Wilderness Pack Trips with Toddler in Tow - My Family Travels

After the joys of hiking and camping – with a toddler and some llama nannies – in America's West, we've learned some useful tips on infant care in the wild. After the joys of hiking and camping – with a toddler and some llama nannies – in America's West, we've learned some useful tips on infant care in the wild.

No need to worry about weight or volume when using llamas to pack in gear. On both our trips we could expect night time temperatures at freezing or below so we brought a lot of extra food and clothing. Here are some tips on how to deal with:

The well-worn precept "take only pictures, leave only footprints" is easier to follow with diapers since no human waste from the toddler is left behind. It may be unpalatable to carry them out on your own back, but the llamas packed them out with all our other trash with narry a complaint. Used but clean plastic grocery bags tied tightly shut stored the dirty ones.

Food and water
Evaporated milk tastes better and is easier to prepare than dried. Five-ounce cans proved convenient for morning coffee, as a creamy amendment in pasta sauces and most importantly, diluted to 9 ounces and served to Will in his bottle every morning. We filtered all our water with a standard light-weight backpacking filter. At almost two, Will had no special food needs and enjoyed the ubiquity of dried fruit roll-ups and granola bars.

Babies and toddlers are supposed to avoid using the strongest bug repellents, which contain DEET, a carcinogen. The mosquitos in the Rockies were fierce (there were none in the desert) and the pediatrician-recommended repellents proved unworthy. What worked was applying DEET sparingly on his outer clothing and keeping him zipped inside the tent with books and juice during the early evening when the mosquitoes were most overwhelming.

Sleeping arrangements
Finding no suitable sleeping bags for toddlers commercially, we cut an old but warm (the bag was rated to 20 degrees) polarguard adult bag in half and sewed up the cut end. Velcro strips sewn around the opening ensured that Will was snug from cold air that tends to sneak in around the neck and shoulders. A standard "thermarest" three-quarter length air mattress kept Will off the ground. For pajamas, Will wore footed fleece coveralls over acrylic leggings, socks and a t-shirt (unlike cotton, acrylic clothing helps retain body heat).

Llamas and children
Typically weighing 325 pounds if in shape, llamas are smaller than most beasts of burden except for goats. At their withers, llamas stand about as high as a typical six-year old, though their soaring swan-like necks bring their heads to six feet. A well-trained herd-raised llama respects people and will easily allow a child (properly inst ucted) to lead it in the presence of experienced handlers. That said, leasing llamas for a trip including children without prior experience handling stock animals is not recommended

It is not realistic for most people to move camp every day with small children in tow. We established a base camp instead. In outfitter terminology, this is called a "drop camp" or a "freight." The outfitter packs you in to your site, and then leaves with the animals, relieving you of their care. The outfitter returns at an agreed-upon time and date to pack you out.

Llamas will gently nuzzle treats like carrots or grains directly out of ones' hand but only the rare llama enjoys being petted or stroked. While they can be trained to carry a child, it is the exception, not the rule. Llamas have an undeserved reputation for nasty behavior, specifically spitting. They may spit at each other to assert dominance but are usually extremely docile. Intensely social creatures, they need each others' company to be happy. Only if provoked and/or prevented the company of their fellows for long periods would llamas become disagreeable.

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