Tips for Camping With a Baby

by Kim on May 23, 2016 · 19 comments

tips for camping with a baby

We took Juniper on her first camping trip last weekend. She’s 7.5 months old. We thought this was pretty adventurous until I posted a photo to the So Many Places Facebook Page and you guys responded with your own tales of camping with tiny babies (for example, I learned that Brian first went camping at only 6 weeks old). After that, I felt like a wuss (7.5 months old! What took us so long? She’s practically full-grown!)

Well, what took us so long is the fact that she was born in September and we had to wait for spring to roll around. Still, when our first camping weekend arrived the weather was unseasonably cold (lows around 39 C/ 4 F) and the forecast called for rain. But we were too excited to cancel the trip and so we packed up the car (with WAY TOO MUCH STUFF) and headed out.

Our first evening was beautiful but temperatures dropped overnight and then it began to rain. We got one good night of camping in (and a great hike) before we packed up our wet gear and headed home. I know that one night of sleeping under the stars with an infant does not an expert make, but we are learning. Here are a few tips I gathered and I’d love to hear your own tips in the comments below.

Tips for Camping With a Baby

Check the weather

Obviously. We knew it was going to rain and we knew it would be cold. What I didn’t consider was that it had already been raining for a few days before our trip. This meant our campsite was already slightly muddy (and turned into a mud pit after a night of rain) and the ground was saturated so that when I put a blanket down for Juniper to play on, it got wet and she got wet. Not a big deal, but something I wish I had considered beforehand. Next time I’ll bring a waterproof tarp.

tips for camping with a baby

Keeping warm on an unseasonably cold day at an already wet campsite (hence the hay).

Bring a big tent

A 4-person tent might be the camping equivalent of driving a minivan to hardcore backpacking elitists, but I’m cool with that. Even before we had a baby, I liked using a tent I could stand up in. Now, it’s important to me to have a tent big enough to put an air mattress in (see below). I love our Big Agnes Big House tent but any 4 or 6-person tent will do. Make sure to use a tarp or a tent footprint if the weather is predicted to be cold or rainy.

Use an air mattress

Before we had a baby we slept on camp cots or ground pads but now that there are three of us I wanted to have a single flat surface to sleep on, especially because I knew that snuggling would be a primary source of heat for us. We put Juniper to sleep between us on this Coleman air mattress and she actually slept better than she does at home (!!) with only one late night cry for food. Two notes about camping with an air mattress: 1) You’ll need electricity to use the pump so make sure you have an electric campsite or a solar generator (we have the Yeti by Goal Zero which is pricy but has come in handy more times than I can count) and 2) On a cold night the air in the air mattress can get very cold so lay down a sheet to act as a barrier to help you stay warm.

tips for camping with a baby

Zip sleeping bags together

In order to stay warm we zipped two sleeping bags together to create one family-sized sleeping bag. Brian and I have half a dozen fancy, high-end mummy bags, but mummy bags are a pain to zip together (it can be done as long as one is a right zip and one a left zip bag) so instead we borrowed two old-school rectangular sleeping bags from my in-laws. These rectangular bags zipped together perfectly and we had a wonderful and cozy night of sleep (again, make sure you have a right and left zip bag).

Do a test run close to home

Juniper is a really flexible baby but I know this isn’t true of all babies. If you’re worried about how your baby might do overnight, take a camping trip close to home. This way, if the baby becomes inconsolable you can always hop in the car and go home.

Stick to a schedule

Although she has outgrown it, Juniper still loves to nap in her Rock ‘N Play. We wanted to keep her on her normal nap and sleeping schedule, so we brought the rock ‘n play and put her down during her normal sleep times. At bedtime, she slept in the rock ‘n play until we were ready to go to bed, then we transferred her to the air mattress. I’ve talked with others who bring a Pack ‘n Play and do the same thing.

tips for camping with a baby

Juniper napping in her rock n play at our campsite.

Play with nature

It is incredibly important to us that Juniper is comfortable in the outdoors and so we made a decision to pack a few basic toys but otherwise encourage her to play with nature. She gnawed on a stick. She shoved grass and dirt into her mouth. All was right with the world.

tips for car camping with a baby

She was also thrilled by this waterfall. It’s so fun to see the world through her eyes.

You might have to dial things back a notch or two

I really hated (still do!) when people used to tell me my life would have to change because of a baby. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to change; you’ll probably just want it to. For example, before baby Brian and I would have simply camped and hiked in the rain and cold. We would have been shivering and muddy and shrugged it off as an adventure. Now that Juniper is here, comfort is a little more important to us. And that’s okay. She has a lifetime of outdoor adventures ahead of her, but for the moment she’s a fair-weather outdoorsbaby.

tips for camping with a baby

Me and Juniper hiding out in the car while Brian breaks down camp in the rain.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Shaiya May 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

THANK YOU for posting this! Especially adding that life “doesn’t have to change” once you have a baby. What better way for a baby to know that she’s an important part of the family than in doing the things that both her parents love?

Baby + Camping or Travel = The new domestic bliss.

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Kim May 24, 2016 at 6:07 pm

I completely agree. I figure, she got us as parents and so we’re going to still be us– I hope she loves her childhood 🙂

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Renee May 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm

I’m so excited that you and Brian are introducing baby Juniper to the great outdoors. I have a feeling she will also be bitten by the wanderlust bug before too long, given the adventurous spirit of both of her parents. 🙂

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Kim May 24, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Hi Renee, I sure hope she loves to travel. So far, she’s a great traveler so I hope that continues.

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Lucy May 24, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Great post and HOLY CRAP your baby is so cute! This is the first time I have seen photos of her and she looks so much like both you and Brian! I am glad you first camping trip was mostly successful! I mean hey only one wake up in the middle of the night sounds pretty good- although we don’t have kids so what do I know. Thanks for posting and I loved seeing her smiling face in the natural world! – Lucy

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Kim May 25, 2016 at 8:00 am

Thank you! Everyone says she looks just like Brian, so it’s nice to hear she looks like me too 🙂

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Dustin@WeGoRTW May 25, 2016 at 7:48 am

<3 this post, EmSue and I have been throwing the idea of Van Life around as we were recently encouraged by folks like AlmostFearless and Jack and Jill Travel recently making the plunge. With y'alls past experience / job of road tripping America; would this be something y'all would consider?
Dustin@WeGoRTW recently posted..Telluride Via Ferrata

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Kim May 25, 2016 at 8:01 am

Definitely. We are 98% sure this is in our future and Brian is actually in negotiations for a Westie right now (it’s a diesel so that comes with some limitations…) 🙂

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Ken June 5, 2016 at 3:26 am

Yeah, everything changes with kids. I tell people that you stop doing anything for you and start doing everything for them. Glad to see that you’re camping as a family.

Good post.

Ken
Ken recently posted..Hiking the Na Pali Coast on Kauai

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Kim June 10, 2016 at 5:24 am

Hi Ken, hopefully you do not stop doing everything for you! I’ve found that, obviously, most things we do for Juniper (but it’s for us too, because we love doing things with/for her) but that I still need to do the things I love to do for me too. I’m a better mom and happier person that way!

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Melissa June 6, 2016 at 10:20 am

Juniper is so beautiful!! I’m loving reading about your adventures with her 🙂

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Kim June 10, 2016 at 5:24 am

Thank you Melissa 🙂

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Morgan June 7, 2016 at 11:27 am

These tips are excellent! It’s really important to make sure you don’t deprive your little one of these outdoor experiences, even when they’re really young. It definitely helps foster an appreciation for nature early on! It looks like Juniper enjoyed it! Nice post! Thank you for sharing!

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Kim June 10, 2016 at 5:25 am

Hi Morgan,

I’m hoping that if she spends a ton of time in the outdoors as a kid that it will be the place she always goes back to for comfort and joy.

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Janet Bowman June 23, 2016 at 9:58 am

Love this article! As a mother of 5, we’ve camped with kiddos (including infants) for the past 23 years. Couple of thoughts, I have also worked in two pediatric hospitals and seen accidental “smothering”. On an air mattress, you have to be oh so careful that baby can’t roll face down into crevice face first, as a larger person will create a divot (especially if mattress is at all deflated). And, we live in Alaska sooo, depending on what your wildlife/waterway situation is, don’t take your eyes off infants and toddlers! So far, all my kids have survived, at least to teen age.
Janet Bowman recently posted..A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Kim July 12, 2016 at 6:41 am

Hi Janet, great tips. I agree, you definitely have to make sure the baby is strong enough to move around and won’t get caught in a crevice of the air mattress. Great point!

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Shane September 4, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Great post – and kudos on making early life interaction with nature a priority. I’m forwarding this post to my brother, who is trying to figure out exactly how to do what you’re doing now that he has two little ones of his own running around.
Shane recently posted..The Pacific Crest Trail Through-Hike: My Outdoor Dream

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Kim September 23, 2016 at 6:28 am

Thanks Shane. I’ve found it takes a bit more planning to go outdoors with a baby, but it’s totally possible and kids LOVE it.

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Sam September 16, 2016 at 3:23 am

Hi Kim!

I love your blog. I also have a baby and I adore spending my time with her and collecting moments and experiences such as those you descrive. I’ve been in Spain this summer and we have had an amazing time in family. We had two kind of holiday: in camping and in an apartment. We did a tour in Costa Daurada and also went to Andalucia. We rent out an apartment in Seville through https://www.genteel-home.com/ and we couldn’t have made a better choise. Both were perfect for us and for our baby girl. So I highly recommend it to you 🙂

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