My family went camping on a friend’s country property for some big birthday celebrations recently. For two nights I slept in a small tent with my husband and our three boys. Did I mention the youngest is one? Here’s ten things I wish I’d known before we went camping with our baby.
1. You need to pack so much stuff
While we were fortunate enough to have our tent supplied and even set up for us, we still had to pack more items than I could have imagined needing. Thanks to our bub we had to pack the portable cot, bottles, nappies and wipes, outfits to cater to all occasions and weather, blankets, a sleeping bag, children’s Panadol, toys and books — and that’s just for the baby. Did we need it all? No. But you’ve got to take it all, just in case.
2. Bottle feeding is a pain to organise
My bub still has a bottle of milk before bed and first thing in the morning. Even though our tent wasn’t far away from the main house with its fridge and microwave, it was still a major pain in the backside to get it sorted. Imagine if we’d been camping somewhere remote with no way to keep milk cold or warm it up other than a stove top fire? Such a hassle.
3. There’s no room. At all.
Even with a massive tent, once you stick a portable cot in it with your own swag and all the supplies you need, you’ll quickly realise you don’t even have a spare inch of standing room. Stuff ends up being thrown all over the place and by the end of the day you’ll be lucky to find anything, let alone your own sleeping bag.
4. Changing nappies is hard
Our two-man tent was not made for our family of five. Everything became very hard, very fast. Especially changing nappies. Without being able to stand properly it meant there was no comfortable way wrangle my wriggly baby out of his cot to change his nappy. Then what do you do with the soiled nappy? You can’t keep it in the tent and risk gassing everyone out, but if you pop it outside you’ll gas out your fellow campers.
5. They can work out zippers
We knew we had to bring a cot to keep our little one contained as much as possible, but we didn’t think we would need it to keep him inside the tent. It took my youngest about 10 minutes to work out how to unzip the tent and escape outside on his own. This is something we were NOT expecting. Thank goodness we had the cot or we would have been screwed.
6. There’s no noise filter
Tents are not sound-proof. Something you don’t think about until you have a one-year-old dancing along to the campsite’s birthday party DJ in their portable cot well after their bedtime. Then we had to try to keep him quiet each morning at the crack of dawn to avoid waking up the other campers.
7. Zippers are incredibly noisy
You don’t realise just how loud tent zippers are until you’ve got a baby sleeping in one. Every time we just managed to get my bub asleep at night or for his day naps, one of us needed to go back in and get something and he’d instantly awake up. The same would happen when the other boys came to bed, or my husband and I turned in, or someone needed the toilet in the middle of the night — he woke up every single time.
8. It’s super dark
If you go camping you need a torch, that’s a given. But when there’s a little baby in the tent you can’t exactly go shining that thing around in their face or they’ll be waking up every two seconds. Our tent had these gorgeous battery powered fairy lights which acted like a night light, but when we left them on our baby kept trying to reach out of the cot to touch them. So we turned it off, and were plunged into darkness. Which meant we were constantly tripping over in the tent after bub’s bedtime.
9. Condensation makes everything wet
If it rains when you’re camping you stay dry inside the tent, right? Wrong! If you’re in a tiny tent and sleeping close to the sides then you’ll be dealing with a whole lot of dampness. Most of our clothes were wet each morning when we awoke, and it also made temperatures plummet inside the tent as the night went on.
10. You can’t take your eyes off your baby
Sure, we were on a friend’s property with lots of other friends in tents, but we were also in a strange place, near lots of bushland, and my baby had just worked out how to undo the zipper. What if he decided to take the opportunity to learn how to climb out of the cot and then go wandering while we were distracted? Even though we were close to the tent at all times, my husband and I ended up taking turns to check on him while he slept. A bit stressful? You bet!
Camping with a baby is hard work but if you’re up for the challenge, don’t say I didn’t warn you.