Talk to most new or expecting parents and they’ll lament to you about how they have to give up their beloved camping trips once their little one arrives or until they’re some arbitrary age. Listen up parents, you really don’t have to forgo your annual spring break camping trip just because you’d have a tiny tike along for the trip!
For some reason, a common misperception exists that it is unsafe, unenjoyable, or downright impossible to still get out into the great outdoors for an overnight adventure if you’ve got an infant. Granted, you really shouldn’t be heading out to the national park if you just gave birth, but there’s no reason once mom and dad have physically recovered, that you have to confine yourself to your house.
We’ve put together some guidance and tips to help parents feel more comfortable making the decision to pack up and head out!
Hanging out around the campfire or fishing by the lake won’t require any fancy means of transportation. But if you plan to head out onto the trail, there are many great infant carriers on the market today. Front-facing carriers like the BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One Air, and backpack carriers like the Osprey POCO LT, are popular and safe choices. Remember to take breaks more often than you normally wood to give your little one a chance to stretch and relax.
Many children begin walking as early as 9 months. There is no reason you can’t let your little one try the hike themselves, just know that they won't last long and they’ll need a lot of help. But as long as you know what to expect and don’t get in too big of a hurry, it could be a great way to get your kid moving and practice those gross motor skills.
Baby’s gotta eat!
Formula feeding, breastfeeding, and even pumping IS possible while camping! If you’re formula feeding, take plenty of purified water. When hiking, convenient dispensers like Dr. Brown's Baby Formula Dispenser are easy and space-saving. Use that extra space to bring enough bottles on a hike so that you don’t have to try and wash/sterilize the same bottle. Then boil water/sterilize back at your campsite. If you’re breastfeeding, most campgrounds and trails have plenty of private places a mom could feed. Choose a shady spot and let baby enjoy a meal in the great outdoors. I’ve even pumped while camping! Choose a campsite that has electric hook-ups and then plug and pump! Of course, you’ll need to use the milk right away or be sure to have appropriate cold storage (ice chest or cooler that plugs in). If weening and introducing solids, just keep in mild storage limitations for food needing to be kept at certain temperatures.
Worried you won’t get any sleep? Most babies actually sleep better outside! Fresh, cool air and soothing sounds of nature offer babies a peaceful night’s sleep. Sleep sacks are a great way to offer a “blanket” to an infant safely. A travel bassinet such as the Brica Fold 'n Go Travel Bassinet can provide a safe and comfortable bed for nighttime and naps during the day. If you’ll be on a day-long hike, pack a simple bed roll for naptime.
Layer it up!
The key to making sure our babies are warm or cool enough, is to layer their clothing. You’ll want some sort of base layers like a comfy onesie and stretchy pants, then you can add and subtract outerwear as needed. Don’t forget a hat or beanie to protect their little heads from wind and sun. Be sure and check on them often, since temperatures can fluctuate by as many as 50 degrees during the course of a day, depending on location.
The thought of changing and disposing of diapers in the great outdoors may seem daunting, but it truly is not terribly different than at home. When setting up camp, create a designated “changing area” and have all the essentials ready. Most campgrounds have conveniently located trash receptacles to dispose of dirty diapers. Just be careful if camping in an area where wild animals are known to prowl at night for food (a.k.a. ripe smelling diaper!). If on a hike, don’t forget to pack something to lay your baby down on and bring a wet bag like Nicki's Diapers Smart Bottoms Small Wet Bag to haul your waste. Remember… pack in, pack out!
If safety issues like weather and insects and wild animals are holding you back, there are a number of steps you can take to eliminate these concerns. Babies can get sun and wind-burned much easier than older children or adults, so decide which precautionary measures will work best for your little one. Some babies can wear certain sunscreens, but for those still very young, dress them in long sleeves and head coverings to protect their sensitive skin. Also, be sure your carrier has a hood or umbrella to give an extra layer of protection. Insect repellant can be used for babies older than two months, but long sleeves and mosquito netting can be very effective as well. You can carry a first aid kit along with other safety tools like a whistle, bear spray, or satellite phone.
Pro Mom Tips:
- Slow down, don’t be impatient, and be flexible! A camping trip with an infant is NEVER going to be the same as an adult only adventure. Just be sure to keep this in mind and adjust your expectations. It can still be an extremely rewarding experience, especially for your kid(s).
- Be smart about timing! Don’t plan your trip for the hottest or the coldest time of the year. August in Texas or February in Minnesota probably are not the best times to try a camping trip with an infant.
- Have an escape route! Be sure to find out where the nearest hotel accommodations and urgent care or hospital are. That way, if an emergency arises, you have a plan and won’t be as stressed out if you need to get back to civilization asap.
- Don’t forget to document the trip! Whether it be photos, journal entries, or national park passport stamps. Your kids will love looking back and seeing all the cool things they got to do as a baby. Starting them early can help instill a love of the outdoors and respect for nature.