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Backpacking with Baby: 15 Days 'Round Rainier

Posted by Kdooley at Aug 20, 2013 05:36 PM |

One family spends 15 days and 14 nights on the Wonderland Trail -- with a 9-month-old baby. For families who are wondering if they should backpack with baby, WTA trip reporter MikeOnAHike answers four of the most common questions they get along the trail. Check them out, and get inspired by their adventure.

"93 miles with a baby..."

That's how MikeOnAHike starts his must-read trip report from his family's Wonderland Trail trip earlier this month. It's a terrific look at a Wonderland experience, and something of an inspiration for families who want to try backpacking with babies. This trip was the family's fifth backpacking trip with their 9-month-old daughter, and they seem to have a system down pat.

A parent wearing a large backpackg smiles down at a baby in a front carrier.
Backpacking with a baby is possible! This family made it all the way around Mount Rainier. Photo by MikeOnAHike. 

For families who are wondering if and how they should backpack with baby, MikeOnAHike answers some of the most common questions they get along the trail in his trip report. We've shared them below, along with a list of resources. Check them, get inspired by their adventure, and share your own tips for backpacking with babies.


Do you take turns with the baby?

At camp: yes. On the trail: no. I'm not very good at breast-feeding. In contrast, my wife is able to nurse while hiking. Also, we have our pack weights distributed based on baby weight. Because of these issues, it would be really slow to exchange the baby while we're hiking.

What do you do about diapers?

We pack them out. We have a hybrid reusable/disposable system that generates a little bit less weight in diapers. If I was doing a lengthy trip again, I'd consider bringing 3 of the reusable outer diapers instead of 2. This is because it can be difficult to dry your laundry when it is raining outside. (Read the White River to Summerland section of the report for how the family handled a diaper blow-out.)

Does your baby enjoy it?

Yes. She loves being close to us and spending time with us. She also loves being outside, seeing the trees, and especially the water. There are times when she wants a break from being carried, and at those times we'll take her out of the carrier and play with her. It was during one of these play sessions that she learned to pull herself up. She also loves being in the tent. Hiking and camping gear is surprisingly interesting to a baby, and we only had to bring a single "toy" for her. The rest of the stuff that she played with served some legitimate camping purpose. Candy bar wrappers, stuff sacks filled with sleeping pads, rolled up Velcro, etc.

How much weight do you carry?

Including 5 days of food, 2 liters of water each, and the 16 lb baby, our peak weight was 45 lbs each.


More about backpacking with babies

If you have more questions for MikeOnAHike about what he and his wife have learned as they've honed their system, post a comment to his trip report. If you have tips of your own, share them in the comments below.



    I Loved the pic, would love to see more. The story is incredible, i can't get myself around the whole mountain, let alone with a baby.. Great job and good read. She will be so happy to hear this story when she's older.

    Posted by:

    "Hikingqueen" on Aug 22, 2013 05:54 PM

    Hike with baby

    WOW That's quite a feat. I hope you either keep this trip report or that you kept a journal. It will be fun for her to read later.

    Posted by:

    Dave Frederick on Aug 22, 2013 05:54 PM


    We met you all at Spray Park. Its so nice to know you made it safe and sound. What an incredible thing to do!
    Happy trails!

    Posted by:

    "Hippie Mountain Chick" on Aug 22, 2013 05:53 PM

    Good article

    We've taken our baby with us a couple times too, nothing this significant though! I wish they'd elaborated on their hybrid diaper system a bit. We have taken pocket diapers both times and it works but we seem to over pack and they take up a lot of space. We'd love to hear some other 'diaper packing' ideas and insights.

    Posted by:

    "clearlyrambling" on Aug 23, 2013 09:55 PM

    Re: Good article

    We used GroVia diapers. I think the outer diapers were $18. I'm pretty sure that you can get cheaper versions, but we were quite impressed with how clean those got when we washed them in the backcountry. They also dried a lot faster than I'd expect something of that thickness to dry. Based on previous backpacking trips, we conservatively estimated that we'd need 5 inners per day. This proved quite conservative, and we probably had 15-20 extras at the end of the trip.

    5 unused diaper inners fit nicely into a quart-sized ziplock bag. 3 used diaper inners fit into a quart-sized ziplock bag. We should've brought more bags - we were always rushing to finish our bagged snacks so that we'd have enough garbage bags.

    We took regular baby wipes, but we air-dried them ahead of time to save weight. When we went to use them, we simply squirted a little water onto them.

    When we needed to wash an outer diaper, we tossed it into a ziplock bag along with approximately 1 liter of water per rinse. We'd do 3 rinses. If a diaper had blown out, we'd put some Dr Bronner's soap on a wipe, scrub the diaper, and then do the 3 rinses. We'd dump the rinse water well away from our water source.

    To dry the outer diaper, we'd first shake it thoroughly with a lasso motion. Then we'd press it in a dry chamois camp towel. Then we'd hang it on a clothes line or on our packs. At night we'd take the outer diaper into the tent (dew or rain would result in a wetter diaper). If the diaper was nearly dry, we were able to dry it by putting it into our sleeping bag. If it was too wet for that, we'd hang it on a clothes line inside our tent. In the morning if it was still rainy we could dry it a little more while taking down camp by stuffing it inside a fleece that one of us was wearing. That would decrease wetness, but would never get it to 100% dry.

    Posted by:

    MikeOnAHike on Aug 23, 2013 09:55 PM