Camping with a Baby – Tips and Tricks
If you’re the type of couple that loves camping, hiking, and spending time outdoors, you’re going to love introducing those experiences to your baby. Camping with a baby comes with its own unique challenges, but it’s also a ton of fun!
We planned our first camping trip with our little one over Canada Day long weekend, when he was just under six months old. He wasn’t very mobile at that point, so we didn’t have to worry about him running off or getting into anything he shouldn’t.
We did two camping trips with him last year, one in a tent and one in a tent trailer. The trailer was definitely easier in some ways, but tenting really wasn’t that much harder. Here are some of the tricks that worked for us:
Packing for Baby
You’ll want to pack most of the items you’d normally pack for a trip, but since you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, there are a few extra things you’ll want to bring:
- Light long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect him from the sun
- Sun hat
- Baby sunscreen
- Something to create shade if your site is really sunny, like a tarp or a beach shade
- Extra warm clothing and blankets for nighttime
- Extra diapers and wipes – you really don’t want to run out and have to try to find a store nearby that sells them!
Keeping Baby Warm at Night
This was what I was most worried about, since we were camping in the mountains and the temperature at night dropped down to about 8°C.
We basically just put him in a bunch of layers for nighttime – a sleeper, a light fleece snowsuit with a hood, mittens, socks, and a toque, then swaddled in a blanket for good measure. It might seem like overkill, but he slept comfortably, and his face, hands, and feet were still cool to the touch in the morning.
It also helps if there’s space between his bed and the ground, so if you have room in your tent, you might consider bringing along a play yard for him to sleep in. It helps with keeping the routine if your baby is used to sleeping in a crib, plus it will probably make sleeping (and cuddling) easier for you and your partner.
Another plus of using a play yard is that you can fit a bug net over the top, so you won’t have to worry about bugs bothering your baby during the night. This is especially helpful if you’re camping anywhere where mosquitoes are trying to eat you alive.
Breastfeeding at Night
Our little guy was sleeping through the night pretty consistently by this point, but anytime we’d travel, he’d wake up once or twice a night to feed.
You’ll want to think about how to make yourself comfortable for the 15-20 minute nursing session during the night, so make sure you have pillows to support your back, bring your nursing pillow if you find that helpful, and consider packing a fuzzy robe to keep yourself warm while you’re breastfeeding.
Keeping Baby off the Ground
Your little one is going to want some solo play time, and your arms will eventually want a break from carrying him around. Unfortunately, the ground in your campsite probably won’t be the ideal place for baby to play. Besides getting dirty, mine would have been eating sticks and rocks left and right, so we came up with a few solutions.
- Bring the play yard – If I haven’t already convinced you to bring a play yard for baby to sleep in, you might want to consider bringing it for play time. We used ours for both – wheeling it out of the tent during the day so that baby J could have a safe place to play and relax.
- Pack a bouncy chair – Our little one loved spending time in his bouncy chair, so it was a win for all of us. We just buckled him in and set him near us, and our hands were free to cook or play games, while he was happy to hang out and bounce. A Bumbo or something similar would probably work just as well.
- Bring a large picnic blanket or outdoor turf – These are great if baby is working on tummy time or learning how to crawl. Sometimes babies just want to be set down on the floor so they can explore or kick, and either one of these will work to keep them from having to do so on dirt and rocks.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking with your baby, do yourself a favour and get a good hiking carrier backpack. We borrowed this carrier and used it to do multiple hikes last summer, and our little guy loved it! He’d fall asleep for a good hour or two while we hiked, or he’d be happy to sit back and take in the sights.
My husband was the one wearing it, and he thought it did a really good job of placing the weight on his hips instead of his back and shoulders. Plus it has quite a bit of storage, so we could take everything we needed from the diaper bag and more.
I was still exclusively breastfeeding on this trip, so I did worry about where I would be able to feed him if we were hiking up and down a mountain for five hours. We ended up choosing a trail that had a tea house half way up, so I was able to feed him comfortably there.
Plan Simple Meals
One of the best ways to make life easier when you’re camping with a baby is to keep mealtimes simple.
We all know how hard it can be to get a nice meal together when your baby wants your attention, and it’s even more difficult when you’re roughing it out in the woods without an exersaucer or (dare I say it) TV to keep him entertained.
When you’re planning your meals, choose the ones that are easy to prep at home so that you can just throw everything together and cook it or reheat it when you’re camping. Some of my camping favourites include vegetarian chili, tin foil dinners, smokies, soft tacos, and breakfast burritos.
Go with the Flow
My last piece of advice is to lower your expectations and be as flexible as possible.
You might have planned the most awesome, full day of activities, but in the end your little one is going to be the one who determines what your day will look like.
If he had trouble sleeping in the tent last night and now he’s being a bear, maybe you go with plan B and do something low-key that will accommodate an extra nap.
The point of camping, at least in my mind, is to relax and spend quality time with friends and family, while enjoying the simplicity and beauty of nature. The less time and energy you spend trying to make your camping trip go a certain way, the more you’ll be able to appreciate the best parts of being outdoors, and the more fun you’ll have introducing your baby to the experience of camping!