Camping with a Baby | Here’s Advice from Moms and Dads Who’ve Done It

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If you’ve been camping all your life, it’s natural to think about camping with a baby. Some may think you’re mad to do so, especially if they’re less than a year old and too young to even walk by themselves. Taking care of a baby at home isn’t always easy, they’ll say, and camping with an infant would be more difficult.

If you’ve tried camping before, learning how to camp with a baby shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. However, you do need to be prepared, and you have to anticipate the special needs of an infant.

But with careful preparation, you can even enjoy camping with a 1 year old baby. To help you out, here are some tips that you really should consider:

Make a Camping with a Baby Checklist

If you’re going camping, it’s always a good idea to make a list of all the camping gear your family will need. It’s also sensible that you create a separate list of the things your baby will specifically need.

The things you need to have on this camping with a baby checklist should include:

  • Lots and lots of disposable diapers, maybe even more than what you probably need
  • A dry bag for the diapers
  • Plenty of wipes (which are actually useful for the adults too)
  • A cheap plastic high chair for meal times
  • Sturdy infant camping pants for baby crawling
  • Baby bug suit or lightweight bug netting
  • Rain suit
  • Compact hammock for daytime napping
  • Life jacket for infants (if you’re going into the water)
  • Liquid Benadryl and infant Tylenol
  • Portable crib
  • Wool base layer clothing for sleeping
  • Temperature-appropriate clothes
  • Comfort blanket
  • Baby feeding bottles with propane stove to heat them up

Don’t worry too much about spending a lot of money for fancy infant camping gear. Sure, you can get a sleeping bag for girls if you happen to have a girl, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Basically, you just need milk, diapers, and something warm for nighttime sleeping. Just let us emphasize that disposable diapers will be crucial. It’s better for you to have more than you need than to have less than you need.

Try Out Your Tent in Your Backyard

try out your tent in your backyard

Have a dry run before you do it for real. Check to see if you will feel comfortable sleeping in a tent, especially when you have your baby inside the tent as well.

Find out how you will feed the baby, especially if you’re switching to bottles. See how well the stroller works, and check out how you can make sure your baby feels warm at night.

You should try out all these things in the comfort of your backyard, as your home is right there beside you should things go wrong.

At least when you do your camping for real, you’ll be aware of the potential troubles and you’ll be more prepared.

Don’t Forget Your Own Gear

Sometimes you just want to lie down right beside your baby, so you need some cushioning to help you keep comfy. If you’re nursing, you also need to find a way to keep warm, like wearing a nice poncho. If you want to go hiking around the campsite while carrying the baby, you’ll need comfortable hiking boots for yourself.

The rule for mommies with nursing babies is that mommies need their comfort too. So if you’re the mommy, keep your own bedtime habits in mind and then bring in everything that makes you comfy. This means you should get your favorite nursing pillow. If you’re used to running a white noise machine to sleep, bring one that’s powered by batteries. Heck, if you can only sleep on a 20-pound air mattress when you’re outdoors, bring it along as well.

Choose a Camp Site Close to Home

This is especially important if it’s your first time to go camping with baby. You can always go just a little but farther away as you become more experienced. A nearby camping location is great for newbies because you always have the option to just easily bail out if it becomes too difficult for you.

You should also know where the nearest emergency healthcare services are. That way, you’ll know where to go to if there’s a medical problem. Also, find out where the nearest grocery stores are, as well as the restaurants close by. Find out if there are also nearby inns you can book if you want a time-out from camping.

Pick a Developed Campground

pick a developed campground

Maybe as your baby gets much older you can pick more challenging campsites where you’re basically living in the wild. But if you’re taking a baby camping then you really don’t need extra challenges if you can help it. This is especially important to remember if you’re a newbie.

So for your first time, you may want to choose a campsite with toilets and running water, along with picnic tables. Fire rings will be nice too.

Another great option is the availability of trash cans, where you can just throw in your dirty disposable diapers. All these will most likely make your first camping experience an enjoyable one, while their absence increases the chances of disaster.

Keep It Brief

If you’re a newbie, you’ll find that camping with babies will present a wide range of challenges as more time passes by. So keep your camping stay short, although it shouldn’t feel too short that it doesn’t feel fulfilling. A nice time frame for first-time camping with infants is to schedule a stay for 3 days and 2 nights.

Of course, as you become more experienced you can extend the length of your stay. But for the first time camping with a baby you’re better off with a short stay.

Bring Lots of Adults

It doesn’t have to be just mom and dad with the baby, and that’s really important to keep in mind when you also have your older kids to deal with. So bring in their grandpas and grandmas, along with a bunch of uncles and aunts. You really want to increase that adult-to-kids ratio.

These adults help as your pack mules, since they’re able to carry more gear. In addition, if you need to take a rest dealing with the kids (or if you want some romantic alone time with your spouse) then there are adults who can baby sit for you. Just remember that just because you’re baby camping doesn’t mean you can’t have some adult fun too.

Make Friends with Your Neighbors

After all, your baby may decide to cry all through the night and you may end up with your neighbors annoyed with you and your family.

But chat with them beforehand and give them a heads up, and in all likelihood they’ll be more understanding. They may even be excited for you if it’s your first time tent camping with a baby, and they may have lots of tips for camping with a baby to share.

Of course, it may be better to just walking a bit farther away so you don’t have neighbors too near your campsite. Courtesy works both ways, and you should also keep in mind that other families want to enjoy themselves too.

Disregard Your Home Schedule

While you may have your own feed schedule at home, those rules are set aside when you go camping. You may have to feed the baby a bit more frequently, because even the smallest hint of dehydration can make your baby fussy and they may end up having trouble sleeping.

As for the baby sleeping schedule, the SOP rules are not in effect either. Let the baby sleep and you may have to find breakfast elsewhere so you won’t disturb the infant.

Baby Food

If your baby is old enough for solid food, you can always try camping meals and freeze-dried food for the baby. Energy bars, though, aren’t ideal. You’ll also want meals that are low in sodium because babies don’t really digest salt all that well. However, for most babies milk should probably suffice.

Let the Kid Explore

If you’re camping with a one year old, then they may be old enough for them to crawl all over the place. Some babies even skip the crawling stage and go right to walking. Either way, let them enjoy themselves and crawl or walk with you right beside them.

Babies are natural explorers, as they’re always curious. It doesn’t matter if you’re at an expensive or affordable campsite for them. Just let them free to explore the various sights and textures all around them. Let them play on the ground.

If they get dirty, then that’s just a fact of life for your baby. A little dirt won’t hurt them. Of course, you may want them to wear tough crawling pants so they don’t scratch themselves on pieces of rock. You also want to make sure they don’t put in dangerous items in their mouth. Be on the lookout for bee hives, ant colonies, and standing water where there may be lots of mosquitos.

But you have to accept that their cheeks will get smudged with dirt and they’ll have dirt under their fingernails.

Pick a Spot for Baby Relaxation

You can’t carry your baby all the time. Sometimes you just need to put them in a stroller and let them be. Just pick a good place to park them.

This spot should be roomy enough so that you can put in your stroller there. Then you can recline it to an almost flat position so your baby can take their naps during the day. Make sure it’s also under the shade.

Make it a place where you can easily monitor your baby when you’re busy doing something else at camp. This should also be a spot where they can watch all your family’s daytime camping activities while they’re at a safe distance. For a baby, watching you guys chop wood, cook food, and wash dishes can be just as entertaining as watching TV.

See If You Can Bring a Nightlight

bring a nice gentle lamp in with you in the tent

Even adults can sometimes feel unnerved when the lights go out and it is pitch black at the camp. Your baby may feel the same way. Besides, many parents don’t feel at ease when they can’t monitor their baby and have their eyes on them. When you’re taking baby camping, it can make you anxious if you can’t see them.

So bring a nice gentle lamp in with you in the family tent. It should be soft enough to let people inside sleep. A harsh light just won’t work, as it can keep everyone from getting a good night’s sleep.

However, your nightlight should still be bright enough that the inside of the tent is all lit up and you can see the baby. If you have to move around, you can do so without bumping into things. Maybe you can have a dimmable lamp right by your bed, so you can carry it with you if you have to move.

Relax

After all is said and done, what you have to remember is that camping is supposed to be fun for you too. This means you can’t stress yourself out worrying about every little thing. Babies tend to pick up on your stress so you need to relax for your sake and for the baby too.

Kids are generally tougher than some people think, and all they really need is milk, diapers, and warm clothes.

Besides, you should have a plan B when you have enough. Your campsite should be near your home, so you can just get back home if you’ve had enough. Or else you can try to rent an inn near your campsite.

But in all likelihood, camping with a newborn can actually be a lot of fun for you and for the baby too! Sure, things can go wrong, you’ll forget some piece of infant camping gear, and some things may not go as planned. But if no one’s seriously hurt, then laugh at the mistakes. Remember, you can pack it up if you have to. But chances are that you won’t have too, especially when you keep all these tips in mind.

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