Ok, so I’m old. My youngest child is 27 years old but I clearly remember camping with him starting when he was about 4 months old. Now, I am the cool Granny that takes her grandkids camping!
I have lots of tips and tricks and opinions.
First choice you must make is – are you going camping with a baby or glamping with a baby? I’ll give you lots of suggestions for both. Hold onto your marshmallow sticks and come along for the ride…
Camping with a Baby? Really? REALLY?
I vividly remember telling my friends I was going camping in a remote place with my newborn. Wayyy back then, it just wasn’t done – camping with a baby.
I packed what I thought I’d need and then added about 10% more stuff for him and headed out.
Did I forget things? Yep! And you will forget something every time you camp too. The trick is to keep in good humor. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
So that I didn’t have 300 pounds of baby stuff I tried to think of ways to use repurpose things instead of bringing specialty items. I had a nagging ache in the back of my head when we were driving. I kept thinking that maybe everyone else was right and I was the crazy one. We decided to not go to a campground and instead, camp with no amenities.
We had two reasons for this. First, we had no idea if we’d get our money back if the experience was a bust and second, I was the over zealous Mom that didn’t want my baby’s wailing to disturb anyone on vacation. We decided to hike in to a cabin in the National Forest and give it a try. We picked one that was close to a stream to make clean-up easy, washing out soiled baby clothes easy, MUCH lighter packs hiking in. We only needed to pack in drinking water. The 3-night trip was such a success that the next trip we invited other families from my Lamaze class to join us! Even now, when I take little ones on a camping trip to a remote area, I get excited. Sure it’s more work that just staying home but the thought of no cell phone, no Internet, no Facebook, no deadlines, no distractions is priceless! It’s just you, your loved ones and a precious baby. The sounds you hear will be made by Mother Nature and your loved one. What could be better? Before you start packing, I’d like to give you some general tips for camping with a baby. You’ll love me for giving you these tips!
- Camp close to home to simplify things and it also makes it easier if you decide to bail.
- Decide what is a priority – connecting with nature in a remote site or the convenience of a campground full of amenities or glamping in a yurt.
- Timing can be everything. It might make you start to shake thinking about camping with a 4-month-old but trust me, it’s much easier than camping with a 2-year old. Infants sleep a lot, breastfeed, and are for the most part, not mobile. A toddler is on the move and has dietary likes and dislikes to consider.
- Bring a hat (fleece or cotton depending on the weather) with a Velcro closure. I’ll keep a bald head warm at night, keep nasty bugs away, or prevent sunburn.
- Pack lots of layers. If you see your wee one getting sweaty or cold, you can quickly add or subtract a layer.
- Zip up pj’s can be multipurpose. They can be a base layer or can go on over other layers when you’re sitting by the fire at night.
- Fleece blanket – can be used under then while sleeping, over them when napping or as an extra layer when in their backpack or carrier while hiking.
- Keep a large enough mat at the entrance to your tent to drop your shoes and to keep your baby clean if she crawls out the door.
- Bring a sleeping bag for you, your partner and your baby. Some folks like to zip the two adult’s bags together and put baby in the middle. Whatever works for you.
- Bring lots of extra diapers. If you use disposable diapers, they don’t weigh much and you’ll be sorry if you have to start skimping on changes so you don’t run out.
- Bring soft toys that you can squish in your pack for hiking trips.
- Meet the neighbors. I always apologized in advance for early morning temper tantrums or late-night yelps! It worked every time.
- Babies tend to sweat in a carrier or backpack make sure you change them into dry clothes when returning to the campsite
- When dressing baby for bed, use layers. Try to not use cotton as a layer because if it gets wet, baby will be cold. A great way to check if they are hot is to swipe your finger along the crease in their neck. You can add or subtract layers as needed. I remember laying one of my sweaters over my son and it was just what he needed.
- Fleece or wool socks over footy pj’s are sometimes needed. I know I hate it when my feet are ccccold.
- If you don’t co-sleep at home, camping is not the ideal time to start. Your sleep pattern will be disturbed and you probably won’t be as comfy as you are in your own bed.
- Keep a water bottle and pee bottle by your bed. You really don’t want to wake baby because of a quick pee call and it sure will be handy to be able to take a sip of water if you wake at 2 AM thirsty.
- Bring baby’s favorite blankie or sleep toy. It might be a big help on a sleepless night.
- I was nursing the first time we camped with my son. I am so glad I fought and won the war about bringing a light beach chair. It saved my tush and my back.
- If your baby is an early riser, plan ahead for your neighbors’ sake. Pack up the night before so you can head out for a quick sunrise hike when baby wakes.
- Remember that your baby doesn’t care if they are home or camping in a remote location. It’s you and the other adults that need to stay calm, flexible according to the situation, and light hearted. If you’re tense and uptight, your baby will definitely pick up on that. Laugh it off, laugh at yourself and just enjoy the day. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You can pack up and head home if you feel it’s too complicated.
- If you’re camping with children of different ages, get to bed early. It might take some time for everyone to calm down enough to sleep. Think about your adventurous toddler not sleeping in a crib for the first time. It’ll take them some time to let the newness wear off and let the sleep in.
- Location matters – if you’re camping with an infant, you probably don’t want to be a six-hour hike to your car just in case there is a medical emergency. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be on a postage size campsite with neighbors so close they can hear you breathe if by little one has a cranky night’s sleep! No matter how much you chum it up with your neighbors, everyone’s nerves are on edge if a baby cries for an extended period of time.
- Bring a Sherpa – or a good friend that loves kids. The trek to a remote campsite and back again isn’t the most fun you’ll ever have.
- Leave no trace or pack in/pack out. Soiled disposable diapers are a grim reality of back country camping with a baby. Actually, the packing in, storing the used ones, and packing out of disposable diapers are part of baby camping life. Consider a dry bag for storage. Flip a coin when it’s time to add more to the cache. The dry bag will take care of the odor and the drainage, if you catch my drift. (chuckle chuckle) Disposable diapers do not compost and you must carry them out.
- Think long and hard if you want to bring your lightweight infant on a canoe or kayak. One person will have to carry the infant which will significantly slow down your journey. There are Coast Guard approved floatation devices for infants under 30 pounds that won’t break the bank.
- Check your bug spray and sunscreen to make sure it’s approved for your baby’s age.
- You have to eat a peck of dirt to die. My next-door neighbor used to say that all the time when I was growing up. I know it’s all the rage to constantly wipe and sanitize and wipe hands and faces many times a day but… having a little dirt on them or even eating a little probably won’t kill them.
- Pack some Benadryl or generic just in case. Your infant probably has not bee bitten or stung by a bee or bug yet. I like to err on the side of caution. While we are talking about stings and bites, pay close attention if your baby is crawling around. There is such a thing as ground bees, you’re likely to be near an ant hill, and many more crawly things.
- Remove the baby wipes you are bringing from the container and place them in a Ziploc bag. Easy peasy. Squeeze the air out so the bag doesn’t pop open when squished. So, if you’re not scared off by all my tips and tricks…
Let’s get packing the baby stuff!
- Diapers and wipes
- Washcloths and rags
- Prescription medicine
- Bottles, liners, sippy cups as appropriate
- Layers; fleece, down, synthetic, cotton sparingly
- Your favorite kid carrier or baby backpack
- Hats, gloves, mittens, warm feet covers
- Rain gear
- Travel high chair
- Travel crib or pack and play
- Binky and teether and extra binky
- Fleece blanket sack
- Everything you’d need for adult camping
The work, frustration, and fights you’ll have about what gear to bring will be wildly worth it. The memories you make and the time spent with your precious baby will be priceless.
Happy baby camping!
Photo by I. C. on Reshot