Camping with Little Ones

 
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One of our favorite family activities is camping. There is something so serene about being outdoors together, sitting by a campfire, splashing in the river and disconnecting from our day to day life. I love watching the boys discover all the plants and trees and bugs and fish and whatever else grabs their attention. And while it can sometimes feel a little hectic with tiny ones, it is always worth the effort.

We’ve taken our kids at all ages - from five weeks to five years! Some ages are easier than others, and they are all fun! Since one of the most common questions I get over on Instagram is how we manage to camp with babies, here are some of my best tips + a few favorite things that make life easier!

SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS:

It may sound a little obvious, but camping with little ones isn’t quite as relaxing as camping solo. When we went before kids there was ample time to sit by the fire, read, sip coffee in the quiet of nature. With little ones it’s much more active! We spend a lot of time exploring, playing in the river, playing on a playground if the campsite has one, making nature art, etc. We do get some down time at night by the fire chatting with our kids, rocking in our chairs, telling stories and just enjoying time together. And honestly, that’s the sweetest part!

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PRACTICAL TIPS:

+ Store your gear in totes so it’s easy to grab and go!
We keep a “kitchen bin” with camping designated plates, bowls, cups, dishtowels, utensils, dish soap, hand purifier, and all the kitchen needs! Think about what you’d need when making each meal, then add it to the bin.
We also keep a '"tent bin” with blankets, sheets, pillow cases, etc. After each trip we wash everything, reorganize and restock anything that we need in each tote.

+ Bring fun and simple outdoor activities for around the campsite, especially with smaller ones! This can be as simple as a few trucks or tractors that can hold the tiny campsite rocks or sticks, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, coloring books and crayons, bikes, anything easy to transport that your kids enjoy!
We also love making art out of sticks, leaves and rocks or building fairy houses out of whatever we find around the site, and we will sometimes bring water toys if it’s hot out.

+ Bring extra clothes, towels + rain boots for everyone! Our kids love playing in the river, mud and woods and inevitably they get pretty dirty and wet! Also, if you have a tiny one (under six months) and/or are nursing, make sure to bring extra clothes for you! I learned that lesson with our youngest and ended up borrowing some sweatpants.

+ Prep or pre-cook meals! While we enjoy cooking breakfast from scratch, having other meals prepped makes like easy when everyone is hungry!
We like to cook taco or fajita filling (add some rice, shells or tortillas at the site), chili, chicken and rice, stir fry, even our favorite curry! For lunches we typically make chicken salad and bring fruit, veggies, ranch dip, guacamole, or hummus and crackers, and sometimes we cook chicken sausages or hot dogs at the campsite.

+ Think of things to make life easier with little ones - a pack and play for babes on the go, a tarp and blankets to lay down for younger babes, a water pitcher + filter, large water reservoir to make less trips to the spout, a small tarp to set in front of the tent for dirty shoes, our favorite baby wipes to easily wipe off sand and to wipe feet and hands that enter the tent.

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FAVORITE GEAR:

+ This camp stove. The griddle style makes it great for everything from pancakes and eggs to burgers and tots to heating water for coffee! Just like any cast iron pan, you do have to season it with oil before use. We have loved this one much more than the conventional options!

+ Pour over coffee + stainless thermos. One of my favorite parts of camping is sitting outside in the early morning with the boys and sipping some coffee. This collapsable drip is so easy to use + store! Recently we’ve been heating our water in this bottle top propane stove - so easy!

+ Canvas tent. We have had our canvas tent for over seven years now, and it is still going strong! We do a lot of cold weather camping, and the canvas allows us to run a propane heater inside without worrying about a fire. Just open some vents and make sure to turn it off before you go to sleep! This has been a wonderful thing to have with little ones especially.

+ Bed rolls. We upgraded to these when we had kids, and they’ve been great. I was skeptical that these were too thin to be cozy, but we love them! For all four of us to sleep beside each other comfortably, we use three and still have some room inside the tent. A full/queen size sheet will cover two of them easily! Or you can use individual sleeping bags on top of the bed rolls.

+ Rocking camp chair. Most of our camp chairs have come from the REI Scratch and Dent sale, but this rocking one is my all time favorite. Whether I have the baby in my lap or am just snuggling my big kid, we have really enjoyed having this rocking camp chair, and I am sure we will use it for years to come! We love these chairs for kids!

+ This tarp has been a great way to provide shelter from the rain! We attach it to the back of our Land Cruiser and open the hatch, giving us access to the truck and extending our table top space!

+ A hammock (or two!)! Not only is it great for afternoon naps and snuggles, it’s a full proof way to rock your babes to sleep! All the excitement of camping typically means our little ones are up past bedtime, so getting them oiled up, in pjs and snug in the hammock makes for a simple way to get them to sleep after a busy day!

+ Slip on sandals for the adults! I end up wearing my Birks around the campsite the whole time - easy to slip on and off as I need!

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DON’T FORGET!!

+ Sunscreen (we love this one!)
+ Insect repellent (these wipes are SO easy to use, will cover all four of us, can be reused, and I feel safe putting it on the baby)
+ A simple first aid kit with baking soda (make a past with water to cover a sting) or sting relief for bee stings!
+ Extra clothes (did I say this before?!)
+ Lots of water and water bottles!
+ ALL the snacks!