I bought two hiking backpacks on secondhand sites (I’m a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace and use DoneDeal often as well). I didn’t know what the brands were when I bough them, but I asked the owners if they’d be good for carrying toddlers. They’re probably not the top of the line, but they’ve worked really well for us. I wasn’t ready to shell out big bucks because we weren’t sure if the kids were going to sit still in the packs long enough to make it worth it. So instead, I think I paid €65 for the two packs and I think we’ve used them probably ten times.
Noah’s pack is a Bush Baby and Maya’s pack doesn’t even seem to have a brand on it! Noah’s has a little head pillow which is nice, but they’re otherwise both fairly basic. They don’t have covers, so if it were to start pouring, we’d all get wet. We’ve hiked in the mist before, and we just put the kids in their wet gear, which also gives them another layer of warmth against the elements. Both packs have water bottle holders on both sides and big storage pouches at the back for snacks and any layers we shed as we hike. We have light kids, which does make a difference. Noah’s twenty pounds at 18 months and Maya’s not yet thirty pounds at three years and three months old. If you had really heavy kids, I think you’d have to be stronger or go more often to get more practice!
We usually max out at about an hour of hiking. Sometimes the kids are done after an hour, and sometimes we’re exhausted by then, but an hour is usually our sweet spot. We typically end up with at least one kid asleep for part of it, and they always seem comfortable enough to snooze as we clomp along the trail.
We bring a billion snacks and that keeps our kids (who don’t sit still much) happy to sit in their packs for an hour. We’ve also instituted a hike-then-pub tradition, which Maya has really taken to. When we talk about hiking, she now puts the two together (good or bad, who knows!) and declares, “Yes, and then chippies.” Nothing like a little toddler positive reinforcement!
Our favorite hike is from the Martello tower in Sutton about halfway to Baily lighthouse, and then we walk back along the road to the car. We could probably hike to the lighthouse and then up to the Summit Inn, but we usually do the loop and drive the mile up the hill so we don’t have to wait on the bus to take us back down to the car. The kids otherwise don’t have a whole lot of fries in their lives, so they love it, and we definitely earn the snack (and maybe a glass of wine and a pint of Guinness) by the time we lug those kids around for an hour! We tried Maya with a short, 20-minute hike a few weeks ago, and we were shocked at how nimble she was. The key to her success seemed to be her own “hiking boots” — boots I bought before we moved back in case there was another snowy winter in Dublin. But they’re perfect for hiking because they’re pretty waterproof but also shearling lined. I wouldn’t take her on a hike where there isn’t a barrier between us and a cliff because I don’t trust her not to go flinging off the edge, but since she’s definitely getting heavier, I think we’re going to give her as much hiking practice as possible in these next few months!
If you have specific hiking with babies/toddlers questions, send them my way. We’re by no means experts, but we’ve loved being able to get out hiking as a family!