Camping with a baby can seem intimidating but it’s an inexpensive vacation for families, a way to explore the incredible beauty we have in the world, an opportunity to introduce kids to the outdoors, and with a little bit of preparation, it can be a fun getaway for parents and kids alike!
Here are my tips to make camping with a baby a success!
1. Research Campground & Campsites. Do your research. Whether you are into hiking, biking, sandy beaches, or just relaxing in nature, there’s a campground that is right for you. Once you’ve decided on a location, check out the campsite map online to figure out where the bathroom, water spigots, beach, and other amenities are located. My recommendation is to find the “radio-free zone” which may be a little quieter, and a site that is in as much shade as possible. Try to choose a location that is close to a water spigot but otherwise as far away from other campsites as possible.
2. Keep Baby Contained. If you have a baby that is on the go, you will need a safe place to keep them contained while you are cooking, doing dishes, or when you have a fire going. We brought along a small baby seat with a tray. I put the seat on a blanket directly on the ground so when she inevitably threw her toys, they wouldn’t get dirty. The tray was super helpful so I had a clean place for baby’s food (instead of a dirty picnic table!). It also comes with straps so you can safely secure it to a picnic table or lawn chair. During the day, I also brought the play yard out from the tent so she could play in a clean, safe area and not crawl off into the nearby poison ivy (unfortunately her Daddy was not so cautious with the poison ivy!)
3. Prepare for Bug Bites. Don’t forget about protecting baby from bugs! Mosquito repellent containing DEET is generally not recommended for babies under 6 months old. There is an abundance of repellents out there with ingredients like picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oils, citronella, and other various ingredients that can be considered “safe” for infants. Consult with your doctor about what is best for your little one. Since I didn’t have time to check in with our family doctor prior to leaving, I opted to keep it simple. I dressed baby in long-sleeved clothing, especially at dusk and dawn, and used a fitted mesh mosquito netting over their crib during naps and bedtime. Also, don’t forget to completely zip up the tent so mosquitoes can’t sneak in!
4. Bath Time. Have a plan for bathing your baby in the woods. Many parks have shower facilities but my juggling abilities were not up to the task of keeping baby off those grimy tiles. We brought a simple dish basin, filled it 3/4 full with soapy water, and let baby splash away the day’s dirt and grime. Have a bowl or jug ready with clean water for rinsing, a clean towel, and warm pajamas for your squeaky clean little one! It is also helpful to put the ‘bathtub’ on a tarp so you don’t end up with a mud puddle on your campsite afterward.
6. Sleeping. There are many different sleeping arrangements possible in a tent. If you decide to co-sleep, ensure that the mat baby is sleeping on is firm and there are no loose blankets. If you don’t already co-sleep at home, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do so for the first time while camping where the “bed” is unfamiliar.
We brought our Baby Bjorn Travel crib and I highly recommend it. It easily fit in our tent, and I slept better knowing she was safe (and contained!). I also placed fitted mesh mosquito netting over the top to help keep the bugs away.
It can be stressful trying to keep your baby quiet throughout the night so their cries don’t wake up the entire campground. Whenever our daughter woke up, I would immediately scoop her up and breastfeed her to keep her quiet. I set up touch lights from the dollar store in different locations in the tent so I wouldn’t be fumbling around in the dark. It was so much easier than trying to juggle a flashlight and a wailing baby. I also set up a mini diaper changing “station” with a change mat and supply of diapers and wipes right beside her play yard for easy overnight changes.
Keep baby’s bedtime routine as similar to home as possible. If you use a white noise machine at home, consider popping in some batteries and bringing it along. The white noise can help drown out conversations from around the fire and other noises that may distract your baby from falling asleep. In order to ensure she was warm enough to sleep, I layered her onesie, a footed sleeper, and the light cotton swaddle. When we went camping in August, the nights were just perfect and not too cold. If you are camping in the late spring or early fall consider packing a hat and mittens to help keep your baby warm.
Camping with a baby can be a bit complicated but spending a week with family, outdoors and free of distractions was worth it! My favorite part of the week was watching my daughter, surrounded by her cousins singing “pat-a-cake” to her while she giggled and squealed with delight. We plan to continue to take a yearly family camping trip and look forward to the challenges that camping with a toddler will bring!