Being outdoors can come with numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, improving your immune function, and sharpening your cognitive skills. These are just as applicable to babies as kids and adults. A family camping trip can be good for everyone! The question is how you can camp with a baby. What do you need to know in advance? What preparations should you make to keep your little one safe and snug even while away from home?
Before you head into the wild, here are just a few tips, tricks, and hacks for camping with a baby.
Good Camping Destinations for a Baby
Technically speaking, you can go anywhere with a baby that you'd go with an adult. This include campgrounds, state parks, beaches, mountains, nature preserves, and so on.
Practically speaking, some camping destinations are going to be more infant-friendly than others. For example, an established campsite with bathrooms and showers is going to be a lot more convenient for parents than a dirt patch in the middle of nowhere.
The main thing to realize is that you don't want to “rough it” with a baby in tow. This means having access to clean water at the very minimum, but other amenities can make a world of difference as well. Some things to consider:
- Electricity (power outlets, generators)
- Cell phone service
- Noise levels
- Nearby recreation areas
If you're traveling somewhere far from home, you'll also need to consider the impact of things like climate, weather, and altitude.
How to Prepare for Camping With a Baby
Camping trips start at home. From packing up your tent to preparing crayons and finger foods for the journey, here are a few tips for making everything baby-ready.
One of the best hacks that you can learn for camping with a baby is to practice everything in advance.
Do you want to snuggle together in a sleeping bag under the stars? Your baby might need time to acclimate to the smell, the feel of the fabric, or simply the absence of their usual crib. Do a trial run in your backyard before you go on your rip.
Do you want to introduce your little one to the magic of s'mores? Don't wait until you're actually around the campfire. It might disagree with their stomach and cause a diaper disaster in the morning, and you'll want to be at home for that, not miles from your changing table.
New experiences are half of the fun of a camping adventure. For babies, however, who thrive on routine and can be easily upset by change, you'll need to balance exciting new things with the comfort and security of the familiar.
Is there anything cuter than pint-sized camping gear? The good news is that many infant camping items are adorable and functional. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Sleeping bag: A well-made infant sleeping bag can be used like a swaddle in any kind of environment.
- Travel bed: In addition to your tent, you might want to invest in a portable travel bed that acts as a pop-up sun shelter and playpen alike.
- Portable chair or booster seat: There are many varieties out there, but the best outdoor baby seats come with things like cup holders, removable trays, and sun canopies. Here's one from Baby Delight that has it all.
- Outdoor playpen: A pop-n-play structure can give your baby the freedom to crawl around without actually leaving your sight. When you're done with it, simply fold it back up and stash it away.
- Changing pads: Portable changing pads can be extremely convenient for campers, travelers, and other folks on the go. Some are waterproof; some have cozy quilted padding just like the ones at home. Some even have entire changing stations attached to them!
As for you, you might want to replace your old college backpacking gear with stuff that's more accommodating for a growing family. For example, you might trade in your solo tent for a large, multi-room family tent.
You might also consider a baby carrier so that you can keep your hands free even as you explore the unknown together.
Even if they're too young for hot dogs over the campfire, you should think about how you're going to handle meal and feeding times with your baby on your camping trip.
RELATED: Easy Camping Meals for Families
Bottles, for example, will need to be sanitized with clean water, which might mean boiling or filtering regularly, having access to a sink, or bringing portable jugs in your car.
Most baby food is shelf-stable, so you won't need a cooler, but certain purees or pouches might need to stay chilled.
It's possible to breastfeed while camping, but it'll take some extra coordination, especially if you're pumping. Make sure that you don't overlook any little details such as the temperature of your fridge or cooler while storing your breast milk. The CDC recommends 40°F or lower.
Dressing Your Baby for Camping
A clean, comfortable baby is one who's dressed appropriately for the weather and the environment.
The first thing to consider is fabric. While a lot of everyday baby clothes are made from easy-to-clean materials like cotton, this isn't necessarily a great fabric for camping. It doesn't insulate, and it doesn't dry quickly when wet. Synthetic fibers are better for the outdoors.
Another thing to think about is layers. Depending on the environment, your baby's usual onesies might be better left at home. Proper outfits with layered jackets can regulate their temperature more efficiently while also offering sun-proof or waterproof protection.
Speaking of the sun, make sure that your baby will have lots of coverage! Since sunscreen isn't recommended for infants under six months old, you're going to need hats, sleeves, and other forms of sun protection to block out harmful UVA and UVB rays. These layers can also help with bugs.
Last but not least, if you're hoping to snap some adorable “baby's first camping trip” photos, consider dressing them in a fleece bodysuit!
Establishing a Routine When Camping With a Baby
We've already talked about the importance of not upsetting your baby with too many changes at once. Let's get into detail about how to accomplish this.
Mealtimes: Little stomachs have long memories, so even if you're in the middle of a trek through the mountains, try to stick to a regular feeding schedule. On a related note, resist the urge to feed them just because they're bored, cranky, tired of travel. You'll mess up their internal clock.
Bedtime: Sleeping in a tent might feel very strange to your baby, especially if they don't usually co-sleep with mom and dad. They might find it comforting to have familiar bedtime things close to them. If you have any nightly rituals involving kisses or lullabies, make sure to go through the usual motions.
Changing: Change them the exact same way that you do at home. This isn't the time to experiment with something new.
Safety Considerations When Camping With a Baby
People go camping with their babies every day. It can be safe, fun, and memorable for everyone. You just have to be vigilant about the increased risks when you're in the big wide world rather than your safe and baby-proofed home.
Here are just a few things to remember as you're in the wilderness:
- Accidents can happen around fire and water.
- Wild animals can be attracted to cries, smells, and leftover food or garbage from babies.
- Toddling infants can stumble into places that they shouldn't be.
- No one can control the weather.
Be smart. Be prepared. Bring a first-aid kit with you, and no matter where you're going, make sure that you have local emergency numbers stored in your phone. A little preparation today can save you a lot of panic tomorrow.
RELATED: Camping With Kids Checklist
General Tips for Camping With a Baby
Bring more diapers than you think you'll need. Don't skimp on the wipes and powders, either. Make sure that you have a disposal plan in place. Are there garbage bins at the campsite? Are you bringing an airtight bag for your soiled cloth diapers?
Bring a few of their favorite items from home. A well-loved blanket or an engrossing toy can keep them calm while you're attending matters around your camp.
Don't overdo the gear. Do you really need a changing pad, a sleeping pad, and a playing pad? If your tent has a screened-in sun room, can you skip the outdoor playpen?
These are just a few hacks that can prevent fussing from babies on their first camping trips. Learn from the wisdom of parents who came before you and take this advice to heart!