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How to camp with an infant

  • Tagged The kids, The travelling
  • Commenters Jeremy, wren, Eli, Stephanie

After I published the last post, about our trip camping with Ezra, I got a number of inquiries from new moms and dads about how we managed it all. So here’s a bunch of tips about how we did things, from a couple of non-experts. Hope it helps.

A car seat will serve as a perfectly adequate bed
We were just past Rockford when we realized we’d left his bassinet at home, which we intended to use as his bed. It’s hard to imagine how we would have fit it in, given how stuffed our car was without it. We quickly formed a Plan B: his car seat. He didn’t seem to mind it, though the slightly angled nature of his body encouraged in him a bizarre, though barely audible, sleeptime breathing, something between an inkjet printer and a moose.

Bring a playmat
We did this on a whim, and it saved us hours of sanity. Ezra can entertain himself on the mat for a half-hour or so at a time, which is the perfect respite to get a meal prepped or start a fire. We set the mat on the grass near our tent, which is fine, we just had to look him over once in a while out for crawling bugs. (Mosquitos don’t like babies much, but ticks aren’t so picky.)

Change all diapers outside the tent
It’s easy to get complacent about diaper changing after doing it several times a day for seven weeks. But it only takes one poopslosion to make you remember that a) you’re still pretty new at this and b) you don’t have a change of sheets. So, as long as it’s not the middle of the night, it’s best to do your diaper changing on the ground (well, on a mat on the ground), in case any… eccentricities rear their head.

Bring lots of onesies
At least two outfits per day, including the start and end days. Better safe than sorry. We brought that many and used them all. Make sure to bring some long-sleeved onesies, for the cool evenings and mornings.

And LOTS of wipes
We brought a refill pack of 75 wipes, thinking we were being overly cautious. We were not.

Bring citronella candles
Devil’s Lake was absent much bug action, so we didn’t need bug spray. I guess if we had to use it, we’d have sprayed our back and legs, where the baby’s mouth isn’t likely to go, and light citronella candles if the bug biting got heavy.

Schedule your hikes after feedings
Our jaunt through Parfrey’s Glen was easy because Ezra was asleep the whole time. Sarah fed him at the entrance, right before we went in, and he was sated.

If you’re breastfeeding, bring a pump
We didn’t do this, but in retrospect, we should have. Ezra got especially cranky on the ride home, and we didn’t have a bottle we could use to soothe him. I ended up having to reach behind me and give him my pinky for long stretches of time. Had Sarah pumped before we left, one of us could have fed him while the other drove.

Go somewhere you’re familiar with
We have camped at Devil’s Lake at least once a summer, so we’re pretty familiar with the beaches, the parks, the trails and the stores in town. While I’m sure we could have managed in a new town or park, not having to learn a new territory saved us some time and lessened the chance of getting lost or feeling disoriented.

Know which hotels are nearby, just in case
When we arrived, we looked up the weather to read a warning that said “If you have outdoor plans this afternoon, please be advised to reconsider.” We suddenly had to face the prospect of spending the night at hotel. There were plenty around, but we didn’t know where to start. Fortunately things cleared up in time and we got the tent out and set up fine. But we would have been wise to at least have some phone numbers in case we had to change plans.

Plan to stop along the way
The drive from our house to Devil’s Lake is usually three hours. This time it took us five. Part of that was intentional, with stops for lunch on the way there and dinner on the way back. But there were other stops for feedings, and each of those can eat up at least a half-hour. It’s nice to be able to do those in, say, a park area, instead of in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. (For those travelling on I-90, we recommend Rock Cut State Park near Rockford.)

It really isn’t that difficult. If your baby is anything like our baby, he won’t care where he is, as long he’s getting fed, changed, and attention. We kept our planning to a minimum — just cooking, relaxing and hiking — which kept our expectations low and allowed us to have a really relaxing time.



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