Introducing a small child to the wonders of the outdoors is something many new parents look forward to. But, the prospect of camping with a baby can be a bit daunting, even for experienced campers. Here are some tips for how to camp with your baby and still have a good time:
- Choose the right location: For your first outing, pick a place that’s not too far from home and offers some basic amenities, like a bathroom. And, if you can, find a shady campsite that’s not too close to others.
- Bring a large tent: Bringing a large tent gives you space to spread out and even put a portable crib/play yard if you have one. Most of all, try to be flexible and understand that your nights will probably be a little different than at home.
- Keep baby’s meals simple: Breastfeeding is possibly the simplest solution, but if your baby uses a bottle or eats solids you can still go camping. Make sure you have access to clean water for mixing formula and try convenient squeeze packs of pureed food or maybe some of what you’re having for dinner if your baby is already eating solids. (But camping isn’t the place to introduce new foods.)
- Dress baby in layers: Dress yourself and your baby in layers so you’re ready to adapt to changing weather. When it comes time to sleep, add a cozy sleep sack or a fleece bunting for warmth.
- Protect yourself and your baby from bugs and sun: Bug repellent and sunscreen are generally not recommended for babies younger than 6 months old, so look for other methods of protection, like wearing long sleeves and pants, using an umbrella to block the sun and putting on a bug net.
- Portable power station:The production of baby food requires a live cooker, so a portable power station may be an option to consider.
Where to Go Camping with a Baby
Many of the places you’d consider camping as an adult are suitable for bringing a baby along. That means state parks, national parks and private campgrounds are all reasonable options. As you narrow down your choices, here are some tips:
- Limit driving time: If the thought of camping with a baby seems daunting, then don’t add a long car trip to the mix. For your first family outing, eliminate the stress of travel and choose a campsite that’s close to home. You won’t have to get a super early start to make it to your destination, and if things don’t go as planned while camping you can call it quits without having invested hours of driving time. If you want to eliminate driving altogether, set up the tent in your backyard to give family camping a test run only feet from you house.
- Choose campsites with amenities: A campsite with a bathroom and playground nearby is probably not your vision of a true wilderness excursion, but those things can be very convenient with a baby in tow, especially during your first outing or two. When you’re more comfortable with camping as a family, you can head farther afield.
- Try to get distance from other campsites: If you’re making reservations ahead of time, try to find a site that has a little distance between it and the neighboring sites. The extra space can make the whole experience feel a bit more remote and help reduce your worry about noise issues.
- Seek shade: Keeping little ones out of direct sun is an important step in protecting them from UV rays, so if you can, choose a shady spot. (Read more about sun protection below.)
Tips for Sleeping in a Tent with a Baby
Let’s be real: Getting a solid night of sleep with a young baby at home can be challenging enough. Add all the newness of a camping trip and there’s a good chance you and your little one will be up a few more times throughout the night than is usual. Try to take this in stride (and bring along a little extra coffee for the morning).
Here are some tips for handling sleep while camping:
- Be flexible: Every family has its own way of working on sleep with a baby, and it’s up to you to decide how you’ll handle that while camping, but know this: Camping is going to disrupt your normal nighttime routine. Try to be adaptable and understand that you might have to take a break from any sleep training techniques you’ve been employing at home so that you and your baby can get through the night. For example, you might have to allow your little one to stay up later than normal until it gets dark or nurse more frequently in the middle of the night for comfort.
- Bring a big tent: If you have a big family camping tent, bring it. You’ll appreciate having extra space to spread out and get comfortable. And a big tent gives you room to use a portable crib/play yard (see next tip).
- Use a portable crib/play yard: This is an especially good idea if your baby is used to sleeping in a portable crib/play yard (and if you have a tent that’s large enough to fit it). The familiarity of the crib may help your little one settle down and stick to the nighttime routine. And even if you don’t use it for sleep, the crib can come in handy when you need to contain your mobile baby while you cook dinner.
- Bring a few favorites from home: Almost everything in the outdoors is a toy to your little tot, so don’t feel like you have to bring along every item from home. But, packing a few special things, like a stuffed animal and some books, can help comfort your baby in the new environment.