My partner and I are both avid campers. He does most of the heavy lifting, and I like to organize all of our gear and look for interesting trails and diversions in one of our many books of BC maps. We have enjoyed many nights in off-the-beaten track campsites around the province, hunkered down to play cards by candle light, enjoying a meal cooked on an open flame.
When we had our baby, we were told it would probably be years before we would get back to our outdoor pursuits, and then even then, we would be compromising more than camping. But this year, when April rolled around, I still felt the call of the wild. For me, every year, April signals the beginning of the camping season. I eagerly shake out my tarps, inspect my gear, and prepare for the first, rainy weekend in the woods. And after three months of sleepless nights and nursing almost constantly, I was ready for a change of scene. Why not give camping with baby a shot?
After some deliberation, we settled on a rustic cabin instead of tenting. We wanted easy access to wilderness trails, and the feeling of being in the woods, but with clean running water and an electric stove. The cabin we chose was on the Olympic Peninsula, about a four-hour drive from Vancouver. It was the perfect accommodation for our first nights away as a family, and here is what I learned from our first foray:
Be prepared. Most campers don’t need this advice – it goes without saying – but with a baby, there are a few things you really don’t want to be without. On top of our usual supplies, we made sure we had extra layers, hats and socks, and extra pacifiers for when we inevitably lost one or two in the mud. I was also glad to have our Bumbo chair so baby could sit and watch the birds outside, and a front-carrier for long walks in the woods.
Be realistic. Camping is not a sterile sport. The truth is, you get dirty when you camp; your baby can do the same for two or three days. Let baby enjoy the luxury of a warm bath when you get home. In the meantime, wipe her down to keep her clean.
Relax! Trust your instincts; you are probably more prepared than you need to be. Now, enjoy the fresh air! Take a leisurely walk with baby and tell her about the trees and animals you see. Camping is about the most enjoyable experience you can share with your loved ones, and it’s the best way to instill a respect and appreciation of nature.
We loved our first trip as a family. Very soon we will break out our tent and give “the real thing” a go, with camping trips on the Sunshine Coast, in the Okanagan and the Cariboo this summer. Have you camped with an infant? What is your don’t-leave-home-without-it advice?