I’ve been going camping for as long as I can remember. My parents would take me and my sister to different campgrounds each summer. We would fish, swim in the lakes, and make campfire smores. They were some of my best childhood memories. Now with two kids of my own, I am excited to start them out early. I’ve found that camping with little ones is not difficult as long as you have the right baby camping gear.
Whether you are renting an RV or spending the night in a tent, make sure to pack the following camping necessities.
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- Essential Baby Camping Gear
- Basic Baby Travel Essentials
- Conclusion: Camping with a Baby
Essential Baby Camping Gear
Baby Activity Chair or Playpen
Setting up a campsite takes a lot of work from unloading the car to popping up the tent and starting the fire. One of the first things that we do after arriving at a campsite is to set up the baby’s activity chair or play yard. This helps to keep your baby safely contained and entertained for a few minutes at a time while you set up camp.
The KidCo GoPod is ideal for non-crawling babies, but it is also adjustable to grow with your child. It comes with nylon loops for attaching baby’s favorite toys and also has a floor pad to keep your baby’s toes on a clean surface while playing. This activity chair weighs a little over 6 lbs and folds up easily into a carrying case.
A second option is to bring a portable playpen like the Graco Pack ‘n Play that serves as both a travel bed and a playpen.
Many babies find it difficult to snooze in broad daylight. Blackout curtains may be suitable for a nursery or hotel room, however, they do not adapt well to a tent.
The SlumberPod is a perfect blackout solution for camping. It is one of the most popular blackout crib covers because it blocks 90% of light and can accommodate a variety of playpens, travel cribs, pack-and-plays, and toddler cots. The SlumberPod has great safety features as well including ventilation panels to increase airflow, two fan pockets, and a baby monitor pouch.
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White Noise Machine
Most babies do not enjoy sleeping in silence. They prefer listening to the steady “swooshing” that they became accustomed to for 9 months in the womb. A white noise machine provides that consistent and comforting sound while blocking out other jarring noises that may startle an infant like car doors slamming. We have tried many portable white noise machines over the course of our travels and have found the two that work best for us.
The Baby Shusher uses a real human voice to lull your baby to sleep with a calming hush. Our other favorite is the Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine. Using a soothing ambient sound of rushing air, the Yogasleep Hushh cancels out disturbing noises for improved sleep all night long. It comes in 3 sound variations with adjustable volume. We found that this baby white noise machine goes much louder in volume, allowing it to better fill an open space like a tent.
Baby Camping Chair
If your baby has moved on to solid foods, then you know mealtime can be a lengthy and messy process. Having a high chair makes feeding a baby while camping significantly easier.
Summer makes some of the best camping gear for kids, including the Pop-n-Sit portable chair. It is lightweight and comes in a convenient carrying case. The food tray can be removed allowing the seat to be used as a normal camping chair. The Summer Pop-N-Sit comes in a variety of colors and two heights, a booster seat, and a 3 ft high chair version. We have personally used this portable high chair with our son from the time he was a baby up until he was a toddler.
Honestly, any toy that is easy to transport and wash is suitable for a baby’s first camping trip. Most road trip toys like rattles, links, and teethers are perfect for using at the campsite too.
If you are looking for something a bit more specific to the occasion like camp-themed toys for babies, this Little Camper Silicone Baby Chew Toy is both practical and adorable. The Fisher-Price S’More Fun Camping Set comes with a s’more teething toy, a compass rattle, and a child-proof mirror shaped like a camper.
Related Content: Best Travel Toys for Toddlers
When camping it is inevitable that bugs and dirt are going to get into places they shouldn’t be including on our hands and in our cups. That same dirt is likely to find its way onto baby’s pacifier, teething toys, and whatever else they are dropping on the floor and then pushing into their mouth.
A more convenient alternative to packing a sterilizing system is to use natural cleaning wipes like Dr. Brown’s pacifier and bottle wipes. These can be used for baby camping gear as well as mom’s breast pump supplies.
Outdoor Clothing for Babies
For camping in warmer weather, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises against using sunscreen on a baby before they reach 6 months of age, therefore it may be a good idea to pack a sun hat, some long-sleeve shirts, and pants that breathe well to keep your little one protected from the sun. If at all possible, however, keep your infant out of direct sunlight until they have reached 6 months of age.
If your campsite is mostly shaded, dress babies in breathable, lightweight clothes. At night, check the forecast before your baby goes to bed for the night to determine if a light sleep sack is required. If camping near a lake or beach, your baby will need swim diapers, a sun hat, and an appropriately sized towel.
For camping in colder weather, the same rule applies to both babies and adults: layers! Your baby should always be wearing one layer more than you are. During the day, babies can wear a base layer for warmth followed by a fleece onesie. Add additional layers as necessary, and always use socks and a beanie to prevent heat from leaving their extremities. At night, a sleep sack or infant sleeping bag is a must. Check your child for cool, clammy skin which may mean that an extra layer is needed.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring extra clothing. Blowouts and spit-up happen so be prepared and pack accordingly.
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Sleeping Bag or Wearable Blanket
Temperature regulation was a big concern for us the first time that we went camping with a baby. Depending on the time of year, temperatures can drop quickly at night. We wanted to make sure that our infant would stay warm without overheating. A muslin swaddle cloth provides some warmth, but on colder evenings a wearable blanket is an essential item.
The HALO Easy Transition SleepSack is made with 2 layers of 100% cotton that are lightly quilted with polyester fill, providing a TOG rating of 1.5 (68 – 69 degrees Fahrenheit). For those camping in much colder temperatures, the Morrison Outdoors down baby sleeping bag uses 650-fill-power down with a temperature rating of 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It is AAP Safe Sleep compliant, so you can rest assured knowing that your infant can sleep safely.
Fan or Heater
Although a tent provides some protection from the elements, it certainly is not as insulated as a baby’s nursery at home. It is important to check the weather before a camping trip to anticipate changes in temperature.
If camping with babies during the summer, it is wise to bring a portable fan to keep your baby cool and comfortable. This portable fan is small and attaches easily to many surfaces including a crib, stroller, and camping chair.
During colder months, a portable propane heater can provide the right amount of warmth to enjoy even winter camping. Small propane heaters are safe to use in tents as long as you follow the proper safety precautions. We use the My Buddy Heater as it is rated for indoor use and has an automatic shut-off feature in case it is tipped over. The My Buddy Heater heats up to 225 sq. feet making it a great heater for camping. There is also a larger version which is ideal for big family tents.
Baby Carrier or Hiking Carrier
Camping and hiking often go hand in hand. An appropriate hiking carrier makes it easy to explore the trails with your little one.
Even if you do not plan on hiking, having a proper baby carrier can come in handy around a campsite. When your baby is tired of the playpen and is in the inevitable “I want to be held” mood, the baby carrier is indispensable. You are still able to gather sticks or prepare dinner all while keeping baby close and happy.
Related Content: Tips for Hiking while Pregnant
Stroller or Wagon
Family campgrounds typically have a number of trails to explore, some may be paved roads and others may be gravel or dirt. Bringing along an all-terrain wagon is useful to transport your child(ren) and some extra belongings all at the same time. This option is especially great for kids that do not enjoy carriers.
The Evenflo Pivot Xplore Wagon can be used with children 6 months to 5 years old. The ultra-durable tires allow for the wagon to move seamlessly over any terrain including sand. It can also accommodate an infant car seat with the optional adaptor, transforming this all-terrain wagon into an all-around adventure stroller. The best feature of the Evenflo Pivot Explore Wagon is that it compresses down like a typical stroller for easy transportation. We have personally used this wagon on many trips.
When camping with an infant, it is important to keep them warm but also safe from items that may pose a suffocation hazard like large sleeping bags and blankets. For this reason, we always prefer to use a portable baby bed when camping with a baby.
The Graco “On the Go” Playard is one of the best Pack and Play travel beds. It serves a dual purpose as a playard and bassinet. The removable full-size bassinet provides an easy-to-reach and safe space for your baby to sleep. When the bassinet insert is removed, the Pack ‘n Play serves as an enclosed play space for mobile babies and toddlers.
Bugs are ubiquitous with camping. Avoid your sweet little baby from getting bitten by packing appropriate bug protection. All-natural insect repellents are typically plant-based and safe for young children, however, for infants we generally prefer using a mosquito net.
Breast Pumping Equipment
Nursing while camping can pose some challenges, however, it is far from impossible. If you are camping with an electric hookup or a portable generator, your typical breast pump will work just fine. If you do not have access to electricity, bringing a manual breast pump is essential. Speaking from experience, being forced to manually express because you forgot to bring a pump is not an enjoyable experience. Don’t forget a breastmilk cooler bag.
If your campground does not have access to a bath, you will still want to clean any dirt and dust that likely found its way onto your baby. While you can probably use standard baby wipes, we prefer using something with a bit more moisture to cleanse their skin. Cleansing cloths usually come in a larger size that is ideal for quick cleaning between baths.
Basic Baby Travel Essentials
In addition to the baby camping gear mentioned above, there are a few essentials that are recommended any time when traveling with a baby.
- Pacifiers – glow in the dark are great for camping
- Emergency Kit
- Pouches and snacks
- Shelf stable milk for babies off of formula
- Reusable bib
Conclusion: Camping with a Baby
You don’t need all the coolest baby gadgets to go camping with a little one, however it is highly recommended to add some if not all of these things to your list of camping items. The best thing about this list is that the items grow along with your child, making them great toddler camping gear too.
As mentioned earlier, we have used most of these items from the time our first child was a baby up until he was a toddler.
Now that you are fully prepared for your baby’s first camping adventure, you can then stop worrying about things like mosquito bites and where the baby is going to sleep, and instead focus on family bonding in the great outdoors.