5 Benefits Of Hiking Without The Carrier
Long gone are the days I can hike more than 3 miles with my toddler on my back. We bought the Osprey Poco Carrier less than a year ago and she’s already outgrown it. I was hoping to keep using it until the end of the year at least, but her growth spurts abruptly remind me that it ain’t happening. This means that while we can’t go longer miles together, there’s a ton more to look forward to and experience (without the back aches!)
You notice the things you didn’t before
In the carrier, I was definitely conscientious of time, snack/water intake, and finding ways to distract Poppy when she began to get restless or tired. If our hike was over 3 miles, it meant thinking of some trail activities she would enjoy from up high or during breaks out of the carrier. Now when she is hiking on her own, her curiosity takes flight and she is a boundless wanderer.
All the feels for flora and fauna
Handing objects to a toddler while she’s on your back is convenient, but once they start exploring on their own, there’s no stopping them from seeing things through their own lens. Touching and observing plants and animals/insects is an experience in itself that she will want to do over and over. Once Poppy got comfortable seeing things on her own, she wanted to stop and “play” with each item. She also loves making nature mandalas which is a fun way to fuse nature and creativity when outdoors.
You let go of the parental agenda
When we hiked with the carrier, there was always an elaborate plan in place: Prepare gear, Find place, hike for a few hours just in time for a nap. Without the carrier, we go at our own pace and if I forget something, it doesn’t feel as bad because I know she will be so busy with everything around her. Time slows down and we can take everything in at her leisure. We play games, we sing silly songs, and we sit and enjoy playing in the water. I don’t focus on “getting a good workout in” because frankly chasing a 2 yo in hiking boots is exercise enough.
Kids AND parents will learn more and are happier
When the time comes and your littler ones are ready to start hiking on their own, you’ll realize they’re getting the benefits of playing outdoors and getting exercise. Studies over the years have shown that a child’s autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills develop better when outside. As they hike on their own and take risks, they are not only getting the exercise they need (yay for blissful nap times!), they are learning how to hone in on some amazing outdoor skills. As parents, we get some proverbial weight lifted from our shoulders knowing that our kids are just taking another first step to becoming more independent.
Their comfort level settles in
This is a win-win for both us as parents and them as kids. While I’m bummed (truly) that I can’t carry my toddler anymore, I’m grateful at how fast she picked up hiking on her own. She carries her own backpack, gets real good and dirty, and is at peace more because she is exercising. Every time we go outside, she is more independent and tells me where she’d like to go. It’s totally ok to regress and break out a carrier or piggyback rides. In all honesty, they will want a break too at some point from all the exploring and hiking. But from our experience, taking breaks is the easy part now. Getting her to sit in her carrier was hard at times and now when she needs a break, she knows getting a ride is temporary.
For us, transitioning without the carrier was fairly easy because we also have older kids to use as incentive: “You’re such a big kid. I bet your older brother and sisters will be so proud of you.” But we also had to keep in mind it was a new experience and their first time. Here’s are a few points that may be useful to you:
- Don’t be discouraged if she doesn’t give into the idea right away. Try letting her hike on her own in “spurts” by letting her out of the carrier a few times during the hike.
- Select shorter trails. Sometimes going for a shorter hike will give them the confidence to do it again in the future. Especially if you put emphasis on them being able to complete it!
- Bring a treat. This was key. Lollipops, Tootsie rolls, whatever candy was in my backpack–They all work. They will get tired even after a few piggyback rides and games to keep ’em going. Treats always win.
Do you have a child who is on the brink of transitioning without the carrier? What are your fears or triumphs? We’d love to hear about your experiences below.
References: Early Childhood News; Community Play Things
I have been contemplating buying a new backpack carrier.. My youngest is one and I hate to spend the money if I can only use it a year. How old is your daughter?
Poppy is 2.5 but she is tall. Most people think she is 4. 😉 We’ve been hiking since she was a baby and she loves being outdoors which is why allowing her to hike is great now that she’s outgrown the carrier. I practiced each time we hiked and we kept going further and further. Now she can hike up to 2.5 miles on her own with some breaks in between for snacks and exploration.