Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by worldoftravelswithkids
So you want to know how to ace hiking with toddlers! We will do our best to share the wisdom gained through hiking with baby, then later on a toddler. (And yes, later on we graduated to hiking with kids!)
Chances are you’ve found my post because you love trekking or hiking in the mountains. You’ve done mega missions across mountains or deserts and your motto is something like, higher or longer!!! Well, I’ve got news for you – that was me too.
And once you have kids that all changes – whatever hike or trek you tackle will have to be adapted from the way you would have done it prior to kids. At first this seems limiting, but in time you’ll come to see each new trail with kids presents challenges of its own!
So… How do I take my 2 year old hiking?
Yes that’s right, they’ve only been walking for some 10-12 months and yet they have so much crazy energy the idea of trying to constrain them in a trekking pack is ludicrous.
Yes, hiking with a 2 year old is going to be a challenge for you! It will take some patience, but it’s a great way to let your toddler begin to explore and get their hiking legs on!
Start small, build up as you go… and don’t forget to take everything you normally would for a toddler outing – lots of snacks, an extra outfit, toys, and some spare nappies. You might find that our Best Travel toys for a one year old has some useful ideas!
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What is the best age to hike with babies/ toddlers/kids?
The answer is frustrating – there are pros and cons to every age and stage.
There is no one answer to what is the best time to hike with a baby, or trekking with toddlers. For us a baby is defined as an infant right through to when they begin to walk – about 12 to 14 months old for most children.
A toddler is a little person who is “toddling” (or walks unsteadily) which generally lasts from 12 to 36 months old. It is a time of great development as they learn so much about the world, including developing their language skills, how to climb, dance and also try to get their huge emotions in check. I do love the saying, “Whoever came up with the saying “Terrible twos had never met a three year old”
By 36 months old (or 3 years old) your little one will not only be at least 15kg, but have some language skills, the ability to climb and run… and a whole lot of attitude. At least, by the time they were three all of my little ones were super determined little folk!
3 to 4 year olds are referred to pre-schoolers and our tips for hiking with them on their own steam are covered in our post hiking with Kids.
In short, our Hiking with babies and toddlers post refers to carrying your young people in carriers for the bulk of the journey – that is, you will still (hopefully be able to carry a decent amount of ground!!!) By the time the kids are hiking on their own legs, things will slow down considerably and your days of lengthy hikes are most likely over – for a few years.
More definitions: the difference between hiking and trekking
While we are making definitions:
Is there a difference between hiking and trekking?
In short, hiking is a long, pretty robust walk in the outdoors, on hiking trails or even formed paths. It can be for a few hours, a full day or even overnight. On the other hand, trekking involves a multiple day hike or trek in a wild environment – or wilderness area – and is considered vigorous or even strenuous.
We have done a lot of trekking with toddlers in Peru – and so have provided some trekking with toddlers suggestions at the end of this post. These are specific to Peru and it’s altitude but might suffice for anyone who is intending to head out on a long fairly vigorous walking excursion with a toddler or infant in a hiking backpack!
Benefits of hiking with baby or hiking with a toddler
Let’s be honest – when you have a baby, or toddler then getting out of the house isn’t easy. Talk to any mother of an under 2 and they are likely to share stories of sleep deprivation or just sheer exhaustion at the pace of living with a little one.
However, if you can get outside, you will reap real benefits from hiking with a toddler. It’s a real feeling of accomplishment when you get outside and climb that mountain (Or maybe just walk down the block!) In short, these are some of the benefits of hiking with a baby or little one.
- Get some fresh air and a new perspective
- Get some exercise
- Start tackling this new life as parent, “I can do this”
- If the toddler is walking, wear them out and hope for a great sleep when you get home!
Want To Trek With Toddlers In The Andes?
Ask Yourself These Questions First
This tips n’ hints page provides some useful considerations about whether you really want to head for some trekking with toddlers. By toddlers, we mean children that can still be easily carried by their parents, so young people aged between 6 months and 3 years. This article refers to trekking with toddlers in the Andes but could apply to many places if you are considering an overnight camping trip.
For children that can no longer be carried, but still have short legs and even shorter attention spans, e.g.; kids between the ages of 4 to 6 years, many of these questions also apply.
1. How often do you trek yourself? Do you like to do long-distance trekking and are you comfortable with camping and sleeping in a tent?
2. What kind of trekking have you done recently with your child and how did they like the backpack? For 4 years plus: have you gone trekking recently, what were the difficulties, and how many hours were you able to go without stopping?
As parents know (or soon discover) children have very unique personalities. My daughter was generally a tranquil child and walked at 14-months. Within reason, she didn’t mind hiking for several hours while in the backpack, though we needed to stop frequently (every hour or so) and that added to the overall length of the day.
My little boy walked before he was 1 and is an active and determined child. We took him to Machu Picchu and trekking in Peru when he was 20 months old and had 2 different styles of backpacks and a harness. We left the ruins after several hours: his screaming was in no way enjoyable for us or for the other visitors!
So – before you decide to tackle a long trek ask:
Is your child going to be OK with 6-8 hours a day in the backpack? Have you taken them on hikes of that length in recent times?
3. How will you and your child feel about sleeping in freezing cold temperatures in the high mountains? This is not something that is easy to anticipate or gauge but it is really cold! While trekking in Peru this was definitely a consideration we had to take into account. It would be something to consider with any mountain trekking adventure.
4. How will you deal with altitude? The best advice for travel at high altitudes with toddlers is, “how well do you know your baby/toddler and can you distinguish between bad temper/terrible twos/ teething, and altitude sickness”? The answer is that it’s pretty difficult, as symptoms of altitude sickness can be anything from sleeping poorly to headaches to vomiting. These are frequent occurrences with all babies making it very difficult!
For more information about how to deal with altitude, check out our post Tips For Alccimating To Altitude With Kids.
5. Are you a relaxed parent, or do you get stressed? Imagine that you are 2 days walk from the nearest road. Your child has a temperature – are you going to be able to cope with this? Or your child is vomiting at a high altitude. Having had this type of experience I can tell you that it’s very stressful. Even though I know the mountains, I was still very worried. How will you react under these conditions?
We strongly recommend 3 days minimum at Cusco for acclimatization of a small person (e.g. under 3 years); much, much longer if you can- before tackling the high mountain treks like Ausangate, Salkantay, or the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. If you are coming from Australia or Oceania also takes into account it takes time for kids to get used to new time zones.
I recently took both of my kids to 4300m for an overnight stay. Even though I am experienced in hiking in the mountains, when they woke up more frequently than usual I had to ask myself – is it altitude sickness? This is despite them having been in Cusco for the 2 months prior to the trek.
6. Who will carry them? Depending on their age, they can weigh up to 20kg yet they still need to be carried in a trekking backpack. How comfortable is that backpack for you (and again, for long distances)?
I like my Ergobaby for short trips around town and find it much easier to maneuver than the proper trekking backpack: for short hikes of less than a couple of hours, that’s my choice. For longer treks, we use a Deuter 3 with sun protection. The Deuter could be used as a back carrier for 4-year-old. Check back soon for our full review and ideas for child carrier backpack for 4-year-olds.
Trekking With Toddlers: Get The Right Equipment
For a trek in the Andes are going to need a proper trekking baby carrier. We have used a Deuter 3 Kid Comfort for years. In addition, you need to buy the Kid Comfort Sun Protection separately. We love everything about this carrier and highly recommend it.
You can see pictures of our favorite child carriers here. Click on each one for current prices.
Most people find a smaller baby of up to about 12 months ok to carry – but by the time they are two, they are quite heavy! So consider getting a porter to help!
Finally, make sure your children are properly equipped in good trekking appropriate clothing. Here are some of our tried and true favorites:
Conclusion – Do You Really Want To Go Trekking With Toddlers Or Little Ones
If you are keen to do a hike in the Andes with your little ones, the very first thing to do is a day hike near your home and see how it goes with the kids. If it’s a ‘piece of cake’ then a trek in the Andes might be OK for you. Happy trekking!
Are You Going Trekking with Toddlers In The Andes?
We know that it is a challenging idea to go trekking with Toddlers in the Andes so consider asking a travel agent for help for some of the logistics. Apus Peru Adventure Travel Specialists have plenty of experience in offering treks with young people!
This post was originally published on the Apus Peru Blog, and has been adapted by the author, Ariana Svenson, coincidentally a Co-Founder of Apus Peru!
We’ve traveled with Lonely Planet for over 20 years! For unbiased and detailed advice, they are our trusted guide book. Even in this digital age, you can’t go past them for maps and info on the go. Take a Look.
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