Summer hasn’t really been what most of us expected from 2020, has it? Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic still infesting our country, businesses are shuttered, happy hours are a distant memory, and kids are bored-out-of-their-freaking minds. Thankfully, we still have Mother Nature to provide us with a little social-distancing-friendly activity and copious amounts of mental sanity.
For new parents and those with babies and toddlers, this new normal is even tougher. Sure, go camping. But raise your hand if you are a budding parent and you feel super confident about sleeping in a tent with your brand-new bundle of joy?
Chirp, chirp. Yup, those are crickets you’re hearing.
Learning how to camp with babies is both daunting and overwhelming to parents. And look, I get it. I was there, too, when our daughter was born. Overnight, I went from a hardcore outdoor woman to a mama filled with concern and wonder at this weird little human I grew. But over time, I realized the hard truth: babies are adaptable. It’s the parents who need a little work.
That’s why we created the WildKind Club, a digital membership community for outdoor families. We believe that adventure shouldn’t end when family begins, so our singular goal is to help other families find their wild–regardless of their experience level or expertise. (Although let’s be real: if you’re summiting Everest with your kid, you may be out of our league!)
The premise is simple: we want to engage, educate, and empower families to get outside. And we do this through monthly brand discounts on gear, a private gear swap forum, free gear giveaways, a resource library of how-to videos, and a live speaker series.
And yes, we can help you and your babe tackle your first-ever camping trip. But until then, here are a few tips I learned along the way.
Before I was a mom, my husband and I would throw our stuff in the car after work on a Friday and post up at a dispersed campsite after dark. Pro tip: don’t do that. You’re not packing for just yourself anymore and that codependent little human can’t advocate for herself if you forget anything. Spend a few days getting everything organized and you’ll feel a lot less stress.
Tackle Your Sleeping Plan
Getting babies to sleep is hard so forcing them into the Land of Nod can be even trickier when you’re camping. Before you leave your house, come up with two plans: Plan A and Plan B. The first is how you’re hoping the sleeping situation will go down and the second is how it will actually happen. Many parents opt to bring a Pack-n-Play to create a safe-sleep situation, but others may not own a tent large enough to accommodate a small crib. Co-sleeping worked great for us while camping, but not everyone is comfortable with that. Ultimately, only you know what is best for your baby, but don’t forget to come with a few options–just in case.
Mimic the Nursery
Okay, you can’t totally recreate a peaceful nursery inside a nylon tent, but you can do your best. Most families have a time-test bedtime routine that often looks like this: bath, bottle, book, bed. Clearly, the bath is out of the question but you can simulate the rest. Maintaining a similar routine is so critical for easing your babe into camp life because he already knows what to expect. You’re simply doing the same thing in a different location. Bonus tip: if you use white noise at home, download a free white noise app on your phone so you can leave it in the tent. Not only will this further help mimic your babe’s sleeping environment, but it will also drown out exterior noise so your kiddo can sleep through mom and dad laughing around the campfire.
Consider Dispersed Camping
When car camping, we usually have two options: campgrounds or dispersed camping, or “free camping” that is allowed on certain public lands. While it may seem like a good idea to opt for a campground with running water and bathroom facilities, I’d recommend heading to the wild stuff. Why? Nobody can hear your baby screaming. Seriously, there is nothing more stressful than your babe waking at 2am, crying his face off because he realized he is in a new location, and your campground neighbors to the left are hollering because you won’t quiet that kid down. If you’re dispersed camping, there is no one around to annoy and you can sweat the important stuff– like finding your infant’s milk.
Pack a Lot of Diapers and Then Pack Some More
Diapers and wipes are part of daily life now, so not much changes at camp. That said, you likely won’t be perched near a grocery store or Target, so it’s a real bummer to run out of the poop catchers at camp. While packing, take a look at your daily requirement, and then add at least 25% more. Silver lining: diapers are light and packable, so bringing too many is always better than not enough. Trust me.
Above all else, here is the ultimate lesson: adapt, adapt, adapt. As I said earlier, parents like to say that the BABY won’t like doing something or that the BABY will be uncomfortable. But the honest truth is that everything is new to your infant since she is seeing the world with fresh eyes. She is adapting on a minute-by-minute basis so adjusting to life at camp isn’t so tough for her. On the other hand, parents aren’t used to rolling with the punches since they have decades of experience in doing this camping thing one way. Keep that in mind before your next trip. And, remember: kids are born to play outside. Let them go.
Heather Balogh Rochfort is the author of Sleepings Bags to S’mores and the co-founder of the WildKind Club, a new membership designed to help families get outside. For those looking for support and instruction in outdoor endeavors with their kiddos, registration is open!