Certainly bring the typical gear for camping – sleeping bag, tent, stove, and so on – but also consider the following. Many outdoor retailers such as Sports Basement and REI rent outdoor gear such as tents, sleeping bags, trekking poles, and sleeping pads, if you want to try before you buy.
For Camping (tent, cabin, or RV), consider the following list. Backpacking Camping requires an equipment list that is lesser and lighter; consider Stroller Hikes’ recommendations for backpacking.
- Backpack or Jogger or Carrier with trekking poles / walking stick: Bring trekking poles or a walking stick to provide stability and reassurance if you’re carrying baby. Use a baby jogger to hold baby, but check with the park to be sure trails to the campground are suitably flat and wide to facilitate jogger use.
- Plastic Bags for clothes and diapers: Pack trash bags for dirty and wet clothes, and multiple Ziploc bags for diapers. You may also want to bring a stuff sac (you can use the one that holds your sleeping bag) or extra Bear Box to store dirty diapers away from animals who may sniff them out.
- Play Mat / Blanket and/or Foldable Baby Corral: Baby will need a place to play, so bring along a play mat or blanket. If baby is mobile, consider bringing something to establish a baby corral – foldable walls are sold for this purpose. You could also use a Pack-and-Play or portable crib.
- Full First Aid Kit with Benadryl: Bring a first aid kit including things to handle cuts and scrapes, burns, and allergic reactions.
- Duct Tape: This is a must-have for handling basic repairs for camping equipment. More experienced backpackers will also recognize duct tape’s utility for handling blister-prone areas.
- Wet Wipes or Bandanas: The easiest way to clean any mess is to pack a thin, small cloth like a bandana, that can be used wet or dry. Wet Wipes are not as environmentally sound, but for a campsite with trash cans, can be useful for anything from wiping dishes to cleaning body parts.
- Water bladders / hydration sacs: Being outside all day means you may be thirstier than usual. Wearing a water sac on your back provides fluid whenever you want it. Pinching the valve above baby can provide a slow trickle of a drink for infants, as well. When baby is older, (s)he will learn to drink from this independently, so you can just hang it in camp, and baby can take a drink when necessary. Be careful, though – if baby bites and pulls too hard, the mouth piece comes off, and you have a steady stream of water to deal with.
- Shade: Being outside all day means long-term exposure to the elements including the sun, which can wear you out. Bring an “easy up” shade (tent without walls) or sun unbrella to help reduce your exposure.
- Sunscreen: Pack this and apply it throughout the day to reduce your skin’s sun exposure. Ask your pediatrician about applying sunscreen to infant skin. Avoid getting sunscreen in your eyes!
- Bug spray and mosquito netting: Bring bug spray to help improve your sanity if bugs swarm. Ask your pediatrician about applying bug spray to infant skin. Avoid getting it into your eyes or on synthetic fabrics. Use a mosquito net (you can buy these in many forms, like as hats) if the bugs are bad and/or to protect sensitive faces.
- Camping Crib: The most common question I get about camping is about cribs. Our son slept in a sleep positioner for his first few months, so this was his bed when we camped. He had no difficulty falling asleep in it, as this is how he slept at home. When he became bigger and mobile, we stopped using the sleep positioner, and just put him down in his crib. Portable cribs or Pack-and-plays work nicely for a camping crib as well as a small play area. Add a blanket or lovey from the usual crib, and bedtime may be a cinch. Put baby’s crib in a tent where the distractions of nature are limited, to further facilitate sleep. Don’t forget to include other features of the usual bedtime routine, if possible – we always packed a storybook.
- Sleeping Bag: The second most common question I get about camping is about sleep and warmth. Temperature typically dips at night, so adults use sleeping bags and zip / unzip them to regulate warmth. Babies don’t usually have as much control with their hands, so zipping and unzipping aren’t super options for them. Similarly, issues raised with regards to SIDS and breathing through fabrics related to this, have motivated manufacturers to move away from sleep sacks (which were once quite common) and even having babies sleep with blankets. Snow suits or fleece full-body suits are good alternatives, however. For cold-weather trips, use a fleece suit with mittens that fold over (so when they are folded one way, the hands peek out of the suit), covered feet, and a hood. Be sure that any clothes baby sleeps in fit well, so there is not risk of baby’s mouth or nose being covered in the fabric, or risk of strangulation with too-tight or too-loose hoods. When weather is warmer, regular pajamas or two layers of cotton pajamas might be sufficient. Whatever you choose, be sure to check baby during the night to be sure (s)he is warm but not too warm.
- Head Lamp: Tiny LED-powered headlamps are lightweight and much easier to use than the traditional handheld flashlight, particularly when battling with a squirmy baby and poopy diaper. Anxious parents can even sleep with the lamp on the head or hanging around the neck, for easy access in the middle of the night.
- Bear Box: Some campsites come with food lockers, but if your campsite doesn’t have one and it is not safe to keep food in the car (most places recommend against this), rent or buy a bear box (many camping store or camp locations offer these). The box is actually usually a small barrel made of tough plastic with smooth features so it is difficult for a bear to hold it in place and open it. Stash food, toiletries, and diapers inside of it at night or when you leave your campsite, so they don’t become stolen by animals. An alternative is to stash everything into a stuff sac (like the one your sleeping bag comes in) and hang the sac in a tree, but many Stroller Hikers have had this fail several times. One occasion involved meeting a squirrel with a caffeine and sugar high and minty-breath the next morning.
- Eating tray and bib: If your baby is self-feeding, bring a rubber placemat with suction cup backing and a wipe-able plastic-covered cloth bib to help contain the mess and reduce clean-up issues. The rubber placemat easily attaches to smooth surfaces including most tables in restaurants and plastic storage containers (like the ones we use to hauling camping gear). It wipes off nicely with a wet wipe or sponge and water. Most plastic-covered fabric bib have pockets for catching crumbs, and also wipe off easily.
Making the Decision to Camp
- There are several types of camping. See Camping Defined to understand your options.
- What considerations should be addressed when camping with a baby? Read about these at Considering Baby Needs in Camping.