How to See if Your Baby is Ready for Camping

Lyra running through the woods

A few years ago on Black Friday, I decided to buy just about everything we might need from REI to go tent camping. The prices were good(ish) and I was just really excited about the commitment I was making by buying all the supplies. Our family was going camping!

camping with children

I have more than a few good memories of camping as a child. Tent camping, cabin camping, far away, or close by. My parents were outdoors enthusiasts and my brother and I inherited that love of fresh air and wide open spaces.

We’ve used the camping supplies I bought in that moment of outdoorsy inspiration… well, we’ve used most of it. The portable Coleman grill hasn’t actually made its debut. BUT we’ve cooked on cast iron over an open fire. How camping is that? And although I haven’t actually used the hobo pie maker, it will definitely be visiting our campsite soon.

Our Experiences Camping

In retrospect, I realize that we only used our tent once previously. In June 2021, when I was 2 months pregnant with our son, we went to Elk County in Pennsylvania and spent a couple nights camping with friends.

Lyra was with us and, although the change in venue meant that she boycotted napping during the stay, she did remarkably well.

We brought two cots for Ivan and I, while Lyra slept in her pack-n-play. The evenings got pretty cold at the higher altitude, so she was in fleece feety pajamas and snuggled in a blanket.

We brought our Yeti cooler full of fixings for campfire scrambled eggs, sausages, potatoes, etc. And in the evenings, after roasting corn on the fire, we had s’mores as well.

Testing Camping With the Baby

Over a year later, Callum is now 8 months old and we’ve been champing at the bit to get another use out of that tent. The problem is, we didn’t want to travel 2+ hours away to find a remote wilderness retreat only to find ourselves awake and remorseful at 3am when the wee baby decided he wasn’t cut out for tent camping.

We’ve traveled with Callum once before. When he was 5 months old, we went to the Adirondacks and he slept like a champ in his pack-n-play. But we were staying in a 3-bedroom home on the lake and he had his own room, complete with his nightlight and noise machine.

Camping was going to be different.

To play it safe, we decided to try pitching the tent somewhere nearby in case of a midnight meltdown.

baby in a field

Camping Somewhere Safe and Close

Grandparents are a lifesaver. When we needed a nice spot to try out camping, they stepped up to the plate.

My parents have a 10-acre semi-wooded property that has a grassy grove tucked under some pines that is just perfect for camping. That’s where we decided to make our first attempt with both kids.

acres of field

We arrived early enough to set up the camp, get the fire started, and have burgers for dinner. Before nightfall, Lyra got to play on my folks’ playground and run around with her grandparents. Meanwhile, Callum was fascinated by the tent and spent his time crawling around inside.

baby Callum in front of the tent

In the name of comfort, we set up our inflatable queen mattress for Ivan, Lyra, and myself. For Callum, we popped up his pack-n-play. And on the floor of the tent, we spread out a fluffy blanket for Banjo.

Lyra running through the woods

After Nightfall

Things were going pretty well. We all sat around the fire, enjoying roasted marshmallows and gourmet popcorn from our favorite local shop. Banjo was snuggled up to anyone who was willing to pet her for a few minutes. The kids were dressed in their footy pajamas to keep warm as the temperature was expected to dip into the low 60s that night.

Around 10, I nursed Callum by firelight and when he dozed, I took him into the tent where I placed him in the pack-n-play. We brought a mobile white noise machine, but at its loudest, the machine was drowned out by the singing cicadas, katydids, peepers, and crickets. The wilderness is a loud place at night.

Initially he was unwilling to sleep, but Ivan rocked him and then I nursed him back into a slumber and we were able to sit quietly by the fire for another hour before it was time to turn in.

In The Tent

We snuck in, whispering and tiptoeing. The three of us snuggled under the blanket on our inflatable mattress and very slowly dozed off.

I woke up at midnight when Callum started to rustle. He fussed a bit, then became quiet again. I nodded off for a moment, only to wake when Callum started whimpering. This continued, on and off, for three hours.

At 3 in the morning, Callum was full-on crying. None of us had slept more than 10 consecutive minutes and we knew it was time to retreat.

The reason why we decided to try camping at my parents’ house is because it’s just an 8-minute drive from ours. So we packed up the essentials and drove home. There, baby Callum went to sleep happily. Lyra had a snack and also went to bed.

A Moderate Success

Early the following morning, after we’d had insufficient sleep, we packed the kids back up and returned to the campsite. There, Ivan rekindled the fire for us to percolate some coffee and we leisurely disassembled the tent as the kids played.

Despite the fact that we had to bail out and head home in the wee hours of the morning, I’d still classify our first camping trip a moderate success. We did have a lot of fun. Lyra was excited to sleep in the tent and share a bed with Mommy and Daddy. She was even begging to sleep in the tent again when we returned the next morning.

Although Callum didn’t make it through the night, he did fall asleep for a bit. And that’s a start. I think that if we keep at it and keep trying, he will get used to being in the tent. As he gets older and understands the concept of these little vacations, it’ll get easier as well.

I look forward to our next adventure!

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