Camping with a Baby: Adventures with our Happy Camper

Cameron just turned 18 months and has spent more one month of his nights camping. We’ve dragged him along on our journeys and our happy Camper has risen to the challenge. Those 33 nights in six states have taught us a lot, and we’ve had to change our sleeping arrangements a few times along the way as Camp grows.

Tenting It

Cameron was about 5 weeks old when he spent his first night in the great outdoors, camping in a big 4-person tent. Unfortunately, it started raining as soon as we arrived at the campground, so we all spent a couple hours crammed into the truck before we even had enough of a break to get out and set up the tent.

Once we did get settled in the tent, Cameron slept comfortably. The tent was large enough to set up the Pack & Play, the bassinet of which made It easy to bundle him up nice and warm. Our battery operated white noise machine made it easy to bring along this important sleep cue.

Tent Camping Pros

  1. Pack and Play fit, so it was a roomy space for all three of us

The Cons

  1. Difficult for mom to nurse with no back support
  2. Risky in the heavy rain and wind, as tents are prone to leaking and collapse

Truck Camper Version 1.0

The camper, up and ready for living
The camper, up and ready for living

About three weeks later, we set out again in our new-to-us truck camper. The camper is unique in that it has a soft top, which is raised when in use. This feature makes it lighter weight and lower profile. The camper has a queen size upper bunk and lower bench seat that folds out into a bed.

On this first trip we actually attempted to squeeze the pack n play into the camper. It was a tough fit, given the PnP pretty much took up the entire lower bed, leaving about 6 inches for Josh and I to squeeze past to get to the upper bed. That wasn’t going to work.

So, with Cameron still being just a little 10-pounder, we all piled into the queen sized upper bunk together. This worked pretty well for our next three camping trips, until Camp was about 10 months old. By then, he was bigger and didn’t fit as well with us. Plus, he had moved from his bassinet into his own room and crib, so he didn’t react very well to regressing back to co-sleeping. It was time to change our setup again.

Pros:

The camper filters out the noise and provides protection from the cold and rain… less variables mean less stressful trips.

Can keep a lot of items already packed in the camper, for faster departure

Cons:

The upper bunk of the camper has soft siding, so there still no back support without climbing down to the bench seat.

The combined kitchen/sleep space feels more cramped than a big open tent with outdoor cooking.

Truck Camper Version 2.0

Camping with kidsOur camper is designed to sleep 3-4 people, so there had to be a way for all of us to fit. Doing it safely and comfortably is another story. Even the lower bed leaves a gap, creating potential for Cameron to fall off if left alone.  Aminda could sleep on the upper bed with Cameron, and Josh on the lower, but she would pretty much have to stay up there with him from the time he goes down to the time he wakes up. Then, we stumbled upon a product called the PeaPod portable travel bed. The peapod is a fully enclosed zipper tent. So, we can set it up on the top bunk for Cameron and zip him in, giving us the space and flexibility we need.

The downside is that little Cameron’s tent pretty much takes up the entire top bunk! Josh said big “no way” to squeezing into the bottom bunk and decided to voluntary set up his own little man cave tent outside the camper. At 18 months, Camp is just about big enough to handle the lower bunk on his own, which will soon allow us all to once again comfortably share our cozy camper space together.

Any tips for camping in the toddler years? Please share!

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