Worry-Free Hiking with Your Baby This Winter: Tips to Ensure a Warm and Cozy Adventure

January 26, 2017
Lori LaBorde
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Worry-Free Hiking with Your Baby This Winter: Tips to Ensure a Warm and Cozy Adventure
With the proper preparation, winter hiking with kids is a great activity. Photo by Lori LaBorde.


Hiking in winter with kids can be fun and safe when you're properly prepared.

Winter hiking is an amazing activity to share with your infant or toddler. The crisp, cool, fresh air and the stillness of the forest to me is signature of the winter woods. When I first started hiking with my 8-month-old in the cold, like many parents, my main concern was her comfort and safety.  These guidelines will walk you through the basics of cold-weather hiking with your little one so you can leave your worries behind and enjoy many days outside with your family this winter.

Basic Layering for Infants & Toddlers

The base layer is the layer closest to the body. Your base should wick moisture away from the skin. Nylon stockings, aka “tights,” makes for an awesome base layer.

The mid-layer is the layer in between the base and outermost clothing. In very cold weather, you may have two mid-layers. The mid is the insulation layer, meaning that it traps your body heat. You want there to be enough room to create a pillow of heat in between layers, so avoid a tight-fitting mid. Try a wool sweater or fleece pullover. Wool or fleece pants are perfect for the legs.

The outer layer (or shell) is the layer exposed to the elements. This layer should be water repellent on rainy/snowy days or windproof so that body heat is not lost, literally, to the wind. As the babywearer, you will be generating more body heat, so you may want an outer layer that has zippers or flaps to release heat easily, should you want to cool off briefly without making adjustments to your carrier.

Fabrics to Look For

Be practical when you are dressing your child. There are options for every budget. Softer wools are one of my favorite options for layering my child and myself. Wool takes moisture from your skin—or wicks it away—and helps your body maintain a stable body temperature. It keeps you warm even when wet. Plus, it is an antimicrobial—cool!

However, wool can sometimes be hard to find for infants/toddlers and it can be expensive. For these reasons, synthetic blends are a great alternative in cold and damp weather.  Common blends include fleece, polyester, nylon, and spandex. Synthetic blends tend to dry quickly, and like wool wick moisture away from your skin, enabling your body to maintain a stable body temperature. They also tend to keep your body warm even when wet. These materials are especially great when hiking with your little one for areas that build up extra heat, such as where the carrier meets your body and where your baby is making contact with your body.

Cotton in NOT recommended for cold-weather hiking because it absorbs moisture and keeps it close to your skin rather than pulling it away. This causes a cooling effect, which is great for warm weather, but can be dangerous in cold, damp, or windy weather. Most infant clothing is made of cotton, so if you find you are unable to avoid dressing your LO in cotton, be aware that when you take them out of the carrier, any sweat that was built up during the hike will sit on their skin and feel cool. Be sure to pack an extra pair of clothes for them after the hike is over to keep them warm and safe.

Your Carrying Style Affects Your Dress

You and your baby will be sharing body heat, and together will most likely be generating quite a bit of it while you are hiking. In cooler weather, try to keep them as close as you can to your body.

Front Carrying in a Wrap

Because your baby’s body will be sitting close to yours and protected from the elements, avoid the temptation of overdressing your child. They will be sharing your body heat, and as you continue to move, your body will generate more heat. Wear your child over your mid layer or between your base and mid, if your mid-layer is a vest.

How to dress child: same way as "going for a walk," a beanie hat (fleece or wool). Have an extra pair of clothes for after your hike to replace any sweaty clothing.

Front Carrying with Head, Arms, and Legs Free

Since your child’s extremities will be further away from your body heat, you should dress them in an additional layer. I do not recommend dressing your child in a jacket unless they will be worn over your outer layer, or if your outer layer will be left open, for risk of your child overheating. This is especially the case if you wear gear made to have your front carrier (or back carrier) inside of your outer jacket.  In general, the further your child is from your own body heat, the less heat they will have.

How to dress child: base layer, mid-layer, jacket (see recommendations above), socks, shoes, gloves, a beanie hat (fleece or wool), and an extra pair of clothes for after the hike.

Backpack Carrying

For this section we are going to assume that you are wearing your child on top of your outer most layer, and therefore your baby will not be affected by your body heat. You will want to use the layering system and pay particular attention to your child’s head. A rearview retractable mirror is one of my favorite gadgets to check if the hat is still on their head, or to be sure they aren’t getting too much wind in their face. Teary wind eyes are a good indicator that your child is getting too much wind.

How to dress child: base layer, mid-layer, windproof/water-resistant jacket or snowsuit, wool socks, shoes, gloves and a hat (wool or fleece) that will stay on your child’s head.

Saftey Tips

When hiking with infants and toddlers, have a planned route, expected time of outing, and extra clothes. Here's a list of the 10 hiking essentials.

Be cautious taking your little ones out in extreme weather for extended periods of time. Extreme weather can be excessive wind or temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Never hike alone while babywearing.

As you spend more time with your child outdoors, your confidence in your judgment will grow!

Lori LaBorde is a New York State licensed hiking and camping guide and Founder of NYC Adventure Moms. For more resources about hiking with infants and toddlers in the NYC Metro Area, visit Lori's website, NYC Adventure Moms. Follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook for more great tips.