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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 as much as they can (it’s so much easier than the toddler phase).
In our experience, the more you go camping with your baby the easier it is (for both baby and the parents). We really think that you can do most things with kids, just at a slower pace and with more preparation.
To help you make your baby’s camping trip as easy as possible, we’ve put together our top baby camping hacks to help make your trip go as smoothly as possible!
Why Go Camping with an infant, baby or toddler?
If you’re considering camping with a new baby, you may have many people questioning your judgement and wondering why you would want to go camping with a baby.
The real reason? Because you want your child to connect with nature AND with you on a really fantastic level. You value exposing them to the world and letting them have a taste of adventure. You know that the world will soon be putting screens in front of them and you want to get a jumpstart on connecting them with MORE. Maybe you loved adventures before you had kids and you can’t wait to expose your kids to the things that mean so much to you. Perhaps you never spent much time outside growing up, but you want something different for your kids.
Whatever your reasons for taking your baby camping, I applaud you! YOU ARE A GREAT PARENT!
Is It Safe To Camp With A Baby?
Camping with a baby is definitely safe as long as you take the proper precautions. You’ll want to make sure that your baby is well-protected from the sun, mosquitoes, and other bugs. And, of course, never leave your child unsupervised around water.
While many new parents are worried about wildlife encounters, staying in a well established campground will limit your exposure to wildlife while camping. Just to be safe, remember not to store food in your tent to attract unwanted animals.
At What Age Can You Go Camping With A Baby?
You can go camping with a baby as soon as you are comfortable having them sleep away from home. Some people choose to wait until the baby is a little older, but we found that our youngest did just fine and actually loved being in the tent. Just be prepared for some crying if they wake up in the middle of the night and aren’t used to sleeping in a new place.
Generally, we find that the earlier we start camping with our babies, the easier it is for them, because they aren’t as used to the rigid structure of home yet.
We started camping with 2 of our babies at one month old, another at 4 months, one at 9 months and another was 14 months. All of these baby camping ages worked great for our kids and their personalities. Some babies are easier than others so you may want to camp with them earlier and for other babies camping just needs to wait a bit.
What Is The Easiest Age To Camp With A Baby?
The easiest baby camping age is before they start crawling. At this point, they mostly just eat, sleep, and need a diaper change, so it’s more about getting mom and dad used to camping with a baby at this age.
What is The Hardest Baby Camping Age?
The hardest age of camping baby is around 9-14 months. At this age, most kids can get around by crawling quickly, or are learning to walk and still falling a decent amount. Either way, they spend A LOT of time on the ground at this age, and are usually very curious about taste testing things.
At this age, you’ll always want to have your baby contained, or have an adult wearing them in a carrier or closely watching them the whole time.
Items You Need for Camping With Baby
If you’re a first time parent, you’re probably wondering “what do I need for camping with a baby?” 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 or that?” when really, all I need are the baby camping essentials.
I mean can I even 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, my husband will always be there to tag-team the baby when he’s crying, and more often than not, he’s just calm and content being outside.
So what are the baby camping essentials that we always pack to bring camping with a baby?
Must Have Items For Camping With A Baby: Baby Camping Essential Packing List
- 2 changes of clothes per day, weather appropriate for morning and afternoon temps
- Diapers for each day + 3 extra/day
- 2 packages of wet wipes
- Merino Wool base layers
- Merino Wool socks
- warm hat and sun hat
- A baby carrier (a front pack until they have good head control)
- A blanket to lay baby down in the shade ( we love this packable blanket because we can put rocks inside the corner pockets to keep it in place)
- A baby camping bed (this is our favorite camping bed for babies)
- A Baby sleeping bag or smaller kids sleeping bag (we can’t recommend this one enough – It’s hands down the best baby sleeping bag – use code 10BTK21 for 10% off)
- 2-3 baby toys to keep baby from chewing on sticks and rocks
- Wipeable plastic bib (This is the best bib for camping and lasts forever – ours made it through 3 kids)
- Extras that are nice, but not a necessity:
- A baby camping chair with a wipable plastic tray (so nice for that messy eating stage)
20 Tips To Make Camping With A Baby Easier
We love camping with all of our babies. It’s a great way for us to connect as a family and build great bonds with a baby in the outdoors. Here are our top hacks for camping with a baby!
Getting Baby To Sleep While Camping
One of the biggest concerns parents have when camping with a baby is how to get them to sleep. Truthfully, it’s the never ending quest for all parents in the first year of life! Getting baby to sleep while camping really follows the same principles that you would at home for getting your baby to bed.
Follow a camping bedtime routine
When you’re camping, try and follow a similar bedtime camping routine to what you would do at home so that your baby knows that its time to wind down. If you always sing a song and read a book, do the same at home. If you always bathe your baby at home, consider just giving them a sponge bath using warm water instead or rubbing them down with lotion.
Follow Their Tired Cues Instead of a Strict Bedtime
When baby starts getting tired, watch for their cues. Are they rubbing their eyes, yawning a lot, or not as playful? If so, it’s probably time to start winding down and getting ready for bed. Because they are in a new environment they may be ready for bed at a different time than they are at home. Putting them to sleep when they’re showing the first signs of tiredness instead of well before or after, will help your baby settle down and get to sleep easier.
Consider Cosleeping While Camping
If you don’t cosleep at home, consider cosleeping while camping. Many parents prefer to cosleep while camping for easy nighttime feedings, and so they can keep a closer eye on if baby is getting cold while camping. Remember that adult sleeping bags are not safe for a baby to sleep in alone, so be careful of the camping bedding that you use. A light blanket, is a great option for cosleeping in warmer climates. Also, keep in mind that if you do use a camping pad, it needs to be firm and solid to avoid suffocation risks.
What Should Baby Sleep In While Camping
Infants and babies can be at a large risk of suffocation while sleeping, so as you likely already know, big puffy blankets and bedding are not recommended. This also rules out most traditional sleeping bags, so recommend a special baby sleeping bag for camping. We are absolutely in love with this baby and toddler sleeping bag and recommend it to everyone we know (use code 10BTK21 for 10% off). They’re rated warm down to 20 degrees and are so perfect for keeping camping infants warm AND sleeping safely while camping.
Camping Beds For Baby
In our experience, babies sleep best when they’re in a camping bed. Being in the bed lets them know that this is the place they’re supposed to sleep and settle down. A baby camping bed is especially helpful for getting mobile babies to hold still and settle down.
To get your baby used to their camping bed, have them sleep in it several times at home, even if it’s just for nap. This will help them to be familiar with the camping bed and to sleep better and faster. Our favorite infant camping bed is the PeaPod (it’s super small and lightweight), but there are lots of other camping bed options for baby as well.
Also Read: 12 Incredible Kids Sleeping Bags
Tips for Sleeping in a Tent with a Baby
Before you go camping, you should know that a tent (especially a baby tent!) can be a VERY exciting place for a camping infant. They’ll love the way the fabric looks with lights reflecting off of it and all the new sounds and smells. This is magical, but also can be hard to get them to sleep. Follow our sleeping tips above to help your baby learn to be calmer in the tent to everyone can get some rest!
Start with Car Camping with An Infant
Are you feeling really ambitious and eager to get back to your pre-baby adventurous lifestyle? If this sounds like you, and you’re even tempted to go backpacking with a baby, slow down.
Take a step back and make sure that you have at least a few trips of car camping with baby before you head into the wilderness for a backpacking trip.
Dress Baby In Layers for Camping
I’m sure you’re wondering “How should I dress a baby for camping?” We follow the same rules for camping with infants as we do for kids and adults. DRESS IN LAYERS. Merino wool is pricey, but it will be your best friend when camping with a baby. It insulates, wicks moisture away if they start to sweat, resists odors, AND dries fast in case of an accident. We always use merino for a base layer for kids while camping (especially for sleeping) and LOVE these merino wool socks for baby.
Dressing baby in layers for a camping trip allows you to add or remove clothing as the temperature changes throughout the day. On top of the base layer, put an insulating mid-layer (Fleece or sweats work great), and then if the temps are really cold, a jacket or coat. If your baby is crawling or walking, I highly recommend these pants since they dry quickly and dirt doesn’t stick to them much.
Often when we’re on a baby camping trip, it’s super cold in the morning and heats up a lot throughout the day, so these baby camping clothes will help your little one regulate their temperature throughout the day.
Do a Trial Camping Run With Baby Before You Leave Home
If you’re just starting out camping with a baby, it’s always a good idea to do a trial run before leaving home. This will help you figure out what gear you need and how to pack for your trip. It will also give you an idea of how nap and bedtime routines might go while on vacation. I suggestf packing the same items you use at home while camping, so that baby becomes comfortable with the routine and knows what to expect.
Plan Your Nightime Strategy In Advance
Feeding and changing a baby while camping during the night can be a bit of a challenge, so come up with a plan in advance. Make sure that you have a plan for which parent will be waking up with the child if they’re cold, fussy, or hungry. If you are breastfeeding, this is the easiest option for nighttime feedings, and if not, plan to bring a battery operated bottle warmer with you (this is a great bottle warmer for camping).
Make sure to have wipes, a changing pad, diapers and an extra set of clothes handy in case of an accident. We also recommend a lantern with a dim setting so you can light up the area a little, without waking baby up.
Bring Extra Diapers, Baby Wipes, and Changes Of Clothes
Camping with a baby means that you’ll be going through more diapers and wipes than usual. Make sure to pack enough for the entire trip, plus some extra just in case. And don’t forget to pack a few extra sets of clothes for both you and your little one in case of an accident.
While it is a splurge, as I mentioned, we love dressing our babies in Merino Wool for camping. It’s especially nice because it dries quick in case you need to do a quick spot wash.
Can I Use Cloth Diapers While Camping?
Yes, you can absolutely cloth diaper while camping, just keep in mind that it does require more work. Most of our kids wore cloth diapers, but after a few trips of camping with cloth diapers, we realized that it required significantly more effort than cloth diapers at home. After that, we decided that disposable (or compostable) diapers were best for our family while camping, but each family is different.
Remember That Outdoor Babies Are Resiliant
One thing to keep in mind when camping with a baby is that outdoor babies are resilient. They quickly adjust to being outside and the dirt and bugs really don’t bother them as much as they bother us. Your camping trip WON’T go perfectly, but your baby will never remember and will bounce right back, as long as you roll with it too.
Embrace the Mess
Prepare yourself for a really dirty baby…and know that it’s totally normal. Camping with a baby is messy and as they explore, they’ll inevitably get into some dirt, rocks and leaves. Dirty hands, messy hair, and days on end without a bath are absolutely okay in the great outdoors when tent camping with a baby.
Those extra wet wipes you packed will come in extra handy for keeping feet, hands, and faces clean(er).
Keep Meals Simple
One of the best things that you can do to keep your baby camping trip easier is to simplify your family meals. Try and cook as much of your family meals as you can in advance and reheat it when you’re on the camping trip. Plan on doing simple meals for the family and also have all of your baby food premade. Pouch baby foods and dry cereals will likely be your best friend for baby camping food.
Keeping Baby Contained While Camping
If you have a baby that’s crawling or walking, you’ll want to do something to keep baby contained camping. We often use our baby camping bed (one of our baby camping essentials) and take it outside for baby to play in for a bit.
When you need to get something done, or are moving around a lot, one of the best ways to keep baby contained while camping is to put them in a baby carrier and take them with you. They’ll love the security of being with mom or dad while they discover something new, and you’ll still have your hands free.
How to Keep Baby Warm While Camping
The best way to keep baby warm while camping is to layer their clothing. We also know that many babies get cold at night. Get a baby camping bed that rests on the ground to help insulate them (a pack-n-play isn’t good for camping because it allows cold air to sirculate under the bed, making it really cold). We also dress our babies in Merino wool PJ’s, wool socks, and a hat. These baby sleeping bags for camping are not only REALLY WARM, but they’re also one of the safest baby sleeping bags for camping. With these tips it’s even possible to tackle cold weather camping with baby.
Plan on Babywearing For Camping
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned while camping with a baby, it’s that it’s so helpful to have a baby carrier. Baby carriers for camping keep your hands free and are really helpful when you need to move around with baby. It’s also great for when baby falls asleep in the carrier (which they will likely do as they get tired from all of the new stimulation).
We LOVE this baby carrier because it works from infants up to age 3 and can be worn on the front or the back. It’s also incredibly adjustable which is nice so that both my husband and I can take turns wearing the baby.
Best Tent For Camping With A Baby
While you may nit have a big family yet, you’ll be surprised at how much room a baby takes up. If you’re hoping to get cozy in a 2-3 man tent with a baby, that could get kind of tricky with an infant camping bed. While there is no PERFECT tent for baby camping, we suggest that you get one that sleeps at least 4. This extra room will give you space for a baby bed, an area to change diapers and allow enough headroom to sit up and care for baby during the night.
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 as a parent. If you go to bed when the sun goes down, it’s pretty likely that you’ll be getting more sleep than you ever 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!
Extra Tips for Camping with an Infant
Camping with an infant can be lots of fun, so take some time to sit back and enjoy the moment. What may feel like a lot of work, is actually the beginning of your outdoor adventures with your kids.
Once your child is into the toddler years, taking a travel bed will make things so much easier once they get into that stage, as will going camping more often.
This post was originally published on July 23, 2012 and has been updated several times to keep the information and gear current.