Honestly, there is no "right" time to introduce the family to camping. Many would argue that it's best to start early and that kids are easiest to camp with as babies. I would highly agree with this personally but then again, I don't have twins. I don't have a child that will disappear or try to escape out of the tent while sleeping. I don't have a child that is terrified of using an outhouse or needs a fixed routine every day. Only you will know when it's the right time to try camping with your family.
Here are a few things I have learned though in our last few years that may make that first, second, or fifth trip a little more comfortable and enjoyable.
Warm sleepers are happy sleepers
Buy a small three season tent
If you are planning on tenting (which you can continue to do even with a baby) buy a small tent. Don't buy that gigantic tent with three rooms from Canadian Tire or your will freeze your butt off. I guarantee it. Body heat keeps everybody warm and that will only happen if you are sleeping close enough together to actually tell there is another body near by. It's my personal opinion that nobody needs their own bedroom when camping. The whole joy of tenting is that it brings the family closer together. You sleep together, side by side, and listen to each other breathing. You can put your arm around your child, cuddle them to sleep, and even snuggle under the same blanket. Otherwise, you might as well go buy that tent trailer or RV if you want personal space.
You aren't backpacking so there's no reason you can't bring blankets along. We each have our own down filled sleeping bag but no toddler is going to stay inside his or her sleeping bag all night. They move around too much. I don't even like to be wrapped tight inside mine. I need room to sprawl. We bring an old comforter and throw it across my son and I. I can sleep with my arms outside my sleeping bag and wrap an arm around my son for comfort. He on the other hand will toss and turn all night, warm and snug under the blanket I ensure stays over both of us.
Use snowsuits, bunting suits or sleep sacks for babies
When my son was a baby we would layer him for sleep much like you would layer a child to play in the snow. Below are the layers that my son wore his first two years camping and backpacking:
- Fleece blanket sleeper with feet
- Fleece bunting suit or snow suit
- Quilted sleep sack
- Tuque, winter hat, or something to cover the head
- Mittens if the bunting suit doesn't have hand covers
|This baby was definitely toasty warm in the tent (Photo: G. Duncan)|
Bring a down jacket
I like to sleep in a down jacket. That way I can keep my upper body out of my sleeping bag and have more freedom to move around. If you don't sleep in your jacket you will still want it for that 2am feeding, the 6am wake-up call when your toddler insists he is all done sleep, or for general camp use. It's cold in the Rockies in the evenings and mornings. If you are going to stay up long enough to enjoy the campfire after the kids go to bed or get up and make breakfast in the morning before the sun reaches your campsite, you'll need that warm jacket. Note that it can take until 10:00am for the sun to get over the mountains and reach your tent. Most kids aren't going to stay in the tent that long so you will have to brave the cold morning air.
More stories to follow in this series on family camping made easy. To read the next one, follow this link to Family Camping Made Easy - Baby Adventures.