If you’re a frequent camper, chances are you’re aching to get back to your favorite travel lifestyle — even after you’ve just become a parent. (Congratulations, by the way!)
But camping with a baby can present some unique challenges and obstacles even for the savviest camper… and can be downright overwhelming for a first-timer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for your little one to grow up a bit before you head out into the wilderness. You can start to pass on your passion for the outdoors while they’re still very young! Although it takes a little bit of planning, camping with babies is totally possible and can help you raise an eco-conscious, outdoorsy family… and we’re here to walk you through all the specifics.
From figuring out your sleeping arrangements to deciding how to dress Junior for the outing, here’s what you need to know about taking a baby camping.
How do you camp with a newborn?
Learning how to camp with a baby is just like learning to camp in the first place: it takes some practice and experience, and some insider info from folks who’ve done it before.
But a successful camping outing with your baby starts with the most fundamental decisions about the trip: where are you going? And what kind of camping accommodations are we talking about?
After all, “camping” can refer to a whole wide array of travel styles. Car or tent camping is a totally different experience than glamping in a decked-out yurt or taking an RV. For the purposes of this post, we’ll cover what you need to know if you’re tent camping with a baby… but we do want to point out that RV camping could make the process a whole lot easier. 😉
All jokes aside, traveling in an RV takes a lot of the guesswork out of what we’re about to discuss. Basics like finding a clean and reliable source of water and having a nearby bathroom can make all the difference when it comes to taking your baby camping, and an RV makes those processes super simple. (After all, you’ll have your very own private bathroom on board, not to mention a kitchen sink and refrigerator!)
RVing also gives you space to create appropriate secondary sleeping spaces; it’s easy to set up the crib in the RV living room, for instance. RVshare’s peer-to-peer vehicles come in a wide array of sizes and styles and are often far more affordable than the rental RVs available from the major rental agencies; click here to see the RVrentals available in your area today.
At what age can a baby go camping?
Alright, now that we’ve gotten that shameless plug out of the way… let’s dive into the specifics of camping with your baby. We’re starting with one of the most common questions: at what age can a baby go camping, anyway?
While you might think that camping with a newborn is impossible, it can be done — under the right circumstances. For instance, one family explained on Fatherly how they successfully took their five-week-old infant on a camping trip.
But the younger and more helpless your baby is, the more planning and effort will need to go into your camping accommodations. For instance, it’s critical to ensure your baby is protected from insects and the sun, but you shouldn’t use bug sprays or sunscreen on a child until they’re a few months old, which means you’ll have to be sure there’s enough shade coverage or stick with mosquito netting.
Generally, you’ll want to keep the following items in mind when planning a camping trip with a baby of any age — each of which we’ll go into in more detail further below.
- Choose a location close to home and which offers as many amenities as possible.
- If you’re tent camping, go big — and consider upgrading to an RV.
- Plan meals ahead of time, and keep it simple!
- Dress your baby properly and ensure they’re protected from the elements.
Let’s sart with the very first topic: figuring out where to go.
Where to Go Camping with a Baby
Choosing a camping location is always a fun, and admittedly sort of overwhelming, task. There’s so much to keep in mind, from figuring out which destination will offer the best activities and attractions to deciding what’s feasible and affordable given your budget and time allotment.
But when you’ve got a baby in the mix, things get just a little bit more interesting — because choosing the right campsite can go a long way towards making your family-oriented trip more doable.
The basic rules of thumb are simple: choose a place that’s relatively close to home and well-developed, and once you arrive, look for a secluded and shady campsite.
By staying close to home, it won’t be that big of a deal if you have to bail because it’s just not working. It also limits your driving time, which can be extra stressful for baby and driver alike.
You want a developed campground, as opposed to a backcountry campsite, because having access to running water and a bathroom is a godsend when you’re traveling with an infant. If you’ve really got your heart set on roughing it, at least try out camping in a developed locale once or twice before you venture further out into the wilderness. (Keep in mind, though, that this guideline doesn’t rule out state parks, national parks, and other public camping locations! Many of these do have basic amenities, though you may not have water or electricity at your individual site.)
At any campground, choosing a site that’s got some distance from your neighbors will help you feel more comfortable about the inevitable noise that just comes with having kids. (Chances are those neighbors will also be thankful about your choice.) And choosing a campsite with shade is imperative for keeping your kiddo safe from the sun’s UV rays, especially if they’re too young to wear sunscreen.
Tips for Sleeping in a Tent with a Baby
If you’re tent camping, you may be wondering what the sleeping arrangements are going to be like. Well, this is why we suggest choosing the largest tent possible; you’re likely going to want to invest in a portable crib to give your child a safe and secure place to sleep. (As far as staying warm, yes, baby sleeping bags are a thing and can be used for camping, but you want to make sure it’s the right size — and never bring an infant into your own sleeping bag with you! It would be too easy to accidentally injure or suffocate the child in your sleep!)
Having a large tent allows you to set up your portable crib without feeling cramped, and will generally make for a more relaxing experience. Again, keep in mind that RVing makes this part of the process a whole lot easier; you won’t have to worry about making sure your portable crib will fit inside your tent’s dimensions.
Speaking of portable cribs, we really like Graco’s Travel Lite Crib, which also converts into a play yard and folds down small for easy storage. It’s got wheels, too, which makes it easy to maneuver, and it’s available for just about $100 on Amazon. Baby sleeping sacks and sleeping bags come in a wide range of sizes and styles, including this weatherproof stroller version from Lemonda which could make a helpful camping accessory.
Even after you’ve gotten the sleeping arrangement situation figured out and settled, keep in mind that camping with a newborn is still not going to be perfect. Chances are you’re going to be up during the night, just like you are at home — and you may need to forego normal bedtimes and routines. Stressed infants might want to nurse more often during the evenings or be harder to put down when they’re in a less familiar environment. Bringing some familiar toys and other favorite items, like a security blanket, can help to minimize the stress of transitioning to a camping bed. No matter what, just remember that it’s a limited time engagement and a special circumstance, which can help you maintain your patience and hopefully enjoy the experience.
Meal Planning for a Baby While Camping
Alright, we’ve got sleep covered; what about food? How do you ensure your baby stays well nourished on your camping trip?
Chances are you’re already planning meals for the rest of the family, and as you likely already know, one-pot meals make this a whole lot easier. Favorites like mac & cheese, chili or stew are easy to create and clean up after, and are hearty enough to keep a smile on the whole family’s face. (Psst: looking for more camping-friendly recipes? Check out this list of tasty treats that are easy to whip up in an RV, and this list of campfire-cooked delicacies!)
As far as baby goes, you’ll likely want to keep the menu very similar to what it’s like at home. For newborns and infants, that might mean breast-feeding, but if you use formula, this is where that running water and bathroom situation come in handy. You’ll want to ensure you’re able to keep everything clean, including boiling bottles to sterilize them, and potable water is essential for mixing up the formula.
If your baby is a little bit older, this part gets a little bit simpler. There are tons of convenient, pre-processed, child-friendly foods you can easily add to your camping bag, including squeezable baby foods made of real, whole food ingredients. If you’re planning on cooking for the rest of the family, a young child might enjoy scrambled eggs, beans and rice, and finger foods like fruit — cut up ahead of time by mom or dad, of course. The most important rule of thumb: try to keep things as similar to “normal” life as possible. This isn’t the time to introduce new foods… your kid already has enough new stuff to deal with on their first camping trip!
How to Dress Your Baby for Camping
Appropriate clothing isn’t just a matter of decency when you’re outside — it’s a matter of safety. Keeping your kid in the right duds will keep them safe, dry, and comfortable.
Dressing a baby for camping is similar to dressing an adult. You want to avoid cotton, which may seem breathable and comfy, but also traps moisture next to the skin in a way that can be dangerous in wet conditions. Just as you dress yourself in layers, dressing your baby in layers helps you adjust their clothing levels to help regulate temperatures depending on what the weather is doing.
Keep in mind that your baby is sensitive to the sun, and again, may be too young for use of sunscreens — though if they’re old enough, definitely use sunscreen in order to help keep your kid safe! We recommend a kid-friendly brand like Thinkbaby, which utilizes wholesome ingredients and is better for the environment, too.
But if you’re relying solely on shade and other physical barriers to keep your kiddo’s skin soft and safe, consider long-sleeved garments and pants, which will limit skin exposure. That said, you also want to avoid overdressing your baby, which could make them uncomfortably hot — and that’s something to keep in mind even overnight, while the temperatures drop and you’re sleeping.
Last but not least: diapering! Here’s another moment where that nearby bathroom is going to feel like a blessing. You’ll want to diaper just as you do at home, with the same changing frequency and diaper type, too; if you utilize cloth diapers, bring along an airtight bag to store soiled ones until you’re able to take them home and clean them. Portable changing mats are a great way to ensure you have an easy and accessible place to change your kid’s diapers, though you can also use a blanket in a pinch.
Camping with a Baby: Checklist/Hacks
Let’s go over what we learned in this post, shall we?
- Choosing the right campsite is imperative when traveling with a child. You’ll want to stay relatively close to home, choose a campground with amenities to make your life easier, and give your neighbors some extra breathing room to shield against noise.
- If you’re tent camping, go big; consider upgrading to an RV so you don’t have to worry about it. You’re likely going to be utilizing a portable crib to ensure your kid sleeps through the night, and bringing extra toys, blankets, and other items from home makes the transition to the camping environment more comfortable. Although large enough tents exist, an RV makes this whole part of the process a lot easier… and also ensures you have temperature regulation, running water, and an on-board bathroom, which can open up more camping options than you’d otherwise have!
- Keep meals simple; you want to minimize the amount of difference between day-to-day life and the camping trip. Convenient, squeezable baby foods are a great tool, as are the simple meals you cook for your family at home which your baby is already familiar with. However, keep in mind that your child may still be more fussy during this strange new venture — including bedtime and mealtime alike.
- Dress your kid in moisture-wicking layers to keep them safe, dry, and UV-protected. Children are especially vulnerable to the sun, so combine wardrobe and shady campsite choice to help ensure they stay safe. You may also want to consider utilizing mosquito netting in order to combat insect bites, especially if your child is too young to use bug spray.
- Keep in mind that it’s just one adventure… and even if things go badly, you can always go home and try again when they’re a little bit older! Traveling with kids can be challenging at any age, but it’s especially tricky with infants… which is one reason we recommend spending your first camping trip relatively close to home. That way, if it goes truly badly, you can bail — and try again when your kid’s got a few more months under their belt.
Here’s to a whole new generation of outdoor lovers, and adventures filled with happy campers of all ages!
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