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When my husband and I were dating, we were big fans of tent camping. We loved hanging out by the campfire, sleeping under the stars, and enjoying novel campsite meals such as pizza baked over the campfire and freeze-dried crème brûlée. Each time we camped, we always managed to forget one pretty important item. Examples include bread for sandwiches, sugar, and sleeping bags, an unfortunately true story. After years of accumulating gear and learning from our camping mistakes, we felt that we knew the ropes of tent camping fairly well. We decided to share our love for the outdoors with our daughter when she was nine months old.
Our camping trip was to take place in mid-July. Since we would be outdoors 24/7, we wanted to avoid the extreme daytime heat of our usual campsites. My husband had been elk hunting at a campground in Telluride, Colorado years before and was familiar with the location. I had never been to the area and his descriptions of being surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains intrigued me. We checked the weather forecast and the temperatures would be much milder than any other spot we were interested in visiting: highs in the 70s during the day, lows in the 50s at night.
We settled on our destination and planned to stay for three nights. We wanted to ensure that our daughter would be comfortable at night in the cooler temperatures and were thrilled to discover the Morrison Outdoors Little Mo 40° sleeping bag. We ordered one and it arrived just in time for our trip. We debated whether or not we should bring our two dogs with us, since it was our maiden camping trip with a baby. I thought it might be a bit more relaxing if we didn’t, so we decided to board them.
Even before I had my baby, anytime I would go on an overnight trip, I used an Excel spreadsheet as a packing checklist. I felt a sense of accomplishment each time I changed the colors of the cells as I put each item in my suitcase. Given our track record of forgetting camping items in the past, I was determined not to forget any essentials for our baby or ourselves.
Together, my husband and I made a super spreadsheet listing all of the items we could possibly need according to specific categories like day of travel, feeding, diapering, sleeping, and entertainment. To some, a spreadsheet for packing may seem a bit silly, but for us, it was really useful. My husband was impressed at how it captured everything we needed to bring with us.
After dropping the dogs off at the dog boarder, we set off on our six-hour road trip. This would be the longest time our daughter had spent on the road. With a couple of good naps, frequent feeding breaks and diapering changes, and toys secured so she could reach them when she wanted some entertainment, she did great.
As we approached Telluride, the scenery was breathtaking. The towering peaks still had traces of snow visible through whisps of clouds. We drove down a long gravel road to our campsite that got rougher as we traveled, which my daughter didn’t seem to mind. She slept right through the very bumpy ride.
Arriving at Mosquito Haven
It was evening time and had just finished raining when we found the perfect campsite, nice flat ground, lots of space for our tent, and aspen trees everywhere. Once we parked, we opened the truck doors and were immediately greeted by mosquitos that buzzed straight into the cab of the truck before we even got out! We had camped in Colorado years ago, albeit in the fall time, and unfortunately didn’t realize how healthy the mosquito population was in this area or how enthusiastic they would be about our arrival.
I had brought mosquito repellant lotion just in case containing picaridin, which thankfully worked very well. I slathered it on my daughter and myself and quickly put on a long-sleeved shirt and changed her into a long-sleeved onesie. We unpacked our gear and started to set up camp. I busted out a mosquito net hat which provided some relief. My husband told me I looked ridiculous, and shortly after I found him wearing his mosquito net hat too. They were incessant!
Once our tent was pitched, I set up our portable playard inside and my daughter happily played with her toys while we made dinner. We figured we were experiencing enough novelty, so we stuck with tried and true fire-roasted hot dogs. As night fell, the temperature did too and we put our daughter in her Morrison Outdoor sleeping bag. She seemed quite comfortable as she played in her portable camping high chair.
A couple of her favorite toys were tethered to it with specially designed short baby bungee cords, to keep them clean and retrievable when she inevitably tried throwing them on the ground. After a dessert of s’mores. We got in our own sleeping bags, turned on the white noise app on my husband’s phone since we usually use a sound machine at home, and we all dozed off. My daughter slept all night.
Day of Exploration
The next day, my husband was sure that the mosquitos wouldn’t be as bad as they were the evening before, but unfortunately, they were. After breakfast, we decided to explore the area. Our friends had given us a hiking baby carrier backpack, which we had never used before. We got dressed, loaded our daughter up, and took off down a gravel road. The variety of wildflowers was incredible. We soon heard the sound of rushing water and shortly arrived at Bear Creek. The cool breeze and sounds of the creek were so peaceful.
We turned around and headed back to camp since it was approaching my daughter’s naptime. The walk back was so relaxing, she fell asleep in the backpack just as we were arriving at our campsite. We gingerly took her out of her backpack and put her in her playard. Her room at home has black-out curtains and I was very glad I brought a breathable stretchy black-out cover to put over her playard. My husband and I tried relaxing in our hammock and mosquito net hats, but it was difficult with the non-stop buzzing in our ears.
Once our daughter woke up, we decided to pack a picnic for lunch and explore a little further than we had during our morning hike. We left our campsite in a bit of a rush since being on the move seemed to be the only way to get relief from the mosquitos. We later realized that in the bustle of packing for our picnic, we, unfortunately, forgot to bring our picnic blanket and binoculars. We found a nice meadow and hung our hammock up amongst a small group of trees with a great view of the mountains. We enjoyed our picnic while all three of us sat quite snuggly in the hammock.
Change of Plans
That evening, we decided that the mosquitos made it too difficult for us to relax. We wanted to spend time outdoors, not hiding from them inside our tent all day. Our new plan was to wake up in the morning, pack, and head home. We repeated our routine from the evening before, and again our daughter slept through the night. At sunrise, we began packing up our campsite and the mosquitos were there to see us off. After another pleasant and uneventful road trip back home, we picked up our dogs and they were very happy to see us.
Key Takeaways: Things We Would Do Again
- Create a packing checklist.
- Make the most of time together and also be flexible when plans change.
- Bring items that made our trip with a baby manageable. Some of the most useful ones were:
- playard black-out shade
- camping highchair with toys on short baby bungee cords
- Morrison Outdoor sleeping bag
- hiking baby carrying backpack
- a source of white noise (app on phone)
Key Takeaways: Things we would like to do differently next time
- Go at a time of year when the mosquitos are not so bad, and bring more repellant lotion along with some citronella candles just in case
- Take our time packing for hikes. Maybe we need a spreadsheet for a hike packing checklist.
- Bring a mosquito net that can fit over our 10x10-foot pop-up canopy, which serves as our outdoor kitchen. We could easily fit all three of us and the playard comfortably inside.
- Bring the dogs.
We consider our first camping trip with our daughter to be mostly a success. We didn’t forget anything vital, she slept well, and no one got injured. We learned some valuable lessons that we are glad to share with other parents and we are looking forward to our next camping adventure!
Photos Courtesy of Claire Crompton
Claire is a nurse and writer living in scenic New Mexico with her husband and daughter. After 10+ years working in the hospital setting taking care of moms and babies, she now is a freelance writer. She loves spending time outdoors and enjoying hikes and picnics with her family and friends