What I learned from our first camping trip with a baby

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When our son was six months old, my husband and I packed up our new/old Westfalia (aka The Vantasy) and headed to Washington’s Deception Pass for our first family camping trip. Granted, this wasn’t backpacking (just car camping) but I still learned a few things:


Picnik changing table

  1. Cloth diapers are great for the great outdoors, as long as you bring some really big wet sacks. I have a couple laundry-sized wet sacks, and they made dealing with cloth diapers in the great outdoors pretty easy. We set up a changing station on the picnic table, and had a big laundry bag for dirty diapers, and then another one for stuff like burp rags and dirty baby clothes.
  2. A wrap sling worked best for little hikes. We didn’t do any big long hikes as part of this trip, but Dre used our wrap to carry Tavi and reported it as much more comfortable than the Ergo or Baby Bjorn. He used the Torstein Technique.
  3. Co-sleeping while camping didn’t work for us. Our first night, we tried having Tavi in bed with us so that we could keep him warm and secure. The result was a rough night of sleep for all three of us, since the Westie’s bed just wasn’t quiiiite big enough, and the rustle-rustle of our zip-together sleeping bag was bothersome with a squirmy baby. The second night we decided to let him sleep in his infant carrier, but I was worried about Tavi getting cold … which leads me to my most awesome new mama camping moment:
  4. A zipped-up down vest makes the most awesome baby sleeping bag EVAR. I put my vest into the infant carrier, bundled the baby up and settled him in on top of it, and then zipped the vest up. VOILA! He was comfortably encased in super warm down that I knew he couldn’t kick off, with his little head peeking out. He slept better, we slept better, and I was all pleased with my amazing go-go gadget ingenuity.

Enjoying the sunset

We’re planning a big family camping road trip to the Southwest next month, and while we’ve still got some figuring to do (I’m not comfortable with the baby sleeping in an infant carrier for that long — so we’ll have to figure out a safe little bed for him) I’m super excited and feeling more confident about camping with a baby.

But I’m guessing lots of you have done this tons of times before — what are your best tips for camping with babies?

Comments on What I learned from our first camping trip with a baby

  1. Weee! You were in my backyard (sort of). Looks like fun. Can't wait to take our little one camping this summer.

    • Ditto. You know a van is HOTT when it can command my attention in a post that also features a baby AND a puppy!

    • Yeah, this Van is the realization of a MAJOR fantasy for both Dre & I. Of course it's already been towed TWICE in the three weeks we've owned it, but that's all part of having VW camper. 🙂

  2. I didn't camp when my first was a baby. She was probably 18 months before we jumped back in. With the second, we headed to the Methow Valley right away (baby was 4 weeks). I think this is biggest relief of my first camping trip with baby: The work is simply the work. Doesn't matter where you do it. In a perverse way, that truly frees you up. Clearly bribing my older child with a sucker the size of her head must have been part of my (tired!) survival strategy on that trip: http://imgs.inkfrog.com/pix/Kellik/fresh.JPG

  3. I LOVE camping. We had our second child in November and haven't been camping with her yet but my son had his first camping outing when he was just a few weeks old and last summer too when he was 1+ year old. The best thing I did (other then extra large bags for our cloth diapers too!) was prepare lots of bit size baby snacks in advance. As our son was walking/running at that age we also brought a Superyard Gate Play Yard and set it up in our site beside out chairs, best purchase ever for a rambunctious toddler who was like a moth to flame with the fire pit.

  4. this is so great. the husband and i are avid campers (we fell in love on a farm in vermont, for gods sake!) so this will be very encouraging for him to read. you guys look wonderfully happy!

    • The wahakura is definitely a great tool for co-sleeping with baby, especially in close quarters like a van/ten. Baby stays safe in a small space that fits in bed, or near by. Made from flax it is a natural product unlike the pods and other things available. Definitely worthwhile!

  5. I love that my wish is your command. HA HA. Seriously, that was a fast post! Thanks! And so many good ideas in these comments. I'm itching to get camping already, and I can't believe I waited so long… Alice is nearly two now. I feel inspired and confident!

  6. OOO OOO I live in Tucson az and have tons of cool un tapped spots you shopuld check out in the great Southwest….. let me know if your in need

  7. Thanks for this. We have a HUGE family camping trip we do every year with my parents set for 4th of July and I was a bit nervous. This is great info.

  8. Me and my little family LOVE camping. We have a small 1976 RV that we take out to the desert. Our home on wheels. My sons been accustomed to the great outdoors since he was 1 month old. Although we have heating and warm blankets I made sure he had a little sleep sack. He ended up growing out of it of course so now he just co sleeps with me while the hubby and my stepson sleep on the top bed above the camper. Love your pictures!

  9. We're expecting our little one in June, and after 7 months of pregnancy we are already itching to get back out into the great outdoors for some camping! What do folks think about tent camping with a baby (at a drive-in spot)? We dream of a VW camper, but we're not there yet. 🙂 We're concerned that things could be scary for baby in a tent that lets in all the outdoorsy sounds. Nevermind my own personal bear phobia. 🙂

    • We haven't done it yet, but we're planning on it. This post has me itching to do it this weekend. My husband works Saturdays, though, which is a huge bummer. Anyway, my biggest worry is getting our daughter (12 months) to go to sleep without a major hassle, because she's always been a little tough to get down at night. She's gotten a lot better, but I don't know what being in a tent would do to the progress we've made.

  10. You must promise to keep sharing any camping advice. I want to get back out there with the babe but I'm incredibly nervous about it. Mostly because we love camping but have always been infrequent campers, so I feel like I need to brush up on camping skills without a baby in tow.

    And have fun in the SW, if you happen to go through Albuquerque we'll buy you guys a beer, or something 🙂

  11. I think someone posted the kidco peapod for sleeping. I highly recommend it, even for non camping adventures. The air mattress does tend to deflate, but you can just lay some fluffy blankets underneath.

  12. We're about to head out on our first camping trip with our 8-month old. So excited.

  13. I love deception pass! What a great first place to take the wee one!
    It will be interesting to take out son camping for the first time…he'll be over a year old so VERY mobile! We'll have to see!

  14. Hey Ariel, my husband and I went through exactly this one year ago…we bought a VW (white too!) for family camping and encountered the same problems with the sleeping arrangements….way too cozy to co-sleep and worried about the cold nights for her. We went on quite a few trips over the summer starting at 3 months (she was born in March) and ending up constructing a little baby bed for her to fit in between the two swivel chairs facing each other – the armrests serves as holders to keep it in place. It worked great! My husband designed it and his mom did the sewing. It's basically plywood pieces that slide into a heavy waterproof fabric slip. It folds flat for storage. I then had a little down sleeping sack for her (Kangaroo baby I think) and put a hat on her and extra blankets. Colder nights, she would sleep with me down below and my husband would sleep alone on top….not ideal 🙁 but the only solution. The only thing is the bed was great for a tiny baby who cannot yet sit up or roll out. We used it all summer but she has obviously outgrown it so not sure what we will do this year…maybe go back to a tent?! It was great to go on camping trips with baby…totally doable.

  15. Oh, and of course, thank you for the excellent post! Makes me feel much more confident about trying this out.

  16. This is why I read this site even though we have no babies yet. It gives me hope that we can keep doing the things we love after babies arrive. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    We're going on a camping roadtrip in the Southwest next month, too, but without the awesome van! Have fun!

  17. You guys are so clever and cute! It gives me hope that my Mr and I will be able to keep having adventures (with some proper planning of course) once the little ones arrive. Thanks for being a ray of optimism and leading by example in my current world filled with "You'll never be able to do that with kids" sayers! You guys are an inspiration!

  18. A friend has a "camping travel bed" that she picked up secondhand, and it has a mesh and nylon tent-like frame with a bed insert. I think it would not only work great as a bed, but an outdoor napping station and play mat as well. Because you can zip up the mesh to close it, it would keep bugs and other flying monsters out. It looks identical to this: "Samsonite Pop Up Travel Bassinet" http://www.mothercare.com/Samsonite-Pop-Travel-Ba… For a bigger baby, I like some ot the items on this page:http://www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/travel-

  19. Yay for other VW loving mamas! We have a 68 Westy we take everywhere. You should check outhttp://www.thesamba.com, It's a kickass VW site. As for the co-sleeping issue in the bus, look into the cozy baby travel bed. They rock.

    Love your pics!

  20. My parents took me on my first camping trip at about the same age as Tavi and had me sleep in a clothes basket. Apparently it worked so well that they continued to used it for as long as I could comfortably sleep in one and then for my brothers when they were that little.

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