chemical free as much as I could. I first started with a famous baby brand’s Organic Bug Spray and HONEST-ly, it didn’t work for us.

There are repellents of varying levels of Deet from 5% to 100% in the market. However, I was searching for one that is chemical free and found Repel’s Lemon & Eucalyptus Natural Bug Spray effective. We usually spray the repellent on our hiking shoes, jackets and rack and wait for 5-10 minutes before putting them on. This helps to minimize direct inhalation of the spray.

4. The early bird catches the worm

I know it gets really hard to get out of the house early with the young ones but being an early bird definitely has its perks. We are usually on the road by 630am and Sushi would continue with her slumber till we arrive at our destination. So she’s mostly in a good mood when we hit the trails. Half the battle won.

We strive to be one of the earlier hikers and it has always been a breeze hiking up because human traffic is light. The time taken to complete the hike is predominantly our pace.

Coming down is another story.

By the time we head down, usually around 11am, there are streams of 2 and 4 legged hikers and it can get very trafficked on the trails. The hiking etiquette is such that those coming down have the ‘right of way’ as they are coming down at a faster speed, making it harder to stop midway down slopes.

If you arrive during the ‘rush hour’, you will find yourself spending alot of time giving way and waiting for human traffic to pass. With a tot in tow, you would want to cover more mileage as you can before they start to fuss.

5. Know your hiking trail and formulate your game plan

Many would ask “what is the total distance?” as a gauge of its difficulty before deciding if it is a family-friendly hike. I find the elevation a more important criteria as we have been to trails with relatively short distance but it was all uphill right from the trailhead. We would study the trail ahead of time, find out its distance & elevation gain and plan where to have our pit stop(s). During the pit stop(s), we would feed Sushi some of her favorite snacks so she is kept happy and fed. Another half of the battle won.

Of course, each family has their habits and you will know what works for your child best. With each hiking experience, you will be able to accustom and haven’t we learn with a toddler, adaptability is key.

There are other basic tips such as:

  • Keep them well hydrated & well fed
  • Prepare them in the right gear (sun-hat, sunglasses etc) and comfortable footwear
  • A Ziploc bag with wet wipes, diapers and a set of clean clothes (keep it light!)
  • Keep a copy of the trail map with you (either by print or snap it at the trailhead)

Enjoy your next hike with your little one(s)!