You’re hiking to get away from technology, to unplug, and be in nature. The idea of carrying a cell phone may seem kind of silly when hiking. There are lots of reasons to carry your cell, and plenty not to. There are also a few alternative options. Personally, especially when hiking with a baby, I highly recommend you carry your cell phone.
Reasons not to carry your phone:
You want to unplug and disconnect
You don’t want to break it or lose it
You’ve never carried it before
Reasons to carry your cell phone:
Most smart phones have pretty good cameras these days. A cell phone with a good camera is smaller and lighter than even small travel cameras.
You may get spotty service in areas which can be lifesaving in an emergency
In the US, ALL smartphones with GPS are required to have a feature where if you call 911 and do not have service it will ping your approximate coordinates to emergency services. This can drastically reduce the time it takes for rescuers to find you. (see emergencies)
You are hiking with a baby, having the possibility of calling for help is important
In the worst of situations, a cell phone’s parts can be used for a variety of survival tools
If you are found, your info and ability to contact family is in your phone
Maybe you want some music
There are emergency only phones that are light weight and can ONLY call 911. Overall many do not have good record of working well
Satellite phones. These things are heavy, extremely expensive, and require extra knowledge, but they exist.
Live GPS tracking. There are many GPS devices these days that live track your location back to either a designated person or a ‘home’ device that others can watch you on. That being said, GPS doesn’t work everywhere either, and your phone is one of these devices in the first place.
Ok so I’ll carry my phone, but how do I stay “unplugged”?
Simple: put it in airplane mode! And if you plane to take lots of pictures or be out for a while, low battery mode is helpful in prolonging battery life. Going for more than a day? Bring a portable charger. These range from the size of a USB flash drive to a small book and hold 2-8 charges. There are also solar powered options.
Add On since original posting:
Thanks to companies like Garmin and Spot you can now also have GPS trackers that link with your phone. I carry an InReach Mini by Garmin. While I can use the device alone, I can also use my phone to send messages and see maps and save waypoints – ALL WITHOUT CELL SERVICE! Just one more reason to carry the phone.
Everyone takes time to adjust to altitude. Babies are no exception. In fact babies actually take long to adjust to altitude as a general rule. There are a lot of factors that play into a baby’s ability to adjust to altitude.
Before your baby was even born some of these factors were already at play. Mom’s activity while pregnant will affect the baby a lot. As well as where mom lives while pregnant. This is due to the oxygen levels shared while in utero. A mom who is active at high altitudes will have a baby more likely to adjust easily to altitude. A mom who is less active or lives a lower altitude is more likely to have a baby that requires extra time to adjust. Don’t worry it’s not anything you did wrong. It has to do with the way the body produces hemoglobin, which is the part of the blood that helps carry oxygen around the body. It’s been shown many times that those who live and are active at higher altitudes naturally have higher hemoglobin levels, which means when there is less oxygen in the air, it is easier for them to move oxygen around their bodies than someone who has lower levels. Hemoglobin levels can change rapidly though, which is why acclimation periods and sleeping at altitude can “fix” this very easily. Generally, the more time spent at altitude in low oxygen conditions, the better your body adapts. Just like anything else. This is no different for babies, and generally speaking babies are born with similar levels as their mom’s.
It’s important to understand signs of altitude sickness, for both mom and baby. Adults are more likely to notice symptoms sooner than babies. Altitude sickness in babies can be very dangerous and it’s extremely important to monitor. Sometimes, you won’t show any signs for up to 36 hours after it starts.
In adults symptoms include:
Short of breath
Nausea and vomiting
Hang over like Headache
These symptoms are common and should easily go away with hydration, food, and lowering in altitude
More serious signs in adults that REQUIRE medical attention:
Fluid in the lungs (think pneumonia), fluid in the brain- (symptoms listed above that won’t go away, loss of appetite, sleep issues, loss of energy)
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t take being at high altitude to get altitude sickness. High altitude is relative to what a person is used to. Sometimes symptoms happen from going up or down TOO quickly.
In babies symptoms are a lot more subtle and can be difficult to recognize. It’s very important to pa close attention to your baby while going up or down in altitude. Remember that speed in which you change can have a significant impact, for example my little man does great going up hiking but struggles in the car if driving above a certain speed. He also has a harder time going down than up.
In babies watch for:
Extra sleepiness (we still expect your little ones to nap approximately as much as they normally do or a little less)
Spitting up/vomiting – if you have a typically refluxy baby this can be hard to differentiate, you know your baby better than anyone so use your best judgement
Screaming for no apparent reason – hunger, bug bites, too hot/cold, positional comfort have been ruled out
Refusal to eat- again this can be tricky, sometimes your baby is simply overly distracted-MAKE SURE THEY ARE HYDRATED
Again, many of these symptoms can be solved with hydration, food, and lower altitude. Take it slow, especially at first. Babies symptoms tend to linger more than adults and sometimes won’t appear until a day or two later.
Ok, you know what to watch for, so how do you actually help a baby adjust to altitude?
The same you would an adult – slowly and over time.
It’s best to start hiking about the altitude you are used to before you ever attempt any altitude with a baby. Before heading up to altitude make sure your pediatrician clears them. This is especially important if your baby was premature, born with any lung problems, or ever required oxygen support. Once you have the clear start slow.
Since going up fast is the hardest, you’re best off starting by parking lower and walking higher. As you and your baby do well, try parking a little higher every few weeks (if hiking regularly, if not this will take much longer). Pay attention to how they handle the car and remember they cannot pop their ears like an adult can. It’s OK and highly recommended that you make stops on your drives up and down until you are certain your baby can handle it. Start with slower roads, under 60 mph overall speed. If you go up any passes go extra slow, the people behind you will get over it.
Once hiking, an altimeter can be helpful if you aren’t sure how the elevation climbs. Take extra breaks and offer your baby your breast or bottle regularly. Remember it’s not recommended to give them water before 6 months of age. (see feeding your baby). When hiking your baby’s hydration level matters much more than calories. Make sure they are still peeing regularly or even a little extra. Just like with driving, if you both do well, you can push a little higher every few weeks.
Other factors to consider:
What altitude you live at versus where you plan to hike.
How often you go up.
Are you going alone or with people?
Are you experienced or is this new for you too?
Be smart. Pay attention. Take it slow. And it’s ok to not make it to your goal destination.
I want to talk about what happens when you see a moose. Now everybody knows I’ve spent a shit ton of time in the mountains. I’ve lived in the mountains basically my whole life. I grew up in Colorado Rocky Mountains. We’ve got lions and tigers and bears oh my. But really what happens when you get close to a moose moose is scary. There’s only two things I’m afraid of. And that would be mountain lions/bobcats/big cats and moose. I don’t care about Bear. I don’t care about wolves. I don’t care about coyotes but moose and cats scare the crap out of me.
So yesterday up here in Breckenridge, I was going for a snow hike (was intended to be a snow shoeing but that didn’t happen). Anyway, I digress. Hiking in the snow with my son, I am a quarter of a mile away from getting back to the trailhead and come around the corner and there are two moose. At this point I can’t quite tell. Do we have two cows? Do you have a cow and a baby? Do you have a cow and a bull? What do we have? I couldn’t quite see it, but luckily at this point my son and I had already been babbling and yelling and making all sorts of noise for miles and we did not startle them at all, which is a good thing. You don’t want to startle a moose. That’s even worse.
It turns out that I had come across a cow, which is a female, and her baby. Baby is clearly less than a year old and was probably born this spring. Mom was off in the willows, a good good distance off the trail, so closer than I’d like to be but good distance from the trail, munching down on some willow bark. But baby was like two steps off the trail. Mind you, I’ve got my son on my back. We’re hiking almost back to the trailhead. I’m tired I’m exhausted. I’m sore. There’s snow. The trail itself is packed. But if you step off the trail it’s knee deep. And then the moose are standing in a little creek. I kept talking.
I decide to tell these moose, “Hey I’m here. We’re just passing by. I’m not going to hurt you.” I just keep talking to the Moose. I Show them my hands. You know a lot of people think I’m crazy for talking to animals, but I really think they can understand us. Body language means a lot to me. And so I talk to animals when I come across them because it helps keep yourself calm. It helps to make sure you’re not startling them, and I’m pretty sure it helps them know that you’re not there to hurt them. So I keep talking to these moose. I tell them how beautiful they are. I tell them we’re not going to hurt them, we’re just passing by.
We get past Mom no problem. But baby is really close to the trail. And when we get a little bit closer to baby he decides to take a couple steps towards us. Now even a baby moose, less than a year old, weighs more than I do. If he wanted to he could easily have charged me and hurt me very badly, and mom would have come to his rescue, and mom would have probably trampled me to death. That is usually what happens when there’s a moose incident. Somebody gets trampled because they get in between a mom and baby or a dog goes after the moose. That is how most accidents happen. They’re very rare, but that’s what happens. So baby Moose takes a couple steps forward. I take two steps backwards. And then I just stand still for a minute. I show the baby moves my hands. I tell them again, “I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just passing by. We’ll take our time.” He stops, stares at me for a couple of minutes and then takes a couple steps backwards and turns around. He doesn’t totally walk off, but he at least walks farther away from the trail. While he has his back to us we manage to pass him, always keeping my eyes on him. It’s kind of hard when you’re trying to watch your step in the snow but always make sure you know where you are relative to the moose. Get around him and then keep talking to him. Don’t just stop talking because you manage to pass them. They can move a lot faster than you can.
All in all, it was scary but it was also a really wonderful experience. I’ve actually never been that close to moose. I’ve had lots of close calls with a dog and moose before.
Like I said the number one incident with moose out here in Colorado is that a dog off leash goes after a moose and the moose charges. Most don’t typically run away. Most moose will turn around and charge. They know they are a big huge contraption. So what do you do when you come across the moose? You talk to them. You should never startle an animal. You should always be making sound on the trail. You talk, you sing, you babble with your baby. Always be making some sort of noise. Yeah it’s nice to listen to the birds and stuff, but especially if you’re alone in an area with animals, make some noise. If you do come across some, gauge the distance. The farther away you are, the safer you are. Do you have a dog? Get a hold of that dog immediately. It needs to be on a leash or very well held in your hand. And I really hope that dog is well trained to not chase animals. It’s really hard to do. It’s something you need to train from puppy hood. But get a hold of that dog before it goes after them as you could be in very very big trouble if that moose does decide to come at you. Don’t try to outrun it. You will not win. It will outrun you. It will trample you. That’s just the way it happens. That being said, there are a couple things you can do. You want to protect your vital organs. So if you can get behind a big tree, get behind a big tree, because Moose can run fast. They cannot slow down fast. They very well might run themselves into that tree trying to get to you.
The other thing is kind of curl up in a ball to protect your vital organs. Put your hands behind your neck, tuck your head down, curl up in a ball. You’re still going to get injured if you get trampled, but you’re less likely to die. And yeah that’s kind of scary to think about. But it’s something you really have to know, especially if you’re out there by yourself, and especially if you’re out there with a dog.
But the biggest thing is, again, moose incidents are rare. Being well informed, making sound, talking to them, telling them, “hey we’re not here to hurt you,” it makes a huge difference. So yeah, while it was kind of a little scary to be that close to some big moose mom and baby, it was a beautiful experience. I actually got pictures of the moose. I got to see them. My son got to see moose, so that was really awesome. Hey don’t be afraid of animals. Again, just be smart.