Camping with a Baby – best tricks and tips

I feel there are three categories of people: those who love camping, those who tolerate camping, and those who would rather shove a flaming hot s’more stick in their eyeball than voluntarily camp. I’m a life-long lover of camping and I’m doing my damndest to pass this love onto my three kids, even if camping with small children means I’m always yelling, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” My guess is that if you’re considering camping with a baby then maybe you already like doing it and, like me, you want to make it part of your family’s summer traditions. Yeah!

The first time I camped with a baby I was a very nervous Nelly, but it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Camping is kind of a pain in the ass and so is having a baby, so I didn’t really feel like it was that big of a deal, in the end. For the sake of this post, let’s assume you’re going car camping with your babe. That is, you’re packing up the car with supplies and driving up to your tent site. So what do you need to bring? What should you avoid? Pull up a folding chair, my friend. You’ve come to the right campfire.

Courtesy of Laura Hamilton
Courtesy of Laura Hamilton



Pack all the typical stuff you need for baby, but bring double. No, I’m not kidding. Bring extra diapers, wipes, food, and changes of clothes. I am constantly amazed by how quickly my kids get dirty and/or wet when we camp. And their appetites are voracious! (All that fresh air, right? It has the same effect on appetite for beer. I digress…)

Your baby’s life while camping will look remarkably similar to her life at home: play, sleep, and eat. So all you have to do is figure out a way to make all these things happen while in the great outdoors.

Here’s a detailed list on what you can bring (you can download it here.) You don’t have to bring it all – I just wanted to get stuff on your radar.


Right off the bat when you pull up to your campsite you’re going to want to unload and set up your tent and get everything unpacked. And then you will immediately realize there is nowhere to put your baby down because you’re in the forest and the ground is covered in rocks and sticks oh fuck, why am I here. Your baby needs a safe place to chill.

Throwing your baby into a carrier is a great option, though I’m not sure how easily you’ll be able to set up a tent while front-carrying. If your baby is tiny you can just plop baby in his bucket car seat and put him wherever. Or, set up your pack n’play and put an elastic sheet or mosquito net over the top to prevent bugs and leaves from getting into it.

(The links and images below are clickable if you want to know where to find them.)


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  • Great post. I’m also curious about getting to bed on time (7ish) and preventing early crack-of-dawn wake ups with the lovely summer light! Please share ideas or tips for a 15 month old who sleeps really well with his black-out curtains at home, but not when he can see everything in the tent!

  • What the heck kind of car do you have that you can fit that list plus sleeping bags, tent, coolers, grill, camp stove bags of food for yourself, duffel bag of clothes, toiletries for yourself, etc. That list is the reason we are waiting until ours is closer to 2 years old and can sleep and eat without being corralled in some contraption.

  • We always bring a wagon with us, it’s mulitpurpose! Durring the day we use it as a wagon, but at night that’s where the toddler sleeps. We put a comforter on the bottom, and then he climbs right in and falls asleep! That way, if we want to stroll down to our family’s campsite, we can bring him along! And then when we’re ready for bed, we just toll the wagon into the tent.

  • We loved tent camping but ended up getting a small pop-up camper because we knew we’d get out more often with an enclosed sleeping space (and an AC unit…we live in the south). We got it when my oldest was not quite 1, and now we sleep 5 of us in there. It is TINY but we only use it for sleeping, and storage – nice to have a place to keep tons of spare diapers, a bin of the usual cooking stuff, etc.

    Definitely recommend white noise for sleeping, and agree with another comment that if you can keep baby from seeing you, somehow, they often do better. Otherwise they’re all “Moms here! Let’s play! Let’s eat! Let’s scream!”

    Light in the morning can get everyone up early, but again, if they can’t see you, a lot of times they’ll roll back over.

    I also bring a nursing pillow along and just use it as my pillow to sleep with to keep clutter down.

  • We ALWAYS pack additional Towels and Clothing. You are right in saying pack double of everything. We found towels can be used for several other things other than drying baby off.

    As I am still feeding, we make use of a solar lantern put on its softest setting. I keep it on at night in the tent. The light is strong enough not to blind everyone but offers a soft enough glow so that I can change nappies and feed comfortably.

    Love this little baby zip line.

    • Maybe. Some might say all car camping is glamping. But who cares?! Better to camp any way you want than not camp, I think. I loved taking my babes on family camping trips and they loved it, too! Especially living in Tennessee, which has the best State Parks in the USA!

  • I’ve really been wondering whether I could camp with a 9 month old, and you’ve actually just really made me want to do it! Surely it’s worth it if for no other reason than the photo opportunities – some of the ones you’ve posted here are fantastic. All I need is guaranteed good weather. I don’t know if i could cope with days of heavy rain…

  • Love all the tips here. I’ve bought plastic toys at a yard sale for the kids to get dirty and wanted to pass them along to another family however my kids became too attached 🙄 I noticed you used the term co-sleeping when referencing baby in bed with you. The entire thing, baby anywhere in the tent, is co-sleeping. Baby in bed it’s actually called bedsharing. Also, while I’m not surprised someone commented the dangers of bedsharing on an air mattress, I’m surprised no one brought up how dangerous it is for that baby to sleep in the basket with all the blankets. That’s a suffocation hazard 🙁

  • One thing that worked for us, if you use a playpen, use a fitted sheet around the outside mesh on the side baby will potentially see you. We found that “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” helped her sleep, she is not suffocating because there is no chance of it falling in and it’s not all the way around.

  • Looks like your baby was having a great time. We don’t camp often but it will be great dad-son experience when he is ready and I’ll read this article again. Thanks for sharing.

  • Best advice I read somewhere and used is for small babies that aren’t rolling around at night yet – take along your diaper changing pad (the one on your diaper changing station) and have them sleep on that!
    It was a perfect size cushioned mattress for her to sleep on – no airflow under it if it gets cold (like a pack n play might have).
    I put it above my head so I could turn my head and check on her at night but she wasn’t near any blankets for sleeping piece of mind.
    It also doubles as its true purpose – a changing pad.

  • We actually just went camping this weekend but stayed in a cabin. Brought Pack n Play and thought we’d be okay for sleeping. Nope. Baby did NOT want anything to do with sleep while we were in that cabin. Almost acted scared of just being there. I’ve heard that some do trial tent runs close by home to see how it goes. We’ll probably try to do the tent camping next year, when baby is about 18 mo. I feel like these tips might help us for that time!

  • I have finally convinced my husband that I am not crazy for wanting to take our 6 month old camping this summer. This post came at the perfect time.

  • Love the tiny tent playroom for the kids! My sister had a tent with very large clear screens and could zip her son in to nap or play last summer. My DD (4) is now tall and smart enough to be able to unzip, but could be awesome for the 14 month old…

  • Great blog post 🙂

    I am in the "middle" section of campers, but would love to give it a whirl with my toddler. My worry is she will wake up at the crack of dawn because of the light… any ideas / tips?

  • Lots of great tips here. I definitely wouldn’t recommend bedsharing on an inflatable mattress though. Not safe at all if it deflates while you are sleeping… and we all know the likelihood of it deflating lol.

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