In our family, camping is a favorite pastime. Before kids, my husband and I spend a lot of time in the mountains. We backpacked into places like Jewel Basin and to many of the lakes and waterfalls in GNP. We spontaneously threw our things together, called a few friends, and slept under the stars near one of the many lakes that surrounded us.
Once we had babies, however, that all changed. I know that many people who are hardcore outdoor enthusiasts would thoroughly enjoy taking their new baby on one of their camping excursions. Most would look forward to introducing their love of the outdoors to their little one, even at a very young age. But what happens when you don’t have one new baby, but two?
Well, if you’re us, you still throw your things together and head to a nearby lake to sleep under the stars (albeit with a tent between you and said stars) and try to enjoy a few peaceful nights away from everything.
Interestingly enough, camping with 6 month old twins was easier for me than camping with all four of my kids last summer at ages 5, 5, 4, and 5 months. In our last six years as parents, we have camped. A lot. Some trips have been the perfect experience in enjoying the serenity of the outdoors, while others, well… Let’s just say some have been the perfect learning experience!
I thought I’d share with you a few tips for camping with babies, twins, or just a big family.
If you cloth diaper, pack disposables for your camping trip.
When we travel, I have always brought our cloth diapers along and haven’t had any issues. So when we went camping last summer, I thought I’d be fine using cloth on our trip. I figured I could drive into a nearby town and wash them at a laundromat, letting them hang to dry at our campsite. This was absolutely the worst idea. Let me just say that being unable to rinse a few of the diapers was not fun, and neither was driving to find a laundromat and then having the diapers blow off the line at our camp site (since I had forgotten clothes pins). If you MUST cloth diaper on your camping trip, don’t forget the clothespins!
Pack plenty of extra clothes (but only old clothes)!
I always try and pack a couple of extra outfits beyond what I would pack for a hotel type trip, since everyone will be dirtier than when staying at a hotel. I also pack only old clothes that I won’t mind seeing trashed, and I try my best to ignore dirt while camping. Dirt is one thing that you will always have in abundance while camping.
Ditch the sleeping bags!
We don’t use sleeping bags when camping as a family. If we were camping in the early spring or late fall, we probably would use them to keep extra warm, but otherwise we just make a big family bed. We have a bunch of old down comforters and quilts that are perfect for this. I don’t mind them getting a little dirty, and if we make one big bed everyone can cuddle together to keep warm. It is much easier and cozier than having separate sleeping bags. (However, if you don’t normally co-sleep, this probably wouldn’t work. When the twins were babies we brought a pack n play and they slept in that in the tent.)
Bring plenty of containers!
No, not for food — for babies! When the babies were little we made sure we brought a pack n play, as well as something else: a small, portable swing or bouncer. Or even just a stroller, so that if you must you can put at least one baby somewhere safe for a few moments.
Tarps and blankets are your best friends!
We always put a tarp right in front of our tent (a pretty good sized tarp) so that it’s partially under the tent’s front awning and partially out in the sun. That way baby has at least a little bit of room to scoot/crawl around where it’s not absolute dirt. Well, until your 4 year old tramps all over it!
Plan easy meals.
We used to have more fun planning meals that are enjoyable to eat outside, but now it’s all about convenience, while still remaining slightly healthy. We bring lots of sandwich fixings, veggies and dip, cheese, crackers, string cheese, fruit that is already cut up, eggs and other easy foods. We do make pancakes or breakfast burritos for breakfast at least one day, and we usually make hobo dinners in the fire (foil packages filled with potatoes, veggies, and herbs cooked in the coals of your fire) but otherwise, it’s all about whatever is the easiest. Don’t stress about food – as long as everyone eats, it doesn’t matter what fills their bellies. If a meal doesn’t go as planned, just roll with it and fill up on cheese and crackers.
BRING YOUR BABY CARRIERS.
My number one piece of advice (which should probably at the top of this list) is to bring carriers. I would absolutely not survive camping (let’s face it, I wouldn’t survive life) without a baby carrier. I have absolutely resorted to wearing a 4 year old while camping to save everyone’s sanity. Don’t leave home without at least one per adult.
Change your expectations. Better yet, erase them.
The biggest obstacle to overcome in enjoying any camping trip is what you expect from it. I am such a daydreamer, always having my ideal situation playing in my head as I pack and prepare for a trip. I usually picture reading beside the lake or under the trees, lying in the sun, peaceful hikes where we can listen to the birds and enjoy the scent of pine needles, and, well, you get the picture. I basically picture absolute perfection, and no matter how well the trip goes, it could never live up to my expectations. Last year, I realized that I was setting myself up for failure. Camping is a lot of work, but camping with babies/kids is almost more work than it’s worth. Except that somehow, it isn’t. So know ahead of time that it will take a lot of effort, and there will be frustrating moments, you may cry, and you may just spend a lot of time running after small people, but it will be fun. I promise!
So there you go! I wish I had pictures from camping trips from when the twins were babies, but clearly that wasn’t on my list of things to bring along back then. Or more likely, it sat in the tent each trip completely forgotten in the busyness! So add one more thing to your list: your camera! Because you do not want to forget those moments, no matter how difficult some of them are.
As I said earlier, we love the outdoors. I cannot imagine not living in an area where we couldn’t frequently enjoy the mountains, lakes, rivers and fresh air. A love for the outdoors is something that we value very highly and we are having a blast sharing that love with our four kids. So far, they all adore being outside as much as we do, and I know that that love will continue to grow as we spend time with the outside doing what we love.
There are so many, many things I would love to add to this list, but if I did, it could go on forever. So for now, these are just a few of the things I’ve learned from our many, many camping trips with our kids. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! And if you have any tips of your own to share, I’d love for you to leave them in the comments for me to read, because I am always looking for new ideas.