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Hi! We want to start bringing our 8 month old baby on flat water floats, both day trips and overnights. Any good tips or "systems" for making this safe and enjoyable for all? We've already got the infant PFD, but otherwise we need some help from those experienced river parents! For example, do you just hold the baby the whole time, or do you have another good way for them to be comfortable in the raft or driftboat? Thanks!!
 

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I usually attach mine to the boat with 20' of heavy duty steel chain. If it's starts crying I place it on top of a paco pad and let it out on a hundred feet of prussic cord.
 

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You're going to hell! Me too, since I laughed really hard at your post.

I usually attach mine to the boat with 20' of heavy duty steel chain. If it's starts crying I place it on top of a paco pad and let it out on a hundred feet of prussic cord.
 

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I straped a car seat to the decking on my frame. Let my little one chill in that with a hand on her and mescaline
 

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Leave the kid at home. Seriously. I've bee rafting for 40 years and I can tell you no matter how safe the water appears, shit happens. It's crazy to expose anybody who can't swim to that risk, but when they are too young to decide for themselves it's criminal - literally. If there was an accident you WOULD be charged with child abuse
 

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8 months might be kind of young for a multi-day, but only you can make that decision. What do 8 month olds like to do? Touch things, crawl, taste things, etc. How much of that goes on on the boat?

I started taking my son on the town run (2 hour trip) at 18 months. By that time, he wanted to paddle, wanted to wear a PFD, and loved the water.

He is 5 now and has only been on 3 multi-days. He still needs toys (a kite with an upstream breeze is amazing for everyone) and other distractions (fishing pole, paddle, etc.) on the water.

Maybe take your baby camping or hiking and stick to day runs for a while. But again- only you know your child, your ability, and your level of patience with his/her level of impatience.
 

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I didn't start mine until almost 5. I have had my son in swimming classes for 3 years prior to that.

If you end up going through with it make sure you provide shade for the mother and the child. I like bimini tops much better than umbrellas. Bring lots of extra clothes, I was amazed how much clothes my kid went through on Deso. Luckily, my wife over packs.
 

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little ones on the boat

i'll throw in my 2 cents here.
first of all, there are people that feel strongly on BOTH sides of this issue- and differences of opinion are what make the world go round. disagreeing doesnt mean that anyone is right or wrong.
that having been said, life is full of calculated risks. i, for one, FULLY support getting kids out on the river as soon as possible. i have two girls- one just turned three and the other just turned one- and i've done many, many overnight floats with them. the keyword there is FLOATS.
to me, the rewards of watching your kids play in the sand, gaze at the stars, chase little lizards, etc. when they COULD be glued to a television set or video game system outweigh the risk associated. runs like ruby/horsetheif (you can even WALK blackrocks on a well-maintained trail if you're not comfortable with the flows, etc.) labyrinth, etc. represent AMAZING opportunities for some family time "away from it all." of course, people might give you strange looks at the put-in when you're strapping your car seat to the frame. i've gotten the same looks with my girls on my back at ski resorts. again, it's calculated risk. the truth of the matter is that the car ride to the put-in was statistically FAR more dangerous than your time on the river, assuming that you're paying close attention to your child's needs and safety.
my bottom line is this: trips with young kids aren't the time to be boozing or running big water, but done correctly, the'yre invaluable experiences for the young ones and the old ones alike.
 

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Car seet with an unbrella

We started our kids at 5 and 6 months. For sure strapping a car seat to the frame works, then hook up an umbrella for shade. It really is a great way to spend quality family time. The San Juan when the waters warm is a good multi-day trip. wading in the river with your baby opens up a new world for them they love the feel of the river currents and the mud baths! When they get older the Paco pad on a prussic cord is the trick.
 

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We took our son down the upper c a few times when he was just a few months old. ruby horsethief also. we did the strapping the car seat to the frame method. we also kept an empty bay with just a mesh drop bag in it for playing with some toys. also he loved to play in the water where the floor laced in, just sit him down there and let him go nuts, just had to watch he did not get too cold. the only bad part was the trains waking him up at night. The San Juan is a great river for kids. Mine love floating in the river in just life jackets, and on paco pads. now at 5 and 7, they dont understand why I have to work and we cant just go rafting and camping every day. As he grew and became mobile, my wife had to cut the bottom couple inches of material off of his lifejacket and re-sew it so he could actually sit up without his face crushed. We also started our kids in ISR (infant swim research) when they were 6 months old. I really recommend it. at 6 months old, if our kids fell in a pool or river, they knew how to turn over and float face up. Luckily we have never had a real test of it.
 

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We started at 6 months, too

Car seat and an umbrella. Stay on flat water.

Carry a mesh bag full of sand toys (but some spoons and yogurt containers will do). When you're camped on a beach, bring them water to play with in a 5-gallon bucket, especially if there's any current.

I think the most dangerous period is when they first get mobile - you can never take your eyes off them. Ever.
 

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The car seat is a good idea although we never tried it.
Make sure they are not strapped in because they would certainly drown in a flip before you could free them from the seat.
We always held our kids when they were infants or laid them down on the deck when sleeping. Mine is 24"x42" with foam camping pad glued to it for comfort. Now they sit on the deck when not rowing or stand in the floor.
You have to watch them at all times since they are never prepared for a bump from a rock or shore and would topple right over in the water or hit their head on the frame or something.

The other thing I woul recomend is to make frequent stops for snacks, and play time so they don't get bored and cry all the time, which with an infant is highly possible seeing that life vest ride very high on their face and really piss them off.
An umbrella is a nice addition also for desert floats.
Our kids are anow 5 and 2 and have been practically rafting since they were born. The hardest thing now is finding enough quiet time where they are not hounding me to let them on the oars.:)
 

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bht. Well said - there should be room for discussion and disagreement and I don't mean to insult anyone who has different feelings. Having said that I think you are vastly underestimating the risk. You are talking about straping an infant into a car seat and floating on moving water. This is not akin to skiing with a kidpack - make a mistake on water and they are dead, not hurt. My kids were on the raft by 3 or 4 but they could swim - and on one occasion they had to while we were on class 1 or II water - I got distracted and hit a rock. I don't see any responsible boaters strapping THEMSELVES onto a raft with no ability to release themselves in the event of an accident so why would they think it's OK for an infant? There are MANY way to share the outdoors with infants and todlers that don't involve fatal consequences for a mistake
 

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For atleast me, I strapped the car seat to the boat, but never actually buckled the kid into it, we used an old car seat bought at second hand shop and removed the straps. I agree that would be scary. we just had the wife sitting right next to it or holding him, and always had someone whose whole job was watching the kid.. Our sons seemed to prefer sitting on the floor or in a drop bag used as a play pen in an empty bay on frame if we were not holding them. I was worried about letting them sit on the padded board we use over the front bay, if I bump a rock or anything, way to easy for them to go in, did not do that until they were 2 or 3.
 

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Portable indoor fencing

We used portable indoor fencing to make a playpen for times off the river. This worked great, especially after mobility. It kept our daughter contained until she was about 4 years.
 

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Bring a pack-n-play, especially if they're already used to one. It gives them a secure place to play or sleep after they've had enough of the sand, water, etc.. and gives you some hands free time to make food, tend to another child and so forth
 

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Well being from MT myself, I grew up on the rivers as did my siblings and other children... my nephews have been floating with us since they were 3 months old.... (always on a calm stretch).....the car seat is a great idea also another idea that we use now that they are older 18 months is a booster type high chair (the kind you can strap down to a chair...these work great as well as long as they can sit up on their own and always have someone by their side....its a great way to grow up and I wouldn't change it for the world, especially on the rivers in Montana.....
 

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Riley's been doing overnights since he was 8 mos. It is not for everyone and probably isn't the safest thing you can choose.

That being said his closest calls were always on the beach, not in the raft.

He still loves boating and camping. He is 8 now and usually kayaks.
 
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