Camping with kids is one of those things that can be super stressful and takes loads of planning, but will (almost) always pay off and be a massive hit with the whole family. Camping with a baby on the other hand is a whole different ball game and shouldn’t be attempted unless you as parents are in love with camping yourselves. For gear heads however, it is the perfect opportunity to buy some awesome new baby camping gear and a huge new family camping tent! Any excuse right?! And if you are organised and relaxed, camping with a baby can actually turn out to be a game that may be surprisingly more pleasant to play than you might realise. For starters, babies don’t protest at every single decision you make about the day, just for the sake of protesting. And you don’t have to worry about them getting lost in the woods and falling out of a tree like you do with older kids. If your baby isn’t mobile yet, then you’ve immediately eliminated the stress of them trying to pick up burning logs, or play with that shiny new axe blade. And the slow pace of baby life gives you the perfect excuse for regular snoozes throughout the day. Sounds like bliss right?!
Well in theory yes. But as all parents will know and understand all too well, theory is one thing and real life is something entirely different. So if you have yet to leap into a world of outdoor living with your baby, then here are a few tips and ideas to help make your first trip camping with baby one to remember:
8 tips for camping with a baby
01Do a test run in the back yard
A night in the back yard may seem like all the adventure is being lost somewhat, but your baby won’t care two hoots about that. So long as it is comfortable and warm with a full belly and lots of cuddles, it’s happy days all round. Adventure has to start somewhere anyway! Set your family tent up as if you were camping out properly and try to stick with your normal going to sleep routine as far as possible. If things go pear shaped in the night and you’ve not quite cracked temperature control etc, then you can always head inside.
02Stay close to home
For your first trip camping with baby away from home, choose a campsite that’s not a million miles away. That way, if you’ve forgotten something vital you can always pop back for it. Equally, make sure that there is a food store or supermarket close by.
Yes, you might feel like one of those couples who just goes way to over the top on everything for the baby, but who cares? You probably won’t need half of the stuff you bring, and then you’ll know for next time. But for your first camping trip, the peace of mind you will get knowing you’ve got it all covered will help you relax and enjoy it all that much more.
04Apply all the usual ‘rules’ and routines
But try to be more flexible than usual if things don’t stick exactly to plan. Don’t forget that you’ve chosen to go camping as a holiday for you, and not your baby. Your baby won’t remember a thing. So if you are busy enjoying your hike or a day out, it won’t be the end of the world if your baby is 20 minutes late for nap time for one weekend.
05Work as a team
As parents, working together in everyday life is crucial. But in a camping scenario it is even more important. You will probably both be more tired than usual and there is always loads of chores on top of looking after number 1. So make sure you share the load.
06Plan easy camping meals
Try not to be tempted in thinking you can camp in the way that you did before being a parent. This equally applies to meal times. Choose quick and easy dinners that don’t require much attention. Campfire foil meals work well and minimise the washing up too. Or go for some easy one pot camping meals.
07Get lots of rest
Again, remember that you are on vacation and take rest when you need it. Snooze when baby is snoozing and enjoy the excuse of an early night in a cosy tent.
08Don’t be afraid to leave early
If the magical family adventure is turning out to be more of an endurance test, don’t be afraid to pack up and leave early. You will have learned a whole bunch from the one night camping out with your baby, so that next time will be much easier (if indeed there is a next time!).
Camping with a baby – sleeping
Consider how hard it is to get your own sleeping temperature right when sleeping in a tent. Then try to apply that to a tiny human that can only communicate through crying, smiling, screaming and laughing. Somewhat challenging!
Tip: Bring lots of extra blankets and put a hat and gloves on your baby. If you are worried about temperature control (cold and hot), set an alarm to check every hour.
Thankfully, there’s loads of baby camping gear that will help baby sleep as soundly in a tent as at home:
Put a soft floor down in your tent. It will provide an extra layer of insulation under the sleeping mattress, makes a good play area for baby to crawl around on, and also gives some protection if baby ends up rolling out of bed.
If your baby is still small, then bringing the mosses basket will work well. Just make sure you have insulation underneath the basket. Otherwise a travel cot is a good way to keep baby cosy and secure, with plenty of space for extra blankets if needed.
There are some huge benefits to co-sleeping whilst camping, especially keeping baby warm from your own body heat. But it’s not for everyone and can take some practice and getting used to. This Close and Secure Sleeper is a great way to get baby into your camping bed without the associated worry. Being close will make it much easier to regulate body temperature too.
Camping with a baby in cold weather
If you decide to camp in the cold with your baby, then you’ll need to constantly be on temperature watch, especially if your wee one isn’t very mobile yet. Dressing them in the right baby camping clothes is key and will make life much more pleasant for everyone.
Tip: If you are struggling to get your baby warm with clothing and layers, use your own body heat. Holding your baby close to you should soon help to raise the temperature.
Here are a few essentials for camping with a baby in cold weather:
Once baby is snuggled up in all the usual layers for winter outings, the addition of a fleece baby grow will keep things even cosier. A hood and built in mitts make sure nothing is left exposed to the elements. If only Patagonia made them in adult sizes!
Water resistant all in one suits are ideal for camping babies. They can roll, crawl and lie around in the mud and dirt to their heart’s content. And this insulated version is an absolute must if you are camping with a baby in cold weather, protecting them against the elements as well as cold and dirty ground.
A fleece hat avoids the inevitable irritation of wool. Choose one with ear flaps for extra warmth, and the ability to fasten under the chin. This heightens the chances of the essential head protection being kept in the right place for longer.
Fingers of tiny humans are often the first thing to get cold when the weather is on the chilly side. Choose mitts instead of gloves for ease and also better insulation. Waterproof? Even better. And with a nose wiper on the thumb? Essential!
Another must to keep the extremities of your baby as warm as the rest of the body. These fleece-lined booties are wind and snow resistant. And the rubber bottoms are at the ready – just in case cold weather camping is what it takes to inspire those first steps!
Camping with a baby in hot weather
Almost equally as tricky as being in cold conditions is camping with a baby in hot weather. Often the only respite from stifling conditions is getting into cold water. Your tent, although good for shade from the sun, will get far too hot during the day, so you’ll need a few other tricks up your sleeves.
Tip: Have a water spray gun or mini fan at the ready to help soothe your baby when things get too sticky.
Some essential baby camping gear for hot conditions:
An essential bit of camping gear for everyone, not just the baby. Make sure you set your sunshade in an area where it will benefit from as much through breeze as possible. And if there are trees around, then extra shade from them will also help hugely.
Most babies hate wearing hats, especially when they’re already too hot. So having one that can be secured under the chin will help keep the hat ripping tantrums at bay. A big wide rim is crucial to keep the sun off both your baby’s neck as well as face. And the added bonus of UV protection is also important.
Unfortunately, with hot weather camping often comes swarms of biting beasties that even us adults struggle to deal with. Make sure your wee one is protected during nap times or out in the stroller with a mosquito net.
Sometimes mosquitos manage to buzz their way inside even the best nets. So if nibbling on your baby is just too tempting for those flying pests, then it’s definitely worth trying these deet-free bracelets with natural oils that effectively repel insects.
Other toddler and baby camping gear
Whether you’re braving the chill or keeping it cool in the heat, there a some mega useful bits of baby camping gear that you won’t be able to live without. Items that will enable you to enjoy your trip out in the wild with your baby as much as you did before becoming a parent. Things to add to the baby camping list:
A great off road stroller means that your baby will be comfortable wherever you are and whatever you end up doing. Hiking in the woods, running in the park, negotiating the tent pegs in the campsite(!). And it will also double as the perfect solution to napping on the go leaving you the freedom to stay out all day, providing you’ve got the energy!
Osprey packs are some of the best around when it comes to comfort, durability and excellent quality. And making sure all parties are comfortable is the most important thing if you intend on getting really adventurous with your baby. Once you’ve got that perfect fit, your freedom out in the wild will be massively improved.
Having a dedicated space for your baby to be and play in is invaluable when camping – especially if they have started crawling. For hot weather camping these built-in mosquito screens also provide a good through breeze, and the optional canopy with UV protection creates a cool and shady den for baby.
Whether you’re spending the day chilling at the campsite, or hitting the trail for a wilderness picnic, a waterproof rug is a must. It will provide enough protection from the cold and damp of the ground for a good session of tummy time and is a great place for you to hang out with your baby too.
With the endless number of chores to be done when camping, it’s not always practical to leave your baby snoozing in the stroller or pack ‘n’ play whilst you get on with things. So pop them in a carry sling to join you whilst you work. Before you know it, that subtle encouragement will have them cleaning up after themselves in no time!
Great baby camping gear will definitely make your first camping trip with your wee one much easier. But much like parenting in general, the more relaxed you are about things, the more likely you are to enjoy it all. If things don’t go to plan then it’s not the end of the world, but all just part of the adventure. So however you decided to make camping with baby happen, may your whole family have a wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable time together.