We took our baby camping. I’m here to tell you that it is not only possible, it’s awesome! Camping with a baby requires some fortitude and the ability to adapt. But we’re parents. Adapting is what we do! Here are five tips I’m happy to share from my first foray into the world of camping with a baby.
1. Don’t Bring Everything and the Kitchen Sink
How hard is it to get out your door without bringing ten toys, an ergo, a stroller, the car seat, a burp cloth, a bottle, etc. Babies have a lot of baggage. Camping is already gear-heavy. You have a tent, sleeping bags, packs, food, etc. When I was compiling my list for our two-night stay I agonized about bringing the pack n’ play and then I remembered something: I WAS GOING CAMPING. Camping is about unplugging from the usual amount of stuff that we carry with us. So no, I did not bring the pack n’ play. My baby hung out on my dog’s bed most of the time, which is dual purpose, so I’m calling that a win.
To be fair, I did bring ten toys, which my dog also believed were dual purpose, but were thankfully yanked away before he could devour them completely.
2. Throw Regular Rules Out the Window and Don’t Feel Bad About It
We’re in the middle of sleep training. At home, we have a strict schedule that involves the appropriate amount of naps, nursing only at specific times throughout the night, and a carefully cultivated put-down process. It took a serious personal pep talk to let go of this routine, but I did, and the world didn’t end. I nursed my baby into a milk coma and left him sleeping in the tent. When we went to bed, I snuggled him next to me while my dog slept periodically on or in my husband’s sleeping bag. Every time my baby woke up in the quiet, populated campground, I immediately nursed him back to sleep. We did what we had to do.
Were we comfortable? No. Was it restful? Not particularly. Did we care? Nope. We were camping! Camping is not about comfort, it’s about roughing it with two adults, a baby, and a dog smooshed together in a small tent!
3. Be Flexible with Your Plans
Who doesn’t like a plan? A plan gives us parameters, it tells us what to expect, but it has no place in camping with a baby. We had planned a hike, and we actually succeeded. But we weren’t naive enough to believe that the plan couldn’t change. My husband carried the baby, I carried the day pack with all the essentials: diapers, changing pad, extra baby clothes, lunch, and that beach towel. We were prepared to turn back if necessary. We were also prepared to keep going. We could have continued, but our baby napped just before lunch, nursed, popped back in the pack, and we thought: why ruin a good thing?
4. People Aren’t Going to Judge You, I Promise
I say this because I was so afraid of what people would think. When my baby cried I thought people would judge me horribly. I was afraid people would wake up when he fussed in the night and blame us for it. When we arrived, we met this nice young couple the next campsite over, but after the first night we saw them packing up. They said they had to leave because she was having ‘back problems.’ Yeah right. I immediately assumed that translated into ‘baby fussing next door to our tent’ problems. And you know what? Maybe it did, but honestly, it probably didn’t. You’re doing what you have to do, and nobody thinks otherwise.
5. Have Fun and Remember You’re Doing a Great Job
Camping with a baby is a lot of fun. They are fascinated by the little things around them. They enjoy snuggling up with you while smelling like spilled milk and campfire. Even though it’s intimidating, if camping is an important part of your life, it’s worth facing the fear. And it’s okay if you cut your trip short. You’re doing it, parents. Adapt, relax, and let that kid roll around on a dirt-covered dog bed while you cook up some s’mores.