If the thought of camping with a baby sounds totally terrifying I understand. It was something we kind of decided to do on a whim. We had planned our cross-country road trip with no camping because it sounded intimidating. When we switched our plans to avoid the heatwave in Arizona on our way back we decided camping was the best way to see Yellowstone.
We loved it and it was nowhere near as difficult as we expected.
The truth is babies love the outdoors (or at least ours does) and there are so many benefits of bringing babies outdoors. That said, doing anything with a baby can be complicated. Camping is no different. However, I do not believe either camping particularly makes baby care more complicated, nor does having a baby particularly make camping more complicated.
In this post I am sharing our experience camping with our 3-month old and what we found useful.
What is it like camping with a baby?
Camping with a baby doesn’t have to be stressful. For the most part camping nights were no more stressful than any other night of our road trip or any other night at home. Yitzchak loves the outdoors. He was so excited waking up in the tent in the mornings. It was really adorable. That said there were a few exceptions.
First, I definitely felt pressure when he cried because campgrounds have people fairly nearby and they can see and hear everything. We usually stayed in Airbnbs where we had our own space and I felt calmer as I calmed him. That brings me to the next part.
This was actually my biggest failure of camping and the worst I think I have ever read Yitzchak’s communication. One night it seemed like he was ravenous and cluster feeding. It took me quite some time to realize he was in fact cold which was why he was happy near me. I was offering body heat more than milk. He had been comfortable the night before so I wasn’t expecting this. At that point I realized I had to change his outfit but more on that later.
Once he was changed though into a warm outfit everything was wonderful. We even got a comment from our neighbor in Badlands about what a good sleeper he is.
What you need
You need some sort of sleeping place for your baby. For young babies, I recommend either a travel bassinet or if you have a stroller with a bassinet attachment, that. We used both our Uppababy bassinet and a portable bassinet like this one. We found for cooler weather camping the portable one was better because we could put it between our two sleeping bags, keeping the baby in the warmer part of the tent. If the weather is warmer this is not a concern. A Pack-and-Play or something similar would work for older babies but our little one is still young enough for a bassinet.
Warmth is definitely the biggest concern when it comes to camping with babies which brings me to the second item you need, a warm outfit for babies. I did find one company selling sleeping bags for babies but they were only for babies over six months. Our little guy at the time of our first camping trip was just under three months. We used two different snowsuits/baby buntings. One was a lighter-weight one that I wore as a baby. The other was a Columbia infant snowsuit.
I was a little uncomfortable, however, with the Columbia snowsuit for two reasons: 1) it was really big on him and 2) the hood felt pretty invasive in his face. We got 0-3 month size and even at 3 months it was giant on him. I feel like he will be using it at least at 6 months if not in the winter when he is 9 months.
We had to use it though when he got too cold in the other suit. I folded the hood under him so there was no chance of it obstructing his breathing, but I would recommend finding one that does not have a hood.
For babies older than 6 months there actually are infant sleeping bags. I personally have not tried it but this is an example. I will probably get one for camping next year.
Obviously as well what they wear depends on the temperature. He needed the Columbia snowsuit in Yellowstone but in Badlands, he was fine with just the lighter one. In a hotter climate neither might be appropriate.
The only other item I think is a must-have is a clean, safe place to put the baby down. For me that is his Bumbo changing mat. For some people that might be a bouncer or something else.
Other than that though I really don’t think you NEED anything else. That said, if you want a really comfortable camping with babies experience I recommend this air mattress. This may put it more into glamping territory but hear me out. If you are breastfeeding it is so nice to have something to lean on while nursing in the tent. Our first camping experience with Yitzchak was in my sister’s yard and there we had it. We didn’t during our National Park trips but we are ordering one for later in the summer. It really is a game-changer if you have to feed a baby at night, especially if it is chilly and you don’t want to get fully out of the sleeping bag to nurse in a chair.
I definitely would recommend starting with a campground that has more amenities. Having some sort of service (even really limited service) offered some reassurance in case there were any problems. That said, everything went so smoothly and our baby loved his first camping trips. We are looking forward to more camping trips this summer and fall!