When parenthood is fewer than nine months away, don’t fall into the trap of thinking a baby will confine you to a life devoid of the great outdoors. A life that revolves around fun around the house, backyard baby birthday parties, and loitering about in baby-centric locations. Parenthood is a blessing. Just like camping, mother nature, and flowing single track. Get out and make some memories!
You already know you want to expose your child to hiking, overlanding, fishing, etc. when they are older. But, what will you do for the first year or two? Here’s a secret thousands of years in the making; your baby is old enough much sooner than you think. Too many parents fall victim to putting off family time in the great outdoors until their child is “old enough.” Plus it’s a great excuse to buy some awesome new baby camping gear.
Just commit to a short, close-to-home trip to test the waters, and take things from there. Don’t stress out, don’t overpack and please don’t stop camping. Here are a few items we think will help to get your adventure family off to a good start…
We’re Using: BabyBjorn’s Carrier One
You may have one already, but a baby carrier that allows you to go hands-free is as great around the campsite as it is at home. The Baby Carrier One Air from BABYBJORN is our personal favorite.
We’ve tried the others… the wraps, the Ergobaby, and a few others. The Baby Carrier One is by far the easiest to use and best looking (in our opinion).
We’re Using: A Secondhand Osprey Poco
You will grow to love your baby-carrying hiking backpack. It’s great for hikes in the forest, trips to the zoo, or any situation where a stroller would drive you completely crazy. Plus they provide an excellent vantage point for your baby. These packs are built for comfort and the best models come from companies that know a thing or two about backpacking like Osprey and Deuter.
First, Osprey’s Poco Pack is a great option. It’s well made, comfortable, and we think Osprey is a great company to support.
Our second pick would be Deuter’s Kid Comfort III.
A Crib in the Woods
We’re Using: phil&ted’s Traveller Crib
Guava Family created the first ultra packable baby crib that we came to know. Their GoCrib was basically an inflatable playpen that packed neatly into a small backpack. Fast forward a few years and Guava introduces the Lotus Everywhere Crib. It’s a similar product that ditches the inflatable structure of the GOCrib in favor of a rigid folding frame. This gives parents the ability to give their baby camper a place to hang out in under 20 seconds. You do not need to inflate anything. It meets flammability standards without toxic flame retardants. It even has a bassinet option, a mosquito net attachment, and an available sunshade.
Another great option is the BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light. It doesn’t have the awesome little… um “garage door” that the Lotus offers. However, it’s light and packs down to a pretty compact package.
Baby’s First Camp Chair
We’re Using: a Bumboo and a Boppy
While baby carriers are great around the campsite, you’ll eventually need a place for the little one to lounge around a take in the sights and sounds of camping. There are plenty of options out there, but we really like baby seats from Bumboo. They’re stable, easy to clean, and very affordable.
We were really into our Bumboo initially. Then a physical therapist warned us that too much time in a Bumboo may be hard on a baby’s hips. So we picked up a Boppy – basically a huge airline neck pillow that a baby sits inside and does baby stuff. It works really well and we wish we’d bought it sooner. But, we still use the Bumboo too… it’s awesome for bath time and ours even has a tiny tray that transforms it into a highchair… or, more accurately a low chair. It’s also not made from fabric so cleanup is miles easier.
Bottom line… get both. Use the Boppy on a playmat for tummy time and a bit of upright support. Use the Bumboo for everything else. Also, check with your pediatrician or a qualified medical professional about the hip comment above or other medical concerns. We are not doctors… of any kind.
A Screen House or Awning Enclosure
If your adventure vehicle does not have an awning or you would prefer something free-standing. Take a look at the OzTent’s screen house. It’s up in short order and OzTent is known for making Outback-tested high-quality gear.
Final Words of Encouragement
For the most part, the biggest hurdle is making the decision to get out of helicopter parent mode and go somewhere awesome. For sanity’s sake, try to keep the baby camping gear… (and baby accessories in general) to a minimum. If you approach your baby’s first camping trip with the restraint of an ultralight backpacker, you’ll avoid playing adventure vehicle Tetris. You’ll also be on the road much, much sooner.
When you’re camping, overlanding, or hiking things will go wrong. You know already know that. Your baby will cry. If you’ve spent more than a few hours around a baby you know that as well. With that said, you also know how big of an impact outdoor adventures have on your life. Plus, when you return home you’ll have in your possession some great photos, video to share and most importantly – wonderful memories of your child’s first adventure.