Camping can be challenging, nevertheless with a baby. I will share all my knowledge and experience of camping with a baby. In addition, I will share some tricks and ideas. Regardless, you must take extra care and be cautious when taking your baby camping.
Camping means different things to different people. Before we had our baby, we mainly camped on the go, through all weathers, mostly lightweight… but this has changed when we had our baby.
Camping as we know it has changed. Not to scare you off, but we had to adjust a few things to resume our outdoor lifestyle.
If you have any questions and requests, please comment below or send me an email.
Here are the most important things we learned:
1. Lower your expectations and set the right goals
Do you remember those days you packed a backpack and went camping? Did you squeeze into your lightweight tent and fancy sleeping bag? Well forget those days and I am not trying to be negative. But for real! If you believe you can do that with a baby and give them a nice experience, please get me whatever meds you are on. Camping with a baby is just different. So set the right expectations.
Camping is also a place you need to loosen your high hygiene standards. Babies will get dirty, you have a limited source of cleaning water, and they might eat dirt and grass… let them be. This way you will allow them to explore and develop some of their motor skills, and it will be less stressful. Your baby will adapt, that is their resilient nature.
As you can see, our expectations are very low 🙂
2. Do a trial camp night
A trial camp night (or even a nap) would surely ease into the experience. It serves as a smooth transition to the baby, as well as a learning experience for you as a parent.
Choose a location close to home, in your backyard, or even in your living room. The main 2 goals are to introduce the baby to sleep inside of a tent, and the second is to have this experience within your comfort zone.
Throwing in her favorite baby gym toys to make them familiar
4 weeks old camp out in the living room
3. Size does matter! I am referring to the mat, you dirty-minded reader!
Yes, you can squeeze in a 2-3-person tent, but to what end! Both you and your baby would benefit from extra space. It just makes camping more enjoyable. Aim to stay in huts, cabins, yurts… or simply get that 4+ person-tent. We use 2 methods:
- I sleep in a separate tent to have the mobility to support from the outside when needed.
- We use our glamping city 6-person tent with an inflatable double mat. Joanna and our Ulayla (mom & baby) sleep on the double mat, and I sleep on a single mat by their side. And there is enough room for bags and other misc.…
For cold and rainy weather, we have a family tent. Basically, it is a tent that has various areas. In our case, our tent has 2 areas, a bedroom, and a living area. This option saved our asses when it was pouring rain. We sat inside watching the rain and playing games.
Ula crashed by the end of a cycling day…
4. Pitch your tent away from other campers.
This way, you avoid noisy neighbors who might wake up your little one.
Or your baby decides to work on their opera career at midnight and wake up the neighbors. And I am sure you don’t want to be the hated parents.
…& sometimes, you get to camp in magical places & watch beautiful sunrises together.
5. Pack right
First thing first, this is the time to get well organized. You have camping gear, food, your items, clothes, your partner’s, baby clothes, baby food,… so dedicate a box or a bag for each one of those. Do NOT mix them or else you end up just searching for things.
Bring your baby’s favorite toys, food, snacks, high chair (yes! our baby loves her own chair she’s familiar with), diapers, and whatever items your baby likes.
6. Choose a suitable location
Yes, you always dreamt to sleep on that ledge overlooking the Grand Canyon facing the fierce wind. Well, forget about it.
Choose a safe and comfortable campsite, you are there to introduce camping and nature to your baby, and not give them a traumatic experience. Let the campsite be close to a road in case of any emergencies. Preferably a place where wildlife is a lesser risk. And needless to say, avoid harsh weather.
Perks of camping is giving space for your baby to move freely. (keep an eye though)
7. With each baby’s developmental milestone, comes different challenges (I sound like Peter Parker in Spiderman)
It is easier if the baby still doesn’t crawl, but don’t be discouraged by the little crawlers!
Buy a beach mat that is easy to carry and small to pack. It gives them a sense of boundaries they -usually- won’t cross; until they cross and start exploring, which is fine, allow them that freedom as long as you are watching.
Another item that works for us, gym puzzle mats. You can repurpose them for tent cushioning or turn them into a sleeping mat.
Once your baby figures out how to legs it, your watching eye must be doubled. It is more tiring of course, but there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your little one exploring the world on their feet. Enjoy that.
Let them run around, your job is to create a safe enviornment, not keep them away from it.
8. Camping gear
This section depends a lot on your system with your baby. And when in doubt, pack more stuff. Here are some items:
- High chair (at food time, it gives a boundary to the baby and is easier to feed them)
- hammock (lots of fun with this one)
- umbrella (we live in a hot country, I use the umbrella whilst hiking to create a barrier from the sun)
- shade shelter
- 360 sunhat
- baby sunglasses
- baby wrap carrier (we use the babywearing method, just cause it supports the baby’s back, spine, and hips very well.)
- popup playpen (something I am against, because I like to encourage my daughter to explore and not confine her)
- travel cot (same as the popup playpen)
- changing mat (we made an alternative setup in my car)
- wet wipes (or a few reusable cloths and a bucket of water)
- bug protection (be sure whatever you are using is baby-friendly)
- sun protection
- rain protection
- we even have a travel shower tub (we now use a plastic bottle with a hole in the cap to rinse our daughter)
9. Choose the right clothing
Obviously, this section depends on many variables, like weather, like your approach to layering… Just make sure you have extras.
We choose breathable clothing for the day, and a warm jumpsuit for the night (the sickness depends on the temps).
Keep it simple! Again, lower your standards. Bring convenient food. We usually take ready-cooked meals for our baby and for us (we still choose organic meals, non-GMO, sugar-free, bullshit-free, and all those other placebo labels marketed to us).
And if the baby is still downing milk, Hallelujah, easiest food ever.
Needless to say, sterilizing the bottles for newborns is important. And you can still keep it simple by dipping the bottles in a pot of boiling water.
The success of any camping trip is in the preparations prior to the trip.
sleeping has changed as you know it once you had your baby, so add camping to it and a change in the baby’s routine and you add a whole layer of complexity. And if you are one of those minorities, do not brag about how well your baby sleeps and doesn’t care about their surroundings (I HATE YOU!)
We try to imitate Ulayla’s sleep routine wherever we are and it works for us.
Here are some tips:
- Bring their favorite blanket.
- Bring their favorite stuffed animal.
- Read them their favorite story.
- Don’t miss their sleeping time.
- Stay close to them after they sleep (at least the first few times you camp). This way they won’t wake up and freak out given they are in an unfamiliar place.
Some nights might be rough, but the mornings are always fun.
12. Protect your baby
There are few things to pay attention to and can be avoidable with some tricks:
1. Bugs and insects:
There are many studies suggesting not to use insect repellent on babies, and each claims a different age. We chose not to use them at all. For that, we chose the weather, location, and the time of the year carefully to avoid mosquitoes and bees. And whenever we don’t succeed with the first rule, we opt-in for long sleeves and pants.
2. Snakes & scorpions:
There are many remedies and products that claim to keep snakes and scorpions at bay. But for this, I take the matter into my own hands and in my opinion the most effective way: KEEP MY EYES ON SCANNING MODE ALL THE FREAKING TIME! Obviously, this might be stressful, especially living in a desert, but it can also be easy if you get familiar with the snakes and scorpions’ behaviors (how they hide, what they like…)
Needless to say, don’t take your baby camping (or yourself) to places where predators are the habitat of the area.
13. Make it fun
Remember, you are there to introduce a lifestyle to them. So do not force it on them. Take it slow and gentle. And the best way to make them fall in love with it is to introduce fun activities. Activities are age-dependent and it is a whole different topic. Our baby’s favorite activity is to demolish rock cairns (man-made rock towers) along with putting pebbles in an empty bottle.
Last but not least, there are many products out there designed to make your camping experience a lot better and more comfortable, especially baby-designed products. We tend to keep it to the minimum and only have what is essential to us. And for that, we kept it simple and to minimal at our own home, so whenever we travel and camp (which is a lot), our baby’s routine doesn’t change as much.
Pack her favorite toys, & be creative using whatever nature has to offer to create fun activities
Needless to say, I would like to hear about your tricks and tips. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below