Things to know when camping with babies
As you may have noticed by now, one of our family’s favourite pastimes has been spending time outdoors, whether it be at the beach, hiking, or going on camping trips together. We love spending time in nature and enjoying the beauty of the world around us.
Now, that being said, there were certainly times when these outings required a considerable amount of additional prep time and patience, and this was mainly when our children were babies. So, if one has to go through so much extra trouble when camping with a baby, why attempt it at all?
This post is part of our camping & outdoor adventures series on Our Globetrotters Family Travel Blog
Kids a little older? Head over to our Toddler Camping advice page
Why go camping with a baby?
Well, the biggest reason for our family was that we didn’t want our lives to be put on hold simply because we had an infant. Sometimes new parents feel like if they disrupt their baby’s normal routine in any way, or if they stray a mile or more from home, the world will end.
I’m here to tell you that life does indeed go on if this happens, and it often opens up opportunities to strengthen family bonds that would otherwise be missed.
Another reason we recommend camping with babies is that it’s a valuable way to help your bub adapt to changes in the world around him or her. For example, I never shied away from making a peep of noise while my babies were napping because I wanted them to develop a tolerance for the predictable level of chaos that usually surrounded our home.
I apply this same mentality to experiences like camping and going to the beach. Your baby is part of your family. It is normal and safe to include them in what you enjoy doing.
If you’re still reading at this point, I hope it’s because we’ve convinced you to give camping with your baby a solid go. We’ve compiled a list of baby camping gear and tips to make your outdoor experience as stress-free as possible because we know that experience is most valuable when it’s shared with others.
What To Consider When Camping with Baby
It may be tempting to plan a grand camping trip with your baby at a faraway national park, but we strongly recommend a few practice runs first. This could be something as simple as pitching your tent in your backyard if you have the space or spending the weekend at a nearby campsite.
Krista Langlois from Fatherly also suggested this, saying:
“A weekend of car camping within an hour or two’s drive is a perfect way to ease into your new camping routine.”
You also want to pick a campsite with a nearby bathroom and other basic amenities for your first time camping as a family. There are bound to be some unforeseen challenges the first several times, so being able to access bathrooms, showers, and especially a washer/dryer can alleviate several stressful situations.
Length of Driving Time
To go along with location, you want to make sure that your first several times camping with a baby are not hours away from home. A long drive will leave both you and baby exhausted and irritable before you even unload the tent. Local campsites can provide enough of a sense of “away-ness” while still being close enough to home in case of an emergency (or just a strong desire for your own bed).
Based on personal experience, we strongly recommend over-preparing in terms of packing enough clothing and extra servings of formula or breastmilk. Babies are infamous for ill-timed blowouts and spit-ups, so several extra onesies are a practical addition to your camp bag.
Camping with babies is time-consuming enough without also having to flawlessly execute elaborate meals. You’re going to be tired enough at the end of the day, and there is no guarantee that you’ll be getting a normal amount of sleep.
That being said, simple is best when it comes to meal planning. Joey Holmes at Cool of the Wild shares this tip regarding meal planning for camping:
“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.”
If there’s one thing that Pinterest excels at, it is recipes for any situation imaginable. I have definitely gotten several easy meal ideas for camping, and it really is a life-saver for someone who has little to no experience cooking over campfires.
Check out our Pinterest camping & outdoors board here
We know firsthand how exciting the thought of spending a night under the stars with your baby can be, and we also know how easily those dreams can turn to disappointment when things don’t go as planned. The most important thing to remember is that whatever happens, it is not the end of the world.
Tip: If you spend one night camping with your bub and everyone wakes up exhausted and miserable, it’s OK to cash in your chips and head home. Don’t try to force everyone to have a good time if it’s just not going to happen this particular time. Take note of what went awry and try to plan differently for the next camping trip.
Items You Need for Camping With Baby
These are the items that we will also pack when camping with a baby – read on for our complete downloadable family camping checklist!
Baby Camping Essential #1: A Baby Carrier or Hiking Backpack
The great thing about babies is that you can carry them everywhere. They’re very portable. The downside of babies is that you…carry them everywhere. In order to save your back and provide yourself some well-deserved relief, you’ll need some added support.
This is why a baby carrier or hiking backpack tops our list of baby camping gear. We’ve mentioned before how much we’ve loved our Ergobaby, and the Ergobaby Omni 360 is great for all seasons (with the appropriate clothing, of course). We especially love the lumbar support, which you will appreciate on your walk to the campsite. The LÍLLÉbaby 360° is also an option, as it has many of the same features that make the Ergobaby so versatile.
Tip: As much as we recommend baby carriers like the Ergobaby, please do keep in mind that they are not as practical for serious hiking trips. Frameless carriers do offer a good amount of support, but your shoulders and lower back will eventually begin to feel fatigued after an hour or so on the trail. If you and your family are planning on camping and hiking regularly, it’s wise to invest in a quality baby hiking backpack.
In terms of camping gear for babies, hiking backpacks are on the expensive side. They’re also geared towards older babies who can sit up and toddlers. However, we would recommend starting with a lower-priced option such as the ClevrPlus Cross Country Baby Backpack and eventually upgrading to a more expensive toddler hiking backpack.
You can see our complete guide to toddler carriers & hiking backpacks here
Baby Camping Essential #2: Baby Camping Chair
A baby camping chair is also an absolute necessity anytime you embark on a camping trip. You’ll want several safe spaces for your bub to be able to sit, eat, and play. This gives him/her a sense of independence and (more importantly) gives you a break from the constant carrying. At some point, other people in your life will also need your attention.
Tip: There are several baby camping chair options, but we strongly recommend a standalone chair instead of a booster-style seat. This is mainly for convenience. Instead of lugging an extra chair and the booster seat to your campsite, you can just fold up the camp chair and go. It’s much easier, and “easy” is the magic word when it comes to camping with babies.
We’ve found that the best all-around camp chair for babies is the Baby Delight Go with Me Chair. Its most appealing feature to us was that it “grew” with our children, so they were able to use it for several years. The included sun canopy provides shade, and the five-point harness keeps babies snug and secure during mealtimes. We also love that it weighs less than five pounds. Trust us–the lighter your pack is, the better!
Baby Camping Essential #3: Travel Bottle Rack
Whether your baby is breastfed expressed milk or formula-fed, your baby camping gear should include a method of cleaning and drying bottles and their components while camping. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate setup, but it helps to have a designated area for clean bottles.
Tip: Make sure to throw a package of sanitising bottle wipes into your camping bag as well. While these aren’t intended to clean the insides of bottles, they are useful should your bub drop their pacifier or bottle on the ground and need a quick external cleaning.
Our OXO Tot On-the-Go Drying Rack with Bottle Brush has been all we’ve needed while camping. It has a bottle brush stand and silicone tines to keep everything elevated and as clean as possible. It’s very compact and versatile enough to take with you on any kind of trip.
Baby Camping Essential #4: Travel Crib or Bassinet
A valid question voiced by tired mums everywhere is, where will my bub sleep while we’re camping, and how do I make sure that I can sleep too?
We can definitely help with the first part, but there really is no guarantee on the second as it depends on quite a few factors. If your baby is normally a good sleeper, this may continue throughout your camping trip. If the opposite is true, the same rule applies. We’re here to recommend some sleep solutions that will hopefully benefit everyone.
It would be nice if there were a magical baby camping sleeping bag available that guaranteed snoozes for everyone, but such a thing does not exist. Instead, we suggest either a portable bassinet like the Brica Travel Bassinet that will fit easily in your tent or a Playard/bassinet combo, such as the Pack and Play, OUNUO 2 in 1 Portable Playard.
Tip: We’re huge fans of ticking off as many baby camping gear boxes as possible in one go, which is why we love the Pack and Play OUNUO. You’re going to want some type of play-yard for baby while camping as well as a bassinet, and the Pack and Play combines the two in one easy-to-carry package. At just 8 lbs, it’s a lightweight, easily portable option that makes your life significantly easier.
If you’ll be putting baby to bed before you in a tent, you may also want to consider investing in a portable baby monitor. Over the crackle of the fire our shouts of older kids it can be hard to hear your baby even if only a few feet away. We look at some great portable baby monitors for camping over here.
You can read more of our portable sleep solutions here – taking you from baby through to toddler years
Baby Camping Essential #5: Baby Jumper
Whether you’re camping with babies in an RV or tent, a baby jumper always comes in handy as a way to both give you a break and entertain your bub. We’re huge fans of the Summer Pop-n Jump Portable Activity Center for several reasons.
First, It comes with a UV canopy to protect your baby’s sensitive skin. It also folds compactly into a travel bag that can be easily carried over your shoulder and pops open whenever you need it. Several toys are within easy reach for entertainment, and baby’s feet are protected with the attached floor mat. Finally, it’s easy to wash, dry, and will grow with your child through several camping seasons.
Baby Camping Essential #6: Swaddlers or Wearable Blankets
Keeping your bub snug and warm during your camping trip is important, especially if you’re camping in an area of high elevation or during late summer/early fall. If you’re camping during the summer, a lightweight swaddle like the Love to Dream Swaddle Up may be enough to keep your bub cool and comfortable.
Tip: I can’t say enough good things about the Love to Dream Swaddle UP. This is the only swaddle blanket that helped my youngest bub to sleep consistently during the night. There are several versions that transition your baby to sleeping with both arms out as well.
For cooler weather, pack several fleece onesies for your bub to wear under a swaddle or sleep sack. If you’re concerned these may not be sufficient, a breathable muslin blanket won’t add much weight to your pack, and you can use it to add an extra layer of warmth to your baby’s bassinet.
Baby Camping Essential #7: Stroller
Camping with babies and strollers are two things that will go hand-in-hand for the first several years of your child’s life. It may seem like just one more item you’re attempting to stuff into the trunk of your vehicle, but it really will make the trip to the campsite and walks on the trails much less stressful. For example, a baby carrier is great for shorter hikes, but strollers are more practical for longer treks (provided that the trails are well-groomed).
Tip: There will never be one stroller that will fit your family for the duration of your children’s lives, so don’t stress if you end up outgrowing the first stroller you buy for your baby – or end up with one for flying and one for domestic trips.
We recommend investing in a stroller like the Chicco Activ3 Air Jogging Stroller. It has foam-filled tires and suspension built for uneven terrain. With all of the extra baby camping gear, you will already be taking with you, a stroller with extra-durable tires will allow you to leave the air pump at home.
You can read more on our favourite double jogging strollers here, ideal for families that like to hit the trails
Baby Camping Essential #8: Mosquito Protection
Mosquitoes and other bug bites can be extra unpleasant for babies, so you’ll want to include baby-safe bug repellent when camping with babies. Avoid mosquito repellent containing DEET and other harsh chemicals that might irritate your baby’s skin.
We’ve found that Babyganics Natural Bug Repellent is quite effective against your garden-variety biting bugs, and it’s completely safe for your bub. The other option to consider is using a mosquito repellent patch, placing it somewhere baby can’t reach or scratch off – on their diaper can be a good choice!
Tip: If you’re uncomfortable leaving bug spray on your baby’s skin, try using a product like WaterWipes to gently clean sensitive skin. These also work very well for those messy nappy situations and the unavoidable dirty toes that go along with a night in the woods.
Baby Camping Essential #9: Portable Breast Pump
If you’re a breastfeeding mum, a portable breast pump is a necessary piece of camping baby gear. You could bring a manual pump with you, but this quickly becomes tedious if you’re camping for more than one evening.
I can’t say enough good things about the Spectra Baby S1 rechargeable breast pump. It’s incredibly efficient, and the pieces are easily washable. I’d recommend bringing an extra set of rechargeable batteries just in case, but as long as you charge before you go, it should last for several days.
You can find our complete guide to the best portable breast pumps here
Don’t forget you’ll need somewhere to store that pumped breastmilk! Whilst you can pack it in with the family cooler, we prefer keeping a separate insulated breastmilk cooler to keep the temperature regulated.
Baby Camping Essential #10: Bottle Warmer
Along with the necessary bottles and other baby camping gear, you’re likely going to want a travel bottle warmer. This will obviously need to be on the low-tech side unless you’re staying in a cabin with electricity.
Considering these factors, sometimes the simplest option is the best one. That’s why we love the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle Warmer. You can warm water over the campfire and store it in the bottle warmer’s compact container. It stays heated throughout the day and is conveniently there when you need it.
Tip: As with any bottle warmer, double-check to make sure that your baby’s bottles will fit inside the warmer before taking off to the campsite. Most warmers will accommodate standard-sized bottles, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
You’ll find a complete guide to our favourite portable bottle warmers for different situations here
More items to pack camping with a baby
It goes without saying these are just the essentials – there’s no such thing as travelling light when there’s a baby in tow so don’t forget these other essentials you will want to pack:
Weather/location dependent items for baby camping:
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