If you’ve been camping before, then you know how much work it is to prep for your trip. You need your tent, food, drinks, campsite reservations – it takes some organization.
But, it’s well worth it once you’re sitting by a campfire with a beer. Now, things have changed a bit: you have a baby. Camping with infants can be challenging, but this doesn’t mean you can’t go.
In fact, if you have a child, they’ll love exploring the outdoors. However, if this is your first attempt at going camping with infants, you may want to listen up. We have some helpful tips that you’ll appreciate once you’re out in the wild with your child.
When should you start camping with an infant?
Many new parents ask when is it the right time to go camping with their child. Well, there’s not really an answer for that. It’s not so much the age as it is their behavior. Some babies do fine camping while others need to wait until they’re a little older.
There’s no “right” time. To evaluate whether or not your child would be able to handle camping, view their behavior when you’re out of the house. Is your child restless in their stroller? Is he/she able to fall asleep outside? Does he/she cry a lot at night?
These are all factors you should consider. Though, just because your child cries at night at home doesn’t mean they’ll do the same while camping. The only real way to figure it out is to try it.
What to do when your camping trip isn’t working out
Know when it’s time to call it a day and pack up your camping supplies. You should try to make your child as comfortable as possible. However, if you’ve tried everything – toys, movies, games, outdoor adventures – and nothing’s working, pack up.
Your camping neighbours will be understanding of your situation but then at some point, they may become your enemies. If you’re not enjoying the experience and your child clearly isn’t, it’s okay to pack up and try again another weekend. You didn’t fail, it just wasn’t the right time.
What you’re going to need
Before, you probably just filled your backpack with some essentials and went into the wilderness. Well, with children it’s a little different. You’re going to need to be prepared so, here are some of the essentials you’ll need to bring with you for your child.
Sure, you can live off of hotdogs, but your child can’t. He/she is going to need the daily dose of vitamins and minerals. So, you’re going to have to plan ahead. You want to have at least an idea of what your child will be eating throughout the day.
It doesn’t have to be a solid meal plan, but it’ll be easy for you to buy food if you know what to get. Also, they’re going to need their sippy cup, snacks, bibs and, if needed, a baby food grinder.
Weather isn’t static, you should know this if you’ve been camping before. One day it’s sunny and then the next it can be a monsoon. Of course, you’ll check the weather report before going camping, but nothing can be certain. So, you’ll want to pack extra clothes for your child in case the nights get extra chilly. See our article on the best toddler hiking shoes for more information.
Make sure you have a hat, hoodie, pajamas and a clothesline, especially if you’ll be camping for a longer period of time. The rule of thumb when dressing your child is that you want to layer them first with light clothing and then increase the weight and warmth.
If your child has passed the diaper phase then you can skip ahead, but if not, stay put. You’re going to need diapers, baby wipes, wet bags, spray bottle and hand sanitizer. It’s a lot, but you’ll be happy you brought it with you. Remember, you’ll be on your own in the wild.
After playing in the woods and getting covered in dirt or sand, your child is going to need a shower. You can bring a portable bathtub and of course, baby soap and shampoo. Some people even bring a portable shower head.
They’re not going to be able to withstand a long distance hike up the mountain. You’re going to need to bring a baby carrier with you for hiking. Make sure your carrier will be able to withstand long distance hikes. Also read our review of the top hiking strollers for kids for more information.
After your child has been running around the woods for hours, they’re going to want to lay low a bit. Plus, you’ll want to make sure they have toys so that you’re not also chasing after them all day. Bring their favorite toys with them and a waterproof blanket to act as a play area.
You always want to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Most likely, this camping trip is going to go smoothly, but, your child can slip and scrape their knee. So, make sure you have a first aid kit which will include items for infants.
These items must be on your “must pack” list. They’ll not only make the experience easier, they’ll also make the adventure more comfortable and enjoyable for your child.
Tips for camping with an infant
Now that your bags are packed and you’re ready to go, here are some tips to help you have the best camping experience.
You may have gotten used to going just before nightfall but now that you have a child, that’s not going to happen. You have to go early. Setting up a tent in the dark is hard enough but add an infant to the mix and that’s another story. Make sure you go before sunset, that way, you have time to prepare your campsite and then enjoy the evening stars.
Choose a home away from home
You’re going to be camping for a couple days, so make sure that you choose a tent which will suit your needs. You want a tent that you’ll be able to easily move around in and is high-quality. Remember, your family will be sleeping in this tent so make sure that it’s durable and will be able to withstand sun and rain.
Stay close to home
If this is your first time going camping with an infant, then we recommend you stay relatively close to home. Keep it under a couple hours from your house, so that if something goes horribly and your infant isn’t taking a liking to the great outdoors, you can easily pack up and be home quickly.
Go on a test drive
This may sound silly, but it’s actually very helpful. To see how your baby reacts to sleeping away from home, try sleeping in your car. You can go camping, but instead of the tent, pop the back seats down, put an air mattress in the back and see how it goes.
That way, you can see how things work with you and your child and also, you see what things you’re missing on your trip. See? Not a bad idea, right?
Bring a kitchen
No, not the kitchen you’d find in a magazine. When we mean kitchen, we mean a camping stove, propane, coffee pot, and a couple pots and pans. If you have a fold-up table, that’ll be a great way to step up your kitchen area.
Make sure you have enough plates, cutlery, cups, dish soap, towels and a pair of scissors. If you have all of these things, then you’ll be all set for an efficient kitchen.
However, you don’t want to overpack for yourself. Keep your personal items down to a minimum because a majority of your gear will be for your baby. If you have too many things, you’re opening the opportunity of things getting lost. Plus, you don’t need ten t-shirts for a weekend camping trip, do you?
So, keep it simple. It’ll most likely be summer when you’re camping so keep it down to shorts, skirts, t-shirts and a sweater for cool nights. For your child, you’ll want to bring the same and make sure not to forget the sunscreen for both you and your child!
Don’t dump it all on your partner
Camping is a beautiful way to have a vacation, but that doesn’t mean you dump the responsibilities onto your partner. Many people tend to unload the duties of setting up the tent, cooking and tending to the children onto one partner.
Camping is a family activity, so make sure both of you are doing your part. However, do allow your partner to spend quality time with their child. In those moments, sit back and relax.
Invest in a high-quality tent/sleeping mattress
You’re going to be tired. Sure, five years ago when you didn’t have a child you were sleeping right on the ground, however, now that’s not going to happen. Treat yourself, your partner, and your baby to a comfortable and cushy mattress.
You won’t regret it when you wake up in the morning without a sore neck and back. It may mean you’ll have to invest a couple hundred dollars into it, however, it’s going to be worth it. These things always pay off in the long-run.
Maintain your child’s regular schedule
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean that you should let your child get out of the routine. You want to make sure that they stick as closely as possible to their regular sleeping schedule. We’re not saying this so much because of them, but this is more for you.
When you come back from your camping trip, getting them back into their regular routine isn’t going to be fun or easy. So, try to keep that as regulated as possible.
Sun, sun, sun
The summer is a great time for your child to run around and have the sun on their skin. However, you need to make sure that they’re properly protected. Make sure you bring along sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for your child. Though the sun is beautiful, it can do some serious damage, especially on young skin.
Happy Baby, Happy Parents
You want to make sure that you leave your house prepared with everything you need to make your child as comfortable as possible. If they’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy. So, bring a soft and comfy blanket and make sure that they’re layered in warm, cozy clothes.
The biggest piece of advice would be not to forget anything. Just don’t do it. Write everything down and save yourself the unnecessary hassle.
If it doesn’t succeed, try again
Maybe your child wasn’t in the best of moods or maybe they’re coming down with a cold. There are so many things that could have influenced the behavior of your child. If the camping weekend didn’t turn out exactly how you expected it, try again next weekend.
The more you go camping and if they have a positive association with the experience, it’ll become easier and easier each time you go out into the wilderness. Camping with infants isn’t as hard as it sounds. Though you need to properly prepare, once you’ve done that, you’ve completed ¾ of the job.
Just make sure that you have the list of necessary lists and that everything on the list is packed. After that, setting up camp will be quick and smooth. Your time camping shouldn’t be spent being stressed.
Instead, you should be spending your time with your child, building memories that’ll stay with them for life. So, if you prepare yourself and your family, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Except the rain; you can’t control Mother Nature.
For more tips on hiking with the children, see our previous article on this topic.