Bringing your littles camping doesn’t have to be daunting. Join Big Agnes staffer, Katie Hughes, as she recalls some must-haves for camping with the kiddos.
Having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, some of my earliest and best childhood memories involve gathering wood and building campfires with my dad, laying smashed like sardines inside a tent with my family, our friends, and our dog, and waiting out drenching downpours underneath pine trees eating trail mix in our nylon ponchos. Dirty, stinky, and happy. I’ve been fortunate to have had camping, backpacking, and the outdoors be a major part of my life since I was very young and I’m excited as a mom now to my 2 year old daughter Ivy, to share my love of the mountains and give her a similar childhood full of dirt, campfires, and tents! After all, if my parents could do it with a heavy canvas tent and cotton sleeping bags, I know we can.
My husband and I have had a couple dozen successful nights so far in the backcountry with our little one and I’m by no means a pro but here are a few tips that I think might help you if you’re wanting to get the kids out but are feeling intimidated:
1. Keep it simple, but don’t forget the important stuff: Does your tot have a favorite stuffed animal, book, or blanket? Bring it! Help them feel as safe as possible in the tent and if that means a few extra creature comforts from home, then so be it. Especially when it comes to bed time; try to replicate your bedtime routine in the tent…brush teeth, read books, whatever will seem most normal to your child. Leave most of the toys and gadgets at home and you’ll find they entertain themselves throwing rocks in the lake, digging holes in the dirt, and looking for firewood (see tip #3).
2. Keep them cozy but remember how they sleep at home: The first time we went camping my daughter was 4.5 months old and I was so afraid she would be cold sleeping. In fact, I barely slept worrying if she was cold, while she slept one of her best nights ever! She loved the cool/crisp high altitude air. Also, as Ivy gets older, she loves being in her own sleeping bag. On our first few campouts, I slept with her in a big doublewide bag (like the Big Agnes Dream Island) and while I loved the proximity to her I also didn’t love that I felt like I couldn’t move or roll over for fear of waking her. I also think she got hot with my extra body heat in there. At home, she sleeps alone in her own bed, so she probably should camping too.
3. Let them get dirty! Try not to chase your kid around with a pack of wet wipes. Let them get dirty and be ok with that. Bring a few different sets of clothes KNOWING they will get wet, muddy, sticky, mustard-y and encourage it! They’ll find the freedom to explore liberating and besides, it’s good for you to just relax or jump in the mud puddles with them.
4. Make it fun! You’re out there to have an adventure and do something different from the norm. Take deep breaths if you get overwhelmed and be in the moment. You are making memories with your family and helping to create a lasting love of the outdoors in your kids. That’s awesome – high five!
A few products we love and use from Big Agnes and would definitely recommend:
Yellow Jacket 4 mtnGLO: this tent is the perfect size for our family of 3 (+dog), with enough head room for me to stand up, and has the convenience of built-in LED lights which come in so handy when laying Ivy down to bed or sneaking back in the tent when it’s my bedtime (50% brightness is key!) If you aren’t in the market for a new tent, pick up a mtnGLO Tent Light Accessory kit and clip it in to the one you have.
Little Red 15 bag + Insulated Air Core pad: this is Ivy’s sleeping bag/pad combo and remember, she’s 2, if your kids are bigger check out the Wolverine and Haybro. The Little Red bag is rated to 15 degrees which is versatile enough for spring, summer, and fall and is filled with a super warm synthetic insulation, and is part of our sleep system line, so the bag and pad connect and she can’t roll off the pad in the middle of the night. Keeps her snoozing so, win!
Dream Island doublewide sleeping bag + Double Z 50×78: Even though I don’t recommend sharing this with your toddler, it’s must for mom and dad. Seriously as comfortable as the bed you share at home. Add a Sleeping Giant Memory Foam pad cover and you’ll wonder how you ever went without it.
Helinox: check out the new Chair One mini for the littles and the Chair One for mom and dad. They pack small so they are easy to take for any outdoor activity, lightweight , and really easy to set up.