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Camping with a baby

The very thought of taking your baby on a camping trip may cause shivers in many new parents.

But if camping is something you love to do, you shouldn’t feel intimidated about breaking your toddlers or infants in early. Yes, it will be more challenging than it was before, but with the right preparation, you can take your little one just about anywhere and have a good time.

Here are some tips to inspire new parents to take their baby out for a night under the stars.

Packing

No parent of a young child would leave the house without a bag bulging with necessities. Your camping trip shouldn’t be any different. Do some research on your destination and make plans for every eventuality. Make lists of all that you will need - over plan if you must. Pack carefully, excessively even. Stuff the car as full as you want.

If there aren’t any supermarkets close to the campsite opt for a different campground. Or at least ensure that you have all the nappies you think your baby might need. Bring double the amount of baby clothes you think you will need, especially if your baby is mobile. Wipes are essential, not just for their little bums, but also to wash their face, hands or even wipe down plates in a pinch.

Destination

Choose a destination that’s a reasonable distance from your home. If it’s too far away, your child may get tired and irritable from sitting in the car too long. Allow sufficient time to drive in order to arrive at the ground way before dark. It’s best to arrive when there’s still daylight for setting up camp.

Read our guide to the best family tent >>

For convenience, camp out, rent a cabin or room at a location with amenities such as potable running water and flush toilets. Some campsites host child-friendly resorts that rent out little cabins or glamping options. Take a look at Unique Sleeps to see what options are available.

Meals

Ensure that your baby eats on their regular schedule. If they are still breastfeeding, your food preparation will be fairly easy as you don’t really have to carry anything. For bottle-fed babies, you will need to be careful when filtering and treating water, including that for washing their faces and hands. If travelling to areas unsuitable for mixing formula, such as in the woods, bring pre-made bottles to which you can simply attach a teat.

Older babies should be able to eat what you eat, just as long as you mash it up a bit. A clamp-on booster seat will come in handy for meals, as well as a safe place for plopping your kid down.

Activities

An infant front carrier or toddler backpack is recommended if you plan to go hiking outdoors. The backpack will keep your toddler on your back and out of trouble, and avoid your having to carry a tired little hiker in your arms for most of the journey back. Go for a pack with an effective safety harness that will prevent the baby from sliding out as you bend over.

For water, consider utilizing a hydration-pack system such as the Camelback. As the liquid is drained out, its bladder shrinks, such that you don’t end up carrying the additional weight and bulk of water bottle that’s empty.

The importance of a first-aid kit cannot be stressed enough. But do keep it simple with some bandages; alcohol-based cleaning product; sunscreen for kids over six months; and 10% DEET bug spray, but not to use on infants.

Sleep

It’s important to ensure that your child sleeps at their normal bedtime. But this isn't always possible when you are camping. There is often noise until sunset, even on the quietest of campsites. Naps are important, which they can take in a backpack or front carrier. If not, you will need to separately plan activities for morning and afternoon to fit in their naptimes. Bring extra blankets or a warm sleep sack in case it gets too cold at night.

For crawlers and early walkers, you will need a travel cot. This will serve as a familiar bed for sleeping, as well as a playpen during the day when adults are working or just hanging about around camp. And don’t forget the mosquito net.

Read our guide to the best travel cot >>

Packing up the car and heading over to the woods for an outdoor adventure is no longer as difficult as it was a decade ago. With mobile phones, emergencies have become less frightening, while innovative gear has made camping out with little ones a bit less stressful.

Good preparation is the key to your camping success. While it may take a lot of planning to finally get them outdoors, the toothless smile on your baby’s face will be worth it.

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