Let’s talk about camping with a baby. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Who in their right mind would take their little bundle of joy out to sleep in a tent away from civilization?
But guess what? It really isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. To be clear we’re talking about camping, and not backpacking. That’s a whole other ballgame.
Sure, bringing a baby along changes the way you camp, but it can be done without too much trouble. If you’re a parent you’ve already changed the way you do things and adjusted to life with a baby. This is just one more routine to adapt.
Here are 8 tips to help you go camping with a baby safely and still have a lot of fun.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
The first tip for camping with a baby(or is it a rule?) is to prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more. To be honest, this whole post is about preparation. Did I mention how important preparation is?
Camping without a baby is generally a straight forward proposition. We’ve all been guilty of leaving things to the last moment, rushing to toss a bunch of gear into the car, and finally heading out an hour or two behind schedule. Maybe you’re even one of those seasoned pros that always has their camping gear organized and ready for a trip. A friend calls you up with an impromptu invitation and five minutes later you’re off for another adventure.
But if you want to have a successful camping trip with a baby, you’re going to have to prepare. Go through everything that you need for the baby and make a checklist. You can start with this checklist from REI.
2. Practice makes perfect
Think about your very first camping trip. Chances are, you can look back and laugh at some of the silly things you did in the beginning. Experience matters and while practice might not make a perfect trip, but it certainly makes a better trip.
So how do you practice camping with a baby? You want to simulate the actual conditions you’ll face camping while still having the safety valve of the comforts of your home. The easiest way to do this is to practice camping with your baby in the backyard. Bring everything you need to spend the night outside with your baby and try not to go back into the house.
Don’t have a backyard? Let’s use a little creativity. Do you have any family or friends who own homes nearby and wouldn’t mind you camping out in their yard for a night or two? You can even make it a group activity if they also have a baby and want to try camping.
3. Pick a baby friendly campsite
What’s a baby friendly campsite? Well it really depends on your own level of experience and comfort in dealing with the unknown. But in general there are a few things you should consider.
Make sure your campsite is either not too far from home or close to a town where you could book a last minute hotel room. Simply having that safety valve can bring you peace of mind and let you enjoy your camping trip.
What type of facilities does your campsite have? Managed campgrounds will generally provide running water, toilets, trash service, and maybe even showers. It’s convenient to be able to throw your dirty diapers and used wipes in the trash right on site. More rugged sites have less conveniences but also have fewer crowds and feel more ‘wild.’ At the extreme end this can be almost like backpacking – no running water, no toilets, no trash facilities – with the only difference being you don’t have to hike in.
4. Bring the right clothing
Dress for the weather appropriately. If you are heading to elevation don’t underestimate how much colder it can be above sea level. The intraday temperature swings can be quite considerable. Don’t be fooled by warm weather when you go to bed, as the temperature will continue to fall well into the night. Babies have a much smaller mass than adults and can have trouble maintaining their body temperatures in very cold weather.
Onesies are great clothing options while camping with a baby. Thin ones are great as base layers or for wearing during the day. Thicker fleece onesies are great for laying up in the cold or at night.
Also don’t forget that babies can be messy. They burp. They throw up. The have diaper blow outs. They’re babies, it happens. Bring that extra set of clothing!
5. Simplify your packing
It’s really easy to get caught up with bringing along too much ‘stuff’ when you go camping with a baby. Clothing, toys, pack and play, diapers, shoes, wipes, blankets… it can be an endless list.
Just because you can pack it in your car and bring it doesn’t mean that you should. Really try to streamline the amount of things that you are bringing for your baby. Is that item really necessary or will it sit in the car or tent unused the whole time?
It also makes sense to pack a separate bag for your baby. This way it’s easy to stay organized and you’re never furiously searching for something in the middle of the night. OMG, where are the extra diapers? Those are thoughts you don’t want running through your head while camping with a baby.
6. Keep the food simple
You have enough to worry about, so let’s keep the food simple. Instead of trying to impress with an extravagant campfire meal, stick to something you can make and clean up quickly.
One pot meals such as curries and stews are great in these situations. You can precut all the ingredients at home, throw them into the pot at the campsite, and let them cook away while you tend to other things (like baby). One pot meals are also easy to cleanup.
Bottle feeding formula is a non-issue while camping with a baby. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be an issue either. If you want to continue pumping, that’s a little more complicated. Bring along a well insulated cooler packed full of ice. Don’t use this cooler for anything else, keep it in a shaded/cool place, and minimize the amount of times you open the cover. While expensive, a premium cooler like a Yeti would be perfect.
7. Adjust your expectations
Manage your own expectations and remember that you are camping with a baby. A baby. You know, that little human creature that relies upon you 100% for staying alive. Understand that this is a new experience for your baby and there may be some setbacks. You’re not going to be able to do all the same things you used to do sans baby.
But that’s OK. You’re camping with a baby, after all, and that’s the goal, right?
8. Have fun camping with a baby!
Last of all, don’t forget why you are out there. You love the outdoors. You love camping. You love your baby and want to share the experience. As long as you plan ahead and adjust accordingly it’s really not that tough to go camping with a baby and still have an amazing time.
Were these tips for camping with a baby helpful? Did I forget an awesome tip? Please let me know in the comments.