Hiking With a Formula-Fed Baby

Before baby, heading out for activity was easy-peasy. For a run of less than 10 miles I only needed my shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather. I often took my iPod and almost always wore a heart rate monitor, but frequently would go without either and just run. If I planned to run more than 10 miles or if it was a stupid hot day, add some water and maybe a gel or 2 to that and I was good to go.

Hiking while pregnant took a little more. I was worried something might go wrong and I was hungry all the time, so I took snacks, more water, basic first aid supplies, and a note stating how far along in my pregnancy I was at the time, emergency contact numbers, and other relevant information.

Getting out of the house for anything at all is a completely different story with a baby. No matter where we’re going or how long we plan to be gone, there’s something. At the bare minimum I have a couple diapers, wipes, and a pacifier. If we’re going to be out more than an hour I also have enough formula to feed her at least once. Longer trips I have all of those plus a blanket, a change of clothes, toys….you get the idea.

Maybe it’s just me and new motherhood, but hiking with a baby requires a lot more gear than I’m accustomed to carrying. Items usually in my pack include:

For me:

  • water
  • pamphlets on wildlife and weather

…that’s about it. For a long hike I’ll take a snack, maybe some electrolyte replenishment tabs, toilet paper…the sorts of things you might add if you plan to be out most of a day.

For the baby:

  • diapers
  • wipes
  • change of clothes
  • blanket
  • burp cloth
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellent
  • enough formula for the time we plan to be gone plus extra

Two weeks ago we planned a hike that we thought would take most of the day. It was up above tree line so we knew we wouldn’t have a lot of shade, starting in the morning would be cool but we could expect it to warm up, and rain might roll in later in the afternoon. As we packed up the night before, I took inventory of what we packed for the baby.

Of all the prep and care for the baby when we’re out in the world, diapering is the easiest, in my opinion. She needs to be changed at predictable intervals and it’s always good to have one or two extra diapers, just in case. A few wipes and a clean surface to change her on and we’re good. For a while I took a travel size changing pad along but since then I’ve decided that just a clean waterproof pad that folds up no bigger than a burp cloth works just fine and takes up less space.


Four diapers, wipes, and a waterproof pad to use as a changing pad. This turned out to be too many diapers but other days would have been just about right.

Feeding her is more complicated. At the time of that specific hike, Adventure Baby was taking about 4 oz of formula at a time but the length of time between feedings could vary a lot. Now I know that the inconsistency in that was probably attributable to poor naps, but at the time I found it very hard to predict what she would need. That meant that for a long trip we could have needed as many as 4 bottles, between driving to the trail, hiking, and driving back home. In the past I’ve used a formula dispenser cup with one serving (bottle-worth) in each well. Anticipating needing 4 bottles on this hike would have meant I needed two of those cups since each only holds 3 servings. Instead I decided to pack what we might need in two ziploc bags (in case we got a hole) and carry a scoop so I could measure out each serving as needed. The bag shown below actually contains enough formula to make 20 oz (5 bottles, at the time). Anytime we’re traveling I prefer to use Playtex Drop Ins bottles because feeding her multiple times only requires multiple liners, not multiple bottles, and there’s less clean up afterwards. Here I just made sure we had enough liners to feed her as many times as we anticipated and threw in an extra nipple, just in case.


Formula in a ziploc bag (inside another ziploc bag)
Bottle liners
Playtex nurser bottle
Extra bottle nipple
and the bag we used to keep it together in the pack
Not pictured: water and formula scoop

Although we carried a Katadyn filter for our own water, I wanted to have water from home for mixing formula. So, we carried 24 oz in a Nalgene bottle.

In case of unexpectedly cool weather, rain, or a blowout, we carried extra baby clothes as well.


Pants and a onesie rolled up inside a baby-sized hoodie

And finally, because we weren’t carrying enough already…

From left to right: insect repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and plastic bags for diapers

From left to right: insect repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and a roll of plastic bags for dirty diapers

All of this went into the pack, which Adventure Guy had the joy of carting around the mountain.

So that’s what we packed – but actually executing this is a whole other can of worms. We packed everything up the night before so that we wouldn’t waste precious happy baby time packing in the morning. As soon as she was up that morning, I fed her while Adventure Guy got himself ready and everything into the car. Dressed myself, had a little breakfast, and off we went. Adventure Baby slept a little in the car but as has been a pattern for her lately, not very much. By the time we arrived at the trailhead it wasn’t quite time for her to be hungry again yet but I knew that by the time we got ourselves actually on the trail it wouldn’t be long before she needed to stop. So, I fed her in the car at the trailhead but she only took about half of her normal amount. When she was done, I loaded her up in our new white Boba Air carrier (with a rolled up receiving blanket in the bottom and her legs froggied because she’s still a little small to sit in there) and we were off.

Thankfully, Adventure Baby loves being in the carrier – any carrier we’ve tried – as long as she’s fed and in a good mood when we put her in there. Not long into the hike she was asleep and she slept for nearly 2 hours. It turned out to be horribly windy and she did not appreciate that, so our hike was shorter than we intended and she didn’t wind up needing to eat on the trail a single time that day. I over packed.

Other days, especially before we got better at planning ahead so we could time our trips better, she’d need to eat multiple times during a hike. I try to anticipate when she’ll be hungry so that I can be on the lookout for a good spot to sit – preferably with a view.


Our feeding perch from my first hike with Adventure Baby – Mother’s Day, 2013

When we find that perfect spot, hopefully at the perfect time, I slip my pack off while taking great care not to wake the baby! With any luck, I can get the bottle mixed before she wakes up. Then I slip her out of the carrier, sit in the best spot I can find, and proceed to look around while she eats to her heart’s content. Then it’s back in the carrier, feeding paraphernalia back in the bag, and back on our way.

The logistics of finding a spot and timing things well are no doubt essentially the same for a nursing mom. At first, I thought it was kind of convenient to be bottle feeding. After all, I can feed my baby anywhere and not have to worry about what people might say or feeling self-conscious. On the other hand, having to plan ahead and carry a bunch of extra stuff while being sure there’s enough to ride out unexpected delays is..tricky. We’ve been through a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what works best for us and I’m not 100% sure we’re there yet, but we’re on our way.


In case anyone has stumbled on this post looking for more general tips about adventuring with infants and children, Megan Ward of the Adventures in Parenthood project recently shared two great posts: 1) 10 Tips for Camping with a Baby and 2) a nice long list of resources for parents with links to books, other blogs, and individual articles. Enjoy!



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1 Response to Hiking With a Formula-Fed Baby

  1. Wonderful post! Taking the time to prepare a post like this will be so helpful to other parents. I’ll be sure to add it to my list of Resources. Thanks for the links back to the project website!

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