SO HOW IS CAMPING with a baby? I am not an expert because my experience isn’t extensive, but I would love to share what we learned and what worked for us on our most recent trip on the road, where two of the weeks were spent in a tent.
Car camping with a baby 101:
FIRST I believe you have to have realistic expectations, after all a baby is ultimately that, a baby. They require a lot and are super needy little beings completely dependent on us. Don’t expect them to be super patient and or flexible with you or that jam-packed itinerary you have your heart set on. With that said, it is important to also have confidence in yourself and in them and remember that they are super resilient little beings, and in the end everything will be alright. Have a little faith. Think camping with a baby will be fun and it might just be. Think overwhelming thoughts and well, that just might just be.
SECOND plan and be prepared. Do your research . How many miles will you be driving per day? Are you just going one night? Two? Or more? How does your baby do in the car to begin with? How many stops do you have planned? Where are you going? Where are you staying? Basically really sit down ahead of time and plan out what getting there looks like because that is super important.
You want to get there feeling like you made the right choice, like you didn’t push it to much and are ready to set up camp. The last thing you want to feel is exhausted and regretting that you weren’t checking into a comfy hotel instead of your tent. If you are driving a long way, break it up. The last thing you want is a hysterical crying baby sitting in their poopy diaper and exhausted parents wishing they could disappear. You know your baby the best. Don’t try and do what someone else and their baby did, create the trip accordingly to the needs and desires of your family.
Nice and easy is the key.
Everything is a lot s l o w e r with a little one, so plan for it.
THIRD that brings me to the most important thing, the GEAR. Gotta get the gear, gotta get the gear (Portlandia reference ha ha ;)) Anyway, there are a lot of important items to keep in mind when camping with a baby. Depending on your lifestyle of course items will vary. I will share what we brought and what we did. Pick and choose what might work for your family:
a) TENT: TICLA Mojave 4 Highly recommend! This tent was the perfect size for us. The Mojave 4 person tent was spacious and gave us 360 views (4 windows) as well as a rooftop (mesh) view of the stars (if you don’t want the rain fly on of course). It has a large opening on either side giving you two options to enter/exit tent. It basically served as a large play-pin for us since we would zip open all 4 windows and open half-moon both side door flaps so that we could have full view of our baby when we were outside the tent and she playing inside with her toys.
It’s your home away from home, so you have to think about the whole package. This is part of the planning and research. What size of tent do you need? What will you be doing in the tent? Standing up? Hanging out? Or just a cave to crawl into at night? How many will be sleeping in the tent? One piece of advice that I would give is get a tall tent such as this one. Especially since a baby is involved. You will find yourself in that tent a lot. You will be standing up at all hours of the day/night. This tent allowed for that plus it’s still small enough to fit in a designated campsite.
I can’t say enough about how great this tent ended up working out for us. I was very pleased! Plus, this new company is pretty cool! Located in California, TICLA is bringing back cool car camping. All their stuff is stylish and practical and very easy to use! They are a very new company, check them out!!
b) BED: Queen Size memory foam mattress (two 2 inch). They were a handful to roll up each and every time but so worth it! We layered two making a total of 4 inches of memory foam on top of our individual size air camping pads. We basically brought our bed. Favorite pillows, sheets and down comforter. Why not right? When car camping, if you have the room, comfort is the key, bring it all! 🙂
c) BED for baby: We don’t co-sleep so for us, it was important to bring the PACK-N-PLAY for Penelope to have a safe and comfortable place to sleep. It worked great for naps but was a challenge at night. But I knew nights were going to be challenging because at home she was still waking up 1-3 times a night to nurse. The tent was roomy enough for our queen size bed plus her pack-n-play but because of the fact she was sleeping right next to us (mainly mommy) instead of her own room, she woke up multiple times at night wanting to nurse. So nursing mommas, fyi if your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night at home he/she might be waking up more frequently in the tent. Especially if the neighbors are loud and or if it’s cold etc. Being at campsites where you have neighbors at a close proximity I couldn’t let her fuss too much so I would give her the boob and back to sleep she would go. Find whatever works. I would make sure she was layered up really well plus her sleep sack to help prevent her from being cold and waking up. Changing her diaper at night was also super challenging because of all the layers and being so cold. I tried preventing that unless she was soaked or pooped. When she woke I would nurse her and put her back down. Thankfully that usually worked.
CLOTHES: Where are you going? What season is it? Very important basic questions to have in order to pack the right clothing. Our road trip was in August through California, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon so we had to pack for both hot desert climates as well as PNW wet and cold weather. We brought a lot. I always figure you can’t go wrong with options but it all depends if you have the room. For baby, don’t forget plenty of PJ’s. They go through them so quickly and the last thing you want to do is be stuck without them or feeling like you have to rush and find a laundromat. Also, we brought Costco size baby wipes and diapers. Before you go, make a list of your baby’s favorite everyday things, from clothes to food to toys. We also brought her main comforts such a favorite teddy, books and white noise giraffe.
FOOD: Since our trip was a little over a month, we planned out our meals. We made a calendar with our itinerary and made sure to bring meals for the first two weeks that we were camping. We found it worked pretty well. The nights between locations and new campsite we would stay at a hotel to clean up and recharge, so we’d end up going out to eat then and not use our camping food. We also found that as much as we wanted to make our baby food along the way, it was easier and less messy to purchase the squeeze pouches or jars along the way. It was expensive, but in the end worth it. Our baby always had something easy and available. If we had to sit in the back seat with her while one of us drove, we could easily feed her a already made meal. We used the Bumbo chair as our traveling high chair. It worked out great! She used it as a lounging chair too when we needed to do something without her. We would just plop her in it and be baby free. It was only a short-term solution being recently new to crawling she was eager to explore. A mobile baby sure added a whole new challenge!
CARRIERS: Ergo Baby. That’s it. We used it for everything. When setting up the tent, preparing food, hiking, you name it. We have the ERGObaby Performance Carrier and love it. We wanted to bring our BOB stroller for runs and jogs with her but there was only so much room so we opted out for the Ergo carrier vs. the Bob and we are pretty happy we did. Also gave us an excuse to go on individual hikes and runs without baby 🙂
Well, that’s all I can remember! I am sure I forgot to mention a lot of the important things, but basically plan ahead, be prepared and be realistic. Having a baby in your life doesn’t mean you have to put the things you love the most on hold, it just means you have to do things differently and a lot s l o w e r. It isn’t so much about me me me anymore, but we and us and family. It is true when people tell you your life is going to change when you have a baby. It totally does! It’s true. But remember, that isn’t a negative thing. Change is good. Change is different. It takes time getting used to it, but if it’s something you really want, nothing else matters, you will make it work. Cheers to many more camping trips and road trips and overall family adventures! 🙂