Alright, we did it. We survived our first camping trip with a 7 month old baby and a two and a half year old toddler. Here are some thoughts on what worked and what didn’t work.
First and foremost, I was concerned about sleep (as are most parents of infants in general, most likely). Let me just say right off the bat that it was completely painless. In fact, the little one slept better than he had been at home recently and the toddler slept in until 7am (usually a 5:30, 6 am type of a guy). Both inspite of loud music from the neighboring camp until around 2am! Yes, I was the one who called the ranger. That’s just rude.
I fretted all winter over what type of baby bed system would be best. Pack n play, travel crib, cot, baby sleeping bag, bunting suit. I just couldn’t figure it out and didn’t want to experiment with hundreds of dollars of equipment. As it happens, we ended up using a leaky sleeping pad folded in half with a crib sheet and topped with a sheep skin. I just put that next to my sleeping pad and we slept together under my unzipped down bag. The baby had warm pajamas and a wool sleep sack and a hat. He was cozy and barely stirred. Amazing. All that worry for nothing.
The toddler slept in one of our full sized mummy sleeping bags on a full size pad. (A thin backpacking one was sufficient for his tiny self). We didn’t want to spend more money on kid sized stuff, and I can’t see a reason why. He slept great, slid around a little but we just scooted him right back into the pad. We also brought a battery powered sound machine from home to bring in a familiar element to bed time and just followed our routine as usual. The scary specter of sleepless nights in a tent vanished and I couldn’t be happier. I am buying a portable fan for naptime since it is during the hottest part of the day.
I also think think that having a large tent made a difference. There was plenty of room for us all to spread out in. It is canvas, so pretty warm for a huge tent, and I was grateful for it when the wind picked up because it was quite quiet. So there it is. Sleep.
eating and play
As for the rest of the trip, our tent has a large door that essentially makes the tent an open shaded living area for daytime. The baby enjoyed army crawling about in there throughout the day, no pack n play needed. He tended to want to eat the sand so I had to watch him when he got off the blankets/ out of the tent.
Instead of buying a portable highchair, we brought our baby back pack with stand and he chilled in there while we all sat in chairs. And as for the toddler, we use low to the ground camp chairs that also fit inside the tent. That way buying a special child sized chair isn’t necessary. He loves his camp chairs.
This was primitive camping, so no picnic table, we just used a small GSI folding table. This was also good at night time to keep in the tent to keep our diaper changing items organized. It is also perfect for dining with the low chairs.
Don’t forget an assortment of toys from home. I think I’ll be picking up a backpacking bocce ball set.
Little kids require a lot of stuff and a lot of time and attention. Organization and streamlining packing makes this kind of venture so much easier to attempt. To that end, I’ll just go ahead and mention that a mountainsmith gear hauler is genius for families. We each get a ‘cube’ and it requires only one trip to load and unload for all four of us. It kept our tent organized, and the mesh bag that holds the folded up unit for storage doubled as a laundry bag. I keep trying to find an excuse to buy a second one, it is so useful.
Also, those huge blue bags from ikea that cost a couple of bucks each are super useful. One had all of our bedding and another held all of our furniture. I want one more for odds and ends like the solar shower (pressurized by foot pump by Nemo, and excellent for rinsing dishes and sandy feet) and the portable potty (never thought I’d get one, but they are awesome, ours is from cleanwaste.)
It is unrelated to children per se, but if you are looking to organize a camp kitchen, the Camp Chef Sherpa is great. Everything is in one place, it is compact, and no set up or take down. You can have pb and j made in a jiffy.
Finally, I will be picking up a sand mat for the front of the tent. It turns out that toddlers run in and out of tents all day and don’t brush off their feet or remove their shoes. Lots of shaking sand out of everything.
What else is there? Good clean family fun enjoying the great outdoors. It is such a great way to focus us on the basics and spend time as a family. Once your gear is put together, it is inexpensive as well. Happy camping.