Taking Babies Outdoors: Two Options

By | July 26, 2011

This one takes a step back from my advice on how to teach a kid to ride a bike, and is for you newer parents.

So, you’ve got a new little bundle of joy. You’ve stayed at home coo-ing and feeding and loving them for months. And you don’t love them any less, but… is it wrong to remember you love the outdoors and wonder if there’s a way to maybe take this kid outside?

No, there’s nothing wrong with that at all and you’re feeling what so many of us have felt before you. And here’s something that might surprise you—your baby probably wants it too! I think I’ve told you before about this story, but when my kid was barely walking and I tried to get her to sit quietly in her stroller for a ride through the woods, she cried and cried until I let her get out and try to walk by pushing the stroller. She did that for a moment, while continually glancing to the forest at the side of the road. “Do you want to get off the paved road? Go ahead,” I said, jokingly. Her face lit up a little bit and she let go of the stroller and headed straight for the woods. So don’t think you’re imposing this on your child. You know them best—of course—but don’t assume they won’t love it.

But how to go about this? This is precious cargo. I have two main ideas for you with myriad options within each (of course). The first is the baby backpack. How the outdoorsy parent ever survived without this is truly beyond me. It saved my psyche and who can say how much it has helped form her love of the outdoors.

OPTION ONE: The Backpack

You can get the specs elsewhere, but if you’re unfamiliar, what we’re talking about is basically backpack straps like you’d use to carry your tent and sleeping bag, but hooked up to an aluminum frame that holds a hammocky seat for the little one, with a few loops where you can tie on toys. Will they actually play with these toys? Would you, if you were taking a ride on the back of an elephant through somewhere you’d never been? But why not give them the option. Especially to tie on a binkie (then they might go to sleep up there).

There are two more little features on nearly every version: shoulder straps for the little one, so they don’t slide out if you bend forward (important!) and a more-optional little backpack that goes on the back of the child compartment to hold supplies. (And beyond that, there are sun-blocking awnings, bug-screens, and other things that I didn’t pay much attention to. But your situation may be different.)

These work almost perfectly, with the one problem being that they hold the baby a fair bit away from the surface of your back and this exerts no small amount of leverage pulling you backwards. Not something you can’t get used to (I climbed Mt. Monadnock wearing our Kelty) but something to be aware of when you first try one.

Kids do grow out of these, so they’re not too hard to find on Craigslist and the like.

You get your exercise, they get a different view than a stroller for once. (and you don’t have to stay on smooth pavement).

OPTION TWO: The Trailer

If you are a cycling type, this is a lifesaver of the highest order, and a pretty fun way to spend time with your kids as well. Not only do you have them with you which takes care of, well… taking care of them, and gives your partner (if applicable) a break, but you get time on your bike. And that’s not all! You get a better workout pulling them, because the trailer itself weighs ten pounds, plus the weight of one or two kids. Take them on a trip to the grocery store and you’re not only being super-parent, but teaching them about alternatives to the car and working yourself like a pack horse. You can skip the gym today- that’s called dovetailing your to-do list.

We got a Trek trailer. The Burley has been the industry standard for years. But the new king-of-the-mountain may be the Chariot. This little number can be set up as stroller, bike trailer, bike sidecar (a special model), to roll behind you while you hike or XC ski (the wheels get replaced with skis).

Did you notice I mentioned stroller back there? But this isn’t a little fold-up-put-in-your-trunk umbrella stroller that gets stuck on every pebble. Oh, it folds up, it will fit (tightly) in the trunk. But now you have big wheels that can roll over things, and can go on trails, on grass, over rock gardens (small ones, anyway). It’s the stroller you’ve been longing for while pushing that little thing that made you bend over and hurt your back. Oh, and the handle is adjustable so you can be all low-rider-racy or high and comfortable, depending on your mood. It’s great fun.

There are also some reviews on Our Days Are Just Filled for products like these, but I intended this to be more of an introduction to what’s out there. I hope that this has opened the eyes of at least some of you out there. And I further hope that some of you find these two options as freeing and ultimately as joyful as my daughter and I did. TTFN!

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