How to go wild camping with a baby (even in winter)
Whenever people hear that we’ve taken our baby camping since she was eight weeks old they either think we’re incredibly brave – or incredible crazy. I understand the reaction. There is a high chance our conceived in a tent on the edge of a National Park so you could say she was born to be wild, but even for us going camping for the first time with a newborn was an intimidating experience.
What if she’s uncomfortable, what if she doesn’t sleep, what if she cries? These were the concerns I repeated over and over again in the car on the way to our camp spot. In fact, I still say this every time we decide to go camping, even now that our little girl is eight months old.
But, there is a reason we fill out spare time with mountain hikes, dewy forests and four-wheel-drive road trips, even though we’re parents. Because, there are few things as magical as watching a baby wake up in a tent, watching the morning sunlight reflect off the canvas.
What’s more the wilderness is the perfect place to take a teeth baby because nobody but you can hear them scream.
Still need convincing? Here are my top tips for sleeping under the stars with a baby less than a year old.
Work the room. Your days of rolling our a swag are behind you, but that doesn’t mean you have to supersize to a Taj Mah-tent just yet. Our family of three currently fit comfortably into a two man tent, you just have to be smart with your sleeping arrangements. On our first camping trip our secret weapon was a dock-a-tock, which is also a favourite with van-life parents like @ourhomeonwheels. Now, our bub is a little bigger we've moved onto Phil and Ted’s traveller cot. It packs up so small (and only weighs 2.8km) you could hike-in camp if you wanted to. You can also now buy an additional sun cover so you can use it outside as a playpen even when there's no shade
Suit up. On our first camping trip It was summer, yet I still underestimated the temperature at night. Now, I come prepared for arctic temperatures. The Ergopouch Winter Sleep Suit bag is designed for colder temperature and the sleeping bag zips into two legs, so you can transition baby from cot to car. For extra warmth pair it with an Ergolayers sleep suit. Although it’s not designed for camping we use Phil and Ted’s stroller sleeping bag to keep our baby warm when sitting around the camp fire in the evening (don’t let your baby sleep in it unsupervised). During the daytime, Kathmandu’s bambino kid’s fleece jumpsuit is a must-have for misty hikes, as it’s warm but not bulky. Patagonia also has a baby range that will make adult campers envious.
Take a seat. I have always been a no-frills camper who believed packing a camping chair was indulgent. But, if you’re breastfeeding a “real” seat is essential, and your baby can have their own throne too. We were given an OzTrail Junior High Chair as a gift and it’s now one of my top recommendations. It was a blessing when we went camping in an ant-ridden area. Plus, the tray is covered in wipe-clean plastic which reflects the light and seems to mesmerise babies. At home, she sits in it to watch us clean out our chicken coop.
Think of the night shift. This tip is for the mums. When you’re waking up in the middle of the night to feeds to tend to a hungry baby, think about how you can make the experience more comfortable. For me, this means bringing a “proper” pillow rather than our usual Sea2Summit blow-up versions. One our first camping trip my baby was still waking a lot in the night so I downloaded podcasts onto my iPhone to keep me entertained in the early hours. It’s also worth investing in a lantern, as well as a headlamp. Helix lanterns have a dimmable red-mode that works as a perfect night light.
Choose Micro-Adventures. Finally, be realistic about your limits. It’s perfectly possible to do multi-day trips with a baby (this family completed the Pacific Crest trail with a one year old). But, a one or two night camping expedition is long enough for us at the moment. Personally, I like to know that, even if my baby’s routine goes out the window in the wilderness, it will only be for a maximum of 72 hours before we’re back to home base. In fact, our daughter always sleeps better when we’re camping, after a day of fresh air and wild water swimming. It’s a tonic for stressed out parents too.
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