Call us crazy, but we took our 5 month old camping. I often feel like being the third kid has a lot of downsides: not as much mommy time, nothing but hand-me-downs, etc. But among the positives are all the cool things this baby gets to do. In her first five months, Larkin has been to the beach twice, spent hours out on a motorboat on a lake, had bonfires, and gone camping. Lucky girl!
Pippa and Sawyer are really into camping. We took them for the first time last year when Sawyer was almost 2 and Pippa was 3.5. For them it was great fun. For us it was a disaster. Sawyer thought it was hysterical to run towards the road and throw his toys towards the fire. Lil’ stinker 😉 But now that he’s a year wiser and Larkin is too small to crawl, we had a blast. And good thing, because before kids John and I were avid backpackers. We camped all the time to avoid pricey hotels. We camped on our honeymoon (ha! look at us, all young and 20-something and covered in sweat as we climbed peaks in Kauai).
We camped most nights of a cross country road trip. And someday we hope to take some amazing trips with our kids that involve lots of nights in a tent. You know what that means…
START ‘EM YOUNG.
This fall we went to Mayo Lake in northern NC for two nights. The kids had a blast. We were the only ones there because we went on a Sunday/Monday night and they spent the entire time running around the large camping area, throwing rocks in the lake, and just being kids. The first night we set up camp and cooked hot dogs over the fire – obviously a win for everyone. They were so excited to get into the tent that the big kids asked to go to bed when the sun disappeared. Not that they went to bed, but hey.
Larkin and I shared the second tent with our battery powered noise maker to drown out the squealing, but otherwise it was so quiet! The second day we spent hiking to various playgrounds, playing soccer on the huge grass field, and even a sunset kayak trip as rain clouds rolled in. I spent the day before we left chopping and wrapping some bbq chicken packets that we grilled on the fire, followed by a dessert I learned a loooooong time ago in girl scouts. Banana Boats! These were a huge hit with the kids, they even said they were better than s’mores. I’ll post more on how to make them soon, but they are so dang easy.
Night number two was not so nice. The tent Larkin and I shared had a hole in the rainfly, so we had to cover it with a tarp (hey, it is almost 15 years old). And boy did that tarp sound like being inside a popcorn kettle when it poured all night long. She couldn’t sleep. It was ridiculously loud. I spend the night awake nursing her so that she could (sort of) sleep. And in the morning everything was covered in mud. The other tent had leaked and all the pillows were wet. At least it was memorable and the kids can’t wait to go again (hence the whole point of camping with young-ins). Because this mama spent the entire next day guzzling coffee and doing laundry and drying out camping gear. That is a chore I do not enjoy.
While we are by no means experts at camping with kids, I figured I’d share some of my tips:
- Age matters. We found that babies up to crawling are easy, but that from about age 7months – 2.5 years old is a nightmare. They are into everything and are constantly trying to kill themselves. This is a no fly zone for us, lol.
- Go for at least two nights. Y’all. I spent at least four hours prepping food, packing bins and bags, etc. Then it took us a solid 1.5 hours to haul it all from the car to the campsite and set up two tents with approximately 421 interruptions along the way. And then another 4 hours to clean it all and put it away. We’ve done a single night, and it’s just not worth the effort.
- Take a noisemaker, especially if sleeping with a baby. It helps drown out noises of other kids/campsites.
- Slow down your mornings with cocoa or tea. Our kids are up at the crack of dawn. They want to scarf down some food and get going on a hike, to the playground, etc. Which is great! Except that one of the camping luxuries for us adults is lounging around a hot fire drinking a hot beverage in the morning. Next time we will come prepared with cocoa – a good bribe to get them to chill out for an extra 30 minutes.
- A flashlight for each kid. We made the mistake of bringing one for each tent. The older two fought over who got to play with theirs for HOURS. The dollar store sells them, so next time we will have plenty.
Have you been camping with young kids? Please share!