We first took Nora camping when she was just six weeks old. It was early October and temperatures in California’s Sierra Nevada, where we live, were starting to drop. Despite frosty mornings and traces of snow at high elevations, my husband and I decided to go for it. We wanted to introduce our little girl to the mountains at as young an age as possible.
So we loaded our camper van with all of the usual gear for an overnight trip—sleeping bags, two-burner stove, camp chairs and firewood. Then came the outdoor baby gear—baby carrier, fleece suit and knit hat, piles of diapers and burp rags. This was a camping trip like nothing I’d ever seen before.
Baby Nora didn’t exactly roast a marshmallow on her first campout, but we all survived the sleepless night under the stars.
Since then, we’ve fine-tuned our camping-with-baby routine and our now 15-month-old has become a road-tripping pro. She’s spent two nights in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, a week camping in the desert of southern Utah, and a couple of nights in a campground on the coast of Big Sur. She’s also frequented ski lodges all over the West, Tahoe in particular, plus Whitewater, British Columbia, Colorado’s Aspen, Copper, and Loveland, and Utah’s Snowbird and Alta. She’s been towed while skate skiing, spent many miles in the jogging stroller, and has hung out on the beach in places like Bolinas and Encinitas while her dad and I took turns surfing.
I still have a lot to learn in the parenting department, but I’ve found the key to bringing baby along for the ride on outdoor adventures is to be flexible, patient and equipped with the right gear. Flexibility and patience you’ll have to find on your own, but gear is easy to come by.
We started with the king of all adventure strollers, the Thule Chariot Cougar 1, which has add-on conversion kits, all sold separately, that transform it into a jogging stroller, a bike trailer, and a cross-country ski carrier. It’s a big investment and has a lot of moving pieces, but this contraption has enabled me to not only continue to do the sports I love—running, biking, skiing—but to bring Nora along for the ride. And the look on her face while zooming down a groomed Nordic track or running along pathways is priceless. (For new babies, you may also want the Thule Stroller Infant Sling, which adds more support for infants younger than 10 months old.) For hiking, I started with an ERGOBaby carrier, which lets you carry your baby in four different positions. It’s surprisingly comfortable and I was able to go for long hikes with Nora sleeping happily on my chest. Plus, I’d carry her in it around the house and for walks into town, too.
At some point, babies get too big for the chest carry, so you’ll want to upgrade to a kid-carrying backpack, like Deuter’s Kid Comfort III Child Carrier. This pack has all the bells and whistles, from a sunshade to plenty of pockets for storing necessities (like sippy cups, pacifiers and snacks) to a soft chin pad (that’s also removable and washable) so your little one can take a comfy snooze on the go.
To keep baby protected as well as comfortable outdoors, you’ll need a few other essentials. For sun protection, stock up on some baby sunscreen, a good sun hat, and some sunglasses, like the RKS Explorer Sunglasses (although my daughter would rather chew on hers than wear them). In the colder months, little ones need a cozy fleece layer, along with a wind- and water-resistant shell.
Once you and baby are outfitted, there’s no excuse for staying inside. Babies have an entire world to discover. Why not start exploring early?