Before we had our son, my husband and I camped all the time, often times deciding to go and packing the night before we left. Our adventures these days require much more planning, and significantly more supplies. Here are some things we find helpful when camping with our son.
1. TAKE THE PACK N PLAY
I know its big. I know its bulky. But trust me, you want to take the pack n play. There are goingto be be times when you need both hands free, to set up the tent, to cook, to build a fire, and you are going to need to set your child down somewhere safe. Someplace where he/she wont end up putting rocks in their mouth, or crawling into a patch of poison ivy. Not only will the pack n play keep your child safe, it will provide a familiar spot for him/her to sleep, and bonus, keep them from unzipping the tent while you are sleeping.
2. TAKE A PORTABLE FRIDGE FREEZER
If you've never used one it may be hard to justify the cost of a portable fridge freezer, but once you try one you will never go back. Not only do you save space because you dont need ice, you no longer have water logged food to throw away when you get home. It also allows you to camp in more secluded areas than you would normally, as you dont need to travel to get ice. We have ours hooked up to a second battery in our Land Cruiser. Without the second battery you run the risk of running down the main battery, which could be a big problem if there's nobody around or able to get to you to help. Not only do we take it camping, but we leave it in the car all the time so we can use it for fresh snacks on shorter outings. It also helps with birnging frozen items home from the store in the summer.
3. TAKE A CHAIR WITH A BUILT IN TRAY
Our son is very high energy, and doesn't like to sit still. At home when its time to eat we put him in a high chair, forcing him to stay put while he eats. There are folding high chairs made spcifically for camping available, but instead of spending the extra money we opt to take his folding baby walker. It has a tray built in, and brakes for the wheels to keep him from taking it to close to the fire while eating.
4. TAKE THE IPAD
One of the things I love best about camping is the chance to unplug and relax with loved ones. I’m a huge believer that taking a break from electronic devices is not only beneficial but necessary from time to time. That’s why this is so counter intuitive. We take the iPad when we camp. Its not that I think our son won’t survive without watching his shows, he can and does. He loves being outside and able to run free, and as soon as we let him out of the car he squeals with joy and starts to explore. However, the ride to camp is another story. Our favorite camping spots are a few hours away from home, and because of the size and shape of our car seat, our son can’t see out the windows when we travel. Spending a few hours staring at a head rest unable to move makes for a crabby toddler, which in turn makes mom and dad just as crabby. So we take the iPad, and let him watch his shows as we drive. It also helps out at night when he is tired and starts asking to go home. When this happens, we set him up in the car seat with a bottle and his favorite show. Its familiar enough for him to feel safe and comfortable, and lets him wind down before bed. We don’t have any problem with him wanting to watch it during the day.
5. TRY TO RECREATE THE BEDTIME ROUTINE
Our son has a bedtime routine that we follow every night. When we camp, we try to stick to this as much as possible. The bath isn't an option, but after he watches his show and has his bottle we brush his teeth, and then retire to the tent to read a few books. If they have a favorite bedtime stuffed animal or toy, make sure to bring that as well.
6. HAVE A TRIAL RUN IN THE BACKYARD
If you are worried about how your child will feel about sleeping in a tent, its not a bad idea to have a trial run in the backyard so they know what to expect. We didnt do this with our son, but having the pack and play that he naps in at home with us was a huge help. He acclimated very quickly, and now loves to camp as much as we do.