The Ultimate Guide to Camping with a Baby

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a mom holding her baby while camping

As a new mom, I was so excited to go camping with my baby, but I had no idea where to start. I’m sure there are other parents (like me) who think the idea of camping with a baby is daunting, but with the right planning and preparation, it can be such a rewarding experience and can create lasting memories. In this guide, we’ll explore some essential tips and tricks that I’ve learned to make camping with your baby a fun and memorable adventure!

This guide is broken down into these sections:

  1. Pick a Good Campsite
  2. Tips on Sleeping with a Baby in a Tent
  3. How to Dress Your Baby (plus sun and bug protection)
  4. Meal Planning for Baby
  5. Test Your Gear
  6. Packing Checklist

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Pick a Good Campsite

a tent set up in the woods

Having a good campsite can take away a lot of stress. If you’re camping away from people, you won’t have to worry about your baby making noise or having other people wake up your baby. Here are a few things that I looked for when picking campsites for my first camping trip with my baby. 

Limit driving time:

For your first camping trip, try to limit your driving time by choosing a campsite that is closer to home. Camping with a new baby is daunting enough, don’t feel like you need to add a road trip to that mix. Plus, if things don’t go according to plan, there’s no shame in calling it quits and trying another time. You can also just set up your tent in the backyard and try sleeping a night out there before booking a campsite – whatever helps you feel the most comfortable for your first outing!

Choose a campsite with amenities:

A campsite with a bathroom, picnic table, or play area may not be what you had in mind for your adventure, but trust me, those things can come in handy when you have a baby in tow. For your first few outings, use those amenities as backup, and once you’re comfortable with it, go ahead and camp somewhere more remote.

Aim for distance away from other campsites:

I remember being so stressed that my baby would wake up other campers and dampen their experience. More likely than not, those campers will be fine, but to ease your conscience, try and pick a campsite away from others and enjoy that privacy.

Find a campsite with level ground and shade:

Level ground and shade will make things with your baby go more smoothly. Pitching your tent somewhere flat will help your baby stay level and not slide around their sleeping arrangement. Shade will make your life easier when protecting your baby from UV rays, especially if they’re younger than 6 months and can’t wear sunscreen.

Tips on Sleeping with a Baby in a Tent

a mom holding a baby sitting in their tent

The number one tip I have is to not have specific expectations as to how the night will go – be flexible and just know that you probably won’t sleep well, but that’s okay. 

Be flexible:

Getting a good night’s rest at home with a baby is hard enough, and while every family has their own way of working on sleep with a baby, just know that your nighttime routine will not be the same in the outdoors. Be flexible with sleep training, if you’re doing that. Your baby may need to go to bed later when it’s dark and they may need more nighttime feedings to get through the night. 

Bring a big tent:

You’ll want ample room to spread out while still having a pack-and-play or play yard for the baby to sleep in. You’ll be glad to have the extra space to spread out, especially if you want the baby to play inside the tent.

Use a pack-and-play or play yard:

Figuring out what your baby should sleep in was the hardest part for me. I ended up using a pack-and-play that could open from the side to make nighttime feedings easy (I’ll link it here), but ultimately use whatever will make the trip the least stressful while still keeping your baby safe. 

Pack some familiar comforts from home:

Don’t feel like you need to pack up the whole house because pretty much everything in the outdoors can be a toy to a kid. A stuffed animal or a few books can go a long way in making your baby feel comfortable in a new environment. 

How to Dress Your Baby

Picture of a baby while camping

When you’re first starting, don’t worry about getting fancy gear/merino wool for your baby. If you go a lot, then it could be worth it to invest, but their day-to-day clothes should work just fine, especially for your first trip. 

Dress in layers:

Think about how you dress yourself for a day outside, and bring those same layers for your baby to help adapt to changing weather. Start with a breathable base layer made of moisture-wicking material to keep them dry, I use these merino wool base layers. Add a fleece or sweater for warmth, and top it off with some kind of jacket – waterproof, windproof, or just insulating.

Consider the temperature:

If it’s cold, bundle your baby up in warm clothing, including a hat, mittens, and thick socks. For warmer weather, opt for lightweight and breathable clothing to prevent overheating. Don’t forget that temperatures can drop at night, so bring along extra layers for bedtime.

Sun and bug protection:

Bug repellent and sunscreen are not generally recommended for babies under 6 months old, but there are other options to keep your baby’s skin protected! You can dress them in long sleeves and pants or use an umbrella to shield the sun. For bug protection, consider getting a bug net in place of repellent. If you choose to dress them in long-sleeved clothing, make sure it’s breathable and moisture-wicking fabric so your baby doesn’t overheat. If they’re older than six months, then go ahead and apply baby-safe sunscreen and repellent to exposed areas and keep them in the shade when outdoors if possible.

Choose comfortable fabrics:

If you’re going on a casual car camping trip and the weather forecast looks good, you can dress your baby in the regular day clothes they typically wear. However, if you are expecting cold or wet weather, make sure to dress your baby in synthetics or wools that do a better job at insulating and drying quickly. 

Don’t overdress:

For sleeping, you can get a baby sleeping bag (I use this Morrison Outdoors one) and dress them in base layers, or you can add a sleep sack or fleece bunting for warmth instead. I remember being the most stressed about keeping my baby warm while not making him overheat, so I understand wanting to bundle your baby up because you’re scared that they will be too cold at night. I recommend you check the nighttime forecast in the area where you’ll be camping and think about how that temperature is different from the temperature at your house. With experience, you’ll get more comfortable with dressing your baby.

Meal Planning for Baby

feeding a baby a bottle while camping

When planning food for your baby, consider what they eat at home. Keep things easy so you don’t overwhelm yourself. 

Breastfeeding is the easiest option if you’re doing that. If not, make sure you have plenty of formula and water to make a bottle! My baby wouldn’t breastfeed so I did a mix of using my portable pump during the day and giving him formula when he woke up in the middle of the night. 

Keep baby meals simple:

If your baby is eating solids, try to avoid introducing new foods while in an unfamiliar environment. Squeezable purees, baby crackers, or cheerios are good options for babies who are just starting on solids. If they’re eating food with more texture, then fruits, avocados, and scrambled eggs are good options. We also gave our baby little bites of what we were eating, but talk to your pediatrician about what’s appropriate for your child to eat. 

Keep things clean:

If you’re using bottles, make sure you have a way to keep them clean and sterilized. I brought a bucket as our wash bin and dish soap to clean his bottles. You can also boil water to sanitize your bottles. 

Test Your Gear

tent in the backcountry

I always recommend testing your camp setup before heading out. Make sure everything is working and that you’ll have ample space for what you need. You can even do a test run in your backyard one night to see how your baby fares. 

Set up the tent before leaving:

Before heading to the campsite, I recommend setting your tent up to make sure everything works. I would also set up whatever your baby will be sleeping in along with your sleeping bags – this will let you know if your tent is roomy enough with all your gear.

Test camping stoves:

As with any camping trip, if you’re planning on bringing a camp stove, try it out before leaving to make sure it won’t mess up your food plans.

Packing Checklist

I created this checklist for packing to make the planning process a little easier for you. Feel free to customize this, adding or taking away anything that you need!

Camping with a Baby Packing List

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Camping with a baby may require extra planning and it comes with extra stressors, but the rewards of experiencing the great outdoors as a family are well worth the effort! Give yourself some grace, allow things to not follow your plan, and you will create lasting memories and instill a love of adventure in your little one from an early age. So pack up your gear, grab your baby, and head out on a heartwarming outdoor adventure together!

DISCLAIMER: Katherine Carling and Earth to Kat are not responsible for any and all injury to the Reader. The information provided in this “Ultimate Guide Guide to Camping with a Baby” blog post is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good faith, however, any outdoor activity can be dangerous and there is an element of risk, which you are accepting by participating in by taking your baby out camping. You alone assume responsibility for your own safety and should be both physically and mentally prepared, and equipped with the appropriate gear.

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