Tips for Camping with an Infant

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Camping is one of our favorite summer activities to do as a family.  In fact, we always encourage people to go camping with their babies (it’s so much easier than the toddler phase).  We really think that you can do most things with kids, just slower and with more preparation.

baby playingoutside on family camping trip

Here are our top 5 tips for camping with an infant:

1.  Don’t bring too much baby “gear” when you go camping.

It’s really easy to get carried away when you start packing all of your babies things into the car.  I always find myself thinking “but what if I need this?”  I mean can I really cook dinner without my baby in the swing (and yes I totally put him in the swing EVERY night while I cook)?  What if he suddenly starts wanting to grab things or look around, should I bring all the baby toys?  Maybe this would be a good trip to try out the bumbo seat?  While all of these thoughts are running through my head, I have to constantly remind myself that I do not need these things.  On a camping trip, Andrew will always be there to tag-team Jimmy when he’s crying, and more often than not, he’s just calm and content being outside.  So what do we bring?  The baby carrier (a front pack until they have good head control), a blanket to lay the baby down on in the shade, and their car seat (which easily doubles as a seat to put your baby down in).

2.  Set up a good place for baby to sleep in your tent.

This can be one of the trickiest things to figure out.  Where should baby sleep?  We’ve tried several things and here’s what works best for us:
First, swaddle the baby in 2 large receiving blankets.
Second, put a small fleece blanket in their infant car seat.  Put the swaddled baby in there and wrap the remaining part of the blanket over baby.
Third, put the handle of the car seat up and drape a fleece blanket over the top, creating a little tent for the baby.  Then we crack open a portion by their head to let fresh air in.  On really cold nights, we sometimes put another blanket over their body to keep them warm. Make sure that your baby has their head and neck positioned well for good breathing too.

Another great option is to have the baby sleep in a down snowsuit like this one.

Because of the risk of suffocation, we don’t recommend putting an infant in a sleeping bag alone, but many parents prefer to sleep with their baby while camping which works well.  Pack-n-plays are okay, but take up a lot of room and are not as warm because cold air can get under them.  We recommend holding off on this until your baby is bigger and needs to be contained so they don’t run around the tent all night.

Once our babies are rolling around, I like to give them their own space and I prefer the Peapod.  It’s super compact, lightweight and takes up a lot less room than a pack-n-play.  We also take that whenever we travel and it really helps to have a consistent place for the baby to sleep so they settle down faster.
If your child is into the toddler years, taking a travel bed will make things so much easier once they get into that stage.

3.  Keep baby warm when you’re camping.

Babies have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature than adults do, so it’s important to keep them warm.  If they’re sleeping in a down snowsuit like this one, go ahead and leave it on until the weather gets warm.  Even during the summer, nights and mornings can get especially chilly.  Make sure to keep your baby warm with a hat, warm clothes, and socks.  We’ve found that footie pajamas work great with socks underneath them to keep toes warm, and socks on.  In addition, keep a blanket on hand to wrap baby up in for when the temperatures drop (we like fleece blankets for this). 

4.  Bring more clothes, diapers, and wipes than you think you need.

When bigger kids get dirty, you can always have them just wear their dirty clothes.  However, when a baby’s clothes get dirty, it’s usually poop.  Call me crazy, but I don’t really want him to wear those any more!  Sometimes babies can wear the same clothes for 2 days, and sometimes they have 5 blow-outs in a day.  Luckily their clothes are small, so pack a bunch, especially onesies.  Also, having enough diapers and wipes will do wonders for your piece of mind.  Besides, all those wipes will come in handy when your baby’s diaper has a blowout all over YOU!

5.  Relax and catch up on your sleep when you’re camping with a baby.

Believe it or not, camping can be a great time to catch up on your sleep.  If you go to bed when the sun goes down, it’s pretty likely that you’ll be getting more sleep than you do at home.  Take advantage of this, and go to bed early.  That way you will be able to relax, enjoy your trip with your baby, and go home rested!

In case you’re wondering when to take your baby camping, that ‘s really up to you and your comfort level.  We took Mason and Jimmy both at 1 month, but Chloe has a fall birthday so we didn’t take her until the following summer.

tent and baby playing outside
hiking with baby in mountains
carcamping baby bucket bath
baby camping bath in washtub

This post was originally published on July 23, 2012 and has been updated several times to keep the information and gear current.

37 thoughts on “Tips for Camping with an Infant”

  1. Super good advice on how to make a cozy bed for a baby! The fact that it doesn’t require anything extra to pack totally appeals to my inner minimalist 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree that taking a pack and play along isn’t that great, unless its in the summer probably. My son got to cold in it. I totally agree about the packing lots of clothes thing too. It seems that its important to take both warm and cool clothes, especially if your not sure about the weather. Once in early summer in Kentucky, I didn’t take much warm clothes, and it was chilly and rainy, and I really needed them for my son. I definitely learned my lesson!

    -Hannah Avery

  3. With your one month old what did you do in heat…in rain.. And about the bugs if you in countered any of that?

    1. With a baby that small, keeping them covered and out of the elements is a huge thing. To help make it easier, I suggest getting a good baby carrier. We use the Beco Butterfly II. For the heat, a loose fitting lightweight receiving blanket over the top of the carrier is a good option, paired with light clothes (or just a onesie) underneath. For the rain, try the same with a somewhat heavier blanket and make sure that baby is wearing clothes that won’t get him cold (with extra clothes handy too). With bugs, honestly, I’d just try for another location. Yes, you can cover them up, but if they are really bad and baby starts to get bites, everyone will be miserable. We’ve used Kids Herbal Armor bug repellant with older kids with awesome success, but I’d run it by your pediatrician before using it on such a tiny baby. Good luck!

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  5. Goood post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every
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  6. It is comforting to know that you took your babies when they were 1 month old. I am planning for a camping trip with my 11 week old and feel that every site speaks of babies that are at least 6 months. Thanks for the advice!

    1. Totally your call. In the US (or developed world) we often forget that people live their whole life from the minute they are born, until they die in conditions that we would consider “camping”. For that case, what about the whole human race for thousands of years. I’d say it is more dependent on the parent and their comfort level then on a specific timeline. Be aware that you have to care for them and their needs and don’t expose them to drastic conditions. If you start now, then your kids will grow up doing it and love doing it with you all the way. Have a great time!

    2. Definitely having the same problem on sites found few where they speak of very young lite ones. Good tips here !! We are taking our LO when she is only 6 weeks !! My husband and I are very excited and if it doesn’t go well oh well we tried but we think the fresh air will be good for the LO and our puppies sleep amazingly in the great outdoors.

  7. Good Tips. We took our first girl camping when she was around a month old and it was a little challenging. Mainly for the temperature issue as you noted here. It was a little windy and we were constantly trying to make sure she was staying warm. We did manage to get out on the lake in the boat one nice day.
    Is was much easier when she was a few months old and were even camping out in the desert with temperatures in the high 90’s. Not recommended, but it worked for us since we were along a river.

  8. Great pictures, amazing time. Spend time with family is always good, it’s one of the best things in life. When we are with people that we love, we feel loved and cared and we also wanna love them more and more and take care.

  9. Has anyone got good ideas on what a baby can sleep in if you’re not car camping – as in, gear that you can actually hike with? I’m nervous having a small baby sleep in our tent because the ‘puff’ of our sleeping bags seems like a real suffocation risk – is there some very safe way to avoid this risk and (hopefully) also ensure a good night’s sleep for the three of us??

    1. Think layers. I would layer the baby in a couple pairs of pajamas (make sure the bottom one is good quality that will wick moisture away if they start to sweat – Merino wool is our favorite for this). Then wrap the baby up in several light blankets. Make sure they sleep on a pad to insulate them from the cold from the ground as well. Top them off with a warm hat and you should be good to go. Sleeping bags really don’t work until kids are about 18 months because they are just to small and the loftiness of the bag is too much for them.

  10. Your post is wonderful experience for us to go camping easier with an infant. I am planning to go camping next week, thank you for helping me made ^^
    I love you so much !

  11. Please please please do not leave a baby to sleep in a car seat (except short car journeys). It is now a known fact that prolonged amount of time in car seats scrunches up baby’s body, putting strain on their lungs and can inadvertently suffocate them. There are numerous cases of infants dying in this way. Even on long car journeys you should stop and remove baby from car seat every hour to allow them to stretch.

  12. With a lot of outdoor enthusiasts, go camping with kids is such an interesting thing but also challenging. Sleeping might be the hardest part for us take care of. One tip I would like to add here is to bring Blankie (or some kind of comfort) along. My daughter can’t tell me if it’s her favourite, but I did bring the fleece blanket she sleeps on in her crib to give her a bit of familiarity. I put it right on top of her sleeping mat and tucked it in underneath so it wouldn’t come loose. I like to think it helped.

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