Are you preparing to embark on a camping adventure with littles this summer? I’ll go ahead and start by saying… the BEST thing you can pack is appropriate expectations and a flexible attitude. Babies and toddlers are unpredictable. Especially when they’re out of their element and routine… throw in a bit of over-stimulation and humidity.
I think you get the point.
If I haven’t talked you out of it, GOOD! Camping with kids can be so fun… maybe even more fun than camping sans-kids. So let’s chat about what things you can pack to make the experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible. For you AND the kiddos!
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I’m writing this after lots of experience tent camping with both babies and kids. We took the twins camping when they were 11 months, again at age 2, and last summer? Think two 3-year-olds and a 3-month-old. Camping with little kids vs camping with babies are two completely different ball games… with different challenges, needs, etc. So I’m going to cover both!
(I also went tent camping when I was full-term pregnant with twins. I just straight-up don’t recommend that)
My BEST piece of advice is to find a shady campsite… preferably somewhere close to home in case you need to abort mission.
I should add that almost all of these things aren’t absolutely necessary, but have potential to make your camping-with-kids experience WAY more pleasant.
This first item is such a small and inexpensive thing that is a GAME CHANGER. When it’s hot and/or humid, the slightest breeze makes a huge difference. And you can clip these little fans on just about anywhere! Just make sure they’re out of reach of baby. And don’t forget to bring lots of batteries!
My kids were all big fan’s of the ‘Exersaucer’ and could be entertained for hours at a time. So I got pretty excited when I saw that there’s a fold-up camping version of an activity center! There are even a bunch of velcro loops to put toys and such, as well as cup holders for sippy’s and bottles!. And the best part is that your little cherub is stationary when they’re in this thing. So if the campfire is a’blazin and you don’t want the babe to crawl too close, pop ‘em in one of these for a bit!
Raise your hand if you remember SNAP BRACELETS! This particular snap bracelet is an insect repellent that’s safe for babies, DEET-free, non-toxic, and is one-size-fits-all!
Insect Repellent Snap Bracelet
For baby’s sleeping situation, we always just used a pack-and-play with the crib-sheet trick. I love that it keeps all the bugs out, but let’s air flow through the mesh on the sides.
Another sleeping option is these super portable ‘Pods’. What I love about these is that you can move them around easier. If baby needs a nap, but the tent is in full-sun (and therefore STEAMY HOT inside), just move the little ‘Pod’ out to a shady area.
We’ve utilized these foam squares as a ‘floor’ to our tent, and love the extra cushion it gives. Especially for those of us that slap the sleeping bag right down on the floor of the tent without an air mattress or cot or anything. Plus the kids think it’s fun, colorful, and makes the tent feel like a special place.
Oh my gosh… this next thing is probably the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING for us… this Sports Brella.
It’s basically portable shade. There are sooooo many opportunities to use this thing while camping with littles. And we use it all the time when we aren’t camping too… for picnics, hanging at the park, beach, or even just in our yard. It opens up to 9’ wide, and yet it’s so easy to fold up and take with. This girl spent a LOT of time hanging out here last summer (and I suspect again this summer):
If you have limited room in your tent, these portable camping bunkbeds could save the day. I’m thinking we’ll be snagging this in the next couple years for the twins. And I love that each bunk has it’s own little pocket organizer for flashlights, water bottle, etc. You can also configure these cots as a little couch too!
My youngest won’t keep a sun hat on for the life of her, but for some reason she doesn’t mind these ones that tie under her chin. I love that it shades her face and keeps the sun off her ears and neck too. And it comes in lots of colors!
One thing to think about when scoping out campsites is to try and fine one near a bathroom. HOWEVER, if your kids are like mine, they won’t go in those outhouse toilets if their life depended on it (you know the ones… peeing into a dark stinky hole). So even though the twins are wayyyy past their potty training days, we still bring a potty chair every year, and set it behind the tent or in an obscure place.
We’ve always just put a grocery bag in the bowl of the potty chair, but I found these disposable potty chair liners that look SO HANDY. And they’re universal and fit any brand potty chair. Sign.Me.UP.
This next thing is an item lots of parents have recommended to us… it’s in my Amazon shopping cart as we speak. This portable play yard is big enough for multiple kids to play in together, and is great for corralling the children from time to time. I’ve done a lot of research on these, and this one looks like the best value and gets great reviews for durability. I love that it has a floor so that the littles aren’t snacking on twigs and acorns, or digging holes. I might even be ‘that mom’ that throws a handful of cheerios in there.Portable Play Yard
These are not a camping-specific item, but I’m always trying to pack things that serve multiple purposes. Isn’t this the ultimate ‘spork’?! Plus they’re just cute.
Kids Spoon/Fork/Knife Combo Utensils
Here’s a PSA for you… if you’re going to splurge on a good off-road stroller, this BOB Stroller is the the one to splurge on. It’s hefty (yet light-weight), and it rides SO SMOOTH… even in bumpy grass. We had the double version for the twins, and it was a legit lifesaver.
Have you ever tried to hold a giant sweaty toddler-baby on your lap while holding a flimsy paper plate filled with messy camping slop-food, and try to feed both yourself and the giant sweaty toddler-baby with your third invisible hand? It’s unpleasant. And often doesn’t end well. That’s when we all wish we’d brought one of these:
That camping high chair pictured above is the ACTUAL one we have, and we absolutely loooove it. It allows us to corral our little child Cypress, while allowing her to conveniently eat and feel like a part of the group in her very own camping chair! I also love that it has a cup holder. And folds up.
Finally, don’t forget to have a First Aid Kit on hand. And it’s impossible to over-estimate just how many containers of Wet Ones you’ll plow through.
This last one is for YOU, Mom and Dad… are you ready? Camping Wine Glasses. For after the crazies have finally fallen asleep, and you’re listening to crickets and gazing at the flicker of the campfire. #yourewelcome
Insulated Camping Wine Glasses
Because this is what you’ll look like at the end of the day.
And your kids will look like this:
Here are some other good tips, ideas, games, and kid-friendly meal ideas for camping that I’ve found around the interwebs.
Like I said, you can get by with the bare minimum, but as parents I think we can all agree that sometimes it’s worth the $$$ to make things more comfortable and enjoyable… for parents AND kids/babies.
Most importantly my friends? Just take a deep breath and try to have fun! You’re making memories that will last a lifetime!
And don’t forget to take lotsa pictures.
Do you have any tips, ideas or products that you’ve found to make your family-camping experience go more smoothly? Please share in the comments!
Thanks for pinning!!
Jessica Ruiz says
Great post! Planning our first trip with my son and these tips will be very handy. Thank you.
Erika Jayne says
I always let my kids spend time on blending into nature. It does help enhance their body physically and emotionally. It doesn’t matter what outdoor activity you are passionate about or your skill level, nature is always a part of us.
Thanks for the useful tips, dear & keep up the good work.
Great round up! We love camping! I typically go with my brothers and between us we have 12 kids. It can get chaotic to keep track of everyone, but it’s always so fun. We’ve even resorted to using a sharpie to write our campsite number on the little kids hands. You never know, they can be fast little suckers!
Beth @ Reality Daydream says
LOL I love that tip! 😉