Crag-ing it…with the babies. [repurposing your indoor baby gear]

I used to think we were alone. Alone in our attempts to bring our kids with us on climbing trips. But I am greatly encouraged by seeing more and more families take to the crag, like a family of ducks all waddling down the trail in a row…

Now, there is a segment of the climbing [outdoor] population that sighs and rolls their eyes every time they see a family come around the corner. They are bitter when their peaceful silence is interrupted by a crying infant. Honestly, I think this attitude comes from a general lack of love for children in our society. They are often viewed as burdens, distractions, frustrations. And let me be honest, I very often view them as just that during my day. I fight not to.

But I believe the family is one of the most powerful units in existence. For good or bad. Have you ever asked someone what their favorite photograph is? I have. Lots of people. And 90% of the time, the photo is one of their family. In some shape or form.

ANYWAYS…I jumped down a rabbit trail. But here is an article I enjoyed about just this subject: Do Babies Belong at the Crag?

Now onto the real purpose of this post. How do we bring our babies to the crag?

Well, start by stealing your nerves, and see getting there as part of the adventure. You will need two parts patience and one part creativity. But I am going to briefly outline what our days often look like at the crag for ya.

Our preparation for a climb starts way before we even get up that morning. Where are we going to climb?

  • Is the approach short enough for little legs? Or for mom/dad who is carrying the baby on front, a crash pad or rope bag on back, and a whole host of things in their hands?
  • What is the base like? Is it exposed? Will crawlers and walkers be safe?
  • What time do we need to get there? Cause this determines what breakfast is and how early we get up.
  • Oh, and load the car the night before.
  • Are the routes epic? We usually choose something that is right at our ability level, so we leave satisfied, but aren’t pushing our limits with our kids along. OH, and obviously stay on single pitch.

Now lets say we’ve chosen the right climbs, with a do-able approach, then hopefully we have arrived successfully at the crag of choice. The rest of our day is a dynamic play between the world of kids and the world of climbing.

Negotiating the world of kids

There are a lot of sometimes. Each trip looks a little different. Sometimes a whole host of good snacks saves the day. Sometimes our crash pad is re-purposed as a couch. Sometimes we set up the johnny jump up for any early walkers/crawlers to keep them busy and safe. Sometimes they are satisfied by playing with extra “gears” [as my son calls the trad gear]. Sometimes the belay-er has a cold/fussy/possibly teething child on their back in the Beco Butterfly, just to keep them happy. Sometimes the forest turns into a make believe world of bad guys and superheroes. Sometimes the nearest rock becomes a stage and singing fills the woods. Sometimes a little one is napping in the Deuter Kid Carrier.

Sometimes we win. Sometimes not. 🙂

Negotiating the world of climbing

Our expectations inherently change when we bring the kids along. Many times we only do one route. Often we each [if 2-4 other adults are along] get two routes in. Our record is three.

We use the early parts of our day to do any climbs the adults really want to get in. Later in the day most of our kids are becoming restless, tired or hungry. We usually set up a route they can do around this time, and let them get their chance to climb, if they want to. I say “if they want to” cause sometimes they don’t. And right now, we don’t really push the issue to hard.

Even the gear we bring changes when it is a whole family affair. We shoot for sport routes and if we do trad, we make sure it is relatively easy, cause spending a long time working on a route really isn’t an option when there are small kids around. We have the belay-er use a GRIGRI or Eddy belay device just in case a kid distracts them. We see it as an extra safety measure. And if the kids are right at the base of the climb, we bring along kid climbing helmets.

Gear you can repurpose for the outdoors

  • Hook your Johnny Jump Up to a tree
  • Our friends brought their Rock N’ PLay sleeper and set it up at the crag for their infant.
  • PeaPod or baby tent is great for napping or play!
  • Bringing along your plastic booster seat gives a kid a safe way to eat and ensures they won’t wander off.
  • We’ve even set up a pac-n-play! Though I wouldn’t suggest it if you are looking for lightweight and versatile.

Join us next week as we launch into our series called the Camping Chronicles. We will start off by discussing how to keep your infants warm in a tent and move through topics such as camping lists, crafts,  and camper trailers. Join us on Twitter and Facebook as we spotlight old but good posts on making packing easier and awesome camping destinations! See ya then!

7 comments on “Crag-ing it…with the babies. [repurposing your indoor baby gear]
    • We are in SLC and most those pictures are in the surrounding area: Challenge Buttress, Reservoir Ridge, Lisa Falls, and a few in Crawdad Canyon down by St. George.

  1. Thanks for the comment on my blog, I absolutely love this post!! I really want to get my kids climbing outdoors and hope to make it happen someday in the not-so-distant future. I know what you mean about people acting annoyed when a family (especially ours, with a very loud special needs 5 year old) shows up somewhere like this. But I firmly believe that nature and adventure are for all and try to live my life that way….and ignore others who feel differrently 🙂

  2. Nice article!

    Climbing with kids can be challenging sometime, but my two biggest pieces of advice, similar to yours, is don’t do it alone – it’s easier with at least a 3rd adult around or other families, and lower your expectations. Also, it’s about the kids, let them play, try climbing, enjoy the outdoors and don’t expect to be able to focus on your climbing project or send some minimum amount of routes. Be patient. If you’re lucky they’ll grow up loving climbing. Just imagine how thrilled and proud I was when my little climbing daughters grew up to climb harder than me!

    At the Gunks, the top roping area approaches are easy and you can bring a stroller pretty close to the base of the climb. The proximity to NYC attracts crowds. So it’s pretty frequent that you see families at the Gunks. I started my family climbing group when my kids were little by creating a mailing list of families to climb together. The list has grown to over 80 families in the Gunks! There are many families out there, and it’s fun to share and learn what works for other families. Just be aware that kids can be very distracting to other climbers and just as a screaming baby in a restaurant can be taken out into the lobby until they’ve calmed down, it’s important to keep the noise level down when climbers and belayers need to hear each other, and when you can’t quiet them, take them for a walk. I think kids should be taught that keeping down the noise and distraction is a safety issue, and there’s no arguing about anything that compromises safety. It’s one of the drills I put my kids through every time we climbed.

    For my article about how to climb with kids, visit my blog at

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