Our son was born in the beginning of spring, and thus we got quite experienced hiking with a stroller over the last few months. Here we’ll share some practical tips and advice. We started taking our son on walks in a bassinet stroller soon after the birth, and after a month or so we also took him on the first short hike. We were slowly increasing the distance, until we did proper hikes with him safely tucked in the bassinet stroller. Hiking with a stroller can be enjoyable, but only if you plan it right and have the right gear. Below we’ll explain how to choose the right trail and stroller. We’ll also discuss the essential gear and safety.
The guide below is primarily written for hiking with babies who can’t yet sit up independently (younger than 5-8 months) and require a bassinet stroller (pram). Nevertheless, it can also be used for older children. There are some differences in terms of the stroller, but we’ll get to that in the second section below. With our first child we only hiked with bassinet stroller and when she was 8 months, we ditched it and used the Osprey Poco child carrier instead. We’re planning to do the same now with our son. A child carrier pack allows you to do more demanding trails, as soon as the child can sit unsupported, and is less hassle in terms of transportation.
Table of Contents:
- Choosing the Right Trail
- Choosing the Right Stroller
- Maneuvering and Safety
- Essential Gear and Packing
Choosing the Right Trail
Your biggest enemy when hiking with a stroller will be the terrain. If the terrain of your chosen trail is not suitable, it’s completely possible that you’ll have to turn around. The biggest problem are very steep stretches, fallen trees, very soft sand, roots that grow across the trail, and stony terrain on uphill and downhill stretches. A narrow trail edged with dense vegetation can also stop you. Now, if you know it’s just a short stretch and you are at least two adults on the hike (which we strongly advise to), you can simply carry both the baby and the (collapsed) stroller past the problematic stretch. However, if you’re not sure how many obstacles are on the trail, it’s probably better to turn around as you might otherwise get stranded somewhere in the middle of the trail where both going forward or back is difficult.
In terms of surface, we have good experience driving on both paved trails and gravel/dirt trails. We haven’t tried hiking with a stroller on rocky trails yet. However, big stones are kind of hard to drive over for both the stroller and the small child, so we think it’s probably a bad idea.
So, when hiking with a stroller you should avoid trails that are:
- Very steep
- Rocky (especially big stones and rocks are a problem)
- Full of obstacles like fallen trees and roots
- Narrow and edged with dense vegetation
Choosing the Right Stroller
What kind of stroller you’ll need of course depends on the type of trails you want to do. If you want to do trails that are not paved it’s absolutely necessary, that the stroller has relatively large air-filled tires and wheels, which are either fixed or can be fixed if they are swivel wheels. Swivel wheels are generally superior to fixed wheels, when it comes to maneuverability on a smooth terrain, but since nature in general doesn’t generate many perfectly smooth surfaces for walking, you’ll need fixed wheels when hiking with a stroller. The suspension system is also important because it will reduce vibrations, allowing your little one to enjoy a smoother ride. Other things you might want to consider are weight (the lighter the better), foldability (the smaller, the better), storage capacity and a hand brake.
Now, we didn’t think of hiking when we were getting our stroller a few years ago, but by pure luck it met the most important requirements (tires, wheels and suspension system), although it’s not designed for hiking in any way. It’s from the Swedish company Emmaljunga. Unfortunately, they don’t produce the same model anymore but if you want something similar check out the Alu S Air Flat model. Unlike ours, it has swivel wheels in front, but since they can be locked in place that shouldn’t be a problem. Our stroller is also a bit heavy for hiking, and it definitely doesn’t fold small, but we learned to manage it. Another thing that bothers us a bit is that it doesn’t have a hand brake, which makes it harder to go down steep slopes, although not impossible.
The thing is that it’s very hard to get a good bassinet stroller for hiking. There are plenty of options for bigger kids, which can sit unsupported and have great head control – for example, the Thule Urban Glide 2, BOB Alterrain Pro and Baby Jogger Summit X3 and more. However, when it comes to bassinet strollers there are almost no options. Emmaljunga has some models that are suitable for hiking and both the Baby Jogger Summit X3 and Thule Urban Glide 2 are compatible with a bassinet (sold separately) but that’s pretty much it as far as we know. Some of the strollers for bigger kids allow you to put a baby car seat in (for example the BOB Alterrain Pro) which might be okay for short hikes. However, on longer hikes you’ll probably want your small child to lie down as the lie flat position enables proper lung development and is also best for the development of babies’ spine, hips, and various other body parts, compared to a more upright position. If you do know of another brand that makes bassinet strollers for hiking write it in the comments below.
When choosing a stroller for hiking we recommend looking for the following:
- Stroller with big air-filled tires
- Fixed wheels or possibility to lock swivel wheels
- Suspension system
- Hand brake
Maneuvering and Safety
It goes without saying that you should be careful when hiking with a stroller and that the child should be fastened securely at all times. We found it very useful that one of us walks in front of the stroller while the other is pushing the stroller. That way, the one walking in front can inspect the terrain (bumpy/soft stretches, hindrances etc.) and warn the other about obstacles ahead. Yet another reason to always to be at least two adults when hiking with a stroller.
When you’re going uphill you need to be careful not to tip the stroller backwards. We sometimes both push the stroller uphill. Not only because it’s heavy but also for extra stability. Going downhill is easier and safer if you have a hand brake. However, in any case it’s a good idea if one is walking in front of the stroller while the other one has a firm grip on the handle. The one in front of the stroller can warn about obstacles and help braking the stroller.
If you encounter an obstacle such as a fallen tree, you should decide whether to carry the stroller over with the child in it or carry the stroller and the child past the obstacle separately. What’s the best solution will depend on the specific situation.
You should also be courteous to other hikers and stop if you see them approaching on a narrow trail. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to meet other hikers due to the width of the stroller.
Essential Gear and Packing
We absolutely recommend bringing a spare tube and a pump for stroller tires. The chance that you’ll encounter a flat tire is indeed higher than on paved roads. An even better solution is to bring a complete spare wheel. That enables you to quickly continue in case of a flat tire. Nevertheless, spare wheels are typically quite pricey. Remember to also bring clothing, sun protection, and everything for nappy changing. For non-stroller related essentials, do check out our article with tips for hiking with a baby.
You can pack a lot of stuff under the stroller (depending on the model), but make sure things are packed well. In our experience, it’s very easy to lose stuff that’s packed under the stroller. If something falls down, you won’t see it since you’ll be focused on maneuvering the stroller.
Besides making sure that there are always two adults going, we quickly learned that choosing the right trail is the most important thing when it comes to hiking with a stroller. Ideally you would only go on trails which one of you have checked out prior to going, but even then, you might encounter unexpected obstacles like debris after rockfalls or landslides, fallen trees or new vegetation, depending on how much time has passed since the initial scouting.
It’s also important to have a good stroller. It must have big air-filled tires and fixed wheels. Furthermore, for the comfort of the little one it should also have suspension. A hand brake is a nice addition because it makes it easier to go downhill. We recommend being extra careful maneuvering along the trail and remember to always secure your baby in the stroller. In terms of packing, we do recommend bringing a spare wheel or at least a tube and pump. It’s likely that you’ll encounter a flat tire at some point.
We’d love to hear about your thoughts on hiking with a stroller. Write them in the comments section below.