Keeping a baby cool on trail

We started our 2021 GDT thru hike during the tail end of a record heat wave in BC. In the months before the hike I was worried about keeping Toothless cool but that concern ramped up hard in the week before the trip.

Thankfully our system worked and he kept cool and safe during the hike. This is how we approached it:

Use an umbrella

We used a backpacking umbrella for rain, snow, wind and sun.

You can either attach the umbrella to your shoulder straps while you hike or you can just carry it.

You can also use the umbrella at breaks, meals, diaper changes and toilet breaks. It’s incredibly versatile.

We used a Helinox One umbrella due to availability in Canada but if I were to buy an umbrella again I would go for something with a reflective surface instead. The Helinox worked great overall but I would have liked a little more resistance to the sun.

Wear appropriate clothing

This goes without saying but I have to say it. The little one should be wearing light clothes that cover their body to keep the sun off of them. Toothless was outfitted in:

  • A sun hat from SUNday afternoon
  • A rash guard shirt from the GAP
  • A pair of baby hiking pants (very light weight and quick drying) from MEC
  • Merino wool socks and shoes

It’s tempting to dress your baby in shorts or short sleeves in hot weather (I wear shorts, why not my baby?!) but let me tell you from experience that you really do need to cover them fully. Despite being covered and wearing sun screen there were a few days where Toothless had red cheeks from the sun. These were usually overcast days where we didn’t pop the umbrella up. He would have been a lobster if we didn’t have him covered up.

We know this already from our own experiences – I get an incredible hikers tan despite covering up. I wear sun gloves. I wear a hat and sun hoodie. I wear sun screen. My baby is more delicate and needs to be covered better than me.

Wear sun screen

Wear lots of it.

We used Thinkbaby sunscreen for ourselves and Toothless (no point carrying two different types) but you can pick whatever you prefer. Regardless of what you pick keep in mind that your baby likely will try to eat it at some point!

We used a makeup sponge to apply the sunscreen. This worked well at the beginning when Toothless wasn’t a fan of the process but after he got used to it we stopped bringing the sponges.

Natasha applied sunscreen while he was breastfeeding which made the process a lot smoother and saved us time.

Spritz with water

We carried a small (7mL) spray bottle that we filled with treated water.

Spray bottle (with red tape for visibility)

These are often used for repackaged bug spray but we used it to mist Toothless (and ourselves) on the face and neck with water when it was really hot out. The water then evaporates and cools you down similar to how sweating does, but without you needing to get hot enough to sweat that much. It’s cool, refreshing and works well even in days without much of a breeze. We used this a fair amount in the first week or two for Sections A and B but stopped using this almost completely by the time we finished Section C. In retrospect we should have used it more in Sections A, B and C but didn’t because I carried it and we would forget to give it to Natasha when she carried Toothless. After a while on trail it was cool enough not to need it at all so we left the spritz bottle in Jasper after Section E.

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