In an effort to get better at quick, informative blog posts without all of the fluff, I’ve challenged myself to get this guide to camping with a toddler live the same week we went on our very first camping trip. Let’s hit the road!
To start, I’d like to say I’m an extremely inexperienced camper and definitely not an expert on this subject – in fact I’ve probably only camped 6 times in my entire life and two of those times were at music festivals in a field. I was really nervous about taking Summer out on an overnight camp, but being back in BC has pushed me to reconnect with my roots and spend as much time in nature as possible, so I figured why not give it a shot? Turns out all of my fears about camping with a kid were the biggest obstacle to overcome – she LOVED it and other than the intense packing and unpacking, the whole experience was super stress-free.
A few notes //
-We did just one night for our first trip as a test run, and I highly recommend this route as a fun way to introduce camping without being too overwhelming.
-So much of parenting is about knowing your kid, and in my case, Summer is an outdoor baby through and through. She loves to get dirty, sit in the sun, explore, and actually spends a lot of our indoor time at the front door banging to go out with the dog, so I had a feeling sleeping under the stars would be a hit, and it was.
-I did not attempt our first camp alone! We took this trip with the very lovely guy I’m dating (I will share more about this at some point but for now I’m keeping the details to myself!) and I was really grateful to have the extra set of hands. Not to say you can’t camp solo with kids, but toddler age is definitely easier with a partner / friend / family member to share the responsibilities.
Top Tips //
-Pack a few familiar toys and books (especially those you use at bedtime), but keep it simple – rocks and sticks won every time!
-Even if you plan to co-sleep, bring your travel crib! In our case the travel crib didn’t fit in the tent, but it was extremely helpful to have while making dinner over the fire and setting up the camp site.
-If you have a travel stroller, bring it for evening strolls around the campground (great to set the stage for bedtime!) We also found a carrier was super helpful when we went on longer hikes – I swear by the Sakura Bloom Scout, which I’ve been using since the day Summer was born and absolutely adore!
-Do your research on the campground and it’s amenities. We went to BirkenHead Lake and though it was amazing, in the future I would probably choose a warmer lake for Summer to swim in more comfortably!
-Food-wise a lot of folks recommended pre-cooking meals that could be heated and served instantly, but we mostly just did lots of snacks like handheld fruit, crackers, juice boxes and baby food pouches. I did make a big batch of orzo salad that we all ate, and we cooked veggie dogs on the fire, but otherwise we kept food as simple as possible (Summer prefers snacks to full meals at this stage anyway, so it worked!)
-Load up on layers (for you and your child!) We went through more changes of clothes than I could ever have thought possible and barely made it home with anything dry / cleanish to wear.
-if you’re risking a longer road trip, try to plan it around nap time and make sure you do something to tire your toddler out before loading up the car and hitting the road! We learned this lesson the hard way on the drive up because we were rushing to get going, and she ended up awake and angry for 2.5 of the 3 hours. Before heading home we spent the morning at the beach, and she slept 2.5 hours instead!
-Be prepared, then have fun! I made sure we had Summer’s favourite hat, the best natural sunscreen (works for the whole family) and natural bug spray (I highly recommend this one!) I also put together a little emergency pack with an assortment of kiddo medication, bandaids, and antibacterial cream.
-My last *very* unofficial tip: use your stroller muff as a sleeping bag if it’s cold at night! Summer slept in pjs with feet and hand covers, a warm sweater, her sleep sack, a knit hat, and then I put her down in her Bugaboo winter stroller muff (as far as I can tell… it’s the exact same thing as a toddler sleeping bag!) We also hung her white noise machine in the tent and brought her blankie from home, and she did so well! You can also put a hot water bottle or hot pockets in the bottom of the sleeping bag on extra cold evenings for good measure.
That about covers everything I learned from our first experience overnight in the great outdoors! More camping trips (and probably more camping tips) to come soon!