Today I'm going to start with the youngest member of your family - your infant or baby - possibly out for his or her first camping trip. How do you plan for that epic return to camping (it sure feels epic anyway) - this time with a baby on board?
Special items to bring for your youngest camperThe Pack 'N Play
We didn't actually take our son camping until he was six months old but I've talked to other families who've been out with their infants and we agree that the number one thing you need to bring camping with you for the youngest camper in your family is the play pen, the Pack 'N Play or the play yard - whatever you call it. (they're all the same thing) You'll want to bring some kind of enclosure with four walls that you can put your babe in to sleep, nap, or play. It keeps the child safe while you are cooking, chopping wood, or otherwise busy with camp chores. It gives the child a comforting place to sleep that reminds them of their crib back home. It also gives your child a place to take naps mid day when the tent is too hot under the sun's warmth - Just put the play pen under a shaded tree with some mosquito netting over top and you're good to go. It gives your child a bit of variety too rather than sitting in their stroller the whole time.
For a great story on the importance of the Pack 'N Play for many families, check out Tiffany's blog at A little Campy. They forgot their play pen once - and only once.
For something a little different but along the same lines, check out the Kidco website where you can see pictures of their PeaPods. We used one for our son when we traveled to Hawaii on vacation because he had outgrown his playpen but wasn't ready to graduate to a big bed yet. A PeaPod is like a little tent that babies and toddlers can sleep or nap in when on the go. My friend brings hers to the beach and puts her youngest in it to nap while her older daughter plays. Amelia at Tales of a Mountain Mama did a review on the PeaPod so you can visit her website at the above link if you'd like to read the review.
Note, the PeaPod has been completely redesigned! If you had heard previous reports of them being unsafe, worry no longer, Check out their website or Tales of a Mountain Mama's review above to find out what modifications have been made.
|Using a play pen outdoors|
|Using a peapod for a daytime nap (photo: G. Duncan)|
The Jolly Jumper
This isn't an essential item but Alyssa from the Kid Project brought it to my attention in one of her recent posts. Follow the link above to her website to see some extremely cool photos of a very happy child jumping to his heart's content while their jolly jumper hangs from a tree in their campsite. They even use it when they go rock climbing to entertain their youngest child. What a fabulous idea!
If you have lots of room in your truck you could also bring an exersaucer. Though the base will take up more room in your vehicle than a simple jolly jumper, you won't need to search for a campsite with a big sturdy tree - always a plus.
|The exersaucer goes camping (photo: G. Duncan)|
The Bumbo Chair
This is the best invention for babies ever!! They're expensive (so try to find one used) but invaluable. You can put Junior in his little Bumbo chair and just let him watch the action around the campsite for hours. My son loved his and they even come with little trays for feeding snacks.
Please note that a voluntary recall has been issued on older models of the Bumbo Chair to install safety straps should you fear your baby may fall out while sitting on the ground. ?? Anyway, to read the warning, and to return your Bumbo for repair, please visit this link to visit the Bumbo Canada website.
|The Bumbo (Photo: G. Duncan)|
The Baby Gym or Bouncy Seat
Again, these are items you likely have at home so just pack them in the truck and set them up at the campsite. I'd throw a tarp or big blanket under the gym to keep the material clean but otherwise - good to go. They don't take up much room and can seriously entertain a baby for hours (at least mine loved them). Both toys are manufactured by many different companies so you can buy your preferred brand.
|Using a bouncy seat outside for a nap|
The Front Carrier, Snuglie or baby sling
This barely needs mentioning because if you are a baby wearing mama, there's no way you'd leave home without your carrier or sling. There's far too many models to mention here so I'm merely adding it to this post so that you remember to put it on your packing list. While we didn't use carriers much with our son, I believe they could be extremely useful in camp. Imagine you're trying to do chores around camp (not chopping wood presumably) for example and have a fussy baby on your hands or you need to accompany older kids to the playground. Moms and dads in support of baby wearing know that it's often the easiest way to keep your baby feeling secure, safe, and happy - important when your baby is in a strange environment camping for the first time.
|This mom knows how to travel with kids!|
A good outdoor stroller
If your child is anything like my son, they'll wake up at 5am and it doesn't matter that it's cold outside, you're still tired, or that you don't feel like making breakfast yet - you're up! Bring the stroller and you can at least push your child around the quiet campground. I once took my coffee with me and pushed my son down to the lake where we spent some quiet time watching the sun come up. That might be my only good memory of the early wake-up calls. Most of the time I made my husband get up and walk our son around, good camping princess that I am.
|Our jogging stroller was great for camping as was the screen house in the background|
I seriously wouldn't expect you to bring all of the items above but pick your child's favourite item or two for some comfort at camp - it's all about comfort and security.
Final items we've found useful with small childrenA large tarp or blanket
Bring a large tarp or blanket to spread on the ground with some of your child's favourite toys. It keeps your child clean (if that's important to you) and lets them actually move around out of their restraining devices, carriers and strollers.
A screen house
We used our screen house last summer as a dry warm place in which to change our son's diaper, store clothes and gear we didn't want to get wet, to eat or play under when it was raining, and to store our lawn chairs, stove, and other camp items when we were out on a day trip. I can't imagine camping more than a night without it.
A large umbrella
You'd be surprised at the amount of shade an umbrella can provide for small children. When my son was smaller, we'd set one up on a blanket (see the photo below) when we were outside in a park having lunch, watching a concert, or chilling on the grass. Instant protection from the sun. - and much cheaper than an actual beach tent.
Big lawn chairs
The photo says it all. Great place to let the little ones chill while you make dinner or tend to the fire.
Final NotesDon't feel bad if you aren't ready to try sleeping in a tent with your baby yet. I don't plan on covering the whole topic of trailers, campers, and RVs in my camping series but my son and I slept in the back of our truck on all of our first camping trips. We built a simple wood platform for the back of the truck, bought a topper, and voila - easy trailer with zero set up. We put a large air mattress in the back of the truck and my son and I would sleep side by side there together. We were toasty warm and blissfully happy while Dad had to sleep outside in the cold tent.
For more information on keeping small children warm at night, see my last post in this series, Warm sleepers are happy sleepers.
Follow the link below for the next post in this series on camping with toddlers and preschoolers.