Camping With Little Ones: Why, How, and, What To Bring

Key Points

  • Choosing to camp with a baby has benefits for you and your little one.

  • Safety must always be the first thing to consider when planning to camp with a baby.

  • Follow the correct steps and bring the right gear to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for both you and your baby.

  • Camping with a one-year-old is a different game, complete with its own set of challenges.

What a bundle of joy a newborn baby is! Parents remember when their children were old enough to fit into their arms, their delightful little squeals, and how everything around them was fascinating. If you have a baby or are expecting one, cherish every moment of the experience — the good and the bad alike!

Of course, there are plenty of not-so-blissful moments: sleepless nights, ill-timed spit-ups, and awful bouts of diarrhea. It isn't all fun and games. Despite the trials and tribulations of raising a human, many things contribute to your child's development. One of the most critical is for them to spend time outside. Children, no matter how young, need to be outdoors. It's good for them. To camp with a baby may not have crossed your mind, but doing so sets the child up for success and instills in them a love of this planet. 

Before hitting the hills with an infant, though, there are many things to consider. Dive in to find out more. 

The Benefits of Camping With Your Baby

The memories may not stick for younger children, but camping with little ones still has the potential to be an overwhelmingly positive experience. Even though your child's brain won't soak in the experience, your own brain is sure to. Camping offers some of the best memories for many reasons. 

Mom and baby in camping tent

Bonding and Family Time

Spending quality time together as a family is essential for building solid relationships. Camping allows families to disconnect from the distractions of everyday life and focus on each other. Parents bond with their babies through activities such as hiking, playing, and exploring nature together.

Exposure to Nature

Camping exposes babies to the natural world and helps them develop an appreciation for the environment and the various plants and animals within it. This exposure to nature develops a love for the environment at a young age, which leads to a greater sense of environmental responsibility as they grow older.

In addition, the germs found in nature are actually healthy for your child's immune system!

Physical Activity

The wild provides ample space for physical activity, such as hiking, playing in the water, and exploring — all beneficial activities for both parents and babies. Physical activity helps babies develop their motor skills, build strength, and improve coordination. It also boosts mood and reduces stress in adults.

Fresh Air and Quality Sleep

Camping in the great outdoors offers respite from the artificial light and noise of urban areas, which helps babies and adults get a good night's sleep. Fresh air and a change of scenery also boost energy levels and improve overall well-being.

Technology Detox

Camping provides a break from the distractions brought forth by ever-attention-consuming technological devices. Less screen time means reduced stress levels and improved mental health. Disconnecting also means reconnecting with nature, which improves your overall mood, reduces feelings of anger, and has the potential to lessen symptoms of depression.

Speed Up Your Child's Development Process

Camping exposes babies to new environments, sights, sounds, and activities they might not otherwise encounter. These experiences stimulate their minds, increase their knowledge and understanding of the world, and help them develop new skills and interests. Your kiddo needs to build natural immunity, and outdoor living does just that for them.

Foundation for Future Camping Trips

Passed down from generation to generation, camping creates lasting memories and traditions that bring families closer together. These memories build a strong sense of belonging and provide a positive reference point for babies as they grow and mature.

To reap these benefits, though, your baby's safety must be the number one priority when taking them into the great outdoors.

Safety Is the Number One Priority

Imagine taking your child to a busy, metropolitan street. Constantly scratching at the back of your mind? Your baby's safety. If there's a red light, you don't cross the street. If you need to use the restroom, you don't leave your child alone. There are certain precautions you take to ensure the safety of your child – especially when they’re a baby. 

The same rules apply to camping. The first step towards a safe and rewarding camping trip is to ensure that your child is at an appropriate age to be out in nature. Camping with a baby is safe, so long as you follow proper precautions. As for what age your baby should be before taking them camping, the answer resists simplicity. Like most things in life, it depends.

Baby sleeping in camping tent

The Appropriate Age To Take Your Baby Camping

There is no specific age limit. Every baby develops differently, and every parent must follow the natural progression of their child's growth when determining when to take them camping. If they struggle with certain ailments, like jaundice, wait for that to clear up before planning a trip. 

Scream it from the mountain tops: Consult your pediatrician. When thoughts of camping first begin to dance in your mind, speak to your baby's doctor. They are your best resource for letting you know if your baby is in shipshape for a camping getaway. Referring to the experts is always a good idea.

Some kids are good to go when they're a few weeks old. Others may not be ready until they're a few months older. Stay tuned to their development process. What's most important is the baby's health. Make your decision with your baby's well-being the number one priority. 

If you get the green light to take your kiddo camping, great. Don't forget, though: It's challenging – especially when that little bundle of cuteness might crawl away. 

The Essential Items for Every Baby

Babies require a lot of stuff. Being out in nature for an extended period of time with a baby means even more stuff. Consider every possibility, good and bad. Mishaps and accidents happen. Heaven forbid they do, but if you find yourself in a sticky situation, you'll be glad you prepared for it. Even if everything goes fine and dandy, many specific items are still required.

Camping trips often involve less-than-ideal conditions for changing diapers and feeding a baby. Pack plenty of diapers, wipes, garbage bags, and other essential supplies to ensure the baby is clean and comfortable. If you're bottle-feeding, bring along formula, bottles, and a means to heat the formula, such as a camping stove or portable heater.

Take along clothing for all weather. You need a sufficient supply of onesies, sleepers, socks, and hats. Don't forget the stroller, baby carrier or wrap, pacifiers, and thermometer, just in case.

Sleeping Arrangements

One of the biggest challenges of camping with a baby is finding a safe and comfortable sleeping arrangement. Bring a suitable crib, sleeping bag, and possibly a portable mattress to protect the baby from the elements and give them a comfortable place to sleep. Where the baby sleeps is critical when camping. If the baby doesn't sleep well, nobody sleeps well.

Choose a camping bed that is lightweight and easy to transport but also sturdy and secure. A suitable sleeper and portable mattress provide comfort and warmth for the baby while they sleep. Bring along a camping pillow, a sleeping pad, and definitely some extra blankets to ensure everyone is comfortable.

If your baby is younger, they may really enjoy the rocking sensation of a hammock during nap time.

Playpen or Portable Fence

A playpen or portable fence provides a safe area for the baby to crawl and play. Look for a lightweight, easy-to-transport, sturdy, and secure playpen. Especially if your baby is mobile, this is a lifesaver.


When selecting a tent, consider one that’s spacious enough to accommodate a crib or playpen. A tent with plenty of ventilation and mesh sides allows for fresh air flow while keeping insects out. Look for a tent with a waterproof rainfly to protect the baby from the elements.

It may be hard to find a quality tent, but it's a crucial aspect of the experience.

Sun Protection

Make a plan to keep your baby protected from the sun, wind, rain, and other elements during the day while camping. Pack a shade tent, canopy, or umbrella to provide protection from the sun and keep the baby cool and comfortable. A sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are the greatest defenders against rays.

Infant in camping tent

Prepare for Bugs

Use insect repellent and keep the baby covered with lightweight clothing to prevent bug bites. Consider bringing a mosquito net to keep the baby protected while they sleep. Your baby is cute, but bugs don't care. Ticks, chiggers, fire ants, bees, and wasps sting and bite without mercy. Know the type of bugs that lurk where you're going camping. Learn what to do to keep them away and what the cure is if your child does get bitten.

First-Aid Kit

A first-aid kit must include items such as adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, and pain relievers. Make sure you include Tylenol for babies, just in case. A thermometer, insect repellent, and a multi-tool are great additions in case of emergencies.

The Challenges of Camping With a Baby

Nobody who has a baby is going to say it's a walk in the park. Mainly because it's not, it's incredibly difficult to raise a human being to adulthood. Such a feat requires attention, resources, help from others, and lots of love and patience. It indeed takes a village!

There are some additional challenges to consider when your baby meets nature.

Lugging Along All the Gear May Be Hard

Carrying a baby and all of your gear is often physically demanding – especially if you're hiking or trekking to your camping site. Dad bods might be all the rage, but if you're hiking with a child, you might want to get in shape beforehand. You may need to invest in a baby carrier or stroller to make it easier to move around with the baby.

Maintaining a Routine

Camping disrupts a baby's routine, which is difficult for both the baby and the parents. It's crucial to maintain as much of the baby's routine as possible, such as feeding and sleeping schedules, to minimize any disruption.

Camping with a crawling baby is a whole different type of adventure. Fortunately, some steps make it much more manageable.

Don't Stray Too Far From Home

Just in case things don't quite go as planned, it's best not to stray too far from home — stay within a couple of driving hours — just in case you need to head back home. Wait until you've gone camping with your baby a couple of times before you bite off a more sizable trip.

Create a Safe Play Area

In your home, your baby probably finds things endlessly fascinating. Infants often get their chubby little fingers on whatever is within their grasp. While camping, there are hundreds of more things for them to touch, grab, chew, and eat, and it's your responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen. A big responsibility, but one which you are capable of. 

Dad and infant at campsite

Designate a safe area for the baby to crawl and play, and make sure it's free of sharp objects, toxic plants, and other hazards. Consider using a playpen or portable fence to keep the baby contained.

Keep the Campground Clean

Make sure to dispose of all trash, food scraps, and other items that could attract wildlife. Keep the camping area tidy and free of sharp objects to minimize the risk of injury to the crawling baby. Bring some extra blankets to lay out for your baby to crawl around on.

Plan Meals and Snacks Ahead of Time

Prepare and pack healthy and easy-to-prepare foods for the baby, and make sure you have enough formula and bottles. If you're traveling with other children besides the baby, bring plenty of snacks and water for the whole crew. 

Bring the Right Gear

Sometimes you just never know what you need until you need it. The same thing applies to camping with a baby. It might take a trip or two before you know exactly what you need to bring to make it a smooth trip. Don't let this deter you, though! Consider it all an adventure.

A Well-Rested Baby Equals a Good Camping Trip

Getting the proper shelter is the difference between your baby getting a full eight hours and a night of sleeplessness. No one enjoys the latter. A good night's sleep leads to a clear mind, and a clear mind is critical when juggling camping and parenting. 

Get a good tent to ensure you and your baby sleep well. When selecting a tent for camping with a baby, consider the tent's size, weight, ease of setup, and ventilation.

Here are a few recommendations:

Wawona 6 Six-Person Camping Tent

by The North Face 

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12/06/2023 12:27 am GMT

The North Face Wawona 6

This spacious tent accommodates up to six people, making it ideal for families with a baby. It features a waterproof rainfly and mesh windows for ventilation, and the tent is easy to set up and take down.

REI Co-Op Kingdom 6

This tent holds up to six people. It has a spacious interior and mesh walls for excellent ventilation, made with high-quality materials that are durable and weather-resistant.

Coleman Sundome 6

A budget-friendly option designed to accommodate up to six people. It has a waterproof rainfly and mesh windows for ventilation and is easy to set up and take down.

The one thing as important as a quality shelter is the weather. Going camping with a baby in a blizzard is absurd and dangerous. People inherently know when it's too cold for a child to be outside. It's much more difficult to determine the redline when temperatures go up.

Mom and infant camping in tent

Camping With a Baby in Hot Weather

Summer is prime camping season. It's also the hottest. Infants and babies rely on adults to keep them cool during hot spells. If you're going camping when it's warmer than average, or even if you think it's cool, know the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Most importantly, come prepared.

Keep Your Child Hydrated

Make sure to provide plenty of water for both you and the baby. Pack a cooler with water bottles and snacks, and consider bringing a hydration system for the baby if they are old enough to drink from a straw.

Maintain Cool Living Quarters

Choose a tent with plenty of ventilation and mesh sides to keep the air flowing and the baby cool. Consider bringing a portable fan to create a breeze inside the tent.

Bring Light Clothing

Don't put them in a parka. Pack light and breathable clothing for both you and the baby, and bring extra changes of clothing in case of accidents or spills.

Time Your Trips for Cooler Temperatures

If it's going to be triple digits on the dates you want to camp, consider not going. If you do go, plan your outdoor activities for the early morning or late evening when the sun is less intense, and take breaks during the hottest part of the day.

Pack a Thermometer

Pack a first-aid kit and bring along a thermometer to monitor the baby's temperature in case of heat exhaustion or sunstroke.

Everything mentioned applies to camping with children from the time they are a newborn to 11 months old. When your kid hits that one-year mark, though, there are more aspects to consider when taking them camping.

Camping With a One-Year-Old

Babies are growing machines. The difference in development between a newborn and a one-year-old is astounding. As they grow and change, so must your camping strategy.

Choose a Safe and Appropriate Campsite

Look for a safe campsite for a one-year-old with no sharp rocks, dangerous wildlife, or steep drop-offs. Consider the campsite's proximity to restrooms, showers, and water sources.

Plan Activities

Plan age-appropriate activities that are safe and fun for your one-year-old, such as playing in the sand, exploring nature, and taking walks. Bring a few age-appropriate toys, books, and games to keep your baby entertained. Even one-year-olds appreciate the moon, so be sure to point it out and wish the moon goodnight before putting them down to sleep.

Camping with children

Be Flexible

Camping with a one-year-old — heck, life in general with a one-year-old — is unpredictable, so prepare to adjust your plans and activities as needed. Remember to take breaks, relax, and enjoy the experience with your baby.

Always Keep an Eye on Them

Always keep a close eye on your one-year-old and keep them within arm's reach at all times. They might scurry out of sight in the blink of an eye, leaving you panicked and stressed. Avoid the situation altogether by keeping them at close quarters. It's also important to be mindful of who is at neighboring campsites.

Outdoor Activities and Babies: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Your child may always be a baby in your heart. Against every parent's wishes, every human grows up and forges their own path in life. When your child is young is the best time to bless them with good memories and instill a deep appreciation for nature. Camping is a prime way to do just that.

Hungarian pediatrician and child development specialist Dr. Emmi Pickler comments, "If we provide enough space and possibilities for moving freely, then the children will move as well as animals: skillfully, simply, securely, naturally."

Outdoor activities bring many challenges. The same goes for raising a baby. The fusion of these two is a whole different ball game. If you do your research, get the right gear, and plan ahead, then you're poised for success. Planning is everything. Camping exposes babies to new environments, sights, sounds, and activities they might not otherwise encounter.

Done correctly, camping with a baby lays the groundwork for timeless memories — ones you are sure to hold dearly until the day you die, and your child will one day want to relive with their own family. Upon your return, be sure to clean your sleeping bag properly. There's nothing worse than discovering that stink when preparing for your next outing!

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