Camping with Your Baby

Many avid campers believe that the birth of a new baby signals the end of their days roasting hotdogs over open flames and sleeping under the stars. With careful planning and some new equipment, this doesn’t have to be the case. Camping with your baby is not only possible, it can also be a lot of fun for your entire family.

When to Go

There is a “golden time” in your baby’s first year, typically between three and six months of age, that is the best time to ease your new family back into camping. It’s best to wait until your baby no longer has his days and nights mixed up, so you all can get some good rest and his cries won’t disturb the other campers. If your baby is breastfed, your trip will be more enjoyable if you wait until breastfeeding is established and you’ve worked through any major problems. During the second quarter or your baby’s first year, colic is usually gone, you’ve got your new role as mom or dad down pat, and, most importantly, your bub is still immobile.

If your baby is already crawling or walking, don’t despair. You will just need to do a bit more preparation and pay a bit closer attention.

What to Take

Camping with your baby does require some different gear, but nothing terribly expensive or complicated. The goal is to keep your bundle of joy fed, warm, and dry.

If you are used to sleeping under the stars sans tent, it’s time to settle for a tent with a skylight. Babies do need to be protected from the elements, including rain and wind. Find one that is big enough for all of you to fit in along with any essential gear you will need during the night. Dress your baby in a season-appropriate sleep sack (I like cotton for warm nights and fleece for cooler temperatures) and place him in a co-sleeper like the Snuggle Nest.

During the day, you will need a safe place to put your baby. A pack-n-play is a good, safe place for baby to play and some have the added benefit of an attached changing table. The disadvantage is it is big and bulky, taking up a lot of space in your vehicle and your campsite. A bouncy seat is another, smaller alternative. The cheapest and easiest thing is a soft blanket laid on a patch of ground that is free of rocks and sticks.

It’s nice to have something to carry your baby in during hikes and just around the campsite. A baby sling like the Maya Pouch or the New Native Baby Sling works well, especially with very young infants. For long hikes with older babies, you may want to invest in a backpack carrier, like the ones make by Kelty. They are worn just like a backpack, come with an attached diaper bag, and have available accessories like mosquito netting and rain hoods.

Feeding your baby doesn’t need to be an ordeal. Breastfeeding while camping is just as easy as breastfeeding at home; no special equipment required. If your baby drinks formula, you will need to bring along safe drinking water, formula, bottles, and some way to heat them. Car bottle-warmers that plug in your vehicle’s cigarette lighter can take up to twenty minutes to reach the correct temperature. The easiest way to heat a bottle when camping is to place the full bottle in a pan of water over a propane camp stove. If your baby eats solid food, a booster seat or travel highchair can be convenient, but isn’t necessary. Baby can eat while sitting in your lap if necessary.

What to Do

You can do almost everything you did before your baby was born! Hiking is fun for babies; they love the changes in scenery. Just make sure that you have enough diapers, formula or food (if needed), and some sunscreen. If you like swimming, pack some swin diapers, sunscreen, and a hat for your munchkin. At night, your baby will love watching the dancing flames of the campfire from your lap, and, in the morning, he will get a kick out of watching the sunrise with you.

The Bottom Line

Camping with your baby doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. With some easy changes, a little extra gear, and a smidgen of bravery, you can enjoy the great outdoors as you did before. And, if all else fails, there’s always a Motel 6 just a short drive away.

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