One of the greatest joys of camping as a family is sharing that sense of wonder and adventure with your children. We’ve done our fair share of enjoying the great outdoors with the kids (ages varying from baby to age 6) and below is a list of our must-haves that we never leave the home without when camping!
*This advice is heavily based on tent camping with our children*
Comfort Items – I let my children pack one blanket and one stuffed animal for our camping trips. That way, they have something to look forward to when getting ready for bed and it will provide comfort if they are feeling uneasy in their new environment.
Leave the toys at home – This is one that I have to remind myself almost every time I head out for a trip. Kids need a lot less than we realize. For the first couple of years, I was always packing a small backpack full of figurines, books, and little activities in hopes of my children finding entertainment in them. And yet, more often than not, that backpack full of goodies was rarely ever used and it quickly would become a nuisance having to lug it around. When my children are out in nature, they find endless things to capture their attention and spark their curiosity. Dirt, sticks, rocks, trees, leaves, streams… those are your “toys” for the trip and take comfort in knowing that they’re one less thing you have to pack.
Big Sun Hats – I love them. The bigger the brim, the better. The neck covering, yes please. I will take all the coverage I can get for the kiddos. My brand of preference is Sunday Afternoons Hats.
Osprey Poco Child Carrier Backpack – We love ours. We take it on every hike and it’s still going strong. It’s comfy to wear and it distributes weight well. It is durable and (somewhat) lightweight. I love the sun awning for extra protection on hot days. I love the storage section for snacks, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, and whatever else you might need. Plus, it’s almost guarantee that you’ll get someone who crosses your path and cracks the joke, “Isn’t that nice? Man, I wish they made that in my size. I would love to be carried around.” Every. Hike. Guaranteed.
Sunscreen + chapstick with SPF – You can never have too much sunscreen, that much is obvious. But the big game changer for me was chapstick with SPF and now I wear it every day to avoid dry, chapped lips. We prefer physical sunscreen over chemical and use sunscreens with zinc oxide. Whichever you choose, any kind of sunscreen is better than none. Our favorites for the kids are ThinkSport and ThinkBaby, while I use EltaMD for myself.
Layers, layers, layers – Of course, this advice is dependent on your destination, but I do love packing all of the layers. That way you have lots of options and you are ready to tackle whatever Mother Nature throws your way. Check the weather, do your research, and be prepared. I tend to bring t-shirts, long sleeves, a puffy, a heavier sweater, shorts, long underwear, wool socks, and pants regardless of where I go. For example, even if the weather is warm, a lightweight long sleeve might come in handy to protect your arms from the mosquitoes. Or a good puffer jacket that can double as a windbreaker or a water resistant layer for that morning mist or sudden tropical shower you weren’t expecting. My kids also run different temperatures than what I might be feeling, so I cannot stress enough that it is good to have options ready.
Snack Cups – I really like the snack cups with the lids. They are great for the car rides and also for preventing your child’s food from ending up in the dirt at the campsite. We use the Munchkin Snack Catcher ones.
Sleep Sacks (Wearable Blanket) + Guava Travel Crib – We never co-slept with our babies. It just wasn’t my thing and I would have never gotten sleep if did. So, sleep sacks were amazing for us. They provide an extra layer of warmth and comfort for my babies. They come in so many different warmth levels, I had one for every temperature. I have a thin cotton one, a thicker quilted one, and the heaviest being a puffy one, and I love them all and would rotate them out based on my baby’s needs. The go over your child’s pjs, so they are extremely versatile and you can layer however you see fit. We also love our Guava travel crib. An absolute must for us whenever we travel with babies.
Expect the Unexpected
I think the biggest takeaway from my countless nights camping with my children is that I have learned to embrace the chaos. Roll with the punches and have fun! The kids will be dirty, but happy. Some nights might be rough, but worth it for the epic view you wake up to. Sure you’ll have meltdowns, but I get those in the comfort of my home too. For me, the memories I gain with my children far outweigh the struggles we might have had along the way. Happy travels!