Camping with Kids

August 15, 2022, Tiffany Newman

My husband and I have always tent camped or backpacked during our relationship. We loved it so much and would at least go camping or backpacking once a year or more. It was easy, we didn’t have to bring too much stuff, and we could go anywhere whenever we wanted. However, once we had kids, that all changed.

When Carson was about nine months old, we took him camping during our family’s annual 4th of July camping trip, which was a blast. Our biggest worry was making sure that Carson was warm enough and that he was able to kind of keep his schedule. At this time, we did not have a big tent but did have a little “doghouse” trailer that my husband built several years ago for me. It was just big enough for a twin bed, which meant all of us as a family could not sleep in it. Because we only had Carson at the time, we decided to take this little trailer with us, and Carson and I would sleep in it while, unfortunately, my husband and dog had to sleep out under a canopy. Luckily, he had a good sleeping bag and a cot, so he wasn’t entirely uncomfortable, but it did get extremely cold at night that year (he would wake up with frost on his sleeping bag). I felt bad for my husband but felt fortunate that we had a warm place for our baby to sleep, and boy, he slept like a champ in it.

Baby Carson sitting in front of doghouse trailerWe did not go camping again that year; however, we wanted to start camping with Carson more the following summer. Knowing that we plan to continue camping with kids through the years, I wanted to get a small trailer. Something that we could keep the kids dry in or use during the wet season (which in Oregon is nine months out of the year, it seems like). My husband, on the other hand, did not want to get a trailer at all. So, for the following year, we compromised and got a family-sized tent that would allow us more room for getting Carson dressed and diaper changes and allow him to move around freely in it if it was rainy or the weather was not great. Our first camping trip with this new tent went well for the most part. I was pregnant with Caleb, so that nothing would have been comfortable. We had an air mattress we brought with us and used. However, it had a slow leak, so throughout the night, Carson and I would slowly roll towards each other until the morning when we were pretty much on the ground in the middle. Again, my husband drew the short straw (or maybe got the better end of the deal, not sure) and slept on a small backpacking sleeping pad with the dog.   Each morning Carson and I would get up with the air mattress engulfing us, and each evening we would fill it back up and hope it would last most of the night. The sleeping was not great, however, Carson got to play in the dirt, sand, and water, plus he learned how to make a s’more and actually got to eat it. He loved sitting in the big chairs and eating his food next to the fire. It was overall a successful trip.

Once Caleb came along, I realized there was no way I felt comfortable sleeping in a tent with two babies. I was also starting to get the travel bug, and because we were still living in the pandemic, I wanted a way to get away for a weekend with the kids and explore new places again without taking a flight. I also wanted just to go camping more and have a place for the kids to sleep comfortably, especially if the weather was not great, have a place to play or eat that was warm as well, and allow me to put them down for naps without having to sleep with them and worrying about them. That is when I brought up buying a trailer again to my husband. Now, I have never wanted a large trailer or even a new one. I have always just wanted something big enough for our family to sleep comfortably and enjoy time together. Plus, we have vehicles that could not tow a large trailer anyways, and there was no way I would buy another vehicle just for that. I finally convinced my husband that we should look for a trailer, and he finally agreed. A few months later, I found one that perfectly fit our family. We have taken it out three times this year, and the annual 4th of July trip with my family has been the first fully successful camping trip.

Let me tell you about a few things that have been so great for us to have while camping to make it easier with young children. This list is stuff that we have figured out along the last few years of camping with kids, and we are still constantly learning, so take what I say with a grain of salt and do some trial and error to figure out what works for your family.

  1. A baby playpen: If your baby is like mine and puts EVERYTHING in their mouth or is on the move but is not walking yet, baby playpens are essential. This can be a large playpen or just a pack-and-play, but something that allows your little one to play by themselves, and you know that they are not going anywhere or sticking things they should not be in their mouths. We have also seen people turn them upside down if they are at the beach and let their baby play in the sand while keeping bugs or the sun off them. You can also use a blanket or fitted sheet on top and keep bugs out of it (it works best in a pack-and-play).
  2. Toys: I bring toys everywhere I go. Carson usually gets his big dump truck and smaller cars, while Caleb usually has soft, chewy toys or stackable toys. This will allow them to play with familiar toys if you need to cook dinner or do something else.
  3. Lots of clothing: I usually bring a lot of clothing with my kids when we travel, but I bring a ton for camping! Depending on where you are going, the kids get dirty, muddy, or sandy. Plus, they are just kids, and having extra clothing is a must.
  4. Bug repellent: I found stickers recently for my kids that seem to work well for them. I don’t like spraying bug repellent on my kids or myself, and I came across these cute stickers with citronella-like stuff on them. I would put one in front, and one on my kid’s back in the morning, which seemed to keep the mosquitos away well.

My husband and I love camping and being outdoors, so we definitely want our kids to experience it as well. Whether we go in a tent, trailer, or just sleeping out under the stars, being able to do it with my family is the best thing in the world.