We are often asked the question of, “What do you pack in your day pack when out hiking with your son?” This is a complex question since, as your child ages and develops the contents change. So, here’s a break down of what lies within our daypacks when out on wilderness excursions with our kiddos along from birth to toddlerhood!
Our 12 Essentials for Hiking Regardless of Age
- Water – Hydration Bladders or water bottles, just be sure to have plenty for everybody regardless of age. If you’re on a trail which has access to lakes, streams, or rivers and you’re concerned that you might not have enough water, then bring along a filter. The Sawyer Mini is great, especially as an emergency backup, due to it’s small size and lightweight design.
- Snacks – High calorie, easy to pack, easy to spot when dropped food choices are your best bet.
- Rain Gear – Staying dry is very important for adults and toddlers. Baby rain gear doesn’t really exist so when we have an infant in a front carrier we just zip our own raincoats up and over them and hold an umbrella over both of us. For toddlers check out Oakiwear’s awesome products! We especially like their Trail Rain Suit. This can be bought in a much larger size and worn for longer thanks to the velcro around the ankles and wrists.
- Sunscreen – We love Babyganics sunscreen and use it on the whole family. At SPF 50, it’s strong and blends in nicely without leaving an oily residue on your skin.
- Warm Layers – Important for the whole family. Everybody should have a warmer layer available should the weather change rapidly, or should you find yourselves caught out after dark.
- Lighter – Having a way to start a fire in an emergency is really important. Bringing along a lighter is a light-weight way of insuring you have fire at your fingertips should the need arise.
- Knife – A useful multi-tool should always be brought along. It’s important to always plan for the best, but prepare for the worst and having a multi-tool along can help you do just that.
- First Aid Kit – When out on an urban stroll I’ll just pack a few bandaids, infant Tylenol, and maybe some Neosporin. When venturing further into the wilderness I bring along my beefy first aid kit with everything from burn ointment, to a splint, to an instant cold pack, to large gauze pads. I also, always make sure to have Afterbite or Hydrocortisone cream along for the welt-sized bug bites that our guy endures all summer long. Just be prepared!
- Compass and Map – It’s important to have a compass and map along (and know how to use them) when entering any sort of wilderness area where trails can be tricky to follow, especially in inclement weather or snow! You may even consider downloading a GPS app, like GAIA GPS (iOS and Android) onto your phone. I cannot tell you how many times this app has saved our butts on land and water.
- Headlamp – Should you find yourselves out after dark having a light source will be key in getting out safely.
- Emergency Blankets – Again, if things go south having an emergency blanket along to keep yourselves, or an injured hiker warm is huge.
Day Pack with a Baby
- Diapers – Bring along a lot of diapers, as we all know infants are notorious for their diaper fiascos so being well prepared could mean the difference between a long and a short day out on the trail.
- Wipes – Lots and lots of wipes, should a diaper disaster or well aimed spit-up event occur. Target stores have great travel-sized item sections where you can get smaller packs of wipes to keep weight down.
- Hand Sanitizer – After a diaper change having something to clean your hands with is greatly appreciated!
- Diaper Cream – Having along a solid diaper cream to slather on your little one’s rump is key. Our guy can get pretty sweaty which can cause a heat rash and/or a diaper rash. Also, most infants will be sitting in the carrier all day so making sure they are as comfortable as possible during that time is very important.
- Changing Pad – We love our JJ Cole changing pad. The attached pocket for storing diapers and wipes is really nice, it’s very compact, and the handle is great. Keeping baby off the ground while changing helps to keep them clean which helps to prevent diaper rash.
- Change of Clothes for Everybody – We bring along 3 extra baby outfits when we have an infant along, and we often go through them all. We also bring along extra shirts for ourselves, as we are often victims of collateral damage during extreme diaper events.
- Dirty Diaper Bags – Just brining along some scented dog poo baggies is a great way to pack out any foul smelling diapers that you need to.
- Dirty Clothes Bag – I use a cloth bag that has a drawstring on top for packing out soiled clothing. When I get home I can throw the whole thing right in the wash, works great!
- Umbrella – Infants aren’t supposed to wear sunscreen so keeping them protected from the sun is important. An umbrella is an incredibly easy and effective way to do this. It can also double as a sun-shade if you need to change your baby in the sun.
- Blanket – In case they get cold, or you need to protect their legs from the sun, or they need some tummy time out of the carrier. It’s always a good idea to have a blanket along.
- Bottles – if using formula, be sure to pack along extra bottles, nipples, or anything else you may need, including a backpacking stove to heat the bottle with if you need it.
Day Pack with a Toddler
- Diapers – Probably won’t need as many as you did with an infant, so just a few need to be brought along.
- Wipes – Not as many are needed as when your child was an infant but a small travel pack should be brought.
- Hand Sanitizer – Nice for adults following diaper changes and really helpful for your little explorers before snack or meal times or if they should get into anything unpleasant along the trail.
- Dirty Diaper Bags – Again, a roll of dog poo bags does beautifully.
- Diaper Cream – Still just as important as it was for your infant. You really don’t want your kiddo to get a diaper rash and this is an easy way to prevent it.
- Changing Pad – Even with toddlers it’s important to keep them as clean as possible while changing their diapers in the dirt. Anything can really work as a changing pad, a rain jacket, a life jacket, anything to keep them off the ground, preventing them from kicking dirt and duff into their diapers.
- Extra Socks – Having an extra pair of socks on hand is important for those pesky muddy puddles along trails that most toddlers can’t resist jumping in. You don’t want your tyke hiking in wet socks, which can cause blisters and discomfort for them and has the potential to cut your day short.
- Change of Clothes – The concern is less about diaper fiascos, but mud and water are more of a concern. Keeping kiddos dry during a hike is imperative for a successful full length day on the trail.
- Sunhat – We love Sunday Afternoon Hats for our toddler. The chin strap prevents younger kiddos from pulling it off their heads and the adjustable strap on the back of the head means that it can be worn for several seasons. Jack has been in his beloved Explorers cap for over a year now and it’s still going strong and has plenty of room for growth.
- Bug Spray – Being in Minnesota bringing bug spray along is imperative. Because Jack is a thumb sucker we don’t feel comfortable using Deet-based sprays. Though our pediatrician has said it’s ok to do so if it contains 30% Deet or less. Instead we opt for an all natural bug repellent from Babyganics. This does well in slightly bug-infested areas but doesn’t stand up to swarms of Minnesota’s notorious mosquitos. When facing that situation, we dress Jack in lightweight, long sleeves and pant base layers that we’ve pre-treated with Swayer’s Permethrin spray. (Merino wool or synthetic base layers will protect them from the sun, but are also breathable and wick moisture to keep them comfortable on warmer days.) Permethrin works for 6 weeks or 6 washings and stood up to black flies and mosquitos during a 3 day trip to the BWCA in July. We were covered in bites while Jack only had one on his foot after three straight days outside.
We keep a small day pack ready to go, so, when we want to go hiking we can just grab it and know we have everything we need. Plus, having less to prepare makes it more likely you’ll get out the door! As time goes on you will figure out your own list of hiking essentials to bring along on all of your adventures. I hope this list is helpful in planning and prepping for wonderful adventures with your kids along for the fun!