Women's gear, up first
My wife and I are expecting our first child this summer. We plan to hike and camp with the baby in the southwest. What are some gear concerns I need to think about? How young can we start and do I need to be concerned about altitude and little lungs? Brian Chinle, Arizona
First of all, Congratulations! Both on having your baby and on your plans to take it camping.
When it comes to camping with babies, there's a golden agea few months after they're born until a few months before they become so mobile that you have to baby proof the entire campground. The size of this sweet spot also depends a lot on your own proficiency as a camper and how comfortable you feel bringing your baby to high altitude.
Consider this, however: Children are born in cities like 7,000-foot-high Santa Fe every day and they have absolutely no issues with altitude. To be on the safe side, doctors generally recommend you wait at least three months to go beyond 8,000 feet to make sure the lungs are properly formed.
Now for the gear: You'll want space. REI just came out with the two-room, four-person Kingdom 4 tent ($299; rei.com), which has a "garage" out back for storing extra gear. At 67 inches tall at its highest point, the three-season, two-room tent can be turned into one big family room by zipping open the divider wall. With a door on each end and three mesh windows that have inside zip-up covers you can open it all up for plenty of circulation or close it off to make a cozy cocoon for a sleeping baby.
You'll also want a baby carrier. Kelty is considered the Rolls Royce of baby backpacks. Its popular FC 2 frame carrier ($170, kelty.com) has a padded, contoured waist belt, a five-point adjustable harness that will fit kids up to 50 pounds, a sunshade, a zip-off diaper bag, and a "kickstand" that automatically deploys when you set the pack down.
One last bit of advice from Sam Moulton, Buyer's Guide editor and father of a brand-new baby girl: "Never underestimate how long it's going to take to camp with a kid. Take twice the amount of time and plan to go half as far."