Camping with infants is a blast! Even very young babies love camping. My oldest son started camping at three months of age. This went so well - we started our next boy camping at six weeks. These early camping trips were a joy - after we ironed out a few bugs!
Camping trips rarely go perfectly the first time - but you can avoid a lot of serious complications with a bit of practice and planning.
So how do you practice camping? Just do it close to home!
The first camping trip should be a short two night adventure near your home. This allows your infant the chance to become comfortable with the outdoors without over-doing it. A long trip can become disorienting for a baby or young child. Children have to adapt to long car rides. This takes training and patience. You don't want to start off your first camping trip with a screaming infant - so keep your trip close to home!
Pick a spot without extreme temperatures. Even tiny babies can put up with almost anything you might expose them to - but you will have to work harder to keep them comfortable. I find heat is the extreme to avoid. You can keep a baby warm on snowy nights but it's hard to cool an unhappy baby in 95 degrees fahrenheit
(I got stuck in this situation once - it was no fun!!!)
Infants under six months old should not wear sun screen unless your pediatrician recommends it. Even a baby kept in the shade can be exposed to a great deal of reflected sunlight. A baby with a sunburn is a sad little thing. Avoid it at all costs! Desert camping in spring and fall can be quite nice
(it's my personal favorite as a matter of fact) but save these spots for later camping trips.
Camping near home is also a great way for you to become accustomed to camping with a baby. Infants require a lot of equipment and supplies. If you forget something dire or realize that something you left home would really be handy you can always go home and get it. You don't want to find out about these little surprises 200 miles from home. Camping with a baby is always entertaining, but it may be quite a bit different than the trips you are used to taking. Give yourself a chance to get used to the changes.
Plan to arrive at your campsite long before dark. You will need time in daylight to set up your tent and get situated. Even if you have set up your tent 100 times you may find it more difficult with your new addition. I suggest you have a tent that one person can set up alone if necessary. You will find this a necessity at one time or another if you plan to camp with babies or toddlers.
Even tinybabies need time to acclimate to your new surroundings. A leisurely evening in your campsite will allow your baby to feel comfortable and secure.
For your practice trip go overboard. Pack more clothes than you think you'll need, more formula or baby food, diapers, wipes, etc. This is your chance to see what you'll really need. Worry about packing space on your next trip. I recommend packing lots of clothes - but not too many items that are really heavy or bulky. It's better to layer lighter clothing. Temperature will fluctuate throughout each day and it is far more simple to add a layer or remove a layer of clothing when the climate changes rather than to re-dress your child five times a day.
For a complete packing list click here!
For your first real trip away from home I recommend you choose a campground you have camped at before. It is always best to be in familiar surrounds at first. This way you will know what facilities the park offers and where to find a pay phone. It is my experience that if you know where the phone is - you'll never need it!
Plan your trip with plenty of time to spare. Just getting to your camping spot will usually take a lot longer than you anticipate. Diaper changes and an occasional stretch are a requirement. The best thing about camping with a baby is watching your child's reactions to the elements. A tree or clouds can keep a baby happy for hours. Please don't plan a day full of activities and hikes! I guarantee that you will enjoy these first trips without making big plans. -- This will give you something nice to look back on when camping trips become more hectic as your child gets older! --
Take lots of pictures, go to sleep early
(babies wake up at dawn when you camp), and relax!
If you or your partner breast feed - be grateful! I found breast feeding made camping much more simple than bottle feedings ever would have been. We packed the car so an empty seat was left open next to the baby and I was able to breast feed during travel (I did get a bit lopsided :-).
My second child did require some bottle feedings - so I got some experience with the bottle too! Pre made formula is expensive - but sterile. Powders are convenient but can be hard to mix at a campground faucets. Some campgrounds have questionable water sources. For more information on water click here.
The biggest concern is keeping prepared formula cold. If you are in an RV with refrigeration it's no problem - but tent campers, please be careful!
Keeping bottles clean can be a real pain. I suggest Playtex Nursers with the disposable liners. If you use regular bottles - don't forget a bottle brush!
On cold nights thick socks work quite well as mittens - and always bring two hats - one for sun and one for cold. We find the hats with the flaps for the ears work great! You tie 'em down and baby stays quite warm.For more tips and suggestions on camping with babies click here!