Jul 23 2015

Climbing With Kids: Sleeping and Napping Outside

Hey Beth! I have been reading your blog, (love it and am going to try the Mutu system, to fix up my ab split! thanks!) I bet you get a thousand climber/mommy questions, so I’ll skip the do you remember me, we bouldered together once… How did you get Theo to sleep at the crag? Did he sleep well? I want to get out but I’m worried he won’t be able to go to sleep. He is almost 4 months… Any tips or tricks?

Thanks so much!

Hi Julia! Thanks so much for your message and kind words! Super nice of you to reach out. Where did we climb together? I’m terrible with names, but would love to make the connection!

Congrats on your little one! How is everything going so far?

Ah…the question of sleep! This is probably one of the things I google the most and has some of the most passionate answers around. “As a parent, it is important to not put off the idea of sleep training or never not co-sleeping, as dealing with your child’s sleeping issues is something that all parents have to face…you will find it a challenge if you don’t deal with this as soon as possible!” 🙂

But, the question of sleeping/napping at the crag is a good one. I can tell you what has worked for us and what I know works for some of my friends, and hopefully one of them or some combination will work for you so you can get outside with your little one. Theo has usually done pretty well sleeping outside, which I’m very thankful for. I’m not sure if we’ve just gotten extremely lucky or it’s what he’s used to, or both, but so far it’s gone okay for us.

The first time we took Theo out (when he was 5 weeks old) he had a meltdown. We tried everything: nursing, walking, singing, bouncing. I remember being terrified thinking “What if Theo just hates being outside?!” Luckily, swaddling worked for him in the end. It was really windy, there were a lot of people at the crag, it was cold and new for him. My guess is it was just too much stimulation for the little guy. But, having a bag of tricks to choose from always seems like a good idea.

Here are a few ideas and things that have either worked for us or friends:

– Laying him on the ground. If I know we are not moving areas or going very far or it’s not buggy out, I will normally walk him in the Ergo until he is asleep. Then I’ll lay him down on an open jacket (if it’s cold out) and then zip the jacket and tie the arms around him, which gives him a swaddling effect. I’m not sure how long this technique will be good for, but so far it’s been awesome through the first year (thank you John and Shannon and Lyn and Paul for the genius idea!) If it’s wet or really cold then I’ll put either the Organic Slider pad or Metolius Shield pad under him.

– Sleeping on me. If we are going to move areas, routes, etc. and I know he won’t make the transfer, then I’ll usually just have him sleep on me. I know this might be hard for some people as you don’t get to climb with a baby strapped to your chest. But for me, a non-tired kiddo has been worth the hour or two of no climbing. Who knows what I’ll do when he’s a 40 pound toddler, I’ll either have a super strong back or a broken one … but so far that’s been my answer.

– In a kid tent. If it’s buggy and or threatening rain, we have some friends who use the KidCo Peapod tent. We haven’t used it yet, but I think we’ll invest in one this fall for Theo. It seems like such a good, relatively cheap piece of equipment to take to the crag (great idea Becca! 🙂

– In the good old fashion stroller. My friend Becky used her car seat in the stroller for a month of climbing in Fontainebleau. It literally looked like it wouldn’t last a day in the forest, but the cheap Craigslist Chicco stroller held up over miles and miles of sand, four wheeling and boulder hopping. And at least in Fontainebleau, napping in some sort of stroller/jogger seemed to be the norm for the European babies. At one point at Isatis, I counted 5 sleeping kiddos under the age of two within 100 feet of each other, all in some sort of stroller. It’s probably a good job that these parents decided to bring along their strollers though, as I’m sure there would’ve been some very unhappy children lying around if they didn’t have a comfortable place to sleep. It’s important for parents to find a stroller that their child feels comfortable in so they can just nod off if they need too. Some of these parents may have found their stroller on Stroller Buzz as I’ve heard that there are plenty of items on there that should fit in with any occasion. All parents should know that there is nothing worse than an unhappy, tired child, so strollers are a must!

– In a cocoon type contraption. We never used this, but the Phil and Ted’s Cocoon has been passed around our group of friends and everyone has LOVED it. Obviously this is for when they are little – maybe 7 months and younger? It keeps them warm and acts as a swaddle too. And our friends have even rigged this up with webbing in a tree to swing them to sleep as if they were sleeping in a warm murphy bed so they can have a peaceful nap.

– Time your travel to and from the crag. If your kiddo is on the two nap per day routine, and you have a long enough commute to the crag, this can work great. We had friends in Yosemite who were staying about 40 minutes outside the park, their kiddo would fall asleep on the drive. One of them would stay in the car until he woke up, and voila! Nap number one is taken care of.

– White noise. We haven’t done this, but our friends took their 5 week old to Fontainebleau for a month of climbing. He slept so well on the plane ride over there that they recorded the airplanes white noise on their phone. They would place it by him when he was sleeping in the forest and it worked great. Apparently, the white noise didn’t work on just him either, I have a friend who uses it when she goes sleep on her Leesa mattress.

– Be patient with yourself. I know sleep is one of the most precious things in parenthood. So if it takes a bit to get used to outside, or they are off of their routine for a few days, go easy on yourself. I know Randy has had to talk me down more than a few times when Theo didn’t get his sleep quota in at the crag. But, the more he got used to it, the easier it became and pretty soon it was his “normal.”

I hope this helps! And other moms, what has worked for you? Any good tips for Julia, myself, or anyone else out there?


Theo sleeping at Cathedral in Yosemite, 5 months old.


Juniper passed out in Fontainebleau, France while her dad and Ryan climb 🙂 4 months old.

Conrad in Yosemite in the Cocoon, 3 months.

Conrad in Yosemite in the Cocoon, 3 months

Share Post
  • Great to hear all your suggestions! A few of our friends' kids have slept great in the KidCo Peapod. For some reason I was terrified of attempting crag naps when our 2 1/2 year old was a baby (he now naps in the car on the 40 minute drive to the cliffs which is great), but I will be trying out all these suggestions next spring when our newborn is finally here.

    July 23, 2015 at 6:23 pm
  • Awesome post! As our baby has grown (now 15 months) and the "sleep anywhere" superpower fades, we have found that sticking her in a structured backpack carrier for the approach (we love the Deuter kid comfort) usually lulls her to sleep, and that then we can take off her/the backpack off and leave it to stand in a safe spot while she continues to snooze! So much nicer to not have her strapped on (as she is in the Ergo) and can allow for mama to get some climbing in!

    July 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm
  • Thanks Marcelle! I hope you have great success with your newborn 🙂
    All my best!

    July 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm
  • Thanks so much for your idea and comment! And what a great blog and cutie you have 🙂 We have the Osprey Poco Plus and will try that if he falls asleep in it!
    All my best!

    July 23, 2015 at 7:19 pm
  • We use a tula and an eno hammock. He loves the eno!

    July 23, 2015 at 7:23 pm
  • Awesome! I hadn't heard of that before, I'll definitely have to look into getting one for the fall! Thanks again, all my best! 🙂

    July 23, 2015 at 7:37 pm
  • Hey Beth. I agree with everything you said, and all the comments. Yes yes and yes 🙂 And I have two experiences to add to your bag of tricks. When we were in Brazil, we were climbing with another couple who had a 1yr old (Sol was 18mo), and Sol would not go down for her nap. She was having way too much fun playing and none of my tricks–not even the boob!–would work. Finally, I said F' it and my friend watched Sol while I went to climb about 100 yard around the corner. Less than FIVE minutes later, my friend was at the base of my climbing cheering me on, and I screamed "Oh my god, where's Sol?????" "Asleep" she said. Yup, just like that. All she did is pick her up and rock her for a couple minutes and she was out. The moral of the story? Pass the problem off onto someone else. Just kidding. The moral is to relax–they will fall asleep when they're tired enough, and if they don't they'll be okay–and try new things like another mom's arms. Who knows? It might work. The other experience was with the same couple. They used to hide travel size pack 'n' plays at their local crags because they were long approaches, and they got their little one used to falling asleep in one at home first, which translated to the crag nicely. The pack 'n' play is nice too because if your kid wakes up, and you're on the rock or belaying, at least you know he/she will be safe until you can attend to him or her. That being said, now that Sol is almost 3, we can't get her to sleep at the crag 🙁 Aside from getting really early starts and coming home by nap time, we're out of solutions. Anyone else got some tricks for the older toddlers?

    August 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm