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Sleeping Under the Stars

In my pre-baby life, I would spend a good portion of my summers camping under the stars.  I love the long lazy days, delicious campfire meals, and beautiful warm, starry nights.  In my opinion, there is little else that can relieve the "urban blues" better than a few nights reconnecting with our great mother Earth.  Also a perfect solution if you need a way to get away on the cheap.

However, since my amazing little sidekick arrived nearly two years ago, I have abandoned this great pastime due to pure intimidation.  I am overwhelmed by all of the things that I need to bring and the logistics involved.  This urbanMama writes asking for advice from you experts out there.  Please help us both get back in the fun.

I want to take a fun but cheap summer vacation and thought camping would be the way to go.  The only problem is that my boyfriend and I find the entire process of taking an extremely mobile seven month old camping incredibly intimidating.  We were hoping we could get some tips on how to make it a fun and hopefully relaxing experience.

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We camped for just one night with our 6 mo. old daughter last year. I was nervous, but it went great. Granted, it was only one night. She was only a little mobile then and mainly hung out on the blanket with her friend. We brought a pack n play but didn't use it. She slept between us in the tent and fell asleep easily. She cried a little during the night, but I think it was b/c I overdressed her b/c I was paranoid she would get cold. It will only become more daunting when your babe is walking and running around and has an even bigger opinion about when and how s/he sleeps. So I say go now! Other friends said they brought a pack n play and a bunch of balls -- their kids had a great time. This is probably obvious, but this is car camping I'm talking about. That way it's easy to tote extra diapers, food, clothes, etc. I'm too much of a wimp to consider anything more with a baby. Good luck!

This is also advice for a car camper. You know those little pens they sell in the One Step Ahead catalog and other places? There's the superyard XT and one other brand, I think. In my opinion, this is what they are for; when you are cooking or setting up the tent or whatever, you can know that Mrs. Sidekick is in a place that isn't too small, but from which you have more or less removed the choking hazards, drowning hazards, poisonous plant hazards and whatever else. While she is in there, she won't be able to reach your campfire, your stove fuel, that pretty creek or whatever else. You probably don't have to buy one if you know anybody who has twins. I haven't tested it on a toddler, but I think a superyard with a trike tossed in the middle would give you a chance to get breakfast cooked without any serious burns.
I suppose a pack and play would work, but they are very small for someone who wants to be exploring. Also, my child blew past the weight limit on most pack and plays in the blink of an eye.

I have had no problems taking my little one camping. Kidlets are amazingly adaptable and LOVE being outdoors. We haven't been this year yet (I just got back from taking my Girl Scout troop this weekend, though). But I took her last year. She was not quite two. The Pack and Play is great for naps, as was her own personal little tent and sleeping bag. Take LOTS of wipes and changes of clothes. But other than that, it's pretty normal logistics-wise. I wouldn't want to do it by myself, but with others around to help while you cook, make fire, etc. it's just fine. Have fun!!!

whenever we've camped with any of our boys around that age, i used the ergo carrier and carried him around on my back. it was the only way to keep him from freaking out that he couldn't GO and TOUCH THINGS. they were all like that.

I love camping with my girls and they love it too. The youngest we took them was 18 months but last summer we did a trip with a family member that was around 7 months. She really liked cruising around using the seats of the picnic table to hold on to.

At 18 months my biggest concern was the fire so we were just hyper aware and set up camp to try to minimize risk. We moved the table and set up the tent to be away from the fire for example. If you have a superyard or can borrow one then that would be great but it is not necessary. Like Tara I find that having more than one adult helps with safety - in our family one adult seems to cook, clean up, etc. while the other keeps the kids happy. When we camp with other families this is spread out even more.

We sleep on big blow up mattresses and all just sleep together which works well for us. At Joe's I got inexpensive, oversized sleeping bags that can zip together. My partner and I sleep in those with our youngest. Neither of my kids have napped well when camping so we find the Ergo or backpack to be a godsend. They will often fall asleep on a hike so we just load them up and off we go. We also do not get to stay up late and sit around the fire - we all go to bed together and for them they need to around the time it gets dark. That is already changing some and in a few years it will be really easy.

Be prepared for you kids to be dirty - we take fresh pajamas for each night. We also take rubber boots that they can slip on and off easily as they run in and out of the tent. They are constantly hunting, gathering, digging, etc so they get dirty. The showers are free at state parks if it is really important to you. We have also done sponge baths in the tent.

Camping is one of those things that gets better the more you do it. The first trip with our oldest was close by and a disaster in so many ways. We learned and the next trip was heavenly. I would try a two night trip close to home and see what works and doesn't work - worse case, you pack up after one night and head home.

I used to love camping before kids but it is so different now. We ended up packing it in early the 3 times we have tried with our now 2-year old. He was always just off and running and we could never relax with the fire around.

My family of 4 loves camping! I'm really passionate about it b/c I NEVER went camping as a kid, only as an adult and I so don't want my kids to miss out on the awesome experiences of camping! My daughter will be 5 in September, and we've went camping every year she has been born-first time at 7 months. My son is 2 and his first camping trip he was 8 weeks old! I think it's good to start them early and they will not only grow to love the outdoors, but also kind of learn the "rules" of camping. It is a bit easier once they are walking, I think, and can somewhat understand that the fire pit is hot and we don't go near it. I found that if I set up their blankets and toys away from that area, then they normally stay the distance. The other thing is--if you get out and go on walks, hikes, exploring and stuff, there is less time right there around the campsite itself. When it comes time for dinner, either my husband or myself is assigned to the kids while the other prepares food, etc. I think the key is to pick good stuff to bring that they can play with. We have a separate camping bin of camping toys--the kids don't play with those toys except when they are camping, so it's fun and new to them and they stay interested. Of course, there is lots of dirt and gunk...but water and wipes are amazing! I say--Go for it! Have a great time--you're doing a great thing for your little one!!

We haven't ventured into camping yet, but I hope to later this summer. Our son just turned 2. I think Yurt camping would be a good in between option, mainly because there is heat and little ones getting cold has been my main concern. We have never had our son sleep with us, so I'm not sure if we will go that route or put up the pack n play. We are planning on going Yurt camping in March for my birthday and then we will have a 5 month old and a 2.5 years old.

i don't know what your yard is like, but i've found with my 2-3 year old that he loves camping in the yard. it is a big adventure to him -- putting up the tent and sleeping in it with me -- and we get a lot of the experience of being outside, looking up at leaves and flowers and the moon, but if anything goes awry the house is just a few steps away. we've done it three or four times and only abandoned the tent for the house once. generally i don't even put the rain fly on, so we can see the stars.

though i started doing it as a cute fun thing for the kid, i've found i really like it too. it doesn't take that much distance to "get away"-- just a change in perspective. good luck!

We camped for 11 days last year with our 8 week old and 1.5 year old. The baby was much easier since he wasn't mobile. I agree with all the other posts and like Merry, didn't camp as a child and want my kids to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

One thing I learned for our family is the importance of establishing a routine at the campground. Your kids may not need this but our older son really thrives on having the same nap, bed and meal times, etc. During our 11 day trip, we camped at 3 different spots throughout NE and Central Oregon. That was way too much upheaval. We'd get settled somewhere, get into a routine and then move to a different campground a few days later. No Good! This year we'll stay put in one spot rather than trying to jam in too much.

I'm not sure why I didn't predict that traveling 1100 miles over 11 days would be too much but know I've lived it and I KNOW I was crazy. We still had fun.

In my experience, I have found that camping is waaaaaaay more fun when your kids are 3 and older. They are sleeping through the night, are less likely to freak out at having their routine disrupted, and can skip naps if need be. You also don't have to deal with the post-camp readjustment with getting everyone to sleep in their beds again. State campgrounds also have activities more geared toward older kids.

Of course it depends on your children's personalities and your tolerance for a higher stress level, but in my experience I found camping to be profoundly less nervewracking and labor-intensive when my youngest reached three.

We just went tent camping last weekend, and the campsite next to us had a family with a 18-month-old. That kid did NOT enjoy himself. He was overtired every evening and practically screamed himself to sleep every night. I felt bad for him and his parents.

I just read a good tip in Wondertime magazine... tie bells on the little ones' shoes so you can hear them wandering around. Then you can have a good idea where they are even if you have to take your eyes off them for a minute.

We went camping with our son at 2 months and at 13 months and it was great both times. I thought it was really easy. As a baby he rode in the sling. As a toddler he was just walking and basically spent his days toddling around the campsite looking at rocks and sticks. One bonus was that he would get such a workout during the day that he actually went to bed early every night and slept like a log.

When we camp we do not have a fire most of the time, so that solves that dilemma. I second the suggestion that you take lots of wipes and clean jammies. We also take a small tub for baths every night. And shovels and pails for digging and collecting sticks and rocks.

My parents never stopped camping when we came along and there is a play-pen in many a photo. A favorite is where my brother found a hole and is reaching out to grab a rock off the ground. So we always took our kids camping too and the playpen really works great! We unzip our sleeping bags so we can sleep together and the baby always slept between us, so I didn't have to worry about her being too cold when she kicked off her covers in the middle of the night. Go for it! :D

By the way, I'm thinking of starting a blog about making camping really easy and tidy... with very few dishes and trash. It would be a good idea to add a section on how to camp with a baby! I'll advertise it on Urban Mamas when (if) I get around to that.

We are die hard campers and my little one loves it. Last summer we went camping 12 times. We bought a pop up trailer which has been a blast. My little guy was almost 9 months at his first camping trip last year. We used the pack & play, jogging stroller, balls, and other small toys. He was great and like others posted absolutely loved being outside. He is now 21 months so we have been very careful with the fire, etc. We brought his buckets, shovels, and trucks on our last outing.

There is another urban mammas thread about family friendly parks. I would recommend Ft. Stevens or maybe try yurt camping.

I think like anything else, if you really want to do it, start doing it!
We camped with both our little ones from the time they were six months old or so. In fact the younger one learned to crawl on her first camping trip - she was on the middle of the blanket and HAD to get to the dirt! So she did!
Things to bring when you are camping with little ones: big flannel back tablecloth. Spread it on the ground flannel side up, a fleece blankie on top of that if the ground is really hard. Lots of toys - little toys are always a hit like playmobil. For little crawlers I recommend a pack-n-play playpen for those times when you can't keep a good eye on them (setting up tent, etc). A backpack carrier is indispensable. 2 changes of clothes per day, fresh jammies for each night. Washcloths! Hand towels! Disposable diapers, if possible. A little porta-potty if you have a potty-trained little one. Sippy cups. Once they are walkers it is an ideal time to teach about fire safety: no running around the fire! ALWAYS a bucket that holds cold water right next to the fire. A special folding chair just your child's size adds so much pleasure for the kids, it's amazing. We also always bring markers and paper and stuff for creative play.

A great place to camp is oxbow park. It's a family campground, with a paved road running through, two playgrounds, pay showers, weekend jamborees and entertainment in summer, and the campsites are nicely spaced. You can go down to the river and play in the sand and rocks and shallows. It's a favorite with my kids.

Really, it's a joy to camp with kids. They so love it; it's ALWAYS worth it. Go for it!

I posted our packing list(family of 5) here:

http://dishyduds.blogspot.com/2008/08/camping-with-wee.html

Yurt camping is awesome too, but I find we usually pack just as much stuff as we do w/the tent. If you camp in a yurt, it's nice to fold out the futon and push it next to the bottom bunk bed, so that kids can all sleep in the middle. That way there's no danger of kiddos falling out of the beds at night.

I posted our packing list(family of 5) here:

http://dishyduds.blogspot.com/2008/08/camping-with-wee.html

Yurt camping is awesome too, but I find we usually pack just as much stuff as we do w/the tent. If you camp in a yurt, it's nice to fold out the futon and push it next to the bottom bunk bed, so that kids can all sleep in the middle. That way there's no danger of kiddos falling out of the beds at night.

I posted our packing list(family of 5) here:

http://dishyduds.blogspot.com/2008/08/camping-with-wee.html

Yurt camping is awesome too, but I find we usually pack just as much stuff as we do w/the tent. If you camp in a yurt, it's nice to fold out the futon and push it next to the bottom bunk bed, so that kids can all sleep in the middle. That way there's no danger of kiddos falling out of the beds at night.

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