Would you take an 11-month-old camping? They did
Matt and Kimberly Kinney always travel light when they head into the woods, leaving behind everything but the necessities and keeping their backpacks as slim as possible. Two summers ago they decided to add one very heavy item to the packing list: their 22-pound infant.
In July 2015, the Sacramento parents took their son Thomas, then 11 months old, backpacking on the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail.
Here are some of their tips and tricks for successfully camping or backpacking with babies:
Fevers, ear infections, hypothermia and heat exhaustion are just a few of the worst-case wilderness scenarios that might keep some parents from hitting the trail. Worried about emergencies, the Kinneys chose a route with easy access to civilization and purchased a high-end communication device to call for help.
Their Garmin InReach Explorer, priced at $450, kept the Kinneys from getting lost in the woods and could have hailed a helicopter from any remote location.
“I wanted to be able to hike with a baby and know that I could get out at a moment’s notice and be as close to home as possible,” Kimberly said. “The single thing that kept me sane about my child was having that device and knowing I had an out.”
The Kinneys also attached a small mirror to the top of Matt’s pack so he could keep an eye on Thomas during the hike to make sure he looked healthy and happy.
For first aid, Ernst recommends bringing along Band-Aids, gauze and topical antibiotics. She does not recommend bringing an EpiPen for allergen exposure, as they should be used only if professional help is nearby. Parents worried about insect or other allergies could consult their physicians.
Getting a baby to sleep at home can be a difficult task, which makes sleeping on the trail an extra challenge. The Kinneys recommend a “pad coupler,” which keeps two adult sleeping pads close together to create one large surface for parents and children to sleep on. The pads insulated Thomas from the cold tent floor, and an ultralight backpacking quilt kept him warm, they said.
The Kinneys gave Thomas plenty of time to crawl around on the dirt and play in the water once they made camp each afternoon. Then they took off his dirty clothes, put on clean pajamas and piled into their cozy tent. The next morning it was back into the hiking outfit, which meant they only had to bring two outfits total — a nifty trick for saving weight.
Some parents use reusable diapers on the trail, stopping periodically to wash and dry them for later use. The Kinneys opted for disposable diapers, packing a few days’ worth at a time and then putting the dirty ones in Ziploc bags. Every few days they stopped at a resupply station to dump old diapers and pack new ones. They also packed a large towel for changing and plenty of wipes for general cleanliness, which they also tossed at resupply stations.
Food and water
The Kinneys pretty much ate what they eat at home, except with more calories, they said. Candy bars and potato chips were common indulgences, and with a 12- to 17-mile hike every day, they didn’t feel guilty about it.
Because Kimberly was nursing Thomas on the trail, she was careful to drink plenty of water and eat every one to two hours to keep her milk supply up.
For water, Ernst recommends skipping chemical treatments such as iodine tablets, which are rough on young tummies and aren’t guaranteed to clear the water of giardia and other parasites. Instead, use a water filter to pump water from streams and lakes. Matt Kinney recommends the Sawyer Squeeze, available at REI.