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