hiking with pepper

How to be an Outdoorsy Mom with a Baby

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Who is an Outdoorsy Mom with a Baby?

To some, this might be the woman who hunts, forages, and grows all her own food. It could be the bad mamba jam who hikes 8-plus miles into the woods, pitches a tent and rocks her babe to sleep under the stars.

And while these insanely impressive women are definitely outdoorsy moms — I don’t believe they’re the only ones. 

For me, an outdoorsy mom with a baby is any gal who has young children and loves maintaining an active lifestyle outside. That’s what this post is about. 

It’s about the tips, tricks, and gear that I’ve found helpful for enjoying the outdoors — and keeping my sanity — while raising a baby. 

Because let’s be honest — raising a little human is absolute craziness filled with highs and lows. If fresh air and time in nature helps you, don’t assume you have to give it up.

Will activities be harder to spend time doing the things you love? DEFINITELY. Is it still possible to do those things when you have a baby or a toddler? For sure! Moms and dads everywhere are visiting their favorite national park, traversing local trails, and just generally getting outdoors. You can too!

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Heavy Duty Jogging Stroller: Bob Revolution Flex

Strollers are a really personal decision. Talk to just about any expecting or new parent and it’s likely you’ll get a monologue detailing why their stroller is the best.

This is a good thing. You want to love the choice you make because it’s expensive. And it’s going to be with you for some time. I happen to think the Bob Revolution Flex is the best stroller, especially for being out in the woods.

It has good suspension, sturdy tires, and plenty of extra carrying capacity. That being said, I’d go and push a few of them around if you can. I found actually pushing different ones for a second (even with no baby in them) to be incredibly helpful.

Get Yourself Some Sturdy Shoes

Whether you’re pushing or carrying your little, you’re going to ask a lot of your feet. To me, this isn’t a place to be cheap. The few times I was lazy and simply wore my old, worn down tennis shoes by the back door — I paid for it.

Danner Women’s Mountain Light

Ultra-Sturdy. Fabulous for Puddles, Small Streams & Mud

danner boots

I got my Danners long before Pepper arrived. I loved them then and I love them still. They can handle a beating on the trail and look urban-hipster cute with jeans and a flannel. They’re expensive, to be sure. But they’ll last you for years, which in my book makes them a great investment.

I primarily wear them when I know the trail is going to be muddy and wet. Not only are they waterproof, their chunky tread offers incredible traction.

Brooks Cascadia 14 

Light-Weight. Great for Day Hikes and Trail Running

For a very short minute near the beginning of the COVID pandemic I thought I might start trail running. This proved to be a bit too much pounding for my body. 

But on the bright side, I invested in a pair of sturdy trail running shoes that have become my new favorite for a summer day hike. Offering stability and traction, the lighter weight shaves a bit off the extra load. And when you’re carrying a squirming weight vest — every ounce of savings is a good thing. 

Find Comfy Leggings

There’s a reason yoga pants have become the mom wardrobe staple. Not only are they comfy, they’re forgiving when you’ve been eating a few too many donuts. And, they keep up with you when you’re hiking, walking or scrambling after a baby.

Favorite Budget Buy: JoyLab Leggings from Target

I started wearing JoyLab workout gear before I got pregnant and loved them right away. This Target line makes cute, well-made exercise clothes that won’t break the bank. 

Those really frugal folks (like me!) will want to stalk the sales rack. I’ve only paid full-price for a pair once. Generally, I’ve spent $10-$12.

Favorite Active Support Leggings: Brooks Greenlight Tights

brooks fiona sports bra

I’m a big fan of Brooks leggings for a few reasons. The most practical one is — they are really supportive. I’ve worn my fair share of leggings that slip and roll and let me jiggle all over the place.

And who has time for all that body conscious nonsense? Not me!

Another thing I love about Brooks is they’re local. They’re home based right here in Seattle. It always feels good to support your hometown.

Favorite Mom Life Leggings: Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II ⅞ Tight

I got my first pair of Athleta leggings just a few weeks ago and I have to tell you — GAME CHANGER!! I’m new to the legging-side pocket game. If you are too, getchya some.

Because girl, there are few things more convenient than being able to stick your phone, keys and/or ID right on your hip. I’m also really into the Athleta leggings because they feature a high waist and slimming seems — both of which help me feel more confident as a mom.

Invest in Comfortable Baby Carrier

I can’t stress this enough — your baby carrier needs to be comfortable. If you put it on and think, “I can deal with this pinching or that pulling,” keep shopping! Because if there’s any little dig here or there, it’s only going to be amplified the longer you’re carrying your baby and the heavier they get.

Because make no mistake about it — your baby is going to do nothing but get heavier! The following were what I used (some of which I’m still using). Remember every baby and mom are different. When your baby outgrows and option could be earlier or later than when Pepper did. Just use these as things to try.

For Ultra Closeness: Wraps and Slings

This is a great option for newborns and small babies. Especially in our early weeks, I found wearing Pepper so close and tight to my body comforted both of us.

Pepper was a winter baby, so this wearing technique also helped her stay warm. This has the side effect of making mom pretty wan at times too, but at this stage life really is mostly about all about the baby.

As Pepper got bigger, I found it harder and harder to get the wrap into place without funky holds the dug into my body. However, there are moms who love this carry style for months, if not years. If you want to stick with it longer, check out some of the YouTube tutorials. They can be helpful.

Quick and Easy: BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Mini

The Baby Bjorn (or similar baby packs) offer a similar closeness to babywearing. Unlike a wrap that you position each and every time, these packs typically have structured shoulder harness and clips which hold the baby in place. 

I found mine easier to use, especially when out and about — such as getting the baby situated by my car. There was a lot less dropping fabric in on the ground.

Another benefit for these carriers I found was that it was easier to wear a jacket with them. That being said — mine didn’t keep Pepper nearly as covered or warm. If it’s cold out, this might still be a consideration.

Ultra Compact: Bitybean UltraCompact Baby Carrier

I really like this cattier because it’s super lightweight and packs down really small. This makes it easy to take with you for those ‘just in case’ moments. 

That being said, it’s harder to use. I certainly wouldn’t make this my only option.

Maximum Comfort and Support: Osprey Poco Plus

Make no mistake about it, an ultra-sturdy baby hiking pack is an investment. Brand new, a baby hiker can run you $300-$400. Make the investment. You’ll thank yourself every time you hit the trail — especially as your baby gets bigger.

I went from getting a headache with the Babybjorn within the first ½ mile to being able to go 2-plus miles without blinking an eye instantly!

The Osprey Poco isn’t the only option out there. There are actually quite a few. Depending on your body type, you might find one carrier fits you better than the other. If possible, try a few out before you make the investment. 

Another thing to consider is buying used. I was generously gifted mine as a hand-me-down, which is always a fabulous solution. But before I received it, I’d been looking on sites like Facebook Marketplace. I’ve actually scored a handful of big-ticket items for next to nothing like this!

When if comes to carriers, I’d look for a few key elements:

  • Sun Protection
  • Rain Shield (It’s likely this will be an extra accessory. Buy it. You don’t want to get trapped in an unpredictable rainstorm with no way to keep your baby dry.)
  • Adjustable Shoulder Straps
  • Sturdy Hipbelt (Seriously. Don’t get a pack without a hipbelt.)
  • Adjustable Child Seat (This will help accommodate them as they grow.)
  • Extra Carrying Capacity

Entertainment & Comfort Essentials

It’s crazy to me just how much stuff babies need. It used to be I could get ready for a hike in a few minutes flat. While this isn’t the case anymore, I have whittled down my must haves and extras so that I can gather the good as fast as possible. 

Must Have: Sealable Waterproof Bag

If you’re going to be an active mom, you’re gonna be changing diapers on the trail. Sorry to break it to you. It’s just a fact of life. This means you’re going to need to pack dirty diapers out. 

A sealable, waterproof bag is a LIFE SAVER! You can definitely invest in a drybag for this use. That being said, I just save used ziplock bags. It’s a lot cheaper and just as effective. I also typically carry some old produce bags, like the kind you might use to pick up dog poop. In the event the ziplock is full, they are better than nothing. 

Must Have: Foldable Changing Pad

Remember when I said you would be changing diapers. Sure, you could do this on the dirt or a patch of grass. But it’ll make it harder to get your baby clean and keep them comfortable. 

Must Have: Small Package Diaper Wipes

Messes happen. Whether you’re dealing with a simple wet diaper, big poop or a full-on blowout, you’re going to want wipes. You can thank yourself later.

I happen to have a refillable diaper wipe bag that seals. In a pinch, I’ve also loaded wipes into a ziplock bag. That being said, you can buy small packages of travel baby wipes. It just depends on what makes you the most comfortable. 

Must Have: Change of Clothes

Blowouts. Sweaty babies. Unexpected showers. No matter what it is, if your baby is wet and messy, they aren’t likely to be happy. On longer hikes, make sure to always have a change of clothes with you — just in case. 

Must Have: Formula

If you’re breastfeeding, this one isn’t for you. But if your baby is formula-feed (like mine), make sure to bring a bottle and some formula for the trail. I don’t always do this, if it’s a shorter hike or if I’m just doing loops near my house. But for longer treks, I always have some formula on hand. 

Small Tube of Diaper Rash Cream

Pepper tends to battle diaper rash, so we always apply it every time we change her — especially on the trail where she can sometimes get sweaty. At home, we use a big tub of cream, but to keep weight down, I carry a small tube in my pack. 

Small Bottle Hand Sanitizer

Noticed how cleaning up can be quite messy? As good of a job as diaper wipes do, they don’t actually disinfect. So after you’ve changed your little, it can be nice to have some hand sanitizer to clean your hands. 

Washable Toys

Generally speaking, Pepper thinks being out on the trail is a blast. This has been especially true since we got out Osprey Poco because she can see so much better. She’s super curious and loves looking around. 

That being said, she can get a little bored. And, she is teething right now. So, having some toys with which she can play while she rides keeps her happier for longer stretches. 

I’ve found that even if the toys don’t get dropped they somehow get dirty. So I always bring toys that are easy to wash post-hike. 

Toy Straps

Babies drop things. It’s just going to happen. Sometimes because they want to, but more often than not because they’re developing their small motor skills. 

Toy straps allow you to attach toys to your pack, so you’re not constantly losing toys and/or having to stop and pick them up. We like these silicon ones because they are easy to clean and don’t have metal.

Lightweight Blanket

This isn’t an item I always carry. But on a really long hike, it’s nice to have some place to spread out while you’re taking a break. We have some smaller blankets that really pack down, but the lightest weight one is our Matador Pocket Blanket. It’s seriously tiny and offers a pretty big ground covering. 

Lightweight Water Bottle

I believe in saving on weight wherever you can. While I love my Hydroflask, it weighs a lot more than my HydraPack. So for long hikes, I stick to camel packs and my HydraPack. 

Bug Repellent 

Let’s just get one thing straight — if you think bug bites suck, times that by 100 when you’re dealing with a baby. While you might not want to put bug repellent directly on your baby’s skin, you can put it on the pack to act as a deterrent. 

I also make sure to put a healthy amount on myself to act as a further deterrent. 

Bonus Tips for the Outdoorsy Mom with a Baby

1. Pack Extra Clothes for the Car

Hiking with multiple outfits is not practical. But, it doesn’t much to add an extra change of clothes for you and your baby to the car. It might be a little bit of a refresh, but it can make a world of difference. 

2. Pack Extra Food for the Car

Babies give new meaning to the term hangry. Even if you’ve feed your baby on the trail and carried them the whole way — they’ve been burning a lot of calories looking around and sitting upright.

Make sure you have some extra formula (or solids) back at the car for them. AND – make sure you have some extra food for mom too. It’s a lot of work carrying a small human!

3. Use Your Phone to Keep an Eye on Baby

It can be hard to always know how your baby is doing when they’re on your back. And, you hardly want to stop and take off your pack every time you want to check on them.

I always keep my phone within easy reach. This allows me to quickly turn the camera into selfie mode to get a view of what Pepper is up to. Typically, I’m greeted by a grinning little girl. 

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