You’ll most likely get a lot of strange looks from family and friends when you tell them that you’re off on a camping trip with your new baby. But this is actually the perfect time to go camping! It’s a great way for your entire family to bond. You’ll be away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with nothing to disturb you as you and your baby get to know each other.
Don’t worry about not being able to stick to a schedule when you’re sleeping in a tent and eating around the campfire. With a new baby, your routine is always changing. So, go with the flow…now is the ideal time to take advantage of camping. Before baby fusses about sleeping in his own bed!
Let these tips below take the bewilderment out of camping with a newborn or baby.
Before You Go
Take some time before your first camping trip to prepare for the big event. The more prepared you are, the less stressful your first night camping will be.
1. Practice Camping
It’s a good idea to practice “camping” with your baby before you hit the road. Set your tent up in the back yard and spend a night or two sleeping with him. This way you can see how your baby reacts to sleeping in a new and unfamiliar place. Think of this as your baby’s trial run for the camping season.
2. Weather Watch
It pays to keep an eye on the weather forecast before you go. Babies don’t do well in hot weather. It’s difficult to keep them cool and comfortable. So, if a heatwave is predicted on the weekend you plan on being outdoors, consider switching your camping dates to another weekend.
The same goes for cold and rainy weather. You have enough to cope with taking a newborn camping. Don’t add drenching rain and dampness to your list. Delaying your trip until the weather cooperates is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
3. Make a List, Check it Twice
Before your trip make a list of everything you think you’ll need for your baby…on top of everything you’ll need for the rest of the family. Check, and recheck your list so you don’t forget something important. You don’t want to be miles from home and then find out you forgot the baby carrier.
4. Pack Those Extra Diapers and Wipes
The one thing you don’t want to run out of is diapers. So, pack extra! Stashing a box of disposable diapers in the trunk of your car will be your saving grace if your little one is going though them faster than you can keep up with. And if you’re using cloth diapers at home, rethink that strategy for your camping trip. Do you really want to be washing out dirty diapers when you’re camping?
Wipes and washcloths and towels are also essentials you don’t want to leave the house without. Have plenty on hand – babies have a way of getting messy no matter what they’re doing.
5. Familiarity is Comfort
There are certainly going to be times on your trip when your baby is a little unsure of where he is. Unfamiliar surroundings can be a little intimidating! However, even newborns have a favorite blanket that can comfort them when they’re fussy or feeling overwhelmed by everything going on around them.
Bring along something your baby has become attached to at home – a stuffed animal, a little toy, or his soother! The sight of something he knows and loves will help to settle him down. When all else fails, pack him in the carrier and head out for a walk.
6. Bug and Sun Protection
You should never use insect repellent on babies. So it’s worth it to invest in good netting to protect your baby from insects and mosquitoes. You can use the netting outside as well as inside the tent when your baby is sleeping.
The same goes for protection from the sun. Don’t use sun screen on babies under the age of 6 months. You’ll need to keep him out of direct sunlight so plan your outdoor activities accordingly. Bring along sun-protection clothing and hats with big, wide brims. And remember to keep those little toes covered up from the sun. Buy a few light-weight socks that are cool enough for baby to wear without heating up.
7. Filtered Water
It’s probably already on your list, but plenty of filtered water is a must when you’re camping. You’ll need it to mix baby formula and having bottles of water ready is much easier than waiting for water to boil.
8. Campsite Location
When you’re booking your campsite, request to have a site that has a few trees, so you get shade as well as sun. This way you can move your baby from the hot sun into a shady area to keep him cool. Or from the shade into the sun when the day starts to cool down.
If you have neighboring campers, it might be a good idea to introduce yourself and let them know you have a small baby with you. If your baby decides that crying at 2am is a good idea, at least your fellow campers will have had some warning and might be a little more understanding.
Camp-Friendly Baby Clothes
Bringing clothes for your baby takes more planning than you might think! You’ll need to be prepared for all situations. Here are a few tips to keep in mind, so you have all the right clothes for him to wear, no matter what the weather is going to throw at you.
9. Layer Up
One of your priorities when you take your baby camping is keeping him warm enough. Mornings are usually cooler so start out the day with a onesie, t-shirt, little pants, socks, and a warm sweater. Add a hoodie if it’s really cold. As the day warms up, you can start taking off layers.
If you’re camping in the spring or fall, a sleeping sack is a great way to keep your baby warm at night. You can dress him in fleece pajamas, add socks if it’s really cold, and tuck him up in his sleeping sack.
10. Keeping Cool
If you’re camping when the weather is hot and humid, it can be a challenge to keep your baby cool so he’s comfortable and happy. Hot babies become grumpy babies! And grumpy babies can quickly ruin the fun for the rest of the family. Find shade for him to sit in, if possible in a stroller or just laying down on a blanket. Holding him in your arms or in a baby carrier is going to make him even hotter, no matter what he’s wearing.
In warm weather, consider breastfeeding or bottle feeding more frequently so your baby doesn’t get dehydrated.
11. Pack Those Extra Sweaters
Weather is always changing when you’re camping. What starts out as a sunny, warm day can quickly turn cloudy and cool in the afternoon. Pack enough clothes for all weather conditions. Better to have those extra sweaters and not use them!
12. Never Enough Onesies
The same goes for those cute little onesies and baby shirts. They don’t take up a lot of room, so pack more than you think you’ll need. You don’t want your baby spitting up on his shirt only to find out it’s the last clean one. Sure, you can start washing one. But it’s much easier to have a stack of little clothes and not run out.
If you’re breastfeeding, meal time is a piece of cake for your baby. If you’re using formula, you have few more things to think about…but just a few. Don’t let feeding your baby hold you back from going camping.
13. Formula Options
Bring along formula that’s premixed so you don’t have to measure water and prepare. For the bottle, consider using those bottles that have a disposable bag. This way there’s less fuss and easy clean up. If disposable bottle bags aren’t an option for you, bring along a small tub that you can easily fill with warm soapy water. Use the tub exclusively for washing bottles and bottle nipples.
14. Feeding Solids
If your baby is eating solids, you’ll need a plan for that. You can purchase little jars of his favorite food and bring that along. For weekend camping trips where you’re only gone for a day or two, you could make your own. Store home-made food in a cooler that’s well chilled. Another option if you’re really ambitious is to make baby’s food when you’re at the campsite. Just bring along a small blender and be sure to have purified water on hand.
15. Finger Foods
For babies over 6 months, don’t forget the finger foods. Cheerios, soft cheese, and fruit to cut into tiny pieces. If your baby is eating them at home, pack them along on your trip. Finger foods can be a great way to distract a fussy, hungry baby!
Time for Sleep
You have a few options when it’s time for your baby to sleep, both at night and during the day when you lay him down for a nap.
16. It’s All About the Comfort
The bottom line on sleeping arrangements is to be comfortable and stay warm! Think about the bedtime routine you’ve started with your baby at home, including how you feed your baby at night and where you change his diaper. Try to duplicate this as much as possible when you’re camping. And if this means finding room to bring along your nursing pillow, make it happen!
17. Carrying Cot
Bring along a carrying cot and set it up in the tent. Nights are usually cool, even on the hottest summer day. Place a heavy blanket or two underneath the cot so that cool air doesn’t rise up and chill your baby. A playpen is another good choice, although this will depend on the size of your tent. You won’t have much room in a small tent for a larger sized playpen.
If you’re sleeping with your baby at home, you’ll most likely want to continue with this sleeping arrangement on your camping trip. Get a double-wide sleeping bag and snuggle up with your baby for the night. For safety reasons, make sure to keep his head up at the top of the sleeping bag. You could put a pillow into the bottom half of the bag where your baby is sleeping to ensure that he doesn’t slip down.
Co-sleeping is a good way to sleep if you’re breastfeeding. He’ll be right there beside you to nurse so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to feed him. Keep in mind that if you need to do a diaper change during the night, having your baby in the sleeping bag with you can be a little awkward! Have the diaper bag and a camping light nearby for when you just can’t avoid this.
19. Night-time Noise
The campground at night can be a noisy place. Other campers loudly talking, and music playing might not be sounds your baby is used to falling asleep to. To get your baby to fall asleep, white noise is a great solution. You can bring along a white noise machine or find an app for your phone. Consider using white noise at home a week or so before your camping trip. This allows your baby to get used to falling asleep to white noise…or the sound of rain if you prefer that!
The only things you really need for a baby are food, clothes, diapers, and a safe and warm place to sleep. If you have the room, there are some items of baby gear that can make your camping trip a little more comfortable and enjoyable.
20. Baby Carrier
Just because you’re camping with a baby doesn’t mean you have to stick to your campsite. A baby carrier or wrap is the perfect way to take your baby out on hikes or a walk down to the lake. Invest in a well-made carrier that is easily adjustable, so you can use it as your baby gets older. Carriers with an adjustable head support for your baby are even better!
If you’re out on a hike, letting your baby nap in the carrier is a good way to make sure that naps happen! Look for wide straps so the carrier is comfortable for you to wear for longer periods of time. And for warm weather camping look for carriers made with breathable fabric to keep both you and your baby cool.
Taking along a playpen means that you can safely put your baby down when you need to light the fire or make a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. Make sure the sides of the playpen are a mesh material that you can see through. This way fresh air can circulate through the playpen. And you can sit a few feet away when baby is sleeping and still keep a close eye on him. Many playpens come with a mesh top. This is great way for keeping mosquitoes and other insects away from your baby.
The playpen can also work as a camping bed for your little one. Just set it up beside you in the tent. Use it at night as well as during the day for naps.
22. Foam Mat and Blanket
Foam covered with a blanket is great for laying down both inside and outside the tent. This way your baby has a soft place to lay on as he looks at the sights around him. And you’ll get a little break from holding him all the time!
Depending on what the terrain is where you’re camping, a stroller is a great way to move your baby around. It’s also a safe place for you to strap him in so he can sit and watch all the activity going on around him. Most strollers have a top to them that can help to protect your baby from the sun.
24. Bath Time
Don’t bother using up precious space in your camping gear by packing baby’s bathtub. Use an ordinary storage bin. Store some camping supplies in the bin and then when you get to camp, empty it out, add warm water, and it becomes your baby’s bath. When you’re packing up to go home, it converts back to a storage bin!
25. Chair for Nursing
Whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, having a chair both inside your tent and outside by the fire is going to make you a lot more comfortable than sitting on your sleep bag during the middle of the night. Or sitting on a log by the fire. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a functional folding chair that you can easily set up when you need it.
Baby’s Big Camping Adventure
Introducing your baby to the wonders of camping can never start too early! With just a bit of extra planning, you and your family can make some great memories. You’ll never forget the look of wonder on your baby’s face when you’re sitting around the campfire at night. Or his reaction when he’s watching nearby birds.
For your baby’s first few camping trips, camp close to home for just two or three nights. This way baby gets used to being on the road, sleeping in a tent, and having his diaper changed under the trees. Two or three nights is enough to plan for, at least when you first start going camping with a baby. You’ll quickly find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Once you have it down to a science and know what to expect, you can go further for longer.
So off you go…on baby’s first camping adventure!