Camping with babies and kids is such a good way to connect with your children in nature. With little distraction from daily life and errand list, camping allows youth use be.
If this is your first time camping with your kids, be prepared with these tips, list of things to bring, and things to look out for. The most important thing is that you are relaxed and don't stress.You are leaving your home and normal routine, so don't expect things to go exactly as they do at home. If you are adaptable and enjoy the change of pace and go with the flow, you and your children will enjoy the experience so much more.
Camping with newborns and infants:
I get asked how early you can start going camping with your baby. This is so personal and it’s all your own comfort zone. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing because every parent has their own parenting style—so follow your own instincts.
For us, we took our youngest camping when she was about 3 weeks old. My philosophy was, we’re not sleeping anyway, so we might as well go camping! Here are some things that I found incredibly helpful and necessary while camping with a newborn:
A crazy creek: These are small fold up camping seats that are used for minimalist campers. After giving birth, I had no stomach muscles and needed the back support for middle of the night feedings, and this did the trick.
Something to separate you and your baby: We have a Dockatot Deluxe at home, so that’s what we use camping as well, but anything of that nature that is used for cosleeping is good to have. There are also travel bassinets that work and will be useful for camping in the later months as well. I recommend the Joovy Gloo and also the KidCo Peapod that's on the cheaper end.
To get your baby to adapt better to sleeping in a tent, it's better if they are used to what they are sleeping in. If they sleep in a Dockatot, bring a Dockatot. If you want to use the travel bassinet, have them sleep in it for a few nights to get them used to it.
Something to keep your baby warm: I honestly wouldn’t camp in really cold temperatures with a newborn--but again, that's my comfort zone. When we’ve gone camping with our newborn, we were dealing with 50-60 degree temperatures at night which is totally doable. With these temperatures, we put our kids in Baby Deedee PJs and their Travel Sleep Nest sleep sack.
If you are planning on going to really cold temperatures, Patagonia makes a really warm bunting for newborns, but it's pricey and won't fit for long. Northface makes some for infants and toddlers. I prefer this because it doubles as a snowsuit.
For infants and small toddlers, there is the Morrison Outdoors brand that makes toddler sleeping bags that are highly regarded and the best sleeping bags for babies on the market. They have a 20 degree sleep sack for babies 6-24 months and also a 20 degree sleep sack for kids 2-4 years old. This company gets a oldster because they are made to last for about 2 years which is nice when you're buying expensive gear.
A carrier: Whatever carrier or wrap you have, definitely bring that (as if you would forget). Your newborn will either be carried or hanging out in the tent. For infants, you can bring an outdoor blanket to put on the ground with a toy or two.
A warm nursing top: If you have to nurse at night, it's sometimes difficult to get yourself out of your sleeping bag and expose your skin to the cold. There is a great Merino Wool company called Iksplor that makes nursing tops made out of merino wool. These are useful not only for sleeping, but for hiking and being outdoors any time of day. They also make great merino wool clothes for babies, kids, and adults! Use code bornabackpacker20 for 20% off your order!
If you're interested in these tops, I got you 15% off using the code NIA15
A sound machine: If your baby is used to sleeping with a sound machine at home, this is something easy and small you can pack with you to better simulate life and sleep. at home. The sound machine we Leo and bring everywhere with us is the Marpac Hushh Portable White Noise Machine.
If you need a way to charge your electronics while you are camping or on the road, I highly recommend an AIMTOM Portable Power Station. We use ours all the time, even at home, and it comes in incredibly handy while camping.If you're looking for a power station that keep charge longer, we have the AIMTOM 540W Power Station.
Keeping your baby clean while camping:
If you are camping for a few days, you are going to want to figure out a way to keep your baby clean. They sleep better and stay warmer when they’re not covered in mud at night.
If there are no showers available in your campsite, set up a warm bath for them. We have these collapsible sinks for washing dishes and clothes in our camping box that we take with us.If you don't have these, I highly recommend getting at least one--they come in incredibly handy.
While we use them for dishes and washing clothes, these are also very helpful for washing infants. First, boil some water (we have a jetboil that boils water quickly and comes in handy when we make hot drinks). Put regular cold water in the tub then add the hot water. Be sure to feel the water and add more cold water if necessary to make it the perfect temperature for your babe. And voila! A nice warm bucket bath for your baby!
For towels, I always bring a microfiber quick dry towel while camping that will dry your baby off fast so you can get them warm and cozy in their pjs quickly. For older toddlers and kids, we also love our Advanced Elements solar shower or if you're serious about your showers, check out the Geyser Systems Portable Shower with a heater. We don't have this, but I have dreams about it. It has amazing reviews and everyone seems to love theirs. For privavcy I'd recommend a pop-up privacy tent like this one from Wolfwise.
Routines while camping
Don't expect to keep the exact same routine while your camping. If you have those expectations, you may leave your camping trip disappointed. What's important is creating a new normal and new routine for camping that your children can adapt to.
I think the key to it all is to not stress. Don't stress if your kids are staying up later, or their naps aren't as long, or they're waking up with the sun. Their schedule and routine will be right back at home waiting for them.
To do what you can to help your baby adapt to camping easier, here's a few things you can do:
Get them used to what they will sleep in at home. Whether it be a travel bassinet or a Pack n' Play or a Dockatot, if they are accustomed to sleeping in what they'll sleep in camping, the adjustment will go a lot smoother as everything won't be brand new.
Bring comforts from home. If your child sleeps with a sound machine, or a blanket, or a stuffed animal, definitely bring it.
If your child sleeps in a car or a hiking carrier, plan naps around long drives or hikes. Even though schedules are hard to keep up with while camping, biology is biology and your child will get sleepy and hungry at their usual times. Make note and plan your day accordingly.
If your child isn't used to co-sleeping, make sure you have a big enough tent to allow separation between you and your baby. Bring a portable crib so they have their own space.
Keeping bugs away:
If you're camping in an area with a lot of mosquitos and ticks, I highly recommend treating your tent, clothes, and shoes with Pemethrin. This is better than constantly spraying bug spray on you and your child. For bug spray recommendations, I feel like it's your comfort zone. For me, if I'm not in a place with mosquito borne illnesses, I stay away from deet and just use bug spray with picardin in it. Though I have those all natural bug sprays, I don't find them all that useful.
Tent and sleeping pads
If you're looking for a car camping set-up, I highly recommend getting a 6 person tent. This will give you plenty of room for your clothes, baby changing spot, a portable crib if you need it, and whatever else you need room for. REI's Kingdom 6 is a great tent and has a separator if your kids are used to sleeping on their own.
For a sleeping pad for yourself, I recommend the Thermarest Mondoking Sleeping Pads. These pads will keep you warm and so comfortable at night, I think people have the idea that air mattresses from home are the most comfortable thing to sleep on camping, and I couldn't disagree more. They aren't insulated to keep you warm and they seem to deflate through the night. So if it's all you have, that's fine, but if you can spring for some new pads, I'd go with good camping ones that will last forever).
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