Mr. Lion and I have always loved being outside as much as possible. We frequently camp with friends during the warmer months. This year we decided to escape the extreme heat of the NC piedmont and planned a trip with some friends at Hanging Rock State Park in the NC mountains!
We have been hiking with Little Lion several times, but this was our first overnight camping trip with him. Mr. Lion and I have several tricks to make camping less of a hassle, and we really only needed to make a few accommodations to be able to bring LL along for the ride!
Method of Transportation – Car (this was a challenge, but we were able to get alllll of our stuff into the Saturn!)
Trip Length – 2 days, 2 nights
Child’s Age - 5 months
Season – Late Summer
1. Pack and Play – Even though LL sleeps on a floor bed at home, we still use the Pack and Play when we travel. Trying to ensure sleeping spaces are babyproofed every time we are away from home just isn’t feasible to me.
2. Baby Essentials packed in a duffel bag: Basically anything you would bring for an overnight anywhere else…clothes, diapers, wipes, thermometer/Tylenol just in case, blankets, pacifiers, toys or books, etc.
3. Air Mattresses, sheets, and blankets – We have experimented with all sorts of sleeping arrangements over the years, and putting two twin air mattresses together under a king sheet seems to work the best. With a queen air mattress, you end up rolling to the middle, but with having individual twin mattresses you eliminate this problem. We don’t really love sleeping bags, so we bring an old comforter and some extra blankets instead.
4. Canopy - This is not completely necessary, but it makes camping much more comfortable (especially if it rains, which of course in the summer it almost always does).
5. Tent - Last year some squirrels ate a hole in our beloved tent, so we had to purchase a new one this year. I absolutely LOVE this tent (more about that below).
6. Bumbo - We hardly ever use this at home, but it was really nice to have a safe place to put LL while we were cooking.
7. Electric Griddle - Great for making pancakes! We didn’t take this this trip because we didn’t have electricity at our site, but we always bring it when we do!
8. Camping Box - Having this stocked and ready to go at the beginning of the season eliminates the need to pack specifically for camping. We almost always have a site with electricity and water, so we do a lot of cooking while we are there. Having the essentials ready to go makes planning a spontaneous trip easy! Inside the box we have lots of smaller boxes to keep like items together. We check the box at the beginning of the season to make sure everything is ready to go, and then as things run out we replenish.
- Dishes and Cooking Items: plates, bowls, silverware, cups, various cooking utensils (at least one spatula, one set of tongs, and one pancake flipper are a must!). At least one frying pan (preferably 2), one pot for boiling water, salt and pepper (keep in a ziplock), dish soap and a sponge (keep in a ziplock). Paper plates and cups are nice to throw in if you are going to have a site that doesn’t have access to water.
- Utility Items: pocket knife, small hatchet, twine, rope, fire starters, matches, lighter, ziplock bags, trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper (you never know when the bathrooms will be out!), air mattress pump, extension cords
- Fun Stuff: Cards, Catchphrase, pad of paper, pens
- Light: Batteries, flashlights, electric lanterns, candles
9. Cooler, Food, Firewood, and Ice - We stick to simple meals. Eggs, bacon, and/or pancakes and fruit make good breakfast meals. We usually have sandwiches for lunch (these can be taken on the go) and have burgers, hot dogs, or steak for dinner with chips and veggies for dinner. We also bring sodas, bottled water, and things to snack on (granola bars, trail mix, pretzels). Since we were short on space, we waited to purchase ice and firewood until we got to the camp site. Most camp grounds will sell these items on site, but if not there is almost always a gas station nearby that stocks them. A few frozen water bottles were enough to keep our food cold in transit.
10. Clothes for Layering - It was hot during the day and unseasonably cold at night where we were. Bring clothes that layer well, especially for baby.
11. Wrap Carrier - We used this when LL got tired. We didn’t feel comfortable letting him sleep in the backpack carrier, since he was still a little bit small and wobbly. I used to have a Boba wrap, which worked really well when LL was tiny, but now that he is bigger it stretches so much that it is hard to wear for long periods of time. I found a tutorial and made my own, and now the diy one is the one I use!
12. Backpack Carrier - Mr. Lion’s parents and sister got this one for us at a yard sale. Score! It was really comfortable, and LL loved having a view of what we were looking at. He seemed much happier in this than the Bjorn, and Mr. Lion’s back didn’t ache at the end of the hike.
13. Not pictured: Pump, bottles, etc. (with batteries!) – We didn’t have electricity so I relied on the battery pack for this. It wasn’t quite as effective, but it got the job done for the 2 days we were away.
What Went Well
- We love our new tent! We consider this to be a long term (probably 10+ year) investment, so we bought one large enough for our growing family. We love the simplicity of a dome tent (who wants to waste time with all of those complicated directions??). This was our first time using it and let me just say, the hinged door is AHMAZIIIIING. You only have to zip it up at night. Being able to easily open and close the door with baby in hand was seriously incredible. We also love that you can fully stand up in this tent. The pack and play fit easily with our king sized air mattress, with plenty of room for at least one more twin mattress as well as all of our stuff.
- Hiking was great! The backpack carrier (according to Mr. Lion) was much nicer than the Bjorn, and we were able to hike for much longer this time. I was very nervous about LL napping (his awake time is still 1.5-2 hours max at home), but he managed okay with catnaps. When he would start to fall asleep in the backpack carrier he got very wobbly, so we transferred him to the wrap and he would sleep for 30 minutes or so. Then he would be wide awake and ready to check everything out again! I don’t think he could have maintained this schedule for much longer than 2 days, but it was worth the disruption for the experience!
What Didn’t Go Well
- We were not prepared for just how cold it would get at night. We put LL in warm pajamas, inside a sleep sack, and under his blanket, but he still woke up around 2am freezing (ok, not freezing, but not warm either), so he ended up spending the rest of the night co-sleeping with me on the twin mattress. This was my first experience with co-sleeping, and I hadn’t intended for it to happen that way so I didn’t really know what to do to make it safe. I don’t know if I would even call it co-sleeping, because really, I didn’t sleep for fear of LL suffocating or rolling off the air mattress. I don’t really know how we could have safely avoided this problem, other than not camping when the weather was so chilly (it got down into the lower 50′s at night), but we made it through.
Pumping was a pain. Fortunately this site had a hot water washing station next to the bath house, so I was able to wash pump parts and bottles pretty easily. My supply took a hit though, because I was only able to pump twice a day instead of 3 times while we were hiking.
Overall this was a great trip! We had a great time with some good friends, and LL loves to be outside! Depending on the weather (no more camping on cool nights until LL can have lots of warm blankets!) we may camp a few more times this season.
Have you camped with babies/young children? How did you make it a successful trip?