Camping with a baby is an unbelievably rewarding experience (if you’re a nature lover at least). Just imagine being out in the woods with your baby and watching them experience the world around them in a very tangible way. It can bring tears to your eyes.
You know what else can bring tears to your eyes? Getting only 4 hours of sleep because it’s a full moon out and you might as well have a 60 watt bulb plugged in above your baby’s camping bed. Or trying to cook a gourmet meal over an open flame while your “new to camping” toddler is teetering dangerously close.
While I firmly believe that camping with babies and toddlers alike can be a mutually beneficial scenario, it definitely takes more forethought than the olden days of throwing a sleeping bag in a truck bed and sleeping under the stars.
If you are interested in taking on the challenge of tent camping with a baby or toddler, here are some tips on how to camp with a baby to get you started!
What You’ll Find in This Article on Camping with a Baby or Toddler:
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12 Helpful Tips for Camping with a Baby or Toddler
1. Start Small When Camping with a Baby for the First Time
If you are taking your baby or toddler out for their first camping trip, no matter the age, I recommend that you start small. Plan your first trip camping with a baby at a location relatively close to home and start with just a night or two.
Keep in mind, that when camping with infants, even the most mature of adults can get crabby if you toss them into the wilderness unannounced. Be understanding if your baby is a little off due to their new surroundings and routines.
To illustrate why you should keep your first time camping with baby, imagine driving 8 hours to a campsite for a week of family camping (you took vacation time and everything!) only to have your child transform into an unmanageable version of their former selves.
Instead, for your first camping trip with your family, opt for a short weekend getaway a couple hours away. This enables you to easily come home if your first time camping with a baby isn’t positive. Keep your expectations low and your camping trips small, and then build from there as you gain experience and confidence!
2. How to Sleep in a Tent With a Baby
A well rested baby makes for a happy family. But how can you get a baby or toddler to sleep while camping? The answers are very similar to getting a baby to sleep while traveling.
First start by trying to recreate your baby or toddler’s home sleep environment. Attempt to keep things like their sleep sack or swaddle, sound machine (obviously battery powered), and lovey the same.
If you are camping with an infant, consider a baby travel bed like the Lullyboo Bassinet. We even chose to use our regular Chicco Lullago bassinet from home since it folded up well and prevented us from having to buy another baby camping gear item.
If you are camping with a toddler, this Cosco Pack n Play works just fine, as does a pop-up tent like the KidCo Peapod. Another option is an inflatable toddler travel bed like the Hiccapop (want to learn more about this inflatable toddler bed? Read our full review of the hiccapop toddler travel bed).
The number one piece of baby camping gear for helping little ones sleep in a tent? The SlumberPod. From a self-proclaimed minimalist and “cheap skate”, the $150 price tag hurt a little bit. But trust me, the SlumberPod is worth its weight in… hours of sleep. Priceless.
3. Get a Proper Baby Sleeping Bag
Once you have your baby’s tent bed figured out, it’s time to make sure your baby is warm throughout the night. A great solution is to get them their own sleeping bag.
Baby sleeping bags for camping aren’t easy to find, but Morrison Outdoors makes a sleeping bag for babies and toddlers for those chilly nights camping. For more moderate temperatures, the Baby Deedee sleeping bag for toddlers or babies is a great option.
The Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 20° Down Baby Sleeping Bag is good for babies and toddlers from 6 to 24 months. They also make a Big Mo 20° Down Kids Sleeping Bag for toddlers from 2 to 4 years old.
Shop from the Morrison website directly and use BABYCANTRAVEL for 10% off (which should be automatically be applied)!
4. Prepare for the Elements
One of the most challenging aspects of camping in general, let alone camping with a toddler or baby, is keeping everyone safe from the elements. Obviously when venturing outdoors with small kids, it’s good to be smart.
Check the weather forecast ahead of time and be ok calling it quits if the forecast shows a thunderstorm, especially if you are tent camping with toddlers or babies. But… if all that is keeping you from a wonderful weekend in the woods is some mild weather, then we can handle that!
When camping with a baby, excessive heat and sun can actually often be more challenging to deal with than their colder counterparts. Make sure to pack sunscreen, hats, and a shade source like this Kelty Tarp when nature’s shade (aka trees) just isn’t cutting it. A portable fan, either battery powered or USB chargeable is essential camping gear if your toddler is still taking naps during the day, as most tents restrict air flow.
For camping in cold and rain, dress your toddler or baby in layers. A good rule of thumb is that your baby or toddler should be wearing one more layer than you are. Fleece jammies, thick socks, and beanies are a must!
And for sleeping, bundle up even more to keep baby warm at night. For camping with baby in cold weather, consider an option like one of these best baby camping sleeping bags or one of these best sleeping bags for toddlers.
If you are camping with an infant who may still be swaddled, Ella’s Wool makes some great products to help keep your baby warm when the temps drop at night (though always consult your pediatrician about safe baby sleep practices). Ella’s Wool has some of the best layering options for babies and toddlers. Made with ultra soft merino wool, they keep your little one warm and cozy. We love their newborn base layer set and the tubes knit leggings.
Get a 10% discount on all Ella’s Wool when you purchase direct from Ella’s Wool with discount code Bacantr2324.
5. Sweep the Area
As your baby starts to become mobile, camping can become a precarious endeavour. Part of the joy of camping is allowing your kids to wander and explore, but do your due diligence and sweep your campsite and the surrounding area first. Do some research so that you are familiar with any plants or critters that could cause your child harm and look for those before you let your child loose into the world.
6. Embrace the Mess while Camping with Babies
Camping with a baby is a messy affair! Dirt, exposure to the elements, lack of showers, etc. can lead to a messy experience when taking a baby camping. Don’t fight it. It’s a futile effort. Instead, embrace the overuse of baby wipes to keep things under control until you can get home and dunk them in (and yourself) in a warm bath.
7. Keep Your Camping Meals Simple
When camping with a baby or toddler, you will have your hands full, plain and simple. Camping meals don’t need to be complex, especially when you are trying to keep your kids from cracking their heads on rocks, putting leaves in their mouths, or venturing too close to the campfire.
Opt for these easy camping meals or simple meals that require boiled water like dehydrated meals or oatmeal. Or pack a cooler and skip the “cooking” altogether. Turkey and cheese or PBJs will be winning camping meals with any kid.
But if you are insistent on a gourmet camping meal, do some prep ahead of time and make foil packs with chicken and veggies, or breakfast burritos. This way, you can just toss the goods close to the coals and let the fire do its thing while you do yours… cuddle with your kids.
8. Camp Dispersed
This is a potentially controversial camping with a baby tip, but considering I don’t mind pooping in the woods, one that I feel strongly about. There are typically 2 different ways that you can go camping with babies: either at a designated campground with facilities nearby, or in a “dispersed” camping location.
Dispersed campsites typically have a fire ring and an obvious place to park your car, but not much else. No picnic tables on site or toilets nearby. Now while this sounds more rugged and, in turn, LESS ideal for camping with a baby or toddler, the reason I prefer and recommend dispersed sites for camping with a baby is because you will have less neighbors.
Most designated campgrounds are pretty tightly packed, meaning there will be more people and more noise. This would mean you will spend more time policing your toddler to keep them out of other people’s business, less time letting them roam and explore, and potentially, less time sleeping due to more commotion in the proximity.
While this is not a make-or-break suggestion, it’s worth keeping in mind as you research your options for camping with your baby.
9. Keep a Flexible Schedule
If you are like me (read: type A, enneagram 8), you run a tight ship at home (if you are a more chill parent, you can skip on down!). Your kid is on a schedule with naps, meals and bedtimes and these things are relatively non-negotiable. When camping with your baby, you can try to maintain some semblance of a routine, but hold it lightly.
If your baby or toddler doesn’t sleep well the first night of camping, odds are good they are going to take a nap on you while you take your morning hike.
If it’s summertime in the Pacific Northwest and the sun doesn’t go down till 9 pm, getting little ones to sleep at 7pm may be unreasonable (though the SlumberPod can help)! Make your plans, but don’t count on flawless execution.
10. Keep Your Baby Contained
There are times when camping with a baby or toddler that you will need to keep them safe without your watchful eye on them. For example, when setting up / tearing down tents or cooking meals, it’s typically all hands on deck.
In these situations, it’s great to have something like a Pack n Play or larger play yard to keep your baby in one spot long enough to do what you’ve gotta do! One of these baby travel bouncers also works.
If you know your campsite will have a picnic table, the Inglesina Fast Table Chair is another good option. Whichever portable high chair you choose, it will enable you to keep your baby fed and happy while you get some necessities out of the way.
See all Baby Can Travel recommended travel high chairs
11. Camping with Babies While Nursing
If you are camping with a nursing baby, remember to wear some discreet nursing accessible clothing. It would be a shame to hole up in your tent every couple of hours for feeding sessions. My favorite nursing wear that is excellent for travel and exercise is from Love and Fit! Check it out!
And if you happen to be pumping, you have a couple of options to continue during your family camping trip. You can consider a manual pump, or purchase either a car adapter or battery adapter for your electric pump.
12. Pack some Entertainment for your Baby
I don’t know about you, but my toddler gets bored more easily than she used to! She can only take so much chill time with Dada in the hammock these days.
When camping with a toddler, don’t be afraid to pack some of your kids favorite toys and plan for a few of these toddler camping activities.
Stacking cups, blocks, shape sorters, etc. make great camping toys because they are mostly made of plastic with minimal nooks and crannies and can even be tossed in the dishwasher when you get home.
My favorite camping toys for babies are small gardening tools. Let them have at it at the campsite so they leave your flowers alone when you get home 🙂
I hope these tips for camping with a baby or toddler have been helpful, but keep one thing in mind, whenever you travel with a kid… it is going to be harder than before, but more rewarding than ever.
Baby Camping Gear Checklist
Read more about all our recommended essentials for camping with a baby and in the meantime add these few items to your list:
- Camping high chair for baby
- Sleep Sack or camping sleeping bag for baby
- Play yard
- Extra warm layers (mitts, toque, etc)
- White noise machine
- Easy snacks
- Snack cup and sippy cup
- Wet wipes in a baby wipes travel case
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby carrier or backpack carrier with rain cover
- Breast pump or formula or baby food
- Baby camping clothes (including layers for cooler days and nights)
- Warm pajamas
- First aid kit
- Favorite toy
- Sun hat
- Portable fan
Toddler Camping Gear Checklist
For your camping with toddler checklist, add the following toddler camping gear to your camping with a baby checklist.
- Camping toys for toddlers
- Toddler camping chair
- Toddler carrier or backpack carrier with rain cover
- Portable potty
- Rain suit
- Rain boots
Camping with a Baby Destination Ideas
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