Camping With Baby: Tips For a Successful Trip
Every year, Team Cozy Camper goes camping with our family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. We make great memories and meet new people every time. We look forward to it all year! So when we welcomed our son into our family in October 2018 we had a tough decision to make: go or no go.
As you might have guessed, we decided to go. We recognized immediately that camping with a six week old baby was going to come with some challenges. We needed to make sure that baby would be warm and comfortable all night. We were in the middle of sleep training him so we wanted to be sure that camping wouldn't disrupt his routine. In short: we confronted a lot of worries and now we can share that experience with you.
Tip # 1: Take the easy way out - consider a camper or a cabin over the tent:
Because our son was just six weeks old we felt that tent camping was not an option and we couldn't find a camper to rent so we rented a cabin at the campground. Cozy Camper Rental was just a dream then. Yes, the purist might judge us and say "well thats really not camping" and maybe they're right. But we got to spend time with our friends and family around the camp fire while baby was safe and sound in the cabin. By taking the safe option and renting a cabin instead of roughing it, it took a lot of the worry off our minds. Any of the Cozy Campers can withstand the elements and we choose our campers with young families in mind. Team Cozy Camper has since been on several adventures with Cassiopeia and Sweet Lou with our babies on board. Cassiopeia is particularly suited for young children thanks to the bunk beds. If you are spending time in a camper with a baby, try to find a campground with access to electricity, water and consider looking into a propane refill service. Accept that you're going to have an elevated stress level being out in the world with a baby. Don't add to it with an adventure overreach - take the easy way out!
The six week old cozy camper in his natural environment. Please forgive the mustache - it was for Movember and yes, Mrs. Cozy Camper hated it.
Tip # 2: Comfort & safety are the top priorities:
The following year, we rented a pop-up camper on Outdoorsy. He was a little bigger and way less maintenance. The camper was nice and warm at night and we had space for his Pack-n-Play. He even had the entire second mattress to play on. Keeping everyone warm or cool and dry with a safe place to sleep is paramount. The simple truth is: if baby doesn't sleep, you're not going to sleep. Bring the Pack-n-Play and whatever else you need to make sure baby has a good night. Stacking a Pack-n-Play on top of a tiny kitchen table may not be the best option so make sure you have enough space for your needs. Horror story time: years ago, Team Cozy Camper's Shawn and family were camping in a pop up. Their baby cozy camper was sleeping in one of the pop out mattresses. As babies do, she rolled around and found her way to the edge and slipped between the canvas and the mattress. She fell out of the camper and onto the ground below. Thankfully she was ok and Shawn was able to rescue her. As you might expect, we have no pop-up campers in our fleet. Make sure that your baby's sleep solution is safe and follows all the manufacturers warnings and recommendations.
These are examples of a few of the camper crib solutions we've seen safe or otherwise. Do what is safe for your family and always follow the manufacturers instructions and warnings.
Tip #3 Bed time is bed time - stick to the routine
Mrs. Cozy Camper and I are big believers in sleep training. By 12 weeks old, the baby was sleeping 12 hours a night. Before you call me a liar, there is a training manual here. The fact that you are in a new location changes nothing. Try to maintain the bed time routine to the best of your ability. For us, it was a bath, bottle, a few minutes in the rocking chair and bed by 7pm. We knew we were bringing a Pack-N-Play for him to sleep in so we had a few practice runs at home so we knew he'd be comfortable sleeping in one. When it was time for bed, we rocked him in a folding rocking chair, fed him, and put him down in the Pack-N-Play. We brought the same sound machine and monitor we use at home. He slept through the night every night - even during a pretty significant storm. After baby went to bed, we were able to hang out with our friends.
Tip # 4: Invest in good, but inexpensive gear
We've already talked about some of the gear we brought. A good addition is the folding high chair. We think he likes it a little more than the normal one. It's very portable and easy to set up. We were able to throw it in a backpack and bring it with us. We even brought it on the hike!
The folding high chair: who invents this stuff?
The first year, our son was so young we accepted that we'd be a little limited. We had a baby carrier that was safe enough for us to hike all over the park. I even went fishing with him in it. The following year, we wanted to hike into places where strollers fear to tread. Thankfully, Team Cozy Camper's Shawn gave us a a pretty neat backpack carrier system. It also folds into a chair that allowed us to sit him down when we took breaks. We hiked all over the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge with it. Find the gear that fits your needs and remember: a lot of it ends up on craigslist and facebook marketplace for deep discounts.
Added bonus: nap time
Tip # 5: Accept the stress but don't let it ruin your good time. Work as a team so everyone has fun:
Stop. Recognize now that camping with baby is going to be a little more stressful than camping normally. But then so is staying with baby in a hotel. You're deviating a little bit from your routine and thats stressful under the best circumstances. Set realistic expectations for you and your family and work as a team so everyone can have a good time. On our most recent trip, the guys wanted to go kayaking. So, the ladies took the kids on an adventure in town while we went on the river. After we finished our row (and recovered from a series of unmitigated disasters that we'll tell you about another time), we took over spending time with the kids so the ladies could relax. After the guys put all the kids to bed, we built a bonfire and hung out together. This teamwork allowed everyone to have a good time.
When we left, the battery failed in the popup and we struggled to get it packed up. Simultaneously, one of the kids on the trip became...ill...violently. To say that I was stressed when we were leaving is an understatement. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to calm down because the trip was a blast and a couple hiccups didn't change that. Don't let the downs of your trip overwhelm the ups! A bad day camping is better than a good day at work!
The baby Cozy Camper playing with everything except his toys in the rented pop-up camper.
These are just a few of the lessons we've learned over the years - and we're not done yet. We'll update our list as time goes on. If you have any tips for your fellow campers, please let us know!