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I had a pretty tough time time postpartum so it was essential for me to get out in the world and do the things that filled my cup most and for me, that was camping. It made me feel like a human again and I really needed that. By the time Aster was a year and a half old, I even felt comfortable enough taking her and our dog solo tent camping (that story to come later).
As with anything, the more comfortable you are doing something pre-baby, the easier it will be to bring your baby along but even if you have never camped before, these tips will help you feel more prepared so you can get out there and enjoy the great outdoors as a family!
Can You Camp With Babies
You sure can! Before we had a baby, I kept hearing about how life would drastically change when we had our baby and it seemed like the same old story over and over again. I decided that that wasn’t us and wouldn’t be our experience. Sure, things would be different but I was determined to keep doing the things that we loved. The first year of Aster’s life, we went camping 11 different times and I loved each trip. Things got easier as we figured out what worked and what didn’t and we realized that it was pretty simple to just bring her along.
It is so incredible to watch your baby experience new things and escape the mundane day to day routine at home. That first year of motherhood can feel like groundhog day everyday, so breaking it up with new experiences and trips is key. Kids belong outdoors and the earlier you can expose them to that, the better and the easier it will be to maintain that throughout their childhood. Especially as your confidence as a new parent or guardian builds up too.
Best Locations to Camp With Babies
Regardless of where you live, here are some things to consider when deciding where to take your baby camping for the first time.
Stay close to home for your first trip. For us, we chose to stay in our trailer at a Provincial Park about 2 hours south of our home. If things really aren’t going well or something happens, being close enough to jump in the car and get home relatively quickly is really nice.
Pick a quiet campground. Before you pick a campground and campsite (if you can pre-book sites), you should check the map online and look at the satellite images in Google Earth. I suggest selecting a quiet campground with spaced out campsites with some trees in between for extra privacy. This lets you enjoy your time camping a bit more and offers a little sound barrier between sites so that if your baby is being fussy you won’t stress too much about the other campers (this was a big worry for me – that Aster would scream all night and wake people up). A campground with some amenities like bathrooms, sinks, and showers can also be helpful for easy cleanups.
Find a site with shade. Having shade in the afternoon can make all the difference for whether your baby is able to nap in the afternoon or not.
Best Time of the Year to Camp With Babies
So much of this is dependent on where you live and how the seasons change so keep that in mind for your specific location. Think about the weather, when campgrounds open for the year, the volume of traffic the areas receive, and the roads getting there.
Earlier sunset and later sunrise so your tent stays darker a bit longer
Can be cold
Can still snow
Long days to do activities
Can be very warm and take a long time for the tent to cool down at night
Earlier sunset and later sunrise
Beautiful fall colours
Can be cold
Can snow early
Very quiet campgrounds
A whole new experience
Can be cold and snowy
Sun sets very early so you’re in your tent for longer
Takes a while for the sun to warm things up in the morning
Here in the Rockies, June and September are my favourite months to camp in our tent. June – before the majority of tourists come (and also before the bugs get bad), and then in September when the summer rush quiets down again and those cool nights come back.
Baby Sleep Essentials When Camping
Tent Camping with Babies
There are many different sleep set up options to chose from and it all depends on what you are comfortable with and perhaps how you choose to sleep at home. It’s important to note that inflatable air mattresses are not safe for kids under 15 months old to sleep on. Below was our sleeping set up starting from the ground up:
Therm-a-rest Z-Lite. This is a closed cell foam mat that offers a barrier between the ground and the baby, providing some insulation to keep them warm.
Kidco PeaPod. Put this overtop of the Therm-a-rest Z-lite and this acts as a mini tent inside your tent. It folds into itself and is pretty small so it would even work to bring backpacking. This will keep your baby safe from your sleeping bags, any extra blankets, and even the dogs. I liked to keep this open and have it at chest height beside me in the tent so that I could put my hand on Aster’s back if she was restless and pick her up easy when I had to nurse her overnight. It also works great for naps, we would set it up under a tree in the shade during the day so that she could have a nature nap if the tent was too warm.
Wool Base Layer. Wool is the perfect layer as it is able to regulate temperature, meaning that your baby will stay warm when its cool and it’ll draw moisture away from their skin if they are too hot. There are many different brands to chose from, our favourites are Wee Woollies and Patagonia. That being said, wool base layers are an investment and we have had good luck finding used pairs on Facebook Marketplace.
Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 20 Down Baby Sleeping Bag. Made in the US, this infant sleeping bag is amazing. From having fully covered hands, a snug upper, lots of room in the legs (important for healthy hips!), and a zipper that allows you bottom access for nighttime diapers, it’s the real deal. It took some getting use to at first, as Aster didn’t love having her hands covered, but we would tuck her in there right before bed and she didn’t put up too much of a fuss. On the topic of hats – I didn’t feel comfortable with Aster wearing a beanie at nighttime and found that she didn’t need one in the temperatures we camped at. If it was colder, I would put a lightweight merino beanie on her to keep her safe but still be breathable if it were to shift.
Portable Sound Machine. We use the Yogasleep Hushh and found it to be decent. I am a big fan of sound machines, especially in campgrounds where other campers might be making noise you can hear. It makes for a much sounder sleep for all of us. Tip: Make sure it’s fully charged before bed and it should last the whole night. Bring along a portable charging station if you plan on staying more than one night!
I also want to note here that I recognize that some of these things are quite the investment. Depending on the temperatures that you are camping it, it is totally okay to do a baselayer, a Carter’s fleece, and then your usual or a warmer sleep sack at night. If you only camp once or twice a year, this is probably the best option for you.
Camping in a trailer or RV is a little different than camping in a tent with babies. The ability to turn the furnace on and set it to a specific temperature makes dressing babies for nighttime a lot easier.
Wool Base Layer. Same as above, she wears her Wee Woollies to sleep.
Sleep Sack. If it’s not too cold, she will just wear her regular 1.0 TOG sleep sack at night. If it will be a bit colder and we don’t want to crank the furnace too much, she wears her 2.5 TOG sleep sack and that works great for us.
Sound Machine. Depending on your trailer setup (if you are plugged in or have solar), you can either bring your regular sound machine and plug it in to your trailer, or you can bring your portable sound machine and just ensure it’s all charged up before the night.
We built a little baby gate into our trailer bunks so that we didn’t have to worry about her falling out at any point – tutorial to come but if you search online you should find some DIY plans that’ll work!
How to Dress a Baby for Camping
Below are all the things that we used and loved. Obviously, this too is temperature and location dependent but the building blocks are all still the same.
Best layers for camping with a baby:
Wool base layers. It’s best to avoid cotton when adventuring outside.
UPF shirts and hats. It is recommended not to put sunscreen on children under 6 months of age. I like to keep babies skin out of direct sunlight as much as possible so finding some good sun shirts and hats is vital. Also, providing shade with umbrellas or canopies is a good idea.
Bug protection. Never apply insect repellent to babies under 2 months of age. Instead, cover your baby with loose, lightweight clothing to provide bug protection or use mosquito netting over strollers or carriers. We have tried some Mosquito stickers with some success and will also use our Thermacell Patio Shield if the bugs are really bad.
Fleece layer. On cool mornings and night, we loved our MEC fleece bunting suits that Aster could wear and crawl around in. Patagonia makes one that is really durable. This fleece jacket is amazing. Aster wore hers from when she was 6 months all the way until she was 2 years old.
Down layer. When it’s especially cold, a down layer over the fleece will keep your baby super warm. We love this one.
Wool socks. Wool socks are a must to keep those tiny toes warm. We love Smartwool infant socks (and they even stay on!).
Buff. We just use an adult merino wool buff and tuck it into her jacket a bit so it stays in place and keeps her neck warm to provide protection from the wind. She is never unsupervised wearing these and we don’t let her nap with them on.
Touque. A good merino wool toque is key for us, we love this one from Miles the Label.
Shoes/slippers. Before Aster was walking, we used these Stonz Puffer booties and these mocassin slippers. Once she started walking, she would just wear these Stonz boots or her little slippers. Stonz has great shoe options as well. Click here and use the code DOMC10 for 10% off at Stonz.com.
What to Bring When Camping With Babies
I am a pretty minimal person and don’t have a ton of baby stuff at home so I also don’t bring a ton when we camp. Below are some things you might find useful though!
Chair that clips onto picnic tables. We love this chair and even bring it when we go to friends houses for dinner to save space on packing a highchair. Friends of ours have this one and love it too.
Portable play pen. Some people will chose to bring a playpen for when their babies sleep in the tent and also to play in outside during the day. It’s nice to be able to contain them! We used one in our trailer for Aster to play in while we cooked.
Sound monitor. We use this exclusively for trailer camping so that if we are sitting outside by the fire and talking, we can still hear if Aster wakes up. We are never far from the tent while camping though so we could hear her through the tent walls.
Play Mat. A cozy place for your baby to play on during the day is always nice and might provide you with some down time. We love this Lovevery version.
Umbrella. If you wind up somewhere without shade, this is key.
Carrier. Taking walks and exploring the area that you are camping at is a big reason why you go, so bring along a carrier to make it easier. We love the Ergobaby 360 Omni Mesh for infants, and then the Osprey packs to carry toddlers.
Portable fan. There are tons of options on Amazon, and even some that clip onto stroller handles.
Any feeding things you might need. This could look like spoons, plates, bowls, bibs, pump things, bottles, cleaners, etc.
A larger tent. Consider getting a larger tent if you’re transitioning from camping solo or as a couple. Having a bigger tent for front-country camping was such a game changer for us as it allowed for space to play and crawl around inside if the bugs were bad and if you chose to bring a pack and play for sleeping, you will have the room for it! We love our MSR Habitude 6, which was kindly gifted to us for a campaign we did with MSR in 2021. There are lots of less expensive options out there if you want.
Diaper stuff. Diaper changes looked the same as they did at home. You can either change them in the car or in the tent. We cloth diapered for the first year and would just bring enough for however many days we were out and bring a wet bag to put the used diapers in to wash when we got home. If you do decide to change diapers in the tent and you live in bear country, please remember to keep everything in your car overnight as creams usually have fragrance which can attract the bears. Safety first friends.
Remember This When Camping With Babies
Camping with babies can be so rewarding and fun AND it’s super important to also lower your expectations. They might not nap in the tent, but hot tip: we actually would load Aster into the truck and drive around and explore the area with the AC on during really hot summer days so she would actually sleep. They might be fussy, but chances are they might be fussy at home too, so you might as well just go.
Have the most fun and please, if you have any questions send me a message! I am always happy to help.
We want to inspire other families to get outside while keeping in mind that not every adventure has to be an epic trip. Sometimes, the best days spent outside are the most simple days - a picnic, a meander around the backyard or a local path, the options are endless. We just want to help you start living your best life, doing the things that bring you and your family joy.