Think it's never too soon to get your baby out experiencing the great outdoors? If you've always been campers, it's likely that once your baby arrives you'll be itching to take them on their first camping trip. But it will also require a lot more careful planning to make it all go smoothly. With the right preparation, proper gear, and a go-with-the-flow attitude, camping with a baby can be a success!
Why Camping with a Baby is a Better Idea Than You Think
There be some naysayers who are thinking that you taking your baby camping is a crazy idea. But it can actually be the perfect time! Unlike older kids, babies need a lot less entertainment to enjoy themselves. Not to mention that if your baby isn't really mobile yet, you won't have to stress about them wandering from the campsite.
Linda Ly talks about her camping adventure with her 9-week-old over at Garden Betty and went with the mentality that it's "better to break the kid in sooner than later." If camping is definitely in your family's future, we'd have to agree!
As long as you plan accordingly for your baby's needs, camping with a little one could be just the getaway your family has been waiting for. Why not start those lasting memories?!
Here are our best tips for taking your baby camping!
Tip #1: Safety First
Before planning a camping trip with a baby, it's a good idea to get the go ahead from your child's pediatrician. Especially if they are a young infant.
We also recommend careful planning ahead of time to get a good spot at the right time of year. Even though you may have loved the excitement of getting off the beaten path before baby's arrival, you'll want to choose a spot that's a little closer to home and easily accessible. Finding a place where your cell phone will still work is a smart idea. Also choose a warm month to go so that you can easily keep your baby comfortable overnight as the temperatures drop. REI consulted with a local doctor and they recommend not taking a baby camping if the temperatures will be less than 40 degrees.
Be sure your child is healthy before you leave and that you've established a good routine with them at home prior to going.
Always pack a basic first-aid kit that includes items such as:
Additional safety items include sunscreen and bug spray. This article from Consumer Reports will help you figure out what kind is best for your little one. Long sleeves, pants, and hats will also reduce your child's exposure to too much sun and bug bites.
Tip #2: Get the Right Campsite
If you're seasoned campers, you probably already have a place in mind that would be more conducive to having an tiny camper in tow. If not, do the extra research ahead of time to secure a campsite that has some extra amenities that will make your experience more comfortable.
Amenities to look for:
- close to a bathroom (with flush toilets)
- electric hook-ups
- playground (if your baby is old enough to enjoy it)
Shade and proximity to other campers are other factors to consider. Having a shady spot to hang out in is important for a little one with sensitive skin. It's also a good idea to choose a spot that's not too close to other campers. If your baby cries, it will be less stressful for you and on the flip side, you won't have the possibility of noisy campers interrupting your baby's slumber.
Tip #3: Pack the Right Baby Essentials
Before you go, you'll want to double check that you have your little one's daily essentials. We recommend making a checklist so you don't forget anything. Because unlike a hotel stay, there won't be a store close by where you can grab what you forgot.
Luckily, babies don't need a lot of extra stuff, even for camping. Start by packing the essentials they'd always need such as diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, clothing, burp cloths and anything else they use everyday.
Whatever calms and soothes your baby at home you'll also want to bring along with you. Being in a new place can be exciting for your baby, but it can also be overstimulating. Having comforts from home will ensure they are happy and calm even among the new scenery. This might include pacifiers, swaddle or wearable blanket, and a special stuffed animal or favorite toys.
Tip #4: Stay Warm
Camping often means fluctuating temperatures over the course of the day and night. Comfort by day might mean tank tops in the shade, whereas once night hits you could be grabbing for parkas and cozy sleeping bags. It's important to remember whatever you feel in terms of temperature your baby does even more so. Our best recommendation here is to dress your baby in layers and bring more than you think you'll need to keep your baby warm overnight. Hats, mittens and cozy socks are good to have on hand even in the middle of summer.
A good rule of thumb is that your baby needs one more layer than you do to stay warm enough. It's always better to be over-prepared than underprepared for a baby's camping trip, especially when it comes to making sure they're staying warm enough.
Tip #5: Feeding Time
Your baby spends most of their life eating, sleeping, and messing up diapers...something that won't change when you go camping. But when they're not doing those things, you want to make sure you have a happy baby on your hands as that's what's probably going to make or break your camping trip.
We all know how important feeding time is for a little one. A fed baby is a happy baby. Here are a few recommendations to make feeding time a success while camping:
- Bring a portable bottle warmer: Like we said, your baby will do best if you keep their comforts from home. If you bottle-feed, you likely give your baby warm milk. A portable bottle warmer is a perfect solution for this. The Baby's Brew is the most reliable travel bottle warmer that safely warms both breast milk and formula. Formula feeding families will also appreciate the attached formula dispenser that will make the whole experience easy from start to finish. The charge lasts up to 8 hours, but can easily be charged up in your car for use over multiple days at a campsite.
- Use a clamp on style high chair: If your baby is old enough for solid foods (and can hold their head up independently), they'll love sitting with you at the picnic table for mealtimes. Having a chair like this will allow everyone to enjoy meals together...especially since the food just might be the best part about camping!
- Feed on demand: Camping and schedules don't really mix. Trying to keep your baby adhering to a feeding schedule is just going to backfire. Camping is designed to be relaxing, so we suggest chilling out about feeding time, too. Going by your baby's hunger cues will help ensure they have a full tummy while continuing to enjoy the experience.
Tip #6: Overnight Success
We all know how erratic baby sleep can be. And even if you'd give your baby a top sleeper award at home, that's an expectation you'll want to let go of once you arrive at the campsite. Being realistic about how a night away sleeping in a tent with a baby will go is your best bet in keeping it an enjoyable experience.
With that said, these are our best tips to help your baby have a great night's sleep even under the stars:
- Keep your baby's nighttime routine: We know you won't be able to follow this exactly as you would at home and that you'll probably have to eliminate a couple of steps (such as bath time). But things like baby massage, singing to and rocking your baby, and swaddling them will signal to your baby that it's time to sleep just as it would back home.
- Be flexible: It's possible that it will still be light outside when it's your baby's typical bedtime. If they seem drowsy and ready for sleep then go for it! But don't be alarmed if this fact confuses them when they normally have blackout drapes at home. Just go with the flow and if they don't seem ready to sleep until it's dark, that's completely okay. And if you wouldn't normally nurse or feed your baby to sleep at home, don't worry if you have to do that while camping so everyone can get some shuteye.
- Use a portable crib: Though you might choose to have your baby snuggle up to you while you sleep in the tent, having a portable crib that fits inside is really nice to have. Especially if you and your partner want to enjoy some quiet time around the campfire while your little one snoozes. This can also double as a play yard if you need a safe place to put your baby during the day.
Even if night one doesn't go all that smoothly, chances are the second night will be much better after everyone's gotten more comfortable with the new surroundings.
And that goes for camping with your baby all around. The more often you go, the easier it will become to know exactly what you need to make it one of your favorite family excursions.