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7 Tips for Hiking with a Baby in the Winter

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

There is magic in the winter months whether you’re embracing the weather and hiking or getting cozy indoors.

*Disclaimer: use your own discretion and comfort-zone when hiking in the winter with your baby. The answers that I share below come from my experience of my motherhood journey in the mountains. If you are here reading this, I am sure we share the same love for nature and hiking and I hope to see you out on the trail. Either physically or virtually. PS- there are a couple affiliate links added on the gear photos to provide Adrianna Adventures with a small kickback at no additional cost for you. Thank you for your support in advance.

1. Always pack ice cleats with you

Ice cleats are so important for grip on the trail. I never leave the house in the winter without my ice cleats. The grip and traction on the trail makes me feel comfortable and safe when carrying my baby.

2. Layer your baby up!

Warm layers keep the chill away. I layer my baby using the three-layer rule:

First, merino wool base layer and socks.

Second, fleece bunting.

Accessories include toque, gloves, hand warmers, neck warmer, and booties.

If I could get away with wearing an adult bunting, I would! I wear similar layers to my baby and mostly live in my merino wool base layers during the winter months.

Don't forget to temperature check! I check my baby's temperature by using two fingers behind the neck to ensure he isn't too cold or too warm. I do feel for warmth in his feet and hands too.

3. Opt to stay inside if it's too cold

In Alberta, we do experience some extremely cold winter days, but we do seize the opportunity on the mild days to hit the trail. For us, -15 degrees Celsius and warmer is within our comfort-zone. Wind-chill is an important factor for us, we always pay very close attention to what the temperature feels like with the wind. In short, we do not hike on super windy days. Most babies hate the wind, and my baby falls into that category. Yes, we have been those people with screams coming from the carrier just moments beyond the parking lot.

We opt for indoor activities if the temperature is any cooler than our -15 degrees Celsius marker. On those cold days, we stay inside and stay cozy, and we are happy with that choice.

4. Plan your route for motivation

We choose family-friendly hikes as far away from avalanche zones as possible. We choose more urban hikes and read many trail reviews before heading out on the trail.

I love using the All Trails app to map out the trail and get directions to the trailhead. I often google others reviews or ask fellow hiking families in my area to share their winter trail recommendations. We still venture into the mountains but typically stick to trails that have lots of traffic and are close to indoor facilities.

5. Keep hikes short and manageable

I prefer to hike 2 hours or less in the winter because the cold air makes my baby's cheeks red and his nose a little runny. A one-hour hike is perfect for us.

Staying within your comfort-zone during the winter will make the hike more enjoyable for you and baby.

6. Keep baby dry and fed

I always change my baby at the trail head before and after the hike in the truck. Yes, my vehicle is an 'adventure wagon' or a 'nursery on wheels' but it makes us feel like we can adapt to each adventure. I pack all the basic supplies with plenty of extras and sometimes in piles throughout the car. Go easy on yourself! No need to have everything perfectly always organized. Sometimes it really is about just being in the moment surrounded by the chaos. Being a "HOT MESS" is just how you feel when layering up and layering down in the winter. In fact, sweating prior to the hike is just how it goes!

Feeding on demand is how we always fly. My baby was breastfed, and bottle fed so I experienced the convenience of both on the chilly days. Managing bottle sanitizing and formula got messy. I breastfed on the side of the trail and would sometimes use my summit z-seat to sit on during feeding times.

7. Bye bye expectations!

Say good-bye to the expectations!

Or just focus on being in the present moment no matter what is thrown your way. There is no way to control the weather, traffic, wildlife, trail conditions, or many other things that could possibly go wrong on your adventure. Seriously though, the law of attraction concept is so real on hike days! If you have a rough start to the morning, like a blow out, getting covered in oatmeal, or poop when you're already late to meet your hiking friends at the trail, things can really spiral out of control without an attitude reset. I always find a way to laugh at the chaos, allow a time range for our ETA, and focus on what is going well. Reward yourself with a hot coffee in a to-go mug as you leave your home. Nature will take care of the rest!

Be quick to turn back and trust those gut feels. We are all hard on ourselves and there is nothing to prove when hiking with your baby. Winter roads can be awful, snowfall warnings can be sudden, and the temperatures can drop rapidly.

To end,

Hiking with a baby in any season is no easy feat. Just getting layered can feel like the hike. I promise that it is all completely worth it! When that first snowflake lands on your baby, magic happens. They are in awe of this world, and it is so amazing to experience winter in all of its glory with your curious little one learning about the world.

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