What a success this past weekend was; first camping trip with the little one, and celebrating A’s first Father’s Day! I knew I wanted to take A for a camping weekend as his first Father’s Day treat. I wanted to surprise him with a camping trip (the type of “let’s go for a 5 hour long drive and squeal SURPRISE CAMPING! upon arriving at the park” kind of surprise) with a 6-month old in tow. I thought about keeping it to myself, sneakily pack everything, and take control of the steering wheel as he relaxes in the backseat with P. I thought about it again, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. To keep it as “surprise” as possible, I told him that that was one of the few weekends still available for camping. I honestly don’t know if he knew it was going to be on Father’s Day weekend, but that was the least of my concerns.
I used to get incredibly anxious whenever I have to take little P out. As a new mom, ensuring I have everything before I even think about stepping foot outside can be headache-inducing. As a result, I would have a bulging over-stuffed diaper bag full of “necessities.” You can imagine how much my anxiety heightened at the thought of packing for an outdoors overnight trip. Out came an exasperated sigh and I sat down to plan. Trepidation hung over my head as I went over my plans. I quickly shook it off because I knew I wanted P to adopt to her parents’ lifestyle instead of the other way around. I wanted to expose her to activities A and I enjoy doing as early as possible, if she’s physically and developmentally ready for them. Break her in early, why not. I was well aware of the possible challenges that may arise, but those were lessons I was willing to learn.
I have great news for you wonderful people. It can be done! With careful and well thought of planning, you can have a successful camping weekend with your little one!
Tips (and lessons learned) for camping with a baby:
I read somewhere to stay close to home for the first time camping with a baby. In the (possible) case that the baby is totally having a horrible time, you can always leave. Little P can handle being in the car for a long period, so I knew a 5 hour long drive was doable. She slept for the most part, and when she got hungry, we found the closest parking lot (ahem Tim Hortons) so she can have her bottle and mom and dad can have their coffees. She did so well with this trip that we’ve started to think of subsequent trips that are 8-hour long drives. A is pretty ambitious.
Really know your child and how they react to changes in environment and new settings, as some of them don’t tolerate change as well as others. As exciting as it is to go on your first camping trip with your baby, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Luckily for us, P is an excited curious little girl. She gets excited when she’s in a new place and sees new things/faces. It’s a bonus that she loves trees, lol.
Make sure your baby is dressed comfortably and weather appropriate. We only packed sleep clothes for little P; a couple sleeping onesies and fleece onesies. She was wearing a tank top and shorts on the drive. I was thinking of keeping her in that outfit, but it is a campsite meaning there are plentiful of bugs and the sun was beaming down (it was a humid 30°C). We added a layer of fleece onesie and gave her infant mitts and a hat because it got a little chilly during the night (temperature dropped to 18°C overnight). It’s a great idea to always start light and add layers in accordance to temperature changes. She also had a quilt to blanket her, just to ensure she’s warm and toasty.
It’s also important that your baby has a comfortable sleeping area. We were going to purchase an infant sleeping bag for her, but I didn’t like the idea of stuffing her into a bag knowing how much she tosses and turns at night. No, thank you. Instead, we brought the folding bassinet that came with her stroller. This was a great choice because it collapses for better storing and carrying, and it’s also approved for overnight sleeping. I layered it with a fleece blanket and my sweet child slept soundly through the night. Having said that, I will go against my words and go as far as to say I will get an infant sleeping bag for future camping trips. The bassinet did its job, but it was bulky for our 3 person tent. I also just realized that P is approaching the size limit of that bassinet. I obviously won’t get sleeping bag too big that she’ll drown in it and suffocate (the root of my fear). Knowing how well she slept in this new and unfamiliar setting, I think she’ll do just fine in a good ol’ regular sleeping bag.
Bring extra diapers. I could have packed enough nappies based on knowing how much P goes in a day, but I also know she goes a little extra on some days. I don’t even want to imagine running out of diapers and she has an explosive poop. Yes, it can happen. It’s better to overpack when it concerns pees and poops.
Create a baby friendly station. If we had a play yard, I would have brought it. But we don’t, so we had to make do with what we had. I had a picnic blanket laid on the ground, layered with a thick blanket, and topped with a quilt for tummy time/hanging out station. Off to the corner of that is her bassinet for when she needed to nap or for a more comfortable resting space. We set up a mosquito net over to block as much bugs and insects as possible. We only brought a couple of small toys, which were enough to entertain her. Another great found I came across is a hanging highchair. We just attached it to the picnic table and sat P on it. I will write a review very soon, so stay tuned! She watched as mama and dada set up camp, made campfire, roasted marshmallows, cooked chilli, and saw little chipmunks.
Get an early start. Travel times usually revolve around your baby’s waking and feeding times. P usually wakes up around 7 or 8 a.m. and will want her bottle soon after waking. I woke up extra early to prep her bottles, 1 for when she wakes up and 2 for the road. We packed the car the night before to avoid running around frantically in the morning. After a nappy and clothes change, we buckled her into her ever so comfortable car seat and off we went. She took a bottle and quickly went back to sleep. As for packing up camp, we sat her on the hanging high chair after feeding and she happily watched her tree friends as we got moving. The car was packed by 9 a.m., which allowed us to hike for a little bit before hitting the road.
Make mom and dad comfortable. While I triple checked I had P’s essentials and necessities packed and ready, I somehow neglected mine and A’s needs. Like, how I forgot to pack coffee. I haven’t even been drinking coffee, but no hot mug of coffee early camping morning is like not having smores around the campfire. Which, I also forgot to pack, regretfully. I also forgot to pack us a blanket and an extra towel. The biggest nuisance was the air mattress that had a leak and deflated during the night. I would have rather slept on the ground. Our tent was also a bit stuffed due to the amount of things we had to fit in a 3 person tent. A and I learned to do an equipment check before leaving the house to make sure everything is in good condition or if we need to do some fixing and repairing. Another regretable thing I did was forget to bring P’s carrier! This just goes to show it doesn’t hurt to go over your checklist for the millionth time. We couldn’t go on the hike we wanted to do because it would just be so treacherous and extremely unsafe. As brave as I am and can probably hold down a fight (yeah, right), I’m a strong believer in the buddy system. I knew that if one of us had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, the other one would come too, which means the baby will need to come too. I had to take that into consideration when choosing the campsite. I got lucky and found one just beside the washroom and the water station. It was extremely convenient to have these amenities a couple of steps away.
Safety first. As fun as it is to be one with nature, the wilderness can be dangerous with unpredictable weather, wild animals, and rough terrain. Don’t be discouraged from going on that camping trip. The key is safety preparation. I researched the campsite and what to look out for in terms of wildlife and poisonous plants. Even though we were only there for one night and we were pretty much going to stay within our campsite, I made sure I knew the type of animals, insects, and plants I could possibly encounter. I also got myself familiar with the first aid protocol should something happen. The weather forecast is pretty accurate, but I still packed for possible change of weather and drop in temperature. Make sure to bring First Aid kit, insect/bug repellants, calamine lotion, sunscreen and a sunhat (I chanced upon these baby friendly products, so I was super excited about them.)
Enjoy the great outdoors. I’m almost sure you really love camping and being one with nature if you’re willing to take on the challenges you will be faced with, with an infant in tow. Keep the excitement alive the whole time! Don’t let all that effort and planning go to waste. Babies pick up on their parents’ emotions, so if you’re excited and thoroughly enjoy yourself, they will too! Not only did little P watch us set up camp, we also told her what we were doing. We always kept her in the loop whenever we did something, “This is firewood. Mommy is using a hatchet to cut the firewood to make kindle for the campfire. This is mommy running away from black flies.” We swam in the lake (more like waded). We went on a short hike. We watched the sun set. We watched a little chipmunk collect food. We watched the stars light up the sky. We sat around the campfire and watch the flame dance. That’s when I held on to my sweet child a little tighter and leaned on A a little closer, and really took in the moment and was truly grateful we decided to this.
Sure it can be a daunting task to go camping with a baby, even dreadful, but don’t stress. If you’ve gone camping before, that’s half the task covered. Although you’re still getting to know your baby, their everyday routine will provide enough details as to how to plan your camping weekend to accommodate their needs and still have a ton of fun – and that’s the other half of the task. Don’t let stress stress you out. Again, careful and thoughtful planning will make for a fun camping weekend with your little babe.
– tired little babe from all the camping fun –