Get Out! Must-Have Gear for Outdoorsy Parents


Baby Elise at Kettle Pond in her hiking carrier - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan von Duntz
  • Baby Elise at Kettle Pond in her hiking carrier
My partner, Tristan, and I are avid outdoor enthusiasts. We also believe time in nature is key for a happy baby. We want our 10-month-old daughter, Elise, to appreciate natural beauty and outdoor recreation. After all, she'll be part of the next generation of environmental stewards.

To that end, we've tried to raise Elise outdoors. She's been skiing, hiking and biking throughout her first year, and even comes along while we volunteer to build and maintain the trails in our local town forest. Through all of this, we have put many pieces of outdoor gear to the test. Below are six items we couldn't live without. 

Hiking Carrier: This is the most versatile piece of gear we own. It can go to the farmer's market, for a walk down the road, or up Mt. Mansfield. We use the Osprey Poco Plus and like it for its compact design, ample pocket space, water bladder holder, and easy-to-use and fully adjustable harness and strap system. We chose a model that comes with a sun shade and added a standard mosquito head net over the sun shade to protect Elise when the bugs are out. There is a special insert for smaller babies, too. (Before she fit in the hiking carrier, we just used a soft, structured carrier like the Ergo.) 

Puree Pouches: These pouches of pureed foods stash so easily and are very lightweight, making them the perfect trail and camp food. We always throw one or two — plus a bib — in our pack when we're headed out just in case Elise needs an easy meal in a pinch. 

Bike Trailer: As a biking family, we couldn't live without this. Thankfully, our friends knew that and scored us a used Giant Pea Pod. Other popular models are made by Thule (formerly Chariot) and Burley. The features we think are most important are zippered protection for the baby, including mesh screen and plastic window options over the front of the trailer, and an ample storage compartment in the back for baby gear. We added an infant sling and are about to upgrade to a baby supporter for older babies. Many models can also be converted to standard and jogging strollers and the Thule multi-sport carrier can become a ski polk in the winter. 

Bike Bottle: On our first few outings as a family, we forgot about water for Elise. Fortunately I could nurse her, but we now also carry water for her, which is especially important on hot days, and even cooler ones if you're going to be out for a long time. We were having trouble finding a cup or sport bottle that worked for her and traveled well without spilling in our pack. In a pinch, I let her have a try at my bike bottle and it worked. Now we carry one for her on all outings.  

Wool Base Layers: It's important to remember that children being carried on hikes or in bike trailers aren't moving, so they can easily get cold. Even in summer, we love wool for its warmth and the fact that it continues to be warm even when it's wet. On cool fall and cold winter days, we also use long underwear and a balaclava from Danish Woolen Delights. Patagonia also makes great capilene base layers for kids. And don't forget wool socks! Smartwool makes excellent ones for kids and babies. 

A Wet Bag: A zippered wet bag, like the kind used for cloth diapering, is perfect for all-day outings with babies. Without any fuss I can throw soiled and wet clothes and bibs into it, and keep it in my pack until I get home to do laundry. It can also be used to carry dirty diapers. I use a Bumkins bag that measures 12X14 inches and love it but there are many other brands, sizes, and styles available. The key is that it's small and waterproof. 

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