If it were up to The Mister, we’d camp with a knife and a tarp and that’s it. We’d check empty food traps all day, get wet under a lean-to, freeze our butts off through the night, then he would be all, ooga booga this what I call fun…
The reality of camping with babies and small children is that you can’t do it the same way you would if your fellow campers are all big people. Camping needs to be a little more cush.
Aren’t children a blessing?
Everyone will tell you you’re nuts. Don’t listen. Just grab your marshmallows and do it. It just takes a little forethought, and you can go camping with your baby.
I’m hoping this list will encourage you to 1. start now instead of waiting until your baby is older, and 2. skip the bloopers part of camping with your baby. It’s worth it. You and your kids will revisit your camping experiences for the rest of your life.
Things to keep in mind when camping with babies
Tent size. Your tent should fit your family size plus one. Allow for extra baby things that older children and adults don’t need.
Sleeping arrangements. Not all tents can accomodate a full-sized collapsible crib (i.e. a Pack ‘n Play or similar design). Luckily, foldable infant travel beds are inexpensive and provide a snug surface for baby to sleep on. Alternatively, infant co-sleepers take just as little packing space and are similar in design.
I’ve even heard of people using a plastic dishpan (doubles as a bath) for the littlest campers, but I’ve never tried it.
If you’re accustomed to co-sleeping, you might choose to share sleep while out in nature. Of course, the same safety rules apply. Use the same caution while camping as you would bedsharing at home.
Pre-walker considerations. If you have a crawler, pack a large blanket in case your campsite is rocky. It’s much kinder on the knees.
Pre-plan activities. Look up your campground’s amenities and plan activities based on the rhythm of your normal day. It’s hard to be spontaneous if there’s a nap schedule in place, but that’s okay.
Keep your bedtime routine. Put your baby to bed at the same time and in the same way you would at home. If your home routine varies, at least read the same bedtime book each night for a week or so before you hit the wilderness. You’d be surprised at how young babies can pick up on those cues and make the bedtime association.
Wear your baby. Babywearing makes general getting around much easier, especially if you’re lugging your gear and setting up camp. As a bonus, baby will love the view during your nature hike.
Bring extra wipes. Trust me.
This isn’t the time to trailblaze. Backcountry camping may have been your thing before kids, but camping close to running water and your car will free up your thoughts and allow you to have more fun. They’ll grow up soon enough, and you can go back to roughing it.
Pack layers. Especially pajamas. Lightweight, long-sleeved footie pajamas make an excellent base, and add a layer or two from there. Try not to overdo it though. Sweating from being overdressed in the warm evening can make for an uncomfortable night once the temperature drops.
Be flexible. Expect foiled plans and mini-crises, maybe even a sleepless night or two. Roll with it. The major meltdown moments will make the best stories to tell, anyway.
Realize this: camping with children of every age group has its own preparations you have to make. Newborns sleep constantly, so you won’t be able to explore or experience a whole lot. Toddlers are mobile and curious, so the supervision and protection aspects are intense. The older the children get, the more independence they want, which turns up the worry that they’ll get themselves into trouble.
It’s never the perfect time. So, just go. Now.