I have to admit I was a little nervous about camping with an 8-month-old, but mostly just excited! I started camping when I was little and it brings back so many great memories. I can't help but smile when I think about the sounds of a tent being zipped up or the crackle of a fire cutting into the silent night or the smell of pine, smoke and burned marshmallows. I couldn't wait to share that with Laken...outside the womb! I went camping while pregnant with her twice last summer. The last time I was almost 8-months along and slept two nights on a thin backpacking pad! I promise sleeping with your baby in your sleeping bag is much more comfortable than sleeping with your baby in your belly.
This camping trip started out a little more chaotic than ones in the past. I had big plans to prep all the food beforehand and have it ready and us girls packed all before my husband got home from work at noon. Nope, it didn't happen, not even close. I was quickly reminded by Laken that chasing her around the house takes up a lot of my time and attention. It took two to finish the job. One would pack while the other one wrangled. I was also surprised (but not surprised) by the amount of stuff we stuffed into our car! Yes, before we had a kid we were told a million times that it was not possible to travel light with a baby. My husband and I always thought we would be able to avoid this. Wrong again! We filled the entire Subaru and cargo top and got out the door three hours late, but it didn't matter because we were heading to Calaveras Big Trees for a fun weekend with friends!
These are some of the best items I packed along.
Go Pod - I registered for this and got it as a shower gift. It's a portable activity seat and awesome! It's similar to the bulky, plastic and obnoxious saucers that we parents get to entertain our kids, but it's light, minimal and portable. The Go Pod stuffs into a bag similar to a travel chair, has a little spot for snacks and a drink and hooks to hang toys. It also has material on the bottom so little feet don't get dirty. Laken loved standing and spending time in this. Mine was purchased from Buy Buy Baby but you can get them from a variety of stores online for about $50.
Pack 'n Play - I am definitely a mom who lets her little one play in the dirt and get dirty, but this campground was simply too dusty for Laken to crawl around. The Pack 'n Play was a must! We almost didn't pack it because of its size and weight, but boy am I glad we did! It was one of the few places we could let her be free. Our Pack 'n Play is a hand-me-down and although the colors are a bit "circusy" it has a great shade canopy and bug net. Not necessary accessories, but cool!
Leather booties - I typically let Laken crawl around barefoot. Socks don't stay on anymore and shoes seem restricting and kind of silly. However, I knew she would need something to wear while camping so I used my Amazon Mom membership two days before we left and ordered some little leather booties. The ones I bought are Momo Baby brand and were on sale for $15. They're super cute and gave her some protection and warmth. You can find all kinds of brands and styles online.
Plastic blocks - This was another Amazon Mom purchase before the trip. I actually had my eyes on these plastic, eco-friendly blocks for awhile and this was the perfect excuse to order them. I love toys that serve more than one purpose. These were fun for Laken to play with, chew on and squeak and easily washed off with water when they got dirty in the dusty campground. The best part is that the One Two Squeeze Blocks have numbers and fun pictures and one day will help her learn how to count. The alphabet will be next, so I'll probably order the Elemenosqueeze blocks to add to her collection too!
Ergo - I love this carrier for everything we do from walks, air travel, cleaning house to camping. We used this for our hike to see the giant Sequoia and our night hike to see the stars. It was awesome because Laken is super comfortable in it and had no problem falling asleep. I love it because it's comfortable for me and my back and shoulders never get tired or sore. My friend who went camping with us can still carry her 4-year-old on her back in the Ergo. Best gift ever!
Pouches - Whoever invented these is genius! I love these baby food pouches for all travel, camping included! They are almost mess free, easy to throw in a cooler and Laken sucks them down! No spoon necessary! There are all kinds of brands and flavors at most stores.
Here are some lessons I leared about camping with a baby.
Don't be afraid! Don't let having a baby stop you from doing what you love. It's totally possible and just as much fun! Just lower your expectations and be flexible because it's probably going to take longer to pack and unpack, you're going to pack more and you might get a little less sleep. It's not home so things aren't going to go as smoothly as they do at home. Oh well. The experience far outweighs all of that!
Your little one is going to get dirty. Deal with it! Dirt is just one of the great things about camping and you won't have any fun if you're constantly trying to keep your baby clean. You know that saying "God made dirt, a little won't hurt"? It's true! Laken came home with dirty feet, dirt under her fingernails and stains on the butt and knees of all her clothes. (even her pj's.) It was nothing a bath and some stain remover couldn't handle!
Co-sleeping worked best for us at night and naps were short. We're not too scheduled at the Carlmark household and it seems like we're always on the go so Laken has learned to sleep wherever she is whenever she's tired. Her flexibly came in handy while camping. She napped on the drive there, on our hikes, on a drive to see Alpine Lake, in the stroller on a little walk and in the car seat while we were packing to leave. This camp ground had paved paths so the stroller worked well for her morning nap. The tent was too warm for an afternoon nap so keep that in mind. They were mostly catnaps but enough to keep her going. She also went to bed later than usual and got up way earlier thanks to the sun shining brightly through our tent. My husband and I zipped our sleeping bags together and she slept in between us on our backpacking pads. Luckily it wasn't too chilly up there so getting cold wasn't a problem. Surprisingly she slept pretty well. The best part about sleeping in a tent was that we didn't have to worry about her falling off the bed! It was also a great place for her to roam and explore when she woke up far earlier than we had hoped. We got to stay snug in our sleeping bags while she crawled all over us. It was fun but my husband stayed up too late with his buddy the night before and definitely needed a nap later that day! That's one thing I did miss out on. I did not get a late night by the fire sipping wine and roasting marshmallows. Oh well. Maybe next year when she's a little older and can be in the tent by herself. Yes, sacrifices will be made when you camp with a baby!
Most importantly, take pictures! I know Laken won't remember her first camping trip, but my husband and I will cherish the memories forever and we have some great photos to show her someday. Next time we'll go even bigger and bring the two dogs along! Now that will be a good story...