Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Crag Naps 101: Sleeping Tips for Outdoor Climbing Adventures

Baby Z catching some Zzz's along the Listening Rock Trail in Grayson Highlands, VA

Baby Z catching some Zzz’s along the Listening Rock Trail in Grayson Highlands, VA

During those early months, a baby can only be awake for so long before turning into a cranky pumpkin.  That’s why it’s no wonder that the number one way to ensure more outdoor climbing time is to figure out how to get your tiny bundle of joy to crag-nap effectively.  But that, of course, is easier said than done!  So for those of you who want to spend a family day at the crag but are intimidated by all of the sleeping logistics, read on…

Some parts of a climbing day lend themselves to napping better than others, so use those times to you advantage!  Here’s our basic strategy (along with the best “sleep-inducing” gear), which worked well for Big C, and has been successful so far with Baby Z.

IN THE CAR:  Most babies will konk out in the car immediately if they are the least bit tired.  If you live any distance at all from your destination, your baby’s first  nap of the day will probably be in the car.  This is usually an easy win for the whole family on both the way there as well as the way home.

ON THE APPROACH:  The hikes in and out of the crag are also great times to squeeze in a snooze. If you’ve done any amount of babywearing, you probably are aware that it’s just as good (if not better) at lulling baby to sleep.  With Big C we used the Moby Wrap and the Ergo for the first 6 months, then switched to the Kelty Kid Carrier (reviewed here.)  With Baby Z we are loving the Boba 4G so far (reviewed here.)

DURING THE DAY:  So you’ve driven all this way, you’ve hiked all the way in…now what?  One person climbs, one person belays, and the other person is on baby duty!  Rotate through accordingly, and when baby gets tired, rely on any/all of the following to ship your tired cragbaby off to dreamland.

Down for the count in the PeaPod!

Down for the count in the PeaPod!

1.  BABYWEARING – As mentioned above, a carrier is a high percentage way to get baby to nap.
Pros: Perfect option if you can time it so that baby is ready for a nap when you are ready to pack up and move from one area to the next.  No extra equipment to bring in, since you’re already using this for the approach.
Cons:  The wearer can end up on baby duty for the entire length of the nap, although we generally have been successful in wearing baby to sleep, then transferring  baby out of the carrier.  (But if it’s taken FOREVER to get him/her to sleep, we don’t always want to chance it…)

2.  PEAPOD PLUS – This is the best “crib-at-the-crag” invention we’ve come across!  It’s basically a tiny pop-up tent that probably has more bells and whistles than your own – built-in sleeping pad, adjustable sun screens with UV protection, and an inner mesh for air-flow and protection against creepy-crawlies.  We were NOT fortunate enough to have this product when Big C was a baby, so I can wholeheartedly speak to the difference it makes in a day at the crag, having done it both with and without.  If you’re family wants to splurge on just one piece of outdoor baby gear, this is the one to get!
Pros:  Your baby will travel in style in a comfy cozy, mosquito-free bed, and the grown-ups can easily rotate through baby watchers without disturbing the slumberer.  The shady respite will also come in handy for diaper changes on sunny days.
Cons:  On a hot day it can get a little toasty in there with all the sun shades down, but that hasn’t seemed to inhibit Baby Z from getting her shut-eye.  It’s also another piece of gear to lug into the crag.  Thankfully though, it’s really lightweight and folds down into itself – it can easily attach to the outside of a backpack.  As a disclaimer I should probably say that this product is technically only recommended for children ages 1-5, and Baby Z is obviously far below that.  My guess is it has to do with SIDS-related liability, since it is advertised as a travel bed.


3.  CAMP CHAIR – A regular old camping chair can make breastfeeding outdoors far more comfortable, especially with a small baby.  Consider bringing one of these if your baby loves to drift off to sleep after an extended nursing session – your arms and back will thank you!
Pros:  Nursing (and rocking) a baby to sleep is very easy and comfortable, so it’s a great way to knock out a feeding session and nap in one go.
Cons:  It’s not really all that heavy or cumbersome, but added to all the other extra gear you’ll have, it might not be the highest priority on longer approaches (but it’s a must have for nursing in the backyard while Big C plays!)

4.  BLANKET – This is the old standby, what we used on 90% of climbing trips with Big C when he was a baby.
Pros: The lightest way to travel, perfect for long approaches or limited pack space.  Just find a fat space and roll it out for naps as well as diaper changes!
Cons: Managing the sun can be hard in some areas.  There were times where I remember having to stack packs beside Big C to create a small pocket of shade for him to sleep in.  We also had to be extra vigilant about keeping creepy-crawlies off of him, especially during mosquito season, as their favorite place to munch seemed to be his big bald head!

Here's a throwback shot to Big C catching some zzz's on his first trip to the New River Gorge at 10 weeks old!

Here’s a throwback shot to Big C catching some zzz’s on his first trip to the New River Gorge at 10 weeks old!

It’s definitely worth noting that some babies are inherently good sleepers, while others are far from it, and unfortunately you as a parent don’t get a ton of say as to which kind you get.  Not much has changed about our parenting mantra between our two kids, but while Big C was a catnapping nurse-a-holic for his first few months, Baby Z (so far) has proven to be a much more consistent snoozer (knock on wood!)  Your mileage may will vary from ours, but if you’re struggling to find a “crag routine” hopefully some of these ideas will be of help!  (For more ideas, check out these archived posts of Big C’s naptime logistics as a baby and as a toddler.)

Most important piece of advice?  Be flexible.  Naptime is important, but it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go according to plan!  For the veteran crag-parents out there, what other tips and tricks do you have when it comes to climbing trip sleep solutions?



2 Responses to “Crag Naps 101: Sleeping Tips for Outdoor Climbing Adventures”

  1. Kim

    This is so timely, as we are hoping to take our 2mo little guy on his first climbing day tomorrow! I bought the Peapod (on your rec) and am excited to see how it goes!


    • Erica

      Sounds awesome Kim. How did it go?

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN