Camping With Infants and Toddlers

Camping with babies and toddlers

I grew up camping with my family in Yosemite. My parents took me starting when I was a baby and I have great memories hiking, biking, swimming and exploring in Yosemite Valley every summer. I’ve camped at the beach, by rivers and by lakes; I’ve camped in tents, RVs, houseboats and cars. I knew that when my husband and I had kids, we would go camping with
them too.

I think camping lends itself to kids: there’s exploring and bugs and birds and lots and lots of dirt. Yet we get a lot of “wows” and “how do you do all that with a baby?” when we tell
people we’re going camping. I can understand in a sense because there are a lot of logistics that go into camping, even without a kiddo. Add in an infant or young toddler and I get why
people would rather stay home! Camping with a baby or toddler doesn’t have to be hard and has been super rewarding for us. Hiking the trails I did when I was a kid and seeing my daughter’s face light up as we explore meadows and the beach is priceless to me! I know that she won’t remember these early years, but camping and the exploring we do sets up the priorities of our family and
creates memories for my husband and myself! I’m working on the assumption that you’ve camped before, so I’m not going to give basic camping tips. I’m an experienced camper pre-children, but only have a year and a half’s worth of figuring out how to navigate life with a child, so every time we take a trip, I add to my list of “things to do better next time.” Here are some tips I have for camping with infants and toddlers:

Camping with infants and toddlers

Make a master pack list…

I started doing this when we were visiting my parents often with our infant daughter. Inevitably, we would forget something because we were just going off the top of our (very distracted and prone to forgetfulness) heads. I made a list of what the baby needed that we needed to pack to minimize this forgetfulness and saved it to mycomputer. So when we started camping, I made a master list for that too! I packed the sleep sacks to keep her warm at night and made sure we didn’t leave behind the travel high-chair or a bucket to wash her in. This list should include baby/toddler stuff as well as general camping items and I’m always adding to it! (I used The Portable Baby Blog’s Family Camping Checklists my starting point!)

My favorite items for camping:

Try to keep the same routine as the one you have at home…

but don’t worry about the timing of the routine or you’ll go crazy. When our daughter was an infant, she napped when we were driving or whenever she felt like it during a hike even though at home, she was taking 2-3 naps a day. She slept better than she did at home (a reason I loved camping even more!), but she was up much earlier, which I find is the case for most of us! So we just kept to the same eat, play, sleep routine (insert your routine here), but didn’t stress if her nap was only 30 minutes or she took 4 naps instead. As a toddler, she consolidated her naps to one, so we try to be more aware of that and come back to camp for that one nap. On the days we want to be out and about all day, we throw her in the carrier (could be the stroller or whatever works best!) and make sure she at least gets a short nap in. At night, we keep our bedtime routine the same with a bath (or wipe down), book, teeth brushing, milk and white noise! Since much stress comes with sleep (or rather the lack of it), know your little one and what works best for them to give them what they need.

Double the time you think it’s going to take for you to go somewhere or do something…

that’s how long it will take with a baby or toddler. You think you know this already, but I’m gently reminding you, so you’re not stressing (as much) about not making it to a certain waterfall or dinner taking two hours to cook.

Have a safe space for infants to be away from the fire and for them to hang out while you make dinner…

Whether it’s a carrier, a bouncy seat or a travel crib. When we had a crawler, we got a large cheap outdoor rug for her to play on that kept her somewhat clean. With a toddler, you also want a safe place for them to be out of the way, but I also like to give our daughter something to do to “help” with. That can be picking up trash or washing dishes. Including our daughter makes a boring task less boring (but takes longer, so see above!)

Make meals simple and bring lots of snacks. Bring their tried and true favorites and double the amount…

You’ll forget how hungry you get yourself!

Bring beach toys and only toys you can hose off!

There is dirt everywhere and beach toys are made to get dirty, so you can’t ruin them. Oh, and bring bubbles too!

If you’re driving a long way to get there, leave early in the morning so the kiddos can sleep in the car….

Keeping a baby/toddler occupied during the day is difficult, so I like to bank on them sleeping as much as possible. We’ve tried the night driving, but no one likes setting up a tent in the dark. Check on the food storage regulations: in Yosemite, anything scented has to be in a bear box. That means food, diapers, baby creams, milk, etc. If your kiddo is still waking up in the middle of the night, that means you should have a little kit right by the front of the bear box with any supplies you’ll need. We had diapers and wipes in a baggie. If you are bottle feeding, have those supplies easy to get to as well so you’re not digging through the coolers at 2 am looking for what you need!

Most importantly: bring a good attitude…

It’s going to require more stuff (we had to get a cargo carrier for our SUV!), more time spent getting ready to go and less time out on the trail. Dirt will be everywhere minutes after you bathe them and rocks will go in their mouths. You’ll forget to pack something important and have to run to the store to get it. Naps may be skipped and crying will  happen, but that happens at home too, right? While they may not remember that particular trip, my parents still speak fondly of our camping experiences when we were little. I know that I have a blast walking around with my daughter looking at animals and trees. Honestly though, I am really looking forward to her asking for lil’ smokies for breakfast “like we always do” and showing her the best way to roast marshmallows for s’mores, just like my uncle did for me. Have you ever gone camping with your kids? If not, what are you waiting for? If you have, what’s your favorite part?

camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
camping with infants and toddlers
camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
Camping with infants and toddlers
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I'm a photographer living in a tiny bungalow near the beach in Leucadia with my handy husband and my happy little girl. I love creating, whether that's with my camera or with my hands! My favorite thing to photograph is people in love: a bride on her wedding day, a couple celebrating an anniversary, a mother adoring her child or a laugh shared between friends. I'm excited to share my photography and my joy of creating things with The Kindred Street!

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