Start ’em young: Babes in backpacks

Photograph: Maggie Evans

By Maggie Evans

Before becoming a mum, a big part of how I identified myself was as a long-distance trail runner and tramper. Not surprisingly, one of my biggest concerns about welcoming a little human into my life was not being able to get out and enjoy the backcountry as much or in the same capacity.

Getting out on the tracks was what I used to do with every bit of free time I could wrangle, which was often limited to early mornings and weekends. I became rather adept at ‘super-tramping’, which is what my husband and I started calling multi-day tramps that we would do in a day, like the Milford, Kepler and Humpridge tracks.

Now that I’m a year into being a full-time mum, it’s true that I’m not getting out and tramping in the same capacity as before, per se. But now that I’m not restricted to just early mornings and weekends, I do find myself spending way more time on the trails than ever before, and my little boy Huxley is with me every step of the way.

I actually find tramping with Huxley one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of parenting, since not only do I get to play on the trails, but I also get to enjoy free hands, beautiful views, endorphins, time with friends, and perhaps best of all-a break from the mundanity of managing, corralling and entertaining little Huxley as intensively as when we’re at home. I think there are two main reasons I find it so easy and enjoyable: 1) Huxley is super content in the carrier and can nap really well in it, and 2) I’m fit enough to enjoy the trails despite carrying the extra baby (and baby paraphernalia) weight. Both of these ‘prerequisites’ are most easily met when you start tramping with your little one from the get-go, since newborns are far more adaptable and lighter than toddlers. It’s still possible to start tramping with older bubs, but it might take a while to get both them and yourself comfortable and happy with it.

Perhaps the only other important skill that comes in handy when tramping with little people is patience, which is probably true for all aspects of parenting.

Even though I find it easy to put Huxley in a pack and go play on the trails now, I was very intimidated at the beginning. Everything was so new and Huxley seemed so fragile when he was first born. Before we even stepped foot on a trail, I carried him in a front pack around the house during his naps to get us both used to the idea. He initially only took to the front pack when he was sleeping, so I always timed walks to coincide with his naps. Over time, I got used to him waking up at inopportune times mid-walk, which usually meant he’d start crying, so I got very comfortable nursing him wherever I was. If he got grizzly when I tried putting him back in the pack, I sometimes just carried him all the way back home or to the car in my arms. I didn’t consider that a reason to stop heading out, since I still enjoyed it even when things didn’t go perfectly smoothly. Things never go perfectly smoothly with babies!

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