We all remember the times we could plan a trip, pack for the trip, and be at the camp site the same weekend! Well, with a one year old, those days are long gone! However, your fun shouldn’t stop just because you have a kid! Making sure that you have the right toys, sleeping gear, “transportation” for the little one and protection to keep them comfortable is all key in this situation.
Camping with a one-year-old requires figuring out three things:
- Temperature and Sun Control
Now mind you, the first time I went camping with our one year old, I forgot so many things. I forgot the sunscreen face stick and our little one’s hat (she had to wear my hat for most of the trip). Which is why I thought being able to help others by compiling a few of my favorites will take the guess work out of this process and give you less stress and more fun!
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
Sleeping With A One-Year-Old While Camping
This can be a rather opinionated subject–but it should be. It’s a family decision how to handle sleeping arrangements for your kids. I’ll share my own experience and you can make your own decisions from there.
When our boy was very young we preferred not to co-sleep, so we decided to do many different partitioned sleeping options.
One crucial tip for most of these–it’s super important for your tent to be level or else your child will be right up against the wall of whatever you put them in.
We sleep separately from our kid, so when we were camping with him when he was very young we used a floor bassinet, something like this “Travel Pod” on Amazon.
A Pop-Up Tent Within A Tent
If they’re a little old or big for something like that, then a fantastic option is a little pop-up tent that you can fit inside your tent such as you see here (on Amazon). If you want to ensure you don’t crowd each other, this isn’t a bad way to give your kid some space.
Portable Kid Mattress
We’ve found a lot of usage out of our folding mattress that we got on Amazon. This wouldn’t work for backpacking, but for car camping it’s super comfortable and it works great. The trick is to get your kid to stay on it.
Kid Sleeping Bags
Some kids will fall asleep tucked in, if that’s the case, a sleeping bag for kids may work for you.
Our kid unfortunately is not of these kids. A kid sleeping bag wouldn’t work, so you have to do what works for your kid. If your kid is like this you may have to do what we have to do which is to continuously put the covers back on them as they rustle around.
Pack ‘N Play
These are fantastic options if you want your kid to have a separate sleeping space. Be mindful of how big your tent is and how big your kid’s travel bed is.
Temperature and Sun Control For Camping With a One-Year-Old
We live in South Texas. It’s great in many ways, but the summers are brutal. In fact, this year we are having triple digit temperatures every day with little to no rain.
If you are camping with a one-year-old, they are probably not going to be able to tell you if they are too hot or if they are too cold, which means you have to take extra precautions of making sure your child is comfortable.
For example, one summer we went camping with our little one, and it was pretty hot. Not dangerously hot, but it was humid and hot (in the 90F degree range). We opted to use cooling towels to try and control everyone’s temperature so we could be more comfortable.
How To Know If Your Child Is Too Hot or Too Cold
Here are some tips so you can know if you need to change something:
- Use your own body as a guide. If you are too hot or too cold with the amount of clothing you have, your child will likely be too hot or too cold as well.
- Shivering: if your child is shivering when it’s cold out, this is a very bad thing and you need to add more clothing or bring your child to a warmer area. Note, newborns do not shiver because of cold so you have to be even more cautious. (healthline)
- Sweating: If your child is sweating unusually then you should take steps to try and cool them down.
Next, let’s talk about some tips of what you can do if you run into these situations
How To Keep Your Child Cool When Camping
You don’t have to overthink this too much– perhaps you might have a high discomfort tolerance, just try and be aware of your own body and do what you would do normally to keep yourself cooler or warmer.
By the way, I wrote a much more in-depth post about how to camp when it’s 100+ degrees, make sure to check it out here.
Here’s a couple things we’ve done to stay cool camping in South Texas heat:
Use Cooling Towels
Although they look goofy, cooling towels (or honestly, wet thin rags will do just fine) provide a sensation of relief and make the heat more bearable.
A warning about cooling towels, though: cooling towels do not lower your body core temperature (study). This means that your body will be just as hot, but the cooling towel just makes it feel cooler. This means that you should avoid situations of extreme heat even if you have cooling towels because you might still be unsafely hot even if you feel cooler with the cooling towel.
How do you know if it’s too hot to be camping? Check out our article, here to find the answer.
Cooling towels are for comfort, not safety.
Choose Layered Clothing
If you’re camping in conditions where it gets hot and cold, make sure and bring clothes that are layered. Don’t go with a long sleeve shirt for example, go with a t-shirt with a jacket for your child. That way you can adjust the amount of clothing depending on how hot the weather is.
Pick A Shaded Campsite
I can’t tell you how important this is. Being in the sun can raise the temperature from 10-15 degrees or more. On a hot day, that can make a tremendous difference.
If you have to pick the campsite sight unseen, contact the park you want to stay at and ask the local rangers where the best shaded campsites are–they will know.
Reduce Sun Exposure
Sunscreen is essential, for sure, but even better is to avoid being in the sun altogether. Long, lightweight clothing can help reduce sun exposure. Hats too are great for keeping the suns rays off your child. Be mindful of making sure you don’t have clothing that will cause your child to overheat.
How To Keep Your Child Warm While Camping
To me, this is the harder one. It’s one thing to be too hot–peeling off clothes to cool off is effective, but it’s difficult to know for little kids how cold they are.
It’s not too hard to put on more shirts and pants, but keeping gloves and socks and hats on a one-year old is a lot more tricky.
Again, use your body as a guide. If your hands are freezing, your child’s hands are probably freezing.
Bring Many Layers of Clothing
As it gets colder you can put more shirts, pants, or one-piece clothing on your child.
Just like dressing yourself, you want to have a light base layer to control sweat, a warm mid-layer, and a waterproof/windproof outer shell.
Take a look at our instructions for hiking in 10 F degree weather if you want more detail on how to dress for cold weather.
Outer shells can be tricky to keep on your kids, which is why these body suits (Amazon) can really come in handy.
Watch Out For Sweating
If your child is sweating with all the clothes that you’ve put on them, this can actually be dangerous. Peel back layers until they stop sweating but are still comfortable. Mirror their clothing system as much as you can so you can be aware of where your child is at.
Gloves, Hats, Socks
These are the tricky things–your kid has such tiny hands and feet that keeping those socks and gloves on (especially if they keep trying to take them off) can be tricky. If your kid won’t keep the gloves or socks on, you can try one-piece clothing that can be secured over hands and feet. (something like this on Amazon)
Know When To Quit
We went camping with our two year old when it was 32 F degrees outside. (If you want a lot of helpful tips for camping in this kind of weather, read more here) Me and my wife were doing great–we layered enough to where we were comfortable without being too hot. But I noticed that my face was getting really cold.
Our child wasn’t self-aware enough to stay on the sleeping pad we had for him so he kept on sleeping directly on the tent floor–and he wasn’t keeping the protection we had for his face.
Because of this, we decided to head home at about 1 AM because we didn’t feel comfortable with the situation.
It can be difficult and disappointing to make decisions like that, but it’s important to give yourself options so you’re not stuck in a bad situation.
As always, keep a lookout for heat-exhaustion and hypothermia (CDC).
How To Carry Your One-Year-Old While Camping
If you are doing hiking, I definitely recommend a baby carrier.
For our family, we’ve really enjoyed using the Ergobaby Omni 360 (see it on Amazon, here) because it has the flexibility of side, front, and back carry. For each one the baby can be facing away or towards you depending on how you adjust it. This works for a lot of kids in a lot of different situations.
I also want to share an experience that was written by a friend (who is a mom) that has a different perspective:
If you plan on exploring more than just the restroom/shower area while camping you will find that a way to tote that baby is going to be pretty important to your comfort and enjoyment.
If the grounds are pretty rural and you plan on exploring and hiking unpaved paths, you may want to ditch the idea of a jogger or stroller. Instead, depending on the baby’s size and the length of this excursion you are deciding to embark on, you may want to think about carrying option.
Some babies are just tiny! My little girl was born 3 mos early and was a bit behind developmentally, so even though she was chronologically 6 months old, she only weighed 10 lbs! So, it’s best to go by weight and length, not age when choosing a wrap or carrier.
Ok, so the Boba type wrap is all the rage and most people love this (if you can figure it out…watch those tutorials!!). Although it is my go to for inside, I almost sweat to death using it while carrying my baby outside for a walk around the block.
My favorite way to transport my youngin from point a to point b is with the Infantino Baby Carriers Carry! I love this brand for these carriers, because they are inexpensive and versatile.
It has everything on my check off list:
- It grows with your baby (8-40lbs).
- Baby can face out or face your chest (for when they are sleepy).
- It has head/neck support for little ones, yet the support folds down for a bigger baby that wants to turn around and look out.
The two most important things for anyone carrying a baby with a carrier on an adventure are making sure you have a great hip and shoulder support. The hip support is a must in my book (and after birthing this little one all the mamas would agree)! Second, are the shoulder straps being comfy. This brand is quite affordable and dependable. I have had 2 (one without hip support…and the keeper which had the hip support!) and the cost was from $20-$70. My favorite listed above was $50.
***Super cool feature on this one which very few other carriers have is their zip pockets! Which is perfect for keeping a few small things like a pacifier, teething ring, wipes with a diaper (although hiking with the smell of a dirty diaper strapped to you may even keep the skunks away…but I wouldn’t recommend it!)***
Crucial Tips For Camping With a One-Year-Old
Now that you have some of the fundamentals down, here are some other tips to make the trip a good one for everyone (including your kid):
We’re all aware that the babies that play hard, sleep hard. The key is wearing them out!
Don’t get me wrong, packing up the “exersaucers” and bouncers are not very practical, but traveling toys are a must! The blanket or stuffed bear they love must be in the mix as well. If it can be washed, it can come!
Just as a rule, there are toys that I only bring out for traveling or going to “unfamiliar territory.” That way it’s a new toy and something new for them to explore and when you get back home, back in the closet they go… until the next adventure!
Keep it simple. Let’s be honest, grab a cardboard box, stick everything you’ll need to keep the camp food in and when you’ve emptied this at the campsite…Voila…the best toy ever. Once again, “happy baby, happy life.”
Sunburns and Bites
I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing worse than seeing your babies burnt or bitten up because you didn’t get a good product on their perfect skin! Always use sunscreen even if it’s overcast or not, don’t take that chance!
A less natural approach, but always popular Coppertone is a great price and comes in a variety of types of sunscreen which I love, because I love having options.
I love the face stick and cream for the baby because they’re both easy to apply.
All of these types can be found in 50 spf and are in 6 oz containers for about $11, except for the face stick which is like ½ oz for $7.
If you are looking for something more natural, yet affordable for it’s natural contents, Babyganics is a great way to go. It is mineral based and their tear free 50 spf will do the trick for up to 80 minutes.
So even though it is often found in only 6oz tubes, it will last quite a while, making that $10 all worth it.
Tom’s, which is a popular brand and a great all natural product, is perfect for those little ones that suffer from bouts of allergies and skin reactions. It is fragrance free and only contains 5 ingredients making it’s 3 oz worth all $12 you spent. For it’s 30spf, your little one can play for 80 minutes and stays on through sweat or swim!
Now, I’m pretty sure that if the question: “what’s the number one reason why people don’t like to camp?” was a question on Family Feud, those 100 people surveyed would have all said, “BUGS!”
If your wife hates camping, bugs may be the #1 reason. (see other things that can be done to collaborate together on this)
Once again, if you are looking for a natural way to repel insects, there are several options.
Babyganics has a great Deet free natural mineral based insect repellent as does California baby (Amazon). I find that they both work well (I personally like the smell of the California baby best, but that’s just me).
Otherwise, if you are serious about repelling bugs, DEET is extremely effective. Use it when you need to.
At What Age Can You Take a Baby Camping?
3 months is about the earliest mom and baby are ready to go camping.
I think it was about 6 months when we first when camping with our baby. Being honest about the experience it was a little stressful, but it was rewarding and good to get back out in nature after being indoors for a long time.
Really, as soon as mom and baby are recovered from birth and all the aftermath, there’s no reason you can’t go camping depending on the weather and environment. The real question is, at what temperature can I take my baby camping?
That’s the big question. If it gets down to 40 degrees at night, that’s too cold for an infant unless these are your normal living conditions and you are adequately prepared.
In other words, if you want a moderately-stressed vacation camping experience, you should camp only when it’s between 60-80F degrees.
I can’t stress enough, though, that mom is the real decision maker, here. If feeding and caring for your baby gives a lot of stress, you should wait until mom and baby are ready.