Want to take your infant camping? How about your toddler? There’s no best age to start taking your baby camping—you can start at any time. The younger the better. Use these tips below to discover the essential gear you need to take young kids camping, and how to modify your camp kit to keep the whole family happy and safe in the wilderness.
Camping Baby Carrier
A good quality baby carrier. Whether you are getting to your campsite on a raft, a kayak, a bike, on your back, or even your car, you’ll need a good quality baby carrier. Ergo makes a Performance model designed specifically for adventuring.
A three or four season tent. If you are going to spend money on one piece of gear, make it a good tent. It will keep you dry, warm and sheltered in any weather. High quality tents run about $400, and are worth every penny. Nothing is worse than waking up in a puddle in your tent.
Outdoor Snacks For Your Baby
Yummy food that kids will actually eat. Never skimp on food. Pack out meals that will power everyone on the trail and at the campsite. Plan to bring more food than you think you’ll need. Snacks are essential too.
Water Treatment for Kids
Safe water. You can’t take a chance on babies and toddlers getting waterborne illnesses. For a short one to two-night trip, consider bringing water from home. For longer trips, or when this isn’t practical, make sure you use a good water filter and take good care of it. Clean it thoroughly after each trip and regularly replace the filter.
Kids’ Camping Layers
Layered clothing. Just like adults, a layered approach to clothing works best to keep little ones warm even when they are wet. Avoid cotton—when wet it will lose any insulating properties. Start with a thin base layer of polypro, add an insulating layer of wool or fleece and top it off with a shell like a rain suit. You may not need all three layers all the time, but you’ll be glad you have them in case the weather turns wet or cold. And don’t forget a hat for chilly mornings.
Bring An Umbrella
This may seem silly, but it’s actually super practical and takes up little room or weight. It can make a nice shady spot for a sleepy babe on a hot day or keep you dry when the rains come.
What About Bugs and Kids?
Bug netting. Never leave for the backcountry without some. Unlike chemical insect repellants, bug netting has no risks and blocks all flying bugs including bees—not just mosquitoes. Buy the largest bug net you can—you can usually find it at any large baby store. Look in the stroller section or have someone sew some elastic along the edge of netting you purchased at a fabric store. Bug netting can be used over strollers, baby backpacks, camping chairs and cockpits of kayaks. For toddlers who like to run around, buy a bug shirt. Don’t worry if it is too big, it will still work. If you must use chemical repellants, be sure to wash them off nightly.
Bandanas. Simple and super functional, bandanas pull double and even triple duty while camping. They can be used at bath time as a washcloth or dipped in cool water and placed on your forehead on a hot afternoon. They love to do dishes and keep the dust off your face later on. Bring a few of these handy strips of fabric.
Most Important Piece of Gear For Parents
A positive, adventurous attitude. Backcountry travel with very young children is not without a few headaches. But let’s face it—parenting at home isn’t always easy either. With a smile and an occasional shrug you’ll have a fabulous time. So give your babies the best start—outside. Get out everyday.
Jennifer Aist is founder and director of Providence Alaska Medical Center’s parenting and childbirth education program. She teaches classes on everything from breastfeeding to backpacking and conducts her signature “Babes in the Woods,” “Babes in the Snow,” and “Babes on the Water” classes every year.