Close to Home: Camping with a Baby

Living in Texas, there are not many “outdoor” activities available that involve hiking boots, or a backpack. However, there are a few campgrounds nearby which we’ve visited either for overnight camping where you park your car in a spot and sleep in a tent (a.k.a. car camping) or for a day hike. We actually haven’t done any of this since Annelise was born, but we’re planning to go later this year, so we can update you on how camping works with older toddlers, but I’m optimistic!

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We’ve taken Nolan overnight camping twice – once when he was about 2 months old, and once when he was about 15 months old. We had a great time both times though I’ll say the baby is much easier. I personally would avoid taking kids camping during the crawling stage as there aren’t many options for them to crawl other than in an area with lots of dirt / bugs / etc. But once they’re walking, it’s actually a great place to explore. In fact, Nolan learned “wipe your dirty hands on your shirt” on the second camping trip and now we’re trying to get him to break that habit!

Camping with a baby can be easier than you think, as long as the people you go with are cool with some occasional crying. When Nolan was little, we just took our small backpacking tent, and used a changing pad in between our sleeping bags as his place to sleep. When he fussed, he was close by and I could feed him quickly and put him back down. We also brought our travel crib and a stroller mosquito net to put over it – he napped reasonably well in there, and it was a good place to put him down when someone wasn’t holding him.

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For the hiking this trip, we carried Nolan in our Baby Bjorn, but an Ergo would have worked as well. He was a big baby, and after a few hours, my back started hurting so I traded with my husband. But obviously depends on how long the hike was – this was a flat ~8 mile course so the carriers worked fine.

For meals, we brought our Baby Bjorn bouncer so he could feel like part of the conversation. We just set it up next to the camping chairs.

camping 054The camping spot pictured above is Huntsville which is our favorite, and we will be returning shortly. We went in January (hence the long sleeves) but we also got pretty lucky with weather. We tried to go last year in February but had a forecast in the 40s and decided taking a 3 month old out in that cold would not be fun – so it can definitely be weather dependent.

Our second camping trip was with a young toddler (15 months). We did much of the same, except we got a larger tent and put the travel crib inside the tent for both naps & bedtime. Since we put him down earlier than we went to bed, we just crept in later. It helped that our campfire was at the second campsite next to ours so we could put him in the tent and be within earshot but not so close that we kept him up.

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We also went ahead and purchased a hiking backpack for this trip as he was now a stout boy, and required more support though I have friends who used the Ergo up to 18 months, so it may just depend on the kid. Nolan loved the backpack, and even fell asleep on the hike – you can see he slept right through our snack break!

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Since we knew we’d have some downtime, we also brought the wagon so we could walk him around the campground areas. This worked really really well since young toddlers do not go where you want them to go when walking. I think our running stroller would have worked well too.

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This trip was near Lake Somerville which was fun, but probably more for people who have a boat or horses (it was equestrian friendly). The hiking was different and slightly hilly (for Texas) which was a nice change of pace, but I find the Huntsville campground much easier. Good variety though!

So as I’m thinking about taking our one year old and three year old camping, are there any other parents out there who have done this? Any tips for how to get both kids to sleep in a tent at the same time? I think there will be some serious trial and error. 🙂 Luckily it’s a short drive away, so if we have to go home early, we’ll just do that. Wish me luck!

– Stassja

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