When Mark and I announced our pregnancy, our family (and some friends) were quick to warn us about how our lives were “about to change forever!” and “so much for the rock climbing!” Well, our lives certainly have changed quite a bit, but we’re still getting out and rock climbing!
G is now almost 10 months old, and he’s already been climbing with us five times this summer. This doesn’t make us kids-in-the-wilderness experts, but we have found some gear that is extremely helpful. We love sharing tips to help everybody get out with their kiddos, so if you’ve got a little one at home or on the way, definitely check these out!
1. Kid Comfort 2 by Deuter (http://www.deuter.com)
The first major hurtle in climbing with babies is actually getting to the crag. Well, the first hurdle is getting out the door, but I can’t help you with that. The second hurdle, then, is the approach. Your transportation setup can change depending on the approach requirements, but most of our crags are at least a short hike away. We picked up the Deuter at REI when G was six months old, and he’s probably spent 40 hours or more riding around in it since then. He’s really grown to like the backpack a lot, and Mark has almost gotten it adjusted perfectly for him.
When hiking to a climbing area, we usually have all of G’s stuff packed into the Deuter. It has a lot of extra storage under the seat, and then we’ll tie the PeaPod (see below) to the outside. Mark usually carries the baby, and I’ll slog up the trail with *everything else*, though I usually pawn the rope off on a friendly helper (aka over-encombered friend or unwilling accomplice).
So far, the Deuter has held up to a lot of use. It worked well even when he was a tiny baby, and has grown with him since. It has a lot of storage space, and is not too heavy. The pack adjusts through a large range, so I can carry G around in it as well (and I have the tiniest of torsos). The biggest problem we have with this pack is that it is tricky to get the baby into it. The clips on the harness are so low in front of the baby that you have to really shimmy and worm your hand down inside to get at it. And half of the clips are ‘adjustable’, which means they slide around on the webbing and you have to go digging for them every time you buckle your wiggly-one in.
2. PeaPod by Kidco (http://www.kidco.com)
This little tent forms the center piece of our crag-side setup. It is a lightweight, but surprisingly large self-setting up tent (in other words, just let go and *whoomph* TENT). It comes with a little air mattress and pump, but we leave those at home. G naps pretty well in this, and he plays pretty well in it too. At the crag, he can nap zipped up inside, and I don’t worry about flies or mosquitos feasting on him. We’ve taken this to a lot of places where G needs a contained or protected play area, and it has worked out well.
It is not strong enough to work as a playpen, so if the baby is awake, they will need to be supervised. And it does not provide much shade by itself, so we bring blankets to lay on top of it, or look for shady places to set up. But it does, and I speak from experience here, protect your baby from ranging crag dogs, hungry bugs, and blustery desert winds.
3. Powdered Formula Dispenser by Munchkin (http://www.babiesrus.com)
While I do agree, breastfeeding is the healthiest option for our babies, not everything in parenting works out exactly as you might hope. For us less-milky moms, formula has some really nice perks at the crag. Instead of relying on a single set of boobs, anybody can give the baby his bottle, so mom can keep at the belay-slaving or proj-working all afternoon if she wants. Also, feeding baby his bottle does not require searching out a quiet, private spot for feeding. G can suck down a bottle while Dad yells beta from below with no problems. Finally, having formula on hand means I will not have to wrestle and squeeze my tiny boobs out from under my sports bra at all during the day, and this makes me happy.
It took us several outings to figure out our favorite method of formula storage and dispensing. But the system we have ended up with works great. We fill up a formula dispenser (as shown above) with measured six ounce servings of powdered formula. The powdered stuff does not require refrigeration or coolers, and can be left sitting in a pack all day. We also store six ounces of filtered, non-flouridaded, baby water in each of three bottles, with screw-top caps (like these), and pack a plastic baggie with the nipples and extra bottle parts. When G gets thirsty or tired, we just mix the powder into the measured water, shake, and serve!
If you are as crazy as I am, and worry about water sitting in plastic bottles all day long, we have found that Dr Brown’s glass bottles are VERY sturdy. They will add a bit of weight to the pack, but they hold up great to our climbing abuses.
4. Insect Shield Hooded Shirt by Soy Genius (http://www.rei.com)
The weather in the mountains changes quickly through the day, and I constantly struggle with the best way to dress G for our climate. In one day of climbing at 9000ft in Estes Park, we can go from 80’s in the sun to 30’s and snow on the hike out, so the best option for everybody is to pack layers. I have brought this lightweight Soy Genius shirt along with us on almost every outing so far. It is UPF rated 50, so blocks sun and keeps sunscreen usage down. It breathes well in warmer weather, and insulates nicely if there is a slight chill.
And the best part? The insect shield repellent is woven into the material, and from my testing, it does seem to work well. Soy Genius assures us that “Insect Shield® requires no re-application and cannot be swallowed; it’s not harmful to the eyes or skin and is appropriate for infants and pregnant/nursing women.” I am not sure what it is made from, but so far, the mosquitos and biting flies have left G alone while he wears it, and he has not developed any crazy side-effects.
So, the verdict on babies at the crag? Totally do-able! Especially with the help of some good gear, pre-planned organization, and helpful stuff-carrying, baby-entertaining, rope-gunning friends.