Overlanding With a Baby

Overlanding With a Baby

Overlanding With a Baby

The Trip Report series features real stories from real families adventuring with their kids and babies. Have a story you want to share? Email us at hello@morrisonoutdoors.com.

Does outdoor life stop after having a baby? That was a question I was worried about before having JJ. 

My husband Eric and I met on a dating app. After seeing my profile, his first message to me was “Skier and mountain biker…You’re not just pulling my leg, right?”. Our first date was mountain biking and things just kept cranking from there. A shared interest in outdoor activities was a big factor that brought us together. 

After getting married, outdoor activities were an important part of our life! We love skiing, hiking, biking, camping, dutch oven cooking, kayaking, and exploring together. Doing these activities together helps us wield a stronger bond. 

Unlike many people who may think a flight to a warm beach is the best vacation. Our favorite way to go on vacation is overlanding. We enjoy exploring new areas along our road trips as we make stops to explore, hike, kayak, bike, camp, cook, etc. We find places to camp (often in secluded, dispersed places without amenities) along the journey. 

We realized that on almost every overlanding/camping trip we cooked my favorite food, grilled cheese. So we jokingly started calling ourselves “Grilled Cheese Overland”.

When our baby came along, we decided it was important to continue doing the outdoor activities we were doing. So we added another member to our Grilled Cheese Overlanding crew! We’ve enjoyed the challenge of finding new ways to experience the outdoors with our baby. 

A woman with a man wearing a baby in a Kelty hiking carrier walking across a bridge with a mountainous view

North Dakota Overlanding Road Trip

One such adventure was our North Dakota trip. Last summer, we took a trip to visit Eric’s parents in Missouri. Originally we had planned to fly from Utah to Missouri. As the trip grew near, we decided to cancel our flights and make it a road trip instead, taking the “long way” home. We planned stops in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and finally back home to Utah. We had never been to North Dakota before and wanted to see what it offered.

A Google Maps image of a road trip through the midwest

Stop 1: Minneapolis, MN. We stopped at the Mall of America, kayaked on a random lake, and stayed the night in a hotel.

Stop 2: Medora, North Dakota. We visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park and tent camped in Cottonwood Campground in the park. JJ slept soundly in his Little Mo 20-degree sleeping bag. Medora and the national park were beautiful! We definitely agreed with the tagline for Medora: “Adore it, Explore it”. There were Bison and prairie dog sightings. We hiked in some beautiful landscapes and a petrified forest. It was nice that this national park was more off the beaten path and therefore less busy! 

A woman and a man wearing a baby in a front-facing carrier standing in front of a sign for Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Stop 3: Custer State Park, South Dakota. We had visited South Dakota before and loved it! So we wanted to go back with JJ. Custer State Park is one of our favorite places. We drove the Needles Scenic Highway down to our campsite in Stockade Lake North Campground. It rained on our tent all night. Thankfully JJ slept even better than us through the wind and rain! The next day, we kayaked at stockade lake and hiked around Legion Lake. Then visited Wind Cave National Park just outside of Custer. We went on a cave tour and JJ, in the baby carrier, took the deepest (elevation-wise) nap of his life. 

A man wearing a baby in a front-facing carrier while hiking through a cave

Stop 4: Independence Rock and Martin’s Cove, Wyoming.  Independence Rock and Martin’s Cove were significant landmarks and stopping points for the Mormon Pioneers as they crossed the plains. We dispersed camped near Independence Rock and the next morning stopped at the Martin’s Cove Visitors Center. Eric and I both have pioneer ancestors, so it was inspiring to hear about the hardships, faith, and triumphs of the pioneers who crossed through those areas. We did the 5-mile hike to Martin’s Cove from the Visitor’s Center. 

A man wearing a smiling baby in a Kelty framed hiking pack while hiking in grasslands

Stop 5: Utah and Home! We made it home from our overlanding journey with lots of dirt, memories, and a few bug bites. 

Trip Takeaways and Tips

We learned that while it is a challenge to adventure with a baby, it's also worth it! We are building memories, bonding as a family, learning new skills, and hopefully instilling a love of the outdoors in JJ. 

These are a few things we’ve learned through our outdoor baby adventures.

  1. Sleep System. Figure out a sleep system that works for you! A lot of parents use a pack ‘n play for babies while camping. I’m sure that can also work, but we don’t love that setup. Instead, we use a small pop-up baby tent (the Kidco Peapod) that we set up inside our tent.  Then our baby is contained, but our whole tent isn’t taken up with a pack ‘n play. Also, the pop-up baby tent folds down small and has better ground insulation than a pack ‘n play. We also use a nest inside the tent and a Little Mo sleeping bag. The Little Mo is very good quality, soft, and warm. Our baby sleeps very soundly with this setup.
    A baby wearing a Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 20 sleeping bag
  2. Be flexible. There are many ways we’ve had to be flexible when traveling with a baby. One way is with feeding. Our baby was born with a microform cleft lip and submucosal cleft palate. This has caused a lot of feeding challenges, so he needs to be bottle-fed with pumped breast milk. On road and camping trips, I have had to find creative solutions for pumping in the car, storing pumped breast milk, and cleaning pumping parts. Thankfully, we’ve learned ways to make things work for us!
  3. Car stops and naps. Finding fun places to stop along the way is more enjoyable for everyone in the car, especially the baby! Plus, it gives you the chance to better explore new areas and give the baby car seat breaks. Also, utilize car driving time for naps. When possible, we tried to be on the road during nap time. 
  4. Mix it up on longer trips. On longer camping road trips, we like to mix in a night at a hotel and/or a campground with showers. It feels good to freshen up every couple of days. On the North Dakota trip, we stayed one night in a hotel. Then one night at a campground with showers.
    A man holding a baby while both smile in front of a tent
  5. Get the Gear. Choosing what gear to bring on an overlanding/road trip can be tricky. You have to assess the value of the item versus the amount of space it takes up. There is some baby gear that we think is very valuable to have for a campout adventure. 
    • Morrison Outdoor Little Mo Sleeping Bag (we have the 20-degree bag, but the 40 would be good in some warmer weather situations).
    • A baby sleeping in a tent with a Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 20 sleeping bag on
    • Baby camping chair with tray. We have a baby camping chair from amazon that folds down in a little bag and comes with a high-chair-like tray. It’s super useful for feeding at the campsite or just having somewhere contained for the baby to sit at the campsite with some toys. We’ve also used it outside of camping when we go to dinner at other people’s houses. Before he could sit up on his own, we also used a bumbo seat camping. 
    • Baby front carrier. This is nice to have to wear the baby around the campsite. It gives you two free hands. We’ve also used it on hikes instead of our hiking baby backpack at times. 

The biggest takeaway we learned from these adventures is that expanding families doesn’t mean an end to the adventure. It just adds a new flavor to the adventure that is even sweeter than before. 

A woman holding a baby in front of a large rock formation

Katie is a veteran Third Grade Teacher of 8 years but recently resigned to be a full-time Mom. She grew up in Washington state but has lived in Utah for the past 12 years. She and her husband Eric love taking their one-year-old boy on outdoor adventures. You will find them skiing, mountain biking, overlanding, camping, kayaking, hiking, hammocking, dutch oven cooking, and exploring as often as possible! Follow their adventures on Instagram @dutchoven_grilledcheese_ovld.

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