1. Research and Find Inspiration
The idea of taking an infant or young baby camping can be overwhelming and scary. Questions, concerns and “what ifs” may plague you as you set out to plan your first camping trip. When we were discussing taking our 6 week old baby on his first camping trip last September, I was very intimidated and overwhelmed by all of my concerns. I decided to look for some inspiration in guidebooks and blog posts. My go-to outdoor baby guidebook is Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping, & Boating with Babies and Young Children by Jennifer Aist. This has become my bible when planning or prepping for camping or hiking trips. It helped to answer all of my questions from sleeping to eating to preparing for bugs with my babies best interests in mind.
I also looked for inspiration from those who had gone before me. Social media is an incredible tool to find and follow people who have already successfully done what you hope to do in the future. Bobby and I follow a number of professional climbers one being Tommy Caldwell. He and his wife, Becca, had their first baby, Fitz, in 2013. Just seeing the pictures she posts to her instagram account of their little boy out in the woods helped to inspire me and ease some of the fears I had about spending an entire day and/or weekend outside with my precious baby boy.
2. Plan for the best but Prepare for the Worst – Always have a plan B
The first time we went on a camping trip with our son he was only 6 weeks old (see our post Jack’s First Camping Trip). We were really nervous about Jack staying warm enough and were wondering how much of our night would be full of screaming. We packed many layers and chose a campsite that was off by itself in the hopes of not bothering other campers too much. We also chose a campground that was close to a fairly large town that had many hotels that we could stay at if things went horribly in the night. I had checked nearby hotels to make sure that there was availability for the night we would be there.
When packing for trips I always have a ridiculous number of clothes, socks, hats, blankets, and warm layers. You never know what a day might bring with a baby. How many blowouts or bad spitups will there be. I know how many diapers Jack goes through on any given day but I always double it and bring lots of extras just in case. I also bring along a fresh package of wipes, all the diaper rash ointment I have, baby tylenol, and our trusty Nose Frida in case Jack comes down with a cold or a stuffy nose while we’re out on the trip. I also bring along baby soap, a washcloth, and a towel in case a bath is required. I don’t pack lightly. I’d hate to be out in the woods and having a successful camping trip but then having to pack it in and head home because I didn’t bring along enough spare outfits.
3. Stay in your comfort zone and listen to your instincts
I would highly recommend for a first time camper to head to a campground you know and are comfortable with. Chose one that has some nicer amenities, like flush toilets or a heated bathroom building. Stay somewhere you are comfortable. We had booked a site at a campground we are familiar with but when we got there we realized the site was far too close to Lake Superior and there was a strong breeze that had us cold at only 2:00 p.m. We returned to the visitor center and asked for a different site. While it was a beautiful spot we just didn’t feel that we would be comfortable camping in a location where we were worried about our sweet babe staying warm enough all night.
A mother’s and father’s instinct is so strong and should be listened to at all times. If any parent or guardian is feeling uncomfortable about any aspect of the situation stop a minute and discuss the issue. Are there any alternatives? Remember that if one person in the group is unhappy or uncomfortable it will affect the whole dynamic of the group. So, listen to each other, respect one another’s concerns, and come to a solution that everybody is comfortable with.
For example, when we were planning our first camping trip with our 6 week old I was very nervous about our tent setup. I have a lot of fears around SIDS and, therefore, safe sleep is extremely important to me. I worried about Jack being smothered by us, or by our 80 lb Golden Retriever. The tent we had wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of us and a pack n play and I didn’t feel at all comfortable having us sleeping in different tents. We decided that the best solution would be to go out and purchase a new tent that had two rooms and could easily fit all of us and all of the items we would be bringing along and needing throughout the night.
4. Don’t Forget to Eat!
Jack is 9 months old and now when we camp I have to plan for his meals in a whole new way. When he was an infant and was strictly breastfeeding a day on the trail or in camp was incredibly easy when it came to meals. Now, we’ve entered a whole new ball game. First and foremost, don’t skimp on food when packing. Plan out your baby’s meals as closely as you would if you were spending your days at home but then add some extras. Just as you may eat more while camping, so might your baby. We always take the time to stop and have our meals at the times we would when we’re at home.
We try and follow our schedule for food as closely as possible when on the trail or in camp. Jack’s nap schedule usually goes haywire during an adventure but food, I feel, is more important. Also, offer your baby water (if they are drinking water) frequently to help prevent dehydration. When Jack was an infant and we would spend the day on the trail I would offer him more opportunities to nurse then usual to ensure he didn’t become dehydrated. Dehydration can happen if they are spending a lot of time outside if it’s warm and they are sweating a lot. This can easily happen if they are against you in a carrier all day long.
Jack is the type of baby that becomes really distracted when in a new environment which can make feeding times a bit more challenging. I do my best to stick with it, even if it means a longer break then we had originally anticipated/planned for. But having a full and hydrated baby means a happy and healthy baby!
Eating isn’t just important for your baby, it’s also really important for parents! Nursing mothers should pack loads of snacks and extra water, remember if you aren’t fed and hydrated your supply may decrease which will affect baby. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of baby. My husband frequently doesn’t eat right away when we are preparing to leave in the morning which means his day starts off with a headache, extreme hunger, and he’s pretty unhappy. It’s so important to stop, eat, take a breath, and relax. The campsite or trailhead will still be there even if you leave the house a little later then you had hoped for!
5. Have FUN!
This is the most important tip I can give to you! HAVE FUN! Remember that going camping with a baby is A LOT of work. But, trust me when I say that it will be the best camping trip you will ever have! Watching your baby explore and discover the outdoors is a truly magical experience. We feel so blessed to have this little human being who is going to learn about nature and life from us and the world around him. Playing with him in the tent, eating lunch on the shores of an alpine lake with him, or snuggling with him in a sleeping bag on a cold/rainy morning as everybody is still waking up are magical moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.