Camping with babies and kids can certainly seem daunting at first. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a tent, tent trailer, trailer, or RV. All it takes is a little planning and preparation, and knowing exactly what you need to bring versus what you need to leave home. With these tips, you can feel confident taking your 4 month old to your 4 year old (and beyond) no problem, and even manage to have a good time! (Heads up, there are affiliate links in this post.)
Tips on How to Camp with Babies and Kids
Preparing for SLEEPING
First thing’s first… Depending on the age of your babe, you need to figure out sleeping arrangements. When our first was really little, we were still camping in a tent so the three of us just snuggled on an air mattress to sleep. Nap time was no biggie because there was really no where for her to go.
If you are in a tent, but don’t feel comfortable leaving your little one on the “bed” without you, we have friends that swear by the KidCo Pea Pod. They used it for both their kids and love it. It’s basically a cute little baby tent you put inside your tent.
As we’ve grown as a family, we now have a pop up tent trailer with actual beds. This is fine for our older girl, and when we went camping last year the baby was only 4-5 months old so we were able to create a “nest” around him on the bed so he wouldn’t fall off. This year, at 15 months, that wouldn’t work so well. We thought about making one of the benches into a “crib” of sorts, basically building crib rails and screwing them to the bench. But I was having a hard time envisioning how well that would work.
I ended up finding a super compact Pack n Play on Amazon fits PERFECTLY in between the two benches. I feel much better about the safety of it, plus we can take it outside during the day if we need a little containment.
The 4 year old is self sufficient when it comes to sleeping. She has her kids sleeping bag (I recommend going no warmer than 30 degrees. At least where we camp, it can get really cold at night). We bring her pillow from home, and she’s good to go.
THE GEAR LIST
Oh boy… the gear. This is where it is super easy to go overboard. Especially if you get sucked into Zulily’s daily deals, they have all kinds of fun gadgets for kids and camping. I remember our very first camping trip with a baby. We brought EVERYTHING!!!! But all you need are a few basics:
- Baby Carrier– This is handy right up until the kid’s about 1.5-2 years old (at least for me, but my kids are teeny). It’s perfect for short hikes (and long ones when the baby’s too small for a Baby Hiking Backpack), exploring, setting up camp, and basically anything you need two free hands for. It’s a lifesaver.
- Portable High Chair – This little gem folds up to the size of any other camp chair, but gives you a place to set your baby and strap ’em in for both meals and play time.
- Baby Hiking Backpack – We were fortunate enough to inherit one from some friends. But while the Baby Carrier is perfect for short hikes, this one is great on the longer, more strenuous hikes after they’re about 1 year. Just make sure it has a sun shade on it, that’s necessary.
- Sun Hat – Hopefully it’s nice during the day where you’re camping. That’s the point of camping, right? To enjoy the beautiful outdoors and cross your fingers for sun instead of rain! This is a necessity for both the little and big kids.
- Warm Baby Bunting Suit – Where we go, it gets cold at night. There is nothing more stressful than lying awake all night worrying that your baby is warm enough. You can layer as much or as little as you want to under these, and our kiddos have always been nice and toasty.
- Wipes – Believe it or not, I use these more for the bigger kiddo than the smaller one (other than the obvious diaper changing). As they get older, they are better able to really roll around in the dirt. They acquire this special knack for getting it in every nook and cranny of their bodies, and sometimes a fresh wipe is the only saving grace. I love the Honest Wipes, and I feel a little better about the fact that I’m COMPLETELY going against everything this post is all about.
- Sun Block – This one is self explanatory, don’t leave home without it. Use it on everyone, liberally!
- Bug Spray – Again, self explanatory… but you don’t want to forget it.
- Infant Tylenol – Or Advil, or Benadryl… whatever works best for your little when the sniffles or teething pains show up.
- Kids Camping Chair – They will need a place to sit. And if they don’t have a place of their own, they will sit in your chair. Then you will not have a place to sit. These are small and take up very little space.
What You’ll Need for PLAYING
Not much needed here. Just let Mother Nature do her job.
- Sand Toys – This is pretty much all you need. I used to bring bags and bags of toys in fear that the kids would get bored, but all they want to do is play in the sand or dirt, depending on where we are camping.
- Glow Sticks – Ok I lied. There is one other toy you will need. Glow sticks area powerful tool. At the end of a long day, when the kids are all tired and cranky, nothing brings them back around like glow sticks. They hold a magic power over kids that is incredible. You could almost get away with forgetting everything else, as long as you have these (except for those 12 other hours of daylight you need to keep them entertained for).
And there you have it. Your list of necessities when camping with babies and kids. Everything else is just superfluous, other than a few changes of clothes and food of course. What are your must-haves for camping?