Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Camping with a Baby doesn't have to be Out of Control.

One of the most daunting things about camping is packing for the trip. Particularly if you are are tenting. Especially if you have a tiny car. But specifically if you are packing for a tenting trip in a tiny car and also CAMPING WITH A BABY. 

Do not forget the baby carrier!
I mean. It does kind of sound crazy. I am going to take my completely dependant squidgely child away from the home where I have collected all of the things that make our lives infinitely better. I'm going to pack him up and drive far far away from civilization and hide out in a forest where anything could go wrong. And... gasp... I might possibly be... UNPREPARED!

As a generally unorganized 20-something, being unprepared was something I avoided - radical self reliance, my friends! - but missing small details seemed generally unavoidable. Until I had a baby. Then I realized that he needed us, really needed us, to completely draw the line between roughing it, making do - and the much more horrible disaster that awaits those who are... gasp... UNPREPARED

We have been camping three times already this summer. The first trip was ideal. The second trip was soggy, windy, fun, but soggy. And the third trip was beautiful, but a long drive and very hot. All three times I freaked out before we left - What do I pack?! - and all three times I did not feel unprepared - at all!

So I am going to share my secrets to preparing and packing for a camping trip with a baby. Number one? Bins! Bins work really well, especially for car camping, because you can leave it stocked and ready to go into the car - and making a "must have" list for each bin simplifies the last check and re-stocking the bins before you venture into the wilderness.

Tent naps are the best naps.
We have three main small bins that come everywhere. The first is the Baby Bin. This bin holds essential baby items. Wipes, diapers, baby sunglasses, sound-blocking head-phones, a few toys, the baby monitor, an extra receiving blanket and a bath towel are just some of our essentials in this bin. The second bin is the Kitchen Bin. This one has items like a table cloth, dish towels, cloths, and soap, as well as garbage bags, a cutlery roll up, and cooking utensils. The third bin is what I call the Pharmacy Bin. In here you'll find all the sunscreens, bug sprays (from the most natural, to the eucalyptus, the the DEET-filled neurotoxin), extra toilet paper, plus a basket holding vitamins, tylenol, baby advil, baby butt cream, skin lotion, the thermometer... You know, fun stuff.

These bins are wide and square but not too tall and have lids that snap and lock closed. Lids that lock closed are a gift from the universe. Exploit it! What I like most about this setup? These bins stack nicely inside our tent beside the bed as a night table, providing easy access to the diapers and wipes for quick changes, and a spot to put the baby monitor if we so choose to bring and use one - which we most certainly do for events where we are camping with friends.

We also have larger bins that hold gear like our tent, mattress, and air pump, our propane stove, extra tarps and pegs, kitchen pots and pans, and hot dog weiner pokey stick things. You know the ones.

There are a few tips and tricks to making a complete camping trip into a completely successful camping trip:
  • Bring an extra tarp to throw over large toys and items at night to avoid rain and dew
  • Toys that can go right into the dishwasher or washing machine are the best to bring (a tip I collected from Jule Ann!), and try to save some as surprise toys for the car ride, especially if you have a long way to go. 
  • We like evening baths, but the dishwashing basin gets double use as a bathtub while Baby D is still small. 
  • Plan for cold nights and bring layers for baby to wear. We bed-share so we get pretty warm snuggled together, but before we crawl into bed, Baby D can be pretty cold. We have a Polar Fleece sleeper with a hood that we use to double-up on warmth before we come in for cuddles. 
  • If you have a mobile baby - or even if you don't - it is nice to have somewhere safe to put him or her for set up and take down. We have brought a jumperoo and used it a lot when it was there - but we get along without it, too. 
  • Another great item? Mosquito netting. It can be hung from a tree and then Baby can chill out underneath while you set up a tent or cook nearby.
Lap baby, iced coffee, and bacon over the fire. Camping win.
Besides all that, the dry food bin, the cooler, the lawn chairs... you're all set, right? Well - maybe and maybe not. Only you will know what your baby needs when you decide to venture away. Sometimes it may be possible to bring more, and sometimes you will have to do with less - but there are some items that you should never leave at home, including a thermometer and medication - just in case - sunscreen, and shade for baby - plus food, of course, but we are breastfeeding so that is convenient!

In case you are still feeling frazzled, I have compiled my full list of must have items for camping and tenting with a baby, even though we tend to pick and choose based on our destination, we more or less bring everything on that list. And so far it seems pretty perfect to me!

What are your experiences camping with a baby? Do you have any must-haves when you go camping with your babies?


  1. I SEE IT!!! Next year you can clue me in about Mobile Food-Eating Baby. THEN maybe I'll give it a shot. MAY-be. ;)

  2. Yay, I would love to go camping with you and Malakai next year! I'm going to do a meal planning camping post. Also: Pack and plays are your friend for camping with a mobile baby. They are also a portable crib for those who aren't into co-sleeping. Win win!

  3. look at you!! this is fantastic!!! we haven't taken the kids camping solely b/c i'm scared *i* would complain more than they would. heh. but no seriously, this is very very good to know, and i am pinning it for later reference. thank you!!!


  4. Haha, I do get a little stressed when it comes to packing the car, but once I'm there I try to chill out and make the best of things.


  5. How did you deal with the whole 'freezing at night boiling as soon as the sun comes up' thing with camping and D? I'm going in a fortnight and apart from dressing Molly in layers which can be whipped off and snuggling under the same duvet, I'm kind of at a loss as to how to avoid her baking. I remember camping trips of the past waking up boiling at about 6.00am after sleeping in fleece PJs, jumers and wooly hats! Kind of scared of that happening with a baby...