Jun 01, 2023
Thinking about whether you want to take your baby camping or not? Camping with a baby isn’t the same as camping before you had a baby. Just like your life before a baby, it changes.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you love. Instead, it means adjusting to bring your baby along for the adventures. Camping with a baby allows you to introduce your baby to nature while spending quality time together outside.
Don’t get me wrong, it's not a piece of cake. You will adjust and I will help you plan for success. You will need to bring camping gear for baby and consider your baby’s needs. Below are my proven tips I have learned from camping with my babies.
It will help you get a better idea of what to expect and some tricks this momma uses.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mothers!
Each age has its pluses and minuses when camping with a baby. The biggest factor is the personality of your baby. Does he/she adjust to new surroundings well? Does your baby have colic? How often is your baby waking up at night?
A baby less than three months old hasn’t yet formed solid sleep patterns. A diurnal pattern with greater sleep at night is not established until 12 to 16 weeks. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018
This means waking up many times a night when camping with a newborn. Granted you will be waking up at home also, so this might not be a reason not to go.
You want to make sure your health is okay to go camping with a newborn. Immediately after giving birth you need to give your body some time to heal. I would not go any sooner than your doctor’s okay to resume exercise.
A big determinate if I want to take my newborn camping is his/her demeanor. If you have a colic baby I would wait till they outgrow this phase. The other campers will certainly appreciate not listening to your baby scream all night!
Lastly a younger baby poops more, some at every feeding and diaper change. This means bringing more diapers and having a good system to wrap and sore those dirty diapers.
If your baby is easy going and will sleep anywhere, like my second son, you might have an easy time.
A 3-6 month old has started forming patterns at night and sleeping longer periods. Your baby isn’t mobile yet so this could be the perfect time to start camping.
A baby hasn’t started eating solids so there will be less items to bring when camping with a baby at this age. The baby camping gear will be at its minimum with this age.
A 6-9 month baby should be sleeping longer at night and maybe even sleeping through the night, my first two were but my third baby was not.
A baby is often practicing sitting up and beginning to experiment with solid foods. When camping you will need to consider bringing solid food and a travel high chair to feed your baby.
Your baby is taking in their surroundings more and camping provides lots of great outdoor sensory activities.
A 9-12 month baby has a lot more going on. They are commonly crawling, pulling up to stand and harder to keep in one spot. For the older baby you will want to bring pack-n-play or travel crib as a safe spot for your baby when needed.
An older baby can be very used to the bedtime routine and might take longer to fall asleep in new settings. My 11 month old daughter wasn’t fond of camping and being taken away from her familiar surroundings. It takes her at least a day to warm up to new sleeping arrangements. However, my sons had an easier time adjusting.
Your baby will be eating more and starting to drink water. Adding a couple more items to your packing list will be necessary.
The most important factor when I pick a campground to camp with my baby is proximity and cleanliness of restrooms. Camping with a baby means lots of diaper changes in nature and or in the facilities. If you don't like changing diapers on the ground look for campgrounds that have baby-changing areas.
I highly value being able to clean my hands after diaper changes. Having a clean restroom close by is key.
Whether the campsite is located in the shade or not makes a difference. A baby under the age of 6 month should not wear sunscreen. The best way to protect a baby is by keeping them in the shade and protective layers. A campsite in the shade works in your favor.
Additionally, a campsite in sun will appear brighter and might require a camping blackout shades to get your baby to nap in the daytime in the tent.
Lastly, how close is the next campsite to you. Camping withe a newborn often means some crying will happen. A campsite with some space between other campers work best.
An older baby might enjoy a playground at their camping grounds. A baby older than 6 months old can swing on a baby swing. All three of my kids have loved the swing from a young age.
Once your baby starts crawling a little playground designed for young kids could add entertainment to your camping experience.
Proximity of other activities, such as hiking trails or lakes, you can hike your baby to during the day without having to drive to.
Camping with babies result in more camping gear. A campsite that fits your vehicle is clutch. You don't want to lug around all your camping gear, but rather easily grab it from the car.
Also when it comes time to pack up your campsite having your car close by saves time and energy. Let's be honest you might not have gotten the best night sleep camping with a baby so your energy levels might not be optimum.
Camping with a baby doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice safe sleep. A baby should be laid on their back on a firm mattress to sleep. For me I find that a travel crib, such as a pack-n-play, is the best sleeping arrangement when camping.
I dress my baby appropriately for the night time temperatures. Babies should not sleep in traditional sleeping bags because of safety concerns. The safest way to dress a baby warmly for camping is for the baby to wear a wearable sleeping bag.
Wearable sleeping bags for babies come rated for ranges of temperatures. I commonly camp when the nighttime temperatures are between 45-55. For this reason I have my baby sleep in Little Mo 40. This wearable sleeping bag is best for temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees.
I like a tent that is large enough to fit my ideal camping bed set up for my kids and baby. Camping with babies and/or kids gets easier when you have more space. You can use the extra ground space as a clean spot for your baby to crawl and play and even put a camping chair in to sit and feed your baby.
I also don’t camp with my kids in very cold temperatures so am not concerned with the most compact tent to prevent heat loss. Remember larger tents will be colder at night, but should not be a concern if you don’t camp in freezing temperatures or if you have the right warm weather camping gear.
The other factor for me is cost. As much as I would like the premium products, I like having money in my bank account. A family tent should be reasonable. It is not a tent I am strapping to my back to hike up the mountain to camp with. I am not concerned about each additional pound or the space it takes up in my hiking backpack, I just have to pop it in the trunk of our car.
We use the Core 9 person tent for our family camping trips with our baby. I think this is the ideal tent for our family of 5, 2 adults, preschooler, toddler and baby. There is space for our kids to move around and play as well as two sleeping cots, a pack-n-play and adult sleep setup.
Activities are dependent on what type of campground you chose. However, gather up some ideas with Best Activities To Do Outdoors with Baby. Many outdoor baby activities don't require anything more than space outside.
If taking your baby on a boat or in a body water bring a life jacket for baby. For a pool you can consider a water baby carrier.
A state park campground will often offer hiking trails, playgrounds, lake beaches and boating activities.
A family campground will often offer a swimming pool, playground, nature trail, fire rings or grills and organized activities. Most websites highlight the amenities offered and scheduled group activities.
A full description can be found at Best Baby Camping Gear and Baby Camping Checklist. Here I go over all the considerations and what products I take when camping with a baby. You might own some baby camping gear if you have already invested in outdoor baby gear.
Camping with a baby is a new experience and one that might not always go as planned. Your baby could be teething, get sick or the weather could change for the worse. The best way to start camping with your baby is to camp near home.
Once you feel more comfortable camping with your baby and have ironed out the hiccups you can start planning camping trips further from home.
I like to camp for two nights minimum. Often my babies have taken a half day to an entire day to adjust to sleeping in a new place. Therefore, if I only camp for one night I often wouldn’t get the best experience since most of my time and energy would be setting up and taking down camp with a cranky baby.
Pro Tip: If you are worried about how your baby would do camping you can first camp in your backyard. Pro Tip 2: Pack baby Tylenol or Ibuprofen according to doctors recommendation.
The right baby camping gear can make or break a trip. A cold baby is not a happy baby and you will surely know all about her/his discomfort.
I like to look at overnight temperatures and prepare for the coldest temperature I see and subtract 5 more degrees. Sometimes weather changes and it's best to be over prepared than under.
Layering is perfect for camping. Merino Wool is a great baby base layer for both cold and warm days.
Some babies take longer to adjust to new surroundings/experiences than others. My daughter was not a happy camper the first time we took her camping. She was irritable, didn’t want to nap and constantly wanted me to hold her.
The more familiar a baby is in a setting the happier he/she will be. Just like adults, babies like to know what to expect. We are most comfortable in patterns and familiarity. If you love camping and want your baby to love it also, don’t give up.
Try going camping again shortly after your first experience. This will help build familiarity with camping for your baby. Set up a tent out in your backyard and let your baby explore leading up to a camping trip.
A large tent provides so much more than a place to sleep for a baby. It is a safe spot for your baby to play and eat when the weather is not ideal or to be used just as a break.
I prefer to bring a travel crib for a safe sleep spot for my baby. I also like to put my nursing camping chair inside during the night for easy night time feedings. All these things work better with a bigger tent.
I want some space between the other kids and my baby. Therefore when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night she is less likely to wake up her brothers.
Not having to worry about whether my baby is safe while sleeping allows me to sleep better when camping. I don’t share a bed with my baby at home and I don’t want to while camping. Both my babies and myself have slept better when we had our own space to sleep.
To make this a reality when camping I bring a travel crib as my baby’s camping bed. Travel cribs can be set up in about a minute and fit in most family tents.
Also, travel cribs work as great safe spots for babies during the day. If you need to build a fire or help another child with something you can pop your baby in the crib. I like to use mine when setting up and putting down the tent. I put the crib outside and can fully concentrate without worrying where the baby is.
Pro Tip: If your baby is used to a sound machine you might want to pack a portable sound machine.
Babies that have started eating purees or solid food will greatly benefit from a travel highchair. Trying to sit and hold your baby while feeding, or your partner holding the baby while you feed them takes too many hands.
Also most travel highchairs come with a feeding tray. If your little one is working on feeding themselves, place some small bites on the tray for them to eat themselves.
Lastly, a travel highchair works as a safe seat for your baby. I place mine around the fire and often my babies have been happy to sit in their own spot while we hang around a campfire.
I use the Hiccocamp Omniboost travel high chair and have loved it. It comes with a carrying case, feeding tray, and interchangeable feet options. It can be attached to a chair or placed on a flat surface.
This chair has been with us on airplane journeys, restaurants, camping and hiking trips and used in our backyards for BBQs.
Babies don’t like to be cold or wet. Spending time and some money to have good baby camping clothes makes a difference. Baby camping clothes also double for just great outdoor clothing for your baby. You will use it for more than just camping!
The best base layer for your baby while camping is made from merino wool. Merino wool is moisture wicking, super soft, temperature regulating, insulating, breathable, UV protectant and odor free. It is great for both hot and cold weather.
For colder weather great baby camping clothes include hats, mittens, and a waterproof top layer. I love the Oaki Trail Suit as my baby’s top layer. It keeps all the dirt and moisture from my baby no matter what she does!
In warmer weather and sunny days having the right sun protection for your baby while camping is important. A baby under 6 months old shouldn’t have sunscreen, therefore the best protection you can provide is through clothing and shade.
A baby sunhat is a must have when camping with a baby for daytime use. A baby sunhat should have a wide brim, strap to secure to a baby’s head and ideally be adjustable.
Camping with a baby requires preparation. It probably will not go as smoothly as you have planned. Nothing with kids does!
Give yourself a break and don’t set expectations that it will be easy. Better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.
Will it be worth it? 100% yes! If you love the outdoors then camping with your baby is a great way to spend time with your baby in nature. The more your baby gets used to being outside and camping the more likely camping with a baby will be enjoyable.
You know your baby best. You know their personality and will have the best idea on how your baby will act. Don’t anticipate it will go as you see it on social media. Those pictures are one small snapshot of a single moment, not the whole story.
My middle child was that happy baby. He barely ever cried and was happy in all situations. Compare that to my youngest who clings to me whenever something is bothering her and you don’t have to guess which baby was easier to camp with. Every baby is different.
I can nurse my baby while sitting on the ground, however, given the choice I prefer the chair. When camping with a baby I like to allow myself some comforts to make it more enjoyable for myself. A chair in which to nurse my baby is one of them.
I like to use my Joey chairs. They are super easy to set up (less than a minute), lightweight and compact for travel. I can easily move these chairs from around the fire pit to into the tent and also pack in a bag for nursing on hikes.
Pro Tip: If you have the space also back a small portable stool for your legs!
Camping with a baby is not like camping with only adults. A baby needs things and requires your time. Give yourself a break and plan for simple meals.
A dehydrated meal where you only have to boil water is a great choice. Other simple options are to bring already made food; think sandwiches, prepared salads, or meal bars. Roasting hot dogs over a fire is also a great option. I did this the last time I camped with my baby and it really hit the spot.
Getting around the campsite will be easier with a way to carry your baby hands free. A rough terrain stroller can work, but will require more storage space in your car that you might not have with all the other camping gear.
Late night trips to the bathroom or daytime hiking around the trails I find easiest when wearing my baby. All three of my babies have also loved being worn or carried.
For a baby under 6 months old I used a soft structured carrier, my LIllebaby carrier. A baby this age can’t sit up in the hiking backpack. My babies were always happy to take a nap in the forward inward position. This is a great option for daytime naps when camping with a baby.
Older babies, 6 months plus, I usually placed in a toddler carrying hiking backpack. I could hike for hours with them in the pack as my baby watched the world around them. My babies also had no trouble falling asleep in our Kelty Journey PerfectFit backpacks.
Pro Tip: Babies typically are happy to be worn for naps in the daytime
If you don’t love being out in nature you aren’t camping with a baby. If you are reading this, chances are you love the outdoors and are curious what that looks like once you have a baby.
Introducing your baby to nature is fun. Getting to watch as they first discover new things, like an ant on the ground or sleeping in a tent is awesome. It might not always be easy, but it is worthwhile.
Holding your baby around the campfire as the sunsets for the day is a special memory you will hold in your heart.
You get to create what type of childhood you want your kids to have. If you are anything like me you will want a childhood full of adventure, nature and play. I prioritize lots of outdoor play and taking my babies and kids camping is a great way to spend time outside together as a family.