Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Creating a Cragbaby: Camping with Infants Under One is Fun!

A sweet Cragbaby waking up after spending his first night al fresco

Ever since I came up with the idea for the “Creating a Cragbaby” series, I knew I would need to do a post on camping how-to’s since its such a big part of climbing trips, but for some reason or another I never got around to it.  As Cragbaby is getting older, however, I’m realizing that we are fast approaching a different “phase” of camping – helpful tips that worked initially are no longer needed, while we’ve had to find solutions for new situations that never crossed our minds during the early months, and it not just about how to find the best inflatable tents.

So I figured I better go ahead and do this post before our helpful tricks and tips about camping with an infant get lost in a sea of toddler issues.  I also figure that this won’t be the last time we have to switch gears and do things differently, so expect a similar post about camping with a toddler long about the time C is ready to start preschool…(Yikes!  Preschool!)  But for now, here’s some answers to some of the important questions you might have about camping with an infant, whether your goal is a multi-day climbing trip or just a family night out in the woods.

A happy morning at Grayson Highlands State Park, VA


Home is where the heart is. A newborn has no concept of home as the address thats on their birth certificate.  Keep in mind that your bundle of joy spent 9 months floating around in a cushy, state-of-the-art mobile unit – so the idea of spending a night outside of the more recent 4-walled space that YOU call home won’t be nearly as unfamiliar and terrifying as one might first assume.  To a newborn, home is where the mommy is.  So that means it doens’t matter whether you are pacing the halls at 1 am jiggling and sh-sh-sh-ing a screaming banshee or whether you are snuggling together out under the stars listening to the crickets and cicadas.  As long as your little one feels your presence, everything should be a-okay.

That sure is a lot of gear for such a little guy…

No prior experience with the boogieman.  It’s way too early for common childhood fears of the dark, boogieman, or monsters under the bed.  Waiting til your child is at the ripe age of being too scared to get up and go to the bathroom by himself in the middle of the night is NOT the ideal time to introduce sleeping outside in a tent – “Oh yeah, Junior, and if you need to go during the night, just pee in the woods over there by that large shadowy monster rock…”

Bottom Line – Babies are very adaptable and the changes in routine will probably be harder on you than it will be on them.  In my opinion, there’s no time like the present!  The sooner you get him or her out and exposed to new situations, the more equipped they will be to deal with change in the coming months.  After several successful all day outings with Cragbaby, we took the plunge and did our first camp out when C was 10 weeks old.

Who was that shrieking monster terrorizing the campground last night? This guy’ll never tell…



Start with baby steps. (no pun intended…)  Now is not the time for that 50 mile trek into the backcountry that you’ve always wanted to do.  Remember that your main goal is to have some quality family time out in nature. Just make sure to go camping in an RV and also to keep your RV powered, as you will most definitely require it while you are camping with a baby. Your little one for sure won’t remember it, and depending on how sleep-deprived your family is at this point, the details might be fuzzy for you too, so there is no need for your destination to be exotic.  Our first family camping trip was car camping at the New River Gorge.  So we equipped ourselves with the best camping flashlight, sleeping bags/tents, a ton of food and headed into the wilderness mid-week to avoid crowds so just in case C screamed all night we could hopefully make a fast getaway the next day.  Steve and I made an agreement on the way up to not be disappointed or frustrated with C if he wasn’t ready yet and we had to bail (little did we know he would take to camping like a sport climber to a stick clip! )  Our first experience was heaven sent and just what our family needed to rejuvenate our spirits.  My fears of C keeping the entire campground awake with blood-curdling screams faded away when he ended up sleeping even better than he did at home.  We ended up staying 3 nights instead of 2, and got in 3 fabulous days of climbing.  It was the perfect way to celebrate Cragbaby’s 10 week birthday! Are you thinking of a camping trip with your kids? This checklist at will give you a clear idea about how to do it right.

Have a dry run. If you are really worried about how the night is going to go in the tent, you can always have a dry run in your backyard.  It might make a spectacle for your neighbors, but if you’re family is anything like my family, they probably already think you’re a little weird anyway, so you have nothing to lose?  If you’re night on the lawn ends up a disaster, you can always cry uncle and head back inside.

Up and at ’em, its climb time!

“10 more minutes mom…”


Catch your Zzz’s. – The number one question we got back in the early weeks of camping with Cragbaby was “Where does he sleep?”  The answer always was, it depends.  The first few times we let C drift off to dreamland in his portable swing.  Then we realized that more often than not C would konk out in the carseat on the way to the campground, or on the way back from dinner after a long day of climbing.  On those blissful days, we would simply place the carseat along with its snoozing occupant right in the tent.  When he woke up to nurse, he would just join me in my sleeping bag until morning.  That being said, we were a co-sleeping family for at least part of the night for a lot of the first year, so that seemed normal to us, but if the idea of a family snuggle patch doesn’t appeal to you, its also easy to bring a pack and play.  We exchanged the car seat/swing for a pack n play at some point towards the end of the first year, but we still usually end up enjoying some early morning cuddles .

Don’t forget to regulate. Body temperature, that is.  We lucked out with timing – since C was born on the first day of spring we didn’t need to worry about excess heat or extreme cold.  Do keep in mind, however that very young infants cannot regulate their body temperature as well as we can, so they will need extra layers even on mild-weather nights.

1 year old Cragbaby is Daddy’s little helper

Travel in herds. Choose a few loyal, understanding friends that will still talk to you the next day if your sweet pea by day turns into a tentman terror by night.  Not only will the extra set(s) of hands be a welcome help, but everyone knows camping is a social activity!


I think a better question is “Why not?”  Camping as a newly expanded family is a great opportunity to bond with each other, as well as a great learning experience for your child (and you too!)   Studies have shown that children that are given frequent doses of the outdoors are smarter, healthier, and happier than their stuck-indoors-behind-a-TV-screen counterparts.

Bottom Line – Don’t be afraid to get the whole family out there. Explore, get dirty, relax, stare at the stars, build a campfire – your wee one will enjoy camping for the same reasons you do.  The first few times will probably have some bumps in the road, but the best memories always do.  Those rare tales of logistical perfection are not the ones that are told and retold into classics around the campfire.

When did you first take your little one camping?  Feel free to share a funny story or add a tip!





28 Responses to “Creating a Cragbaby: Camping with Infants Under One is Fun!”

  1. Great post! J-man was 3 months old when he went camping for the first time and we were also a co-sleeping family so that made it a much easier. We did end up bringing a pack n play for nap time. I think appropriate clothing for your tyke is one of the key components of the outdoors with them. If they are comfortable the trip goes much more smoothly.

    I love the WHEN section. So true! They aren’t familiar with much and are very flexible.


  2. We were not a co-sleeping family, but we used a very small travel crib by Eddie Bauer. After that, she graduated to her own sleeping bag on her own thermarest (about 8 months). We also dress in tons of clothes. For every day clothes, it’s Target and consignment. But, for camping, skiing, hiking, climbing, etc, it’s Patagonia and Columbia. A warm baby is a happy baby!

    We started at 4 weeks old. She did her first hike to a mountain top at 8 days old, and her first climbing trip at 8 weeks old.

    Now that she is 3, those ages seem SOOOO easy! LOL. Also now that she is 3, camping is ridiculously easy. She spends her time pouring dirt on herself, examining sticks, and playing with rock people and even helps collect wood for the campfire and wash the dishes. It is so much fun!


  3. We lucked into a great deal on a tiny camper trailer when our baby was about 3 months old. Camping is a huge part of our lives, and I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure we keep it up! The trailer has been sooo wonderful with the baby. He sleeps in the bed with us, we have running water for warming bottles or cleaning messes, a bathtub at night time, and bear protection! (Yes, we had a bear run through our campsite one evening while G was napping) The best part is that we have a furnace. In the Rockies (esp Wyoming, my favorite place to camp), it gets bitterly cold at night, even in the middle of summer. So having the ability to regulate our temperature makes me sooo much less worried about the baby.


  4. Cup of tea & reading @cragmama: Hows, whens, whys and wheres of #camp ing with your infant: & more on creating CragBaby


  5. josh ulloa

    Our kids are 4 and 7 and I’ve made sure to get them out under the stars a couple times every year. Some things get easier, some harder. My son was absolutely terrified of fire when he was younger. Now the challenge is getting both of them to walk. The biggest lessons I’ve learned is to not have any expectations, be flexible with plans and keep it fun. Hopefully they’ll thank me for it when they’re older! 😉


    • @Melissa – Agreed that co-sleeping made it easier – and not just on C, but on us, being that we didn’t have to wonder as much about whether he was cold, hot, etc. since he was right there with us.

      @Eryn – I hear you on all the extra layers of clothing – it seemed like his clothes bag had more in it than mine!

      @Kate C – I have an unreasonable fear of bears. I think that situation might would have sent me over the edge…

      @Josh – My son spends the majority of his time trying to climb INTO the fire (which is why for now campfires only happen after he goes to bed!) – so if you could pass along some healthy fire fear that would be great!

  6. Chris

    We took our son camping for the first time when he was 5 months old and have since progressed to a 4-week road trip. The most difficult part for us has been the bugs, mosquitoes in particular. Anymore than a couple of days in a really buggy location is enough to wear away at your sanity.
    As for the climbing, we’re still working on really integrating it as a family activity. Bouldering seems to be a little easier with a little one but we haven’t retired the ropes yet.
    Thanks for the blog posts, it keeps me hopeful.


  7. Kristen

    You keep the inspiration coming and I love it! Thank you!!!


    • @Chris – Wow, a 4 week road trip is impressive!

      @Kristen – Thanks for the encouragment! Glad you are enjoying the posts 🙂

  8. I don’t have kids but love reading these posts! RT #Camping with Infants Under One is Fun! via @Cragmama


  9. Creating a Cragbaby: Camping with Infants Under One is Fun! | Cragmama


  10. Jessica Greene

    We take a trip up to a music festival every year for a week and camp on a huge deck under the stars, But I feel like the first time we took Naomi tent camping was a some point after our first trip with her for that… I can’t remember. We were at the ‘Rocky Bluff’ camp ground outside of Hot Springs, it was pretty much just us there; which was good because Naomi decided to go ahead and start cutting her molars that night. Not a fun night for me or her, but we did really enjoy camping. We are hoping to go out again this fall a few times. Now that she is two years old I am sure that she would have a lot more fun.
    She has said a few times that she ‘likes to hang out with us.’ <3


  11. Jessica Greene

    Also, Erica, I really don’t think that there is such a thing as an ‘unreasonable fear of bears,’ just so you know. 🙂


    • @Jessica – I bet Naomi loved all the music. C’s face lights up whenever any music comes on, and he tries his hardest to bust a move 🙂

  12. I have a friend who was asking about this today. You have some great tips here!


  13. Angela

    This is so helpful. Thank you! We will be taking our little one camping in a couple of weeks. Its an annual “family camp” we go on with our church. He will also be 10 weeks old :). I was a bit nervous, but reading your blog helped a ton. Glad we will have lots of helpful hands for the first trial… Question though, do you have a packing list for camping with an infant? Or any must-haves or wish-you-hads on your first trip.



    • Erica

      Angela – What a perfect time of year for a first-time camping trip for your little guy! I’m sure all the extra helping hands will make things a lot easier. As far as packing goes, my best piece of advice would be to bring more burp cloths/wipes than you’d ever think that you would need! It’s amazing how much all the dirt, grime, and spit-up adds up over the course of a weekend! 🙂 Best of luck and have fun! Let me know how it goes!

  14. Anna

    This is such a great post – we are expecting our first and are eager to go car camping with the little one. It looks like your baby slept in some sort of snow suit – can you recommend sleeping arrangements / gear for a 10 week old baby? I dont think we are comfortable co-sleeping in our sleeping bags and we’re wondering what works best for the baby sleeping in his own space.

    Thank you for any advice!


  15. Erica

    Anna – We started off with a down bunting from REI. It was a hand me down and the 12 months size lasted us from 6 months through just shy of 18 months! As far as sleeping arrangements went, he’d usually fall asleep in his carseat or portable swing gazing at the fire at night, then we’d just put the whole thing in the tent. Other times I’d nurse him to sleep and place him in a pack n play (but that probably wasn’t until he was 3 or 4 months old or so.) Either way, whenever he’d wake up in the middle of the night to nurse, I’d nurse him and then we’d just co-sleep the rest of the night. I think Jessica’s idea is a good one as far as everyone having their own space! Oh, and congratulations on your baby – to – be! 🙂


  16. Cab

    we started our campers young. they both were camping within their first month, although baby #1 was born in sept so we only crammed in a few trips before it was too cold. we always pack extra clothes and washclothes. babies slept in a moses basket(car camping) then on a roll out mat cozied in warm clothes. as they got older they try to sneak into our bed but getting them their own sleeping bags have been a 1-up for us! they argue over who gets which one and cheerfully sleep next to us. both of them have slept better camping than at home…biggest pain was nursing without a good backrest in the tent…booooo :-/ kiddos are now 3 and 2 yrs old. heading out to camp tomorrow! they have been pretend camping in the living room while I pack.


  17. Maggie

    Awesome! Just what I needed to hear… That it’s possible to take a 6wk old on a road trip and camp along the way. We’re an outdoorsy family expecting any day now and are planning to fit her into our lives; she will be adaptable at first, right?! Cannot wait to show her all the woods, crags, and lakes we live to experience!


    • Kate

      How was your experience with your 6wk old?

  18. Thanks Erica for your Great post! Definitely, camping is one of the ways to create family bonding stronger. I support your opinion that children having outdoor camping are more intelligent, sharper and smarter. Camping is enjoyable if some friendly people can be managed for camping.

    What do you think about camping with twin babies? As we know maintaining twin babies is much more challenging. What do you suggest?


  19. Anton Schneider

    We’re planning on taking our little one camping at Yellowstone this July and we’ve gone on a couple trial runs; not sure how it’s gonna go yet. But I was thinking about getting some bed stones that can be preheated in the fire, wrapped in a towel/blanket, and placed under (with a safe amount of separation) her pack and play to radiate heat for the whole night. The co-sleeping thing I don’t think is going to work for us (it went terribly this last weekend until we put her on blanket on floor, then she was A-ok). What do you think about the bed stones? Do you know of anyone trying this and will they keep her warm enough/stay warm enough through the night?


    • Erica

      Hi Anton! I actually have never heard of the bed stones….but I’m very intrigued by the idea! It seems like a great idea to put under a pack and play, so long as there was the (as you mentioned) safe amount of separation. Some kiddos are great with co-sleeping, others not so much. How old is your little one? Pack and plays can be a little annoying if night time feedings are still required – what about a super thick camping mat? Honestly we also had a friend of ours put baby in a laundry basket that was lined with blankets! Best of luck figuring out what works best for you guys – and enjoy Yellowstone – it’s so beautiful out there!!!

  20. Kate

    Hi, we are experienced campers and are keen to get outdoors with it 10 week old. We cosleep at home but I’m having trouble working out how to do so safely in an tent with sleeping bags up round faces, soft air mats and gaps between mum and dad’s sleepiing mats… What did you do? Thanks


    • Erica

      Hey Kate,
      Cosleeping is hard when they are teeny tiny and seem so fragile! I would definitely say go for it during the warmest possible weather, so that you don’t have to have so many loose layers floating about. When camping we usually did some sort of combo of carseat/bouncer/packnplay/cosleeping. How do you guys normally cosleep at home – in a “sidecar” beside the bed, or a small basket in between parents, or just beside mom/dad? Our cosleeping typically happened after middle of the night nursing sessions when we would just fall asleep together. While camping, I would make sure we all had extra layers on so we didn’t have to use heavy blankets. We have a big tent so that everyone could have their own space, and baby could have plenty of clear space to sleep in between us.

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN