While it can be great to pack lightly for many trips, when you’re camping with a baby, things are somewhat different.
There are several items that are truly essential in order to ensure that your trip goes smoothly and your little one remains as comfortable as possible. Making sure to pack all of the essentials will help to make your trip both safe and enjoyable for everyone in the family.
So, what are these essentials to take camping with a baby? The following list contains the most important things you’ll want to bring along with you.
These are the items you really don’t want to forget. Some of these you’ve probably already thought about, while others you may not have considered yet.
Think of this as a starting point to your packing list—these are the essentials—and once you have these packed, you can add whatever extras you like.
1. Diapers and Wipes
Sometimes the most basic essentials are, unfortunately, exactly the ones we forget as we’re running out the door. Don’t drive all the way out to your campsite only to realize you’ve forgotten diapers.
Also, remember wipes, a changing pad, and diaper rash cream (if baby is prone to rashes).
It’s a good idea to pack more diapers than you expect to need, that way you won’t be needing to make trips back into town if baby ends up needing more than you thought.
2. Nursing / Bottle Feeding Supplies
If you exclusively breastfeed, you won’t need to pack much for this one. If you use a nursing pillow, you’ll probably want to bring that along though.
Nursing mothers should also bring a comfortable folding chair or soft pad to rest on while breastfeeding, especially for when you’ll be sitting up for late-night feedings.
For bottle-fed babies, make sure to pack plenty of formula, bottles, and bottled water.
Also, make sure you pack a good dishwashing soap and brush for keeping the bottles clean.
3. Baby Carrier
If you’ll be doing any significant amount of walking or hiking at all, you really don’t want to forget this one.
Carrying a baby in your arms for long periods can be tiring. You’ll also likely want your arms freed up some of the time.
Many parents find that babies become a bit clingier when in new environments, so you may find that your little one wants to be held more than usual during your trip as well.
Wearing baby in a well-made carrier can make things much easier for you, while also allowing your little one to feel more secure.
If you already have a favorite carrier, bring that one along. If not, or if you would like a carrier specifically designed for hiking, you may want to consider the Baby Back Pack Cross Country Carrier by Clevr or the Deuter Kid Comfort 1 Lightweight Child Carrier, both of which are great for camping.
Carriers such as these are helpful because they are designed for both the parent and child’s comfort on long, strenuous walks, and include storage areas which work well for toting essential baby items when hiking.
4. Baby-Friendly Sunblock
The soft, delicate skin of babies is prone to burning, even in cooler weather and on overcast days. Make sure you don’t forget to pack a good broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Mineral sunscreens work best for babies because they are less likely to cause irritation on sensitive skin and won’t sting as much if they get inside baby’s eyes.
There are several good products on the market though, and you should be able to find one at your local supermarket or drugstore. Just look for titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the only active ingredients.
5. A Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
This is another fairly basic one, but something that can be easy to forget. Make sure your kit includes all of the essentials for cleaning and bandaging cuts and scrapes, a thermometer, and any medications that baby takes regularly.
A nasal aspirator can be useful as well, especially if you expect that allergies may cause baby to get a stuffy or runny nose.
You also may want to consider including a baby-safe bug repellent in your kit.
The best rule of thumb for packing clothing when camping with a baby is to plan for the unexpected. Don’t limit yourself to one outfit for each day of your trip. Also, remember that weather can be variable and unpredictable.
Packing lots of layering pieces will allow you to add and remove clothing as needed in order to keep baby comfortable at all hours of the day and night.
If you expect warm or hot weather, bring along lightweight, breathable pants and long sleeve tops in order to keep baby cool while also helping to protect from mosquito bites and sunburn.
Similarly, if rain is a possibility, make sure you include a raincoat and boots (if baby has begun standing or walking).
It also helps to bring along a laundry bag (or even plastic trash bags) to carry dirty laundry.
7. Safe and Comfortable Bedding
It’s hard to make specific recommendations for sleeping essentials to take camping with a baby because each family has their own individual sleeping arrangements for baby at home.
When camping, you’ll want to keep things as similar to baby’s normal sleeping environment as possible.
Of course, there will likely be some fairly large differences from what baby is accustomed to, but keeping things as familiar as possible, while also focusing on safety, is key to helping baby sleep at night.
So, keep these points in mind when choosing what kind of bedding to pack for baby, and—as with clothing—consider the possibility of unexpectedly hot and cold weather at night.
8. Easily-Prepared and Served Foods
For younger babies—especially those under six months of age—breastmilk and/or infant formula may be all you need in terms of baby-specific foods.
For older babies, make sure to pack foods that can be easily prepared and won’t be too messy. To the extent possible, you’ll want to avoid having to change baby’s clothes because of spills and messes, so try to choose foods that are fairly easy for baby to eat.
Also, remember to pack any favorite baby spoons, bowls, or sippy cups, if you think you’ll be needing them.
9. Baby Toiletries
Since you’ll be outdoors most of the time, expect baby to get dirty. Although you may be able to get away with bathing baby every few days at home, you’ll need to at least give baby a sponge bath daily while camping.
Bring along your regular baby wash or shampoo, baby toothbrush and toothpaste for older babies, and a few soft washcloths.
You’ll also likely need a gentle baby lotion and maybe a lip balm, especially if the weather will be dry, cold, or windy.
10. Swim/Water Gear
If you don’t expect to be near the water at all on your trip, you can skip this one. But, since many camping trips involve swimming, fishing, or just playing in the water a bit, this one is an important inclusion in our list.
Make sure you remember to bring baby’s life jacket, swimsuit, and swim diapers if you expect to spend time in the water.
Even if you’ll only be in a boat, not actually taking your little one into the water, a good life vest for baby is absolutely essential.
11. Baby Seat
For babies who’ve begun eating solids, you’ll definitely want a seat in order to keep baby upright and stationary for feedings.
If baby is still exclusively breast or bottle fed, you’ll still probably want a seat so that baby can sit with you during meals. It’s also great to have a little seat for baby to relax in while you prepare meals or take care of things like setting up the tent or other chores.
If you don’t already have a Bumbo Floor Seat, you may want to consider purchasing one in advance of your trip. They are small and easy to pack in the trunk of your car. You’ll also likely find the seat useful for feedings and playtime when you are at home as well.
12. Special Toys
You don’t need to pack baby’s entire toy chest but bringing along a few favorite toys can help keep baby happy and occupied during down-times throughout the day.
If there is a special blanket or pacifier that baby uses at night, don’t forget to bring it along. For babies who’ve begun teething, makes sure to bring a teether or two as well.
With the items on this list, you should be well on your way to having baby’s bag packed for your camping trip. It may be helpful to print this list out and check off each item as you pack.
The total number of things you pack will vary based on your specific camping trip plans as well as baby’s own unique needs. These are the essentials, though, to get you started.