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Before having our son, my fiancé, Matt, and I typically spent our weeks planning for the weekend or cleaning up after a weekend away. On weekends we were camping, ice fishing, foraging for mushrooms, shed hunting, or fly fishing. We talked many times about how we couldn’t wait to introduce our future children to the outdoors and watch them experience all the things we love.
Many people told us how much our lives would change when we had kids, and although we knew it would be true, we were also determined not to lose out on the things we love to do. One of the best things about having kids is getting to see the world through their eyes anyways, right?
Adding a Child to the Mix
Our typical camping trip before having kids usually involved a tent somewhere isolated, on crown land, near a river with our dog. It usually revolved around fishing, exploring, and beer. Our first camping/fishing trip with our 5-month-old son involved a small amount of fishing, so much exploring for him, not nearly as much beer, and a much earlier bedtime.
We chose to sleep train our son shortly after the 4-month sleep regression started. Let’s be honest, it was less of a choice and more of a last resort. Our camping season happened to start up just as we were well into the sleep training process and he had a good handle on the new skill of putting himself to sleep. We felt very fortunate about that timing and had some hope that he might do okay with the nights, but given that it was such a different environment, we didn’t set our expectations too high.
We expected to potentially get zero sleep and pack up after one night and head home. Even though we are usually tent campers, we chose to ease into camping with a baby. We rented a small trailer for this first trip and stayed in a campground. Out of the handful of times we have camped in an actual campground, a couple of the trips were to this same spot and it holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the same place we camped at last year when Matt proposed while I was pregnant with our son!
Putting Our Minds at Ease About Safe Sleep While Camping
As a worrier, two of my big fears when taking our baby camping include him being cold at night and him being safe at night. It seems to be hard to find a good solution to keep him both warm and have him in a sleep safe environment. I just don’t trust myself to be able to keep the sleeping bag away from his face in a co-sleeping situation and I know I’d likely end up sleeping with no covers to not risk smothering him. We ended up purchasing the Little Mo sleeping bag to mitigate these worries.
Although we didn’t use it at night during this trip (yay for trailer heaters), we did try it out during his naps. It was amazing! Even with the trailer heater, his little hands were so cold. The sleeping bag completely solved that problem and he was at such a good temperature. We also purchased some Wee Woolies merino base layers for him. I know how much of a difference a good sleeping bag and base layers make for me and I feel like our baby should have that same quality gear. I feel so much confidence that we will have success on our next camping adventure in a tent knowing that we will be able to keep him warm and safe.
The first night, I didn’t sleep a wink. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because of the baby at all. He slept great! So, the following day was mostly spent snuggle-sleeping with the baby when he napped to try to catch up on sleep while Matt took the dog on mini fishing adventures. Having him around was a nice excuse to catch up on some sleep.
Seeing Outdoor Adventure Through Our Child’s Eyes
The absolute best thing about this first weekend away was watching him experience the things we love for the first time. Instead of spending the entire day fishing a river, we had more fun spending whatever time frame worked for him doing our activities. The focus was on watching him enjoy being outside, seeing new things, and having fun. Even though it is normally difficult to get a laugh out of him, he thought chopping wood was hilarious. We never would have found that out if we hadn’t taken him camping! He also smiled the entire time we were outside, he absolutely loved it. As it turns out, having our baby camping with us didn’t feel as difficult as I expected it to.
One thing that has amazed us, is that somehow his experience camping has significantly improved his sleeping habits at home. He has been falling asleep faster, and he naps for longer since we’ve been back from the trip.
Some of the biggest Lessons we Had From this First Trip:
- Have low expectations. It’s not that we expected him to fail, but by lowering what we expected of him and knowing it would be very different than at home, we were pleasantly surprised when he managed everything so well.
- Be flexible. Changing up how we get him to sleep or what we do when he wakes in the night really took the stress off. We stopped worrying about doing things how we usually do them. This is all so new to him, so we adjusted what we did to suit his needs.
- You don’t need as many clothes as you think you do. As a serial over-packer, I think I packed enough for a two-month trip for him. I was worried about his clothes getting wet or poop explosions or weather changes. In reality, he spent the first day in a short-sleeved onesie in the shade and the second day in his merino base layer. It is a good idea to bring backup outfits, but I could have left the full closet of clothes at home.
- Safety when fishing with a baby. We made note of some important things to keep in mind when fly fishing with a little one in tow!
- Always make sure you have good solid footwear for crossing the rivers with a little one attached to you. Those rocks are slippery!
- I always make sure I am wearing sunglasses when fishing in case a rogue fly goes anywhere near my eyes and we did the same for our baby. Anytime we were casting, we made sure he had his sunglasses on. (Note: picture below with no sunglasses was for posing purposes!)
- Talk with your family doctor about baby sunscreen and when your baby can wear it. If you are going to be on the water, the benefits of a baby younger than 6 months wearing sunscreen might outweigh the risks. Always make sure your little one has a hat on and clothing that covers as much of them as you can manage (if you can get some UV-protective clothing, even better!)
For anyone considering taking their baby on a trip but worrying about how hard it will be. My advice to you is to take the trip, it will be worth it! You will figure things out as you go and each trip will be smoother, but the things you learn about yourself and your baby on these trips are invaluable. We can’t wait for our next trip and the new memories that come with it.
My name is Mary-Ellen. My fiancé Matt and I love camping, hiking, fly fishing, ice fishing, foraging for mushroom’s and exploring outside with our 3-year-old golden retriever, Nahla, and now with our 5-month-old son, Corbin. We are from Alberta, Canada, and do most of our exploring in Southern Alberta.