For the past 20 years since moving from Senegal to the United States, spending time in the mountains has been my escape. Being in nature brings a sense of nostalgia and takes me back to my childhood where my siblings and I would spend days climbing Baobob trees, swimming in
Le Lac Rose “The Pink Lake”, catching insects and reptiles, eating mangos, and reveling in the sweet vibes of West Africa. When my youngest daughter Iman was born in 2017, I knew that I wanted to encourage her love for the outdoors and introduce her to hiking very early on.
Hiking with my toddler has been one of my most rewarding adventures thus far. Exploring new trails and viewing the outdoors with her is filled with constant joy and surprise. I get to experience her excitement about nature through fresh eyes, and this is priceless. Together we do nighttime hikes, explore creeks, visit National Parks, and hit up our local trails. The one thing I’ve learned about hiking with a little one is to always be prepared with the essentials and a possible worst-case scenario, whether it’s a quick trip to your local trails or an all-day hike. I’ve learned a lot over the past 4 years of hiking with Iman, and whether you’re a first-time parent,
or not sure of where to start with getting your little ones outdoors, I’ve put together a list of helpful tips for all dads.
Bring LOTS of snacks
Toddlers have unending energy reserves and that means they need constant fuel on the trails. Bite-size PB&J sandwiches, pretzels, kid-friendly protein bars, and healthy snacks like oranges and frozen grapes are always a special treat once reaching the peak of the mountain.
Have more water on hand than you think you’ll need
Bring more than you think you’ll need for you and your little one. Your excursion may last longer than expected, water may be used to wash hands or rinse off small boo-boos. You’ll feel better having more water than you need compared to running out before you’ve made it back down the mountain.
A comfortable backpack with pockets and organization to store a day’s worth of things
A comfortable pack to carry all your food, water, and hiking necessities for you and your little one is essential. The Gregory Nano 20 is my go-to for shorter hikes with Iman.
Comfortable shoes with good traction can make or break the day
Kids who are walking on trails need the same supportive footwear as adults. Good traction is a must for uneven terrain, climbing rocks, and an occasional tree of course.
Sun hat & Sunscreen
The sun can be brutal even on cloudy days. Protecting kids from harmful rays is important to prevent sunburn and teaches them the importance of sun protection early on.
Always bring backup clothing…always
Kids spill things and kids love to get wet. This is a fact. Bring a change of clothes and a jacket for cooler temps to stay ahead of the mess and any possible weather changes.
Be prepared for when they get tired of walking/hiking
I’ve always used a soft structured carrier with Iman when
she was younger. Now that she’s older her little legs still get tired. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes into our hike, others it’s 3 miles in. A comfortable baby/toddler carrier that can fold down compact is a must if you want to save your arms from carrying them the entire hike.
First aid kit
This is should be an essential part of every hiker’s bag. My daughter has gotten a few scraped knees along our treks. Our first aid kit is always stocked with band-aids with her favorite cartoon characters and that seems to stop the tears quickly.
Apps that help to plan out your adventure
Planning out your adventures and exploring new parks and trails can take some work. Facebook groups dedicated to hiking, Instagram, and google searches are popular, but apps such as All
Trails can be a big help in finding family hikes suitable for young kids.
Nighttime hikes with my daughter are some of our favorite adventures. The SkyView app helps us identify and learn about different constellations and planets. It’s a great learning tool for kids
Hiking with toddlers is an opportunity to teach them about our Earth and the beauty of the outdoors. These moments are that much more enjoyable when you are prepared and have all of the essential items. Do tantrums happen on the trails? Of course! But let’s face it, tantrums
can happen anywhere and there is something so undeniably calming about being outdoors. The sight of a bunny rabbit hopping by can distract your little one, and immediately make them forget about what made them upset in the first place. So get out and enjoy your adventures and Happy Father’s Day!
Editorial piece and photography shared in collaboration between Cherif Ndiaye and Gregory Mountain Products