About a month ago my wife and I took our 7 month old baby on a 2-day camping trip to Silverwood Lake in the California desert. Both of us parents were pretty nervous going into it, especially considering that we haven’t been camping in a few years. I had many concerns, but after doing a bit of research online about experiences from other parents who take their small children camping, we decided to go for it.
We’ll first start off with a list of supplies and tips from our experience…
Tips & supplies for camping with a baby
Below is a list of tips and items that helped us on our camping trip to Lake Silverwood. Let us know in the comments section if we left anything important off the list!
Pack N’ Play or playpen
This helped us a lot. We didn’t want the baby to be crawling on the floor unless one of us were down there with him. You can’t be holding him 24/7! We brought our over-sized Graco TotBloc Pack ‘N Play and it worked out perfect. Drop a few of his favorite toys and some Puffs snacks inside the playpen and he should be content for a little while.
Be sure to keep checking for bugs. I saw a few ants get inside but nothing more. He also took his daytime naps in the play yard (play pen, whatever you want to call it) under the shade. We threw a sheet over the top of it and used clothes pins to keep the sheet from blowing off. This kept the flys out, but you still have to check for bugs that crawl through the sides. During the day the tent was WAY too hot for anyone to sleep in. Even the bugs were dying inside of the tent because of the heat! So be sure not to leave your baby in there.
The Pack N Play was perfect because it’s ventilated on all sides, allowing the air to flow through. Just be sure you have it in the shade!
Pack extra wipes
You won’t just be using wipes on his butt. He’ll get a lot of dirt on his hands, face, and feet. Even if you try not to let him on the ground. It’s just inevitable. You can buy a travel pack of wipes that has a container so you don’t get bugs inside.
Prepare bottles before the trip
My wife isn’t breast feeding anymore so the baby is on powdered formula. I figured it would be a hastle to be trying to make bottles out in the wilderness, especially at 3 o’clock in the morning. I made about 8 bottles and put them in a insulated lunch bag with some ice and cold packs. The bottles were seperate from the rest of our food and drinks. When Michael wakes up hungry in the middle of the night we normally heat up his bottle. We fed him really good before bed time on this camping trip and he only woke up once throughout the night. Despite the bottle being chilled he still drank it down, filled up his belly, and went right back to sleep. So don’t be too paranoid about warming up the bottle unless it’s freezing cold outside.
This is a must! Don’t forget to buy this and make sure to pack it. Even if it’s not going to be hot, he’ll be in the sun most of the day and this will save his skin from burning. Nobody wants to deal with a sunburned baby on a camping trip. He’ll be screaming the whole time!
There are many different options for baby sunscreen on Amazon to choose from. We went with the Coppertone. This is probably one of those items you should always have with you, especially if you live in warm, dry environments like California.
Bug repellent for babies
This is a product we forgot to bring. Don’t make the same mistake! It’s more gentle than regular bug spray and should help saving him from mosquitos. Lucky for us there weren’t too many bugs and the flys stayed away from our little guy. If you don’t want bugs on your baby, be sure to pick up some bug spray for babies.
Bring extra clothes
Make sure you bring clothes that you don’t mind him/her getting dirty. The kid didn’t get too filthy, but we did have to change outfits a few times throughout the day. The temperature dipped into the upper 50s at night so it wasn’t too cold. At first we had him in some warm pajamas but he ended up getting too hot and sweaty so we just let him wear his thin onesy t-shirt. After that he slept good.
Something for the baby to snack on, not messy
Our baby loves these HAPPYBABY Organic Puffs. He’s obsessed with them! We just put a small handful in front of him and he goes to town. They came in handy on the trip when he started getting hungry and for whatever reason we couldn’t give him a bottle right at that moment. They dissolve in his mouth and he’s had no problem getting them down since about 5 months. Best of all… they are not messy!
Water or apple juice for hydration
Sometimes our baby gets sick of drinking formula and I can tell he is still thirsty. Putting some Mots for Tots low-sugar apple juice in a bottle will help to keep him hydrated, and it’s a taste they like. If worst comes to worse be sure to have fresh water on-hand (you probably already packed some). Last thing you want is the baby to be de-hydrated and have to go to the hospital halfway through the trip.
Baby tylenol and teething remedies
At home we use teething tablets and gum gel. If he gets a fever or seems like he’s in pain we’ll give him baby Tylenol (only if really necessary). Don’t forget this stuff. Right now he has some teeth breaking through so the teething tablets and gel came in handy. We didn’t need to use the Tylenol but it’s good to have with you at all times.
First-Aid and prepare for medical emergency
Bring a basic first-aid kit for scrapes, bruises, and cuts. When entering the campsite be sure to know the hours of operation when park rangers are on-duty and how to easily find/contact them. It might be a good idea to find the nearest hospital on a map incase you need to take things in your own hands. Often times you won’t have cellphone reception, as was our case. So you pretty much on your own when the park rangers are not working.
Here are a few more ideas that you should try, but we either forgot or didn’t have the time to pack
Baby chest carrier or hiking backpack with baby seat
I left my awesome baby carrier at home! I knew I’d forget something. Halfway there we realized we left it behind, but it was already too late to go back and get it.
If you plan on going for walks or hikes you might want to bring a chest carrier or a hiking backpack with a baby seat to carry the child in. Like this one. Don’t make the same mistake that we did!
Thick plastic tarp to put on the floor under a blanket
The floor of the desert/forest is very uneven and hard. Similar to the plastic tarp you would put underneath your tent when setting up, you can use one of these to put under a big blanket and let the baby crawl around. This will make it better on his knees (and yours) while protecting the blanket from a damp or ultra-hard ground.
Bring a blow-up wading pool
But don’t fill it with water. Instead use it as a little area for the baby to play with some toys while you keep an eye on her closeby. If your baby is anything like mine, he’ll crawl out of it with no problem and it will be useless. This tip is probably only good for 3-6 months old, or if your baby isn’t great at crawling yet.
Sleeping arrangements for baby when tent camping and wrapup
One of the most common questions asked about our trip: Where did we put the baby at night?
We initially bought an oversized sleeping bag for the wife and baby to sleep in. Because he squirmed so much, he ended up between the both of us instead of being stuck inside the bag. He also got too hot in the sleeping bag and was sweating. Just be careful not to roll over on the little guy!
It wasn’t like we were completely tent camping, but it was pretty darn close.
Disclaimer! Our small 3-person family slept in a tent and my brother-in-law had a pop-up tent trailer for him and his family. It was equipped with electricity and water hookups, allowing them to have lights and running water in the sink and toilet. My wife and I made use of their more domestic setup by cleaning the bottles in their sink and keeping the powdered formula inside the trailer to ensure no bugs can get to it. On the last evening my wife gave the baby a bath to clean him up and help cool him down. We could have done this in the campsite’s showers, but obviously it wasn’t as convenient.
This is a great way to camp and I’d love to get my family a pop-up tent trailer like this. The convenience is great and I think you can find one for around $3,000. More on that in another article!
The baby ended up doing great on the camping trip and it was a fantastic learning experience for us. I’m not just talking about the fundamentals of camping, we actually learned a lot about our child. I always knew he preferred being outside rather than inside, but I didn’t realize the extent of it. Michael was hardly fussy at all throughout the entire trip, even when we put him in his playpen (which he normally dislikes). He seemed happy almost the entire two days!
A good part of the day was spent at the lake where they had a small sandy beach. When temparatures reached 100 degrees I took the baby into the water, which was nice and cold to let him cool off. At first the cold water was a bit of a shock to him, but after a few minutes his body adjusted and he seemed to be having a great time. So now we take him to the park and beach as often as possible and pretty soon we’ll buy a small wading pool for him to play in when it gets hot outside.
I’m sure as he gets older it will get harder. Maybe not harder, but busier. Pretty soon he’ll be walking and that will change EVERYTHING when we take the little guy camping. Thanks for reading this article!
Please share your tips and experiences of taking babies or small children camping. I’ll take all the help I can get!
Sources & References: Art of Manliness and Apartment Therapy