Confession: I’m a first time mom and only 5 months into this gig. When I first sat down to begin this post, I envisioned laying out how to make camping with a baby doable for absolutely everyone. Then the last few weekends happened.
Fall is my favorite season. I love nothing more than packing up the car, driving to the mountains, enjoying the views, and delving underground. Unfortunately for me, since the arrival of my son, the delving underground (commonly known as caving in the US) has not happened. Instead, we’ve been tagging along as daddy plays underground and doing a lot of camping and hiking.
To give you an idea as to how crazy I am about camping, I’ve had the tent that my son and I sleep in since I was 6 months pregnant. Pre-baby, husband and I camped in hammocks, hence the necessary purchase. I knew I wanted to indoctrinate my child into the wilderness as soon as possible, and I was determined to do it.
I’ve since taken him camping on four separate occasions. The first, at two months, was a breeze. We kept his schedule, over packed a bit, and he slept most of the car ride. These last few at four months of age have been a little different. I’ll explain why as I share my tips in hopes that you avoid what I had to deal with.
Make a List
All of the things that you need to bring? Write it down. Not just for baby, but for you as well. I have been camping for so long that I worried more about making sure I had everything for him than I did making sure that I had everything I needed for me. The result of my not doing this? One late night trip to Wal-Mart in West Virginia to buy a sleeping bag.
It is also easy to over pack. Write down only what you and baby need and the bare minimum in case of illness.
2 sets of clothes for each day
1 change of clothes each day
Long wrap and Ergo (minimum)
Toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution and case, glasses, soap/shampoo/conditioner if amenities available
Tent and tarp
The rest of our supplies (water, food boxes, etc) are generally packed by my husband, and are included in our master list.
Lower Your Expectations
You just may be going to bed at 9 p.m. because that’s when your baby is going to bed and you are flat out exhausted. Or your tent is too far from the campfire party and you are anxious about not hearing the baby if he wakes. Or doing the 5 mile hike you could have done pre-pregnancy is suddenly impossible because you have a 15 pound bowling ball strapped to your front. Your experience of everything is going to be different.
Most years, we go to Bridge Day at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. In years past, my husband and I both rappelled off of the bridge.
Obviously, it was going to be different this year.
I imagined that I would go with our son, enjoy the festival on top of the bridge, watch the base jumpers, hike, have a great time, and then have a drink or two at the after party at our campsite.
Then reality struck.
Since I wasn’t rappelling, I didn’t have a bus ride to the bridge. I also couldn’t bring a bag. Our camp was crowded and our tent a good 50 yards away from the fire. Base jumpers get boring after then tenth one or so. The food vendors on the bridge accepted cash only. Everything that had been great about years past suddenly hindered my being able to take good care of my son. It rained during the after party anyway. And I slept. And you know what? It wasn’t the drunken Saturday night of my pre-baby years, but I got good sleep. And I had my son with me. And I got to the coffee before everyone else.
Make Realistic Plans
I don’t care how many miles you can usually knock out sun up to sun down, you need to factor baby in. More specifically, your baby and your parenting.
I am slowly mastering nursing while wearing, and strapping my son onto my chest knocks him out faster than anything else, but I don’t know anyone who can knock out a diaper change while gaining 1000 feet in elevation.
Plan for breaks. Plan for naps. Plan for your own snacks and necessities. We usually plan two short hikes each day. Something with time for a nap and chill out in between.
As with any potentially challenging endeavor, entering in with tension will create more tension. If you go in prepared to laugh about getting poop on your sleeping bag, you’ll be better able to appreciate the wide eyes of your child as you hike through evening woods, their fascination with the flames of the fire, and that quality snuggle time in the tent.