Many parents are intimidated by the idea of hiking with young children, but that doesn’t have to be the case, according to touring experts Beijing Hikers and Beijing Sideways. Founded in August 2001, Beijing Hikers is an outdoor group founded by hikers for hikers. They organize frequent excursions around Beijing. Beijing Sideways allows visitors to see the city from a motorcycle sidecar with day trips and overnight stays at the Great Wall. Here, both groups offer their tips for trail hiking with kids.
Before the Hike
First, find out if the outing or hike is suitable for kids. At Beijing Hikers, it depends quite a bit on the individual child and whether or not they’re used to being outdoors. The group rates its hikes from 1-5 (1 being the easiest and 5 being the toughest). Try the easiest hikes first to get a sense of where your family fits in on the difficulty scale, then contact Beijing Hikers about the suitability of the hike that you’re interested in.
Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Bring some extra clothes in case the weather isn’t as nice as forecast. In general, hikers should wear loose and light-colored clothing in the summer, with a hat and sunscreen. During the rainy season, take a waterproof outer layer with a change of clothes to leave in the car. In the winter, wear thermal layers, a waterproof outer layer, and a scarf, gloves, and hat to cover any exposed skin. Bring extra warm clothing, just in case.
During the Hike
Always take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your children. This includes staying well-fed and well-hydrated, and having good hiking shoes, so you don’t lose your balance when carrying or helping your kids on the trail.
When hiking with kids, take it easy in the beginning, and add more challenges later. For example, you can repeat the same trails by walking together the first few times, then allowing the kids to range ahead once they’re more familiar with the route. Parents can also set a theme for the outing (e.g. “Our mission is the climb the Great Wall” or “We’re going to look at the autumn colors”) to make things more fun.
For families with younger children, it’s a good idea to set up base at a nice spot and explore the surrounding area from there. Talk to them about what they’re seeing, whether it’s insects, animals, people, or landscapes. Like with any outing, you’ll have to respect or adjust to your child’s napping and eating cycles. “I know that I can have my kids nap in the baby carrier or in the car, if they have their baby seat,” says Beijing Sideways Founder Gael Thoreau. “Our oldest (age 2.5) can skip the nap if we just put her to bed early after the hike.” He says it’s even easier for breastfed newborns, who spend most of their time sleeping and wake up mainly to feed. “My first-born was on the Great Wall at 15 days [old],” recalls Thoreau. “We went there to escape the July heat!”
If you have a backpack-style baby carrier, make sure you are wearing it correctly. First, it’s best if it’s high on your back and the baby is close to your body (the closer, the better). This will make the load lighter and provide back support. Second, make sure you can always see your baby; you should be able to turn your head to check on him or her. Third, check that the baby maintains “frog stance,” with knees bent and above the butt. This will ensure that baby is comfortable and supported. A sun shade is always a good idea, but wearing a backpack carrier in winter is not; the baby will freeze. While hiking, look out for branches and twigs that may poke the baby. Don’t try anything too intense while wearing a backpack carrier; there’s a risk of injury to all involved. Thoreau recommends the Ergobaby Original baby carrier, which can carry kids weighing up to 20kg.
For kids of all ages, instill trail ethics and set a good example. Take out everything you bring along, don’t throw trash on the ground, leave the site in better condition than you found it, don’t yell unless you’re in trouble, and be self-sufficient by carrying everything you need by yourself.
In case of an emergency, keep in mind that an ambulance service is extremely slow in rural and wild settings – if available at all. If you have your own vehicle, your best bet is to drive to the nearest hospital. The main town in each rural district (Miyun County, Huairou District, Yanqing County, etc.) will have a small hospital, so find out how to get there beforehand and print out a map and directions to keep in the car. Facilities will be basic and service will be in Chinese only; you’ll have to return to Beijing for international-standard care.
Basic first aid kit
Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic cream for scratches and cuts
Antihistamines for insect bites and stings
Tweezers for thorns and stingers
Any medication you might need, including asthma pumps and allergy medication
Tissues and hand sanitizer
Nutritious snacks (e.g. trail mix or dried fruits)
Drinking water (enough for each person)
Appropriate clothing, including a hat, comfortable layers, and wind/cold protection
Sturdy boots with support and good grip
Personal items that will be unlikely to find for sale in the countryside (e.g. sunscreen, diapers)
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Rm 601, Bldg 2, Xinhualian Ligang, 26 Jiuxianqiao Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (6432 2786, email@example.com) www.beijinghikers.com 朝阳区酒仙桥中路26号新华联丽港2号楼601室
(Gael Thoreau: 139 1133 4947, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.beijingsideways.com
BabyGro Beijing 慧宝
BabyGro sells Ergobaby Original, Performance, and Organic baby carriers (RMB 950-1,290). 1) Mon-Fri 10am-7pm. Shop 5058, 5/F, Chaowai SOHO, 6 Chaowai Lu (across from Central Park), Chaoyang District (5900 0601) 朝阳区朝外路6号朝外SOHO 5层5058店铺（新城国际对面); 2) Wed-Sun 10am-5pm. Cathay View Garden Shopping Mall (next to Beijing Riviera Villas), 2 Xiangjiang Beilu, Chaoyang District (8470 1690) 朝阳区香江北路甲2号观唐广场二期商铺
baby international 国际宝贝
baby international sells Ergobaby and Phil & Teds baby carriers, which are both suitable for hiking. Daily 10am-7pm. Rm 2371, 3/F, North Tower, SOHO Shangdu, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5900 1476, email@example.com) www.baby-international.com 朝阳区东大桥路8号SOHO商都3层2371店铺
photo courtesy of Bj Sideways