Camping with Babies

July 31st, 2019

Life after a new-born might feel like it’ll never be the same again…… But, a new addition needn’t mean you have to give up your camping adventures, you just need to be prepared.

So, just as you start to master the art of camping, including chucking everything you need for a weekend of adventure into the boot of the car in less than half an hour while saving space for a few bottles of wine, your family grows. Two becomes three and along comes a little bundle of joy. You wonder if your life will ever be the same again, let alone your camping trips….

Taking a baby camping can seem daunting at first, but you needn’t give up your camping adventures for good. It does help however, if you’re a little more prepared and organised than throwing the essentials into the car and praying for sunshine. But, starting kids on their camping journey whilst they’re young has loads of benefits. You can share incredible family experiences, get them used to the great outdoors from the outset and engage their inherent sense of adventure. You’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of happy memories and wonderful holidays. Let alone the fact that if you see the campsite from your child’s eyes, you’ll discover a whole lot more than spacious pitches, hot showers and hook-up amp capacity.

Time to Camp

There is no right time to start taking your baby camping; much depends on how you feel and what kind of baby you have. I know parents who’ve taken babies just a few weeks old on camping trips, but I also know parents whose children are much older and they still shudder at the thought of a night away from the trappings of four insulated walls and a bathroom at the end of the landing.

Aside from considering the time of year (if your baby is born in the winter months then clearly she’ll have to wait a few months for her first campsite adventure), you might want to consider the age of your baby. If he’s at the stage where he stays still when you put him somewhere, then in theory, this could be one of the best times to go. You won’t have to worry about them toddling off somewhere or crawling out of the tent at 4am.

It’s also a good idea to start your first camping trip fairly close to home and make it short – a night or two. That way, if things aren’t going to plan it’s easy to bail out with your sanity intact and try again a few weeks later. And I like to be somewhere that’s within half an hour or so of civilisation and not too remote – good to know for any emergencies that may crop up.

What to take

As any modern parent knows, the list of “must-haves” for babies seems to get longer every week, and baby camping stuff is the same really – you can go as crazy, or not, as you like.

I’d say a large-ish tent is a must, with plenty of room for all your gear, and for you and baby to sleep, sit, play and eat. You’ll also need somewhere for your baby to sleep – a travel cot is fine if your tent is big enough to hold it. Warm bedding is essential too, even sunny days can lead to colder nights and the temperature can drop quickly. Take plenty of layers and maybe even a hat and mittens for baby to sleep in at the beginning or end of summer, and pack extra blankets so you can double up if it does get cold. You’ll also need lots (and lots) of clothes for baby (which probably means you’ll be in the same leggings and t-shirt all weekend….). My advice would be to pack what you think you need and take double, especially if your baby is mobile and likely to toddle or crawl through mud, mess, water, dinner etc.

Don’t forget the baby-wipes either! They really do become a parent’s best friend on camping trips because apart from nappy changes you can use them for hand-wiping, face washing and cleaning surfaces. Other essentials include baby sun-cream, toys and books, baby seat or chair and a baby-carrier or buggy.

Camp Safe

If your baby is mobile, then obviously a campsite can present some hazards to a crawling or toddling baba. As you pitch your tent have a scour around the immediate area for any sharp stones, rocks or rubbish, and when you set up your tent keep dangerous items away from curious hands by zipping them away in the inner tent, sealing them in a plastic box or put them high up on a sturdy table.

It’s a good idea to take a basic first aid kit too – for minor bumps and scrapes. Put in some antiseptic wipes and cream, plasters, baby antihistamine, baby pain relief and plasters and bandages.

And be prepared for the fact that your days of idly sitting outside your tent, enjoying the balmy summer’s evening and watching the campsite world go by are probably a thing of the past for a few years. You’ll be far too busy jumping up and down grabbing the baby from the tent next door, stopping her wandering into the babbling brook, pulling him out from under the ground sheet or stopping the ball of sheep poo making it into her mouth. Or more, likely, all of the above, at least until bedtime anyway…..

Happy Campers

But, don’t let all that put you off. Camping with babies is a truly rewarding experience. Children will see the joy in the smallest of things, which is delightful to watch. There’s something remarkable about seeing a baby wide-eyed with awe at their new all natural surroundings or teaching a toddler about the joy of simple pleasures. Taking small children camping opens up their world to new possibilities outside the safety of the baby-proofed living room; it teaches them about the great outdoors and they’ll start to learn about some of the dangers as well. And I don’t think kids are ever too young to start learning about wildlife, nature and the slower pace of campsite life.

You’ll also be able to mix camping with other adventures, like going to the beach, having a paddle in a stream, a nature treasure hunt or toasting marshmallows on a campfire. It’s also a good idea to relax the rules and the routine a little while camping – if your baby has bananas and chocolate buttons for three meals running, if they go to bed without a bath and the usually carefully orchestrated pre-bed routine went out the window. If you run out of organic apricot snack-packs or baby shoves a podgy fistful of soil into her mouth, the world won’t stop turning. Fresh air, nature and dirt are fantastic reasons to take your baby camping in the first place.

And although it’s doubtful that your baby will remember her very first camping trip, these care-free happy times and family adventures will be the start of precious childhood memories. And if nothing else, you’ll have tales aplenty with which to embarrass your child with on their 18th birthday about the time she crawled naked through a campsite with sheep-poo in her hair….

Top Tips

  • Get organised. Make a list and check it as you pack the car.
  • Choose a campsite close to home for the first trip. And choose a warm, dry weekend.
  • Look for a site with added baby-value – does it have a family toilet/shower cubicle so you can easily take little one in with you for a wash? Does it have animals that kids can feed/visit or a play-area?
  • Have a packet of baby wipes in every bag and in every section of the tent so they are easily-reachable at all times. Baby wipes are your best friend.
  • Get to the campsite in day-light hours. Pitching a tent while entertaining a baby is hard. Doing it in the dark is doubly hard!
  • Put all your cooking utensils/gas canisters/sharp implements (anything you don’t want your baby to grab hold of) in a large plastic box with a clip-lid.
  • If your baby is mobile, zip the tent door up at night with the zippers at the top.
  • For babies that are sleeping in a moses basket or pod, put a foam or camp mat and blankets underneath them because cold will come up from the ground.
  • A large washing up bowl or bucket can double as a baby-bath.
  • Buy some cold-water sterilising tablets if you need to sterilise bottles or feeding equipment.
  • Consider a glamping holiday as a way to ease into camping with a baby.
  • Have fun! If you’re anxious or worried about the trip your baby will pick up on it. Feed his excitement with your own enthusiasm.