Everything You Need for Camping with Little Kids
Earlier this summer we joined The Hansons, for our first camping trip with the kids. We had a truly excellent time. Preparing was a lot of work-- as is preparing for anything with babies in tow -- but it was completely worth it.
Before I post photos from our (one night) trip, I thought I’d share a bit about what we packed, what we forgot, and what we used.
The ages of our kids are: Eleanor, 6 months; Clio, 2 years; Sam, 2.5 years.
Here are the essentials:
Alright, a hammock isn’t really “essential,” but it was fun. We also included an outdoor blanket which was nice for downtime. In addition to those, we had a few camp chairs, which were great for breastfeeding. In conclusion: Stuff to lounge on made us more comfortable!
Also not pictured: our Ergo baby carrier. Eleanor was in an “I will only nap on Mama” mood that week, so I carried her around quite a lot. We don’t go anywhere without a baby carrier.
The thing about camping is you pretty much need the same items whether you stay for one night, or five nights. The difference would mainly be the amount of consumable goods you pack (food, fuel, wood, plates, napkins, diapers, wipes). Because this was our first trip, we wanted a short stay; we just didn’t know what to expect. Now that this stuff is organized, though, we can keep it in a “camping bin” (pre-kids this was labeled "backpacking bin") and easily pull it out for more trips this summer.
Details on “Kitchen Box”:
Paper plates, paper bowls, utensils, sharp knife, pot, pan, napkins/paper towels, trash bags, dish soap, sponge, snacks/non-perishable food.
What I wished we had:
Cutting board: We went through a few paper plates using them as cutting boards.
Tarp: It was tough to teach the kids to wipe their feet before getting in the tent as we didn’t have a tarp under us. A cheap carpet door mat would have also been helpful for keeping the tent clean. It didn’t matter for one night, but we are a bit fussy about that stuff if we are on a multi-night trip.
My thoughts on toys:
Usually we have a "no toy" policy when we go out into nature. It’s nice to just focus on what’s around us. Camping though, means a lot of time in one space, and kids have to be occupied for some of that time while adults work. We brought some cheap toy cars, a few of the kids’ favorite stuffed toys, a few books, and some art supplies (paper, markers, water colors). Sam also used the hammer to “fix” quite a few things around camp. We allowed no playing in or around the firepit, even if it was cool (this might seem like a no-brainer, but we actually took a moment to come to a parental consensus on that one).
Before we went, the big question on every adult’s mind was “will they sleep?” To aid in that endeavor, we brought blankets and pillows from home. Sam and Clio had a few of their favorite stuffed "friends," and we tried to keep bedtime routines similar to home. Rather than put Ellie in a pack-n-play, I decided to keep her on a pad next to me. I wanted easy access to her for night feedings. It was a fairly warm night; I’m not sure what sleeping arrangement would work with an infant in the cooler seasons.
Generally, Sam and Eleanor slept ok. It took Sam about an hour to fall asleep, and he initially really struggled with being confined in his new sleeping bag. I wished I had brought an extra warm blanket for him; the two we had went to Eleanor. After he settled though, he stayed in the bag and slept pretty well.
Ellie also went to bed late, and then woke to eat every three-four hours. That is usually what she does at home, so I was relieved she slept as well as she did. I even had to change her diaper at 2am, and she went right back to sleep. Whew!
The next day we were all exhausted, but we were heading home, so being tired wasn’t a big deal. All three kids conked out in their beds easily that night, and I think I was asleep by 9:00! My philosophy on little ones and sleep is that if we aren’t getting much sleep during our normal routine at home anyway, we might as well get out and have adventures. We have traveled quite a bit with Sam since he was a few months old, and every trip was exhausting. But we don’t regret any one of them at all. Someday we will be able to take a vacation, and it might actually feel like a vacation. I have no idea when that will be. In the meantime we’ll just try to keep on exploring and having adventures!
I will write a bit about where we went, the things we did, and post some images soon. It really was worth the hard work for us, and I hope to fit a few more camping trips into our summer!
Below is a montage Leif put together of some serious s’mores action. Yum!
If you have questions about our experience camping with babies; please comment on this post. I also welcome suggestions and packing tips!