Were you an avid camper in your pre-baby life? Were long weekends spent at state parks and did cross-country adventures usurp all of your PTO? Now that you’re the proud owner of an adorable (and incredibly needy) new human blob, you might be concerned that your days of gallivanting from sea-to-shining-sea have come to an end. Think again, Mama! With a little courage and a lot of planning, you and your precious baby can go just about anywhere.
Getting there is half the… fun?
1. Add extra time to your drive
You might be used to pulling up Google Map times and shaving half an hour off, thanks to that lead foot. Now that you’ve got a baby, you’ll want to add time instead of take it away. Prepare for diaper changes, meltdowns (theirs and yours), and just some time to get out and stretch along the way.
2. Leave at bedtime
Your best bet for getting anywhere “on time” is to leave when you’re least likely to have the fewest interruptions. If you head out just before baby’s bed time, they’ll fall asleep while you drive. (Don’t push them past their usual schedule, though — an overtired baby won’t go to sleep at all.)
3. Make things as easy as possible
Want to avoid stopping when baby is hungry? Just like you used to pack a front seat picnic basket for yourself, don’t forget to include stuff for your babe. Consider keeping some pumped milk or pre-mixed formula handy for the ride. Baby food pouches and pre-sliced fruit and veggies can also come in handy.
Home Sweet Campsite
4. Make your presence known
The inside of your tent probably looks a lot different from home. While your baby will, of course, notice their most basic concern is being able to see you.
5. Invest in a small playpen or co-sleeper cot
Even if your baby is amazing at sleeping in their crib (Okay, Wonder Woman), get them used to sleeping in a playpen or cot. If you take one (or both) of these along while camping, they’ll sleep a lot better if it already smells like them and seems somewhat familiar.
6. Make it fun and familiar
Bringing the whole toy box might not be a bad idea, but it’s certainly impractical. If you rotate toys, bring a mix of current and former favorite items. If you don’t abide by that system, it’s all good. Just bring along a few favorites in each category (soft, interactive, noisy) and consider buying one or two new things to whip out when it starts to get hairy.
7. Feeding time matters
First, if your tiny tot is on a very strict eating schedule, definitely do everything possible to keep it the same while indulging your inner-explorer. Second, avoid the urge to change up how they feed. If you seclude yourself while you breastfeed at home, make time to duck into the tent. If you’re using a high chair, now isn’t the time to try sitting in a big kid seat. You already have so much junk. Trust us, we get it. However, consider picking up a camping high chair (very similar mechanics to a regular camp chair) or one of those highchairs that attaches to a table (if you know there will be picnic tables handy). Your sweet baby is dealing with enough change already, right? Too much newness is a guaranteed meltdown, even for your otherwise delightfully sweet offspring.
Some other simple advice
8. Make a trash solution
Babies create a ton of waste. Make sure you have a good trash disposal system in place — especially for things with odors that might draw wildlife to your campsite.
9. Pre-made food is your friend
If you’re still breastfeeding, then you’re golden. But what about everyone else? If you’re formula feeding and constantly mixing (and washing) bottles, now might be the time to try out those pre-made formula bottles. All you have to do is screw on your own nipple and you’re good to go. Seems way easier than boiling water at the campsite, no? And if you’re already on the baby food train? Those cute little glass bottles might be better for the environment, but they’re not practical on hikes or if you have a long walk for loading in and out. Food in pouches or plastic cups will be much lighter.
10. No, seriously. Bring your play pen
Did you register for a play pen, get one, and then immediately wish you could return it and use the money for one of your more immediate needs? Now is the time to put that incredibly thoughtful gift to good use. Even if your baby is going to co-sleep or if you’ll use a smaller cot in your tent, a play pen is still handy. You can use it to corral your kiddo while you’re playing with the fire. If you toss a fitted sheet over top, it can become a cool, shady spot for baby to play. Most importantly, it’s just another safe, clean play space for that toddler who likes to put everything in their mouth.
11. Wear Your Baby
If you’re a hiker, a baby carrier might just be the most important thing you can bring. Strollers obviously won’t cut it while hiking, even on the most worn down trail. Even if your little one has gotten the hang of walking, consider what dangers they might run into if they sprint off the path. There’s nothing wrong with letting your little one experience the joy of twigs and leaves crunching underfoot. However, the carrier will definitely come in handy when you stay out past nap time, their little legs reach their limits or you accidentally stray into some less kid-friendly terrain.
12. Consider the weather
Should you bring sunscreen and a floppy hat? Maybe you need to prepare for adding extra layers or layering on blankets. What if it rains? In certain parts of the country, you won’t just need to prepare for one of these scenarios, but for all of them.
13. Don’t forget the first aid kit
Got your Band-aids? Aloe? Calamine lotion? Tylenol? You probably already have a first aid kit tailor-made to your former life, but don’t forget to add in anything you could possibly need if your baby gets sick, bitten, sunburned, etc.
14. What about bathing?
Some people only bathe their kids every few days and can manage with some wipes after a messier day. Other babies are dependent on their nightly bath to settle down and sleep. A small plastic storage bin with some water is an excellent makeshift tub. Plus, you can use it to haul in all the crap you need now that you’ve got your new camping buddy in tow.