Going camping with a one-year-old can seem daunting but with a bit of planning, it can be a fun, inexpensive way for the whole family to enjoy the great outdoors.
Below, we share our top tips we’ve learned from going camping with our one-year-old (and his big sister!)
1. Get them ready for the trip by practicing camping before you go
If your children have never been in a tent before or never used a sleeping bag or blow-up bed then they’re naturally going to freak out if the first time they do this is outside! I’d recommend getting them used to camping equipment at home first. If you have the room outside then pitch a small play tent (don’t worry about using the full-size family tent) and let your one-year-old explore what it feels like to be under canvas.
You can set up camp in your living room as well, making a den out of a sheet and using the sleeping bag or inflatable bed you’re planning to take with you for a cozy afternoon of fun.
2. Take the right toddler bed with you
It’s a good idea to do as much as you can to make your kids feel as comfortable as possible at bedtime when camping. So as well as trying the practice idea above, make sure your children are comfortable in what they’ll be sleeping in. Now’s not the time to try a new style of sleeping bag or bed for the first time.
Travel cots are ideal as they can double up as playpens, are easy to put up, safe and your child is likely to have slept in one at some point before.
Inflatable toddler beds tend to be designed for children over the age of two so are not ideal for one year olds, who really should sleep on a firm surface.
Another option is a travel bassinet, these are smaller and more lightweight than travel cots so work well if you’re short on space.
3. Keep your one year old warm in the tent
Nights can get cold in a tent, even if it’s been sunny all day. Babies feel the cold so plan ahead and make sure they’re toasty warm and comfortable at night.
Rather then putting them in their normal sleepwear and piling the blankets on, choose a sleeping bag with arms to keep their entire body warm. Bring a 2.5 tog sleeping bag (and maybe a lighter tog one if you’re confident it won’t get too chilly at night), and fleecy all in one sleep suits. Some baby sleeping bags have detachable arms so these are a good way to try and get the balance right with the amount of clothes your one year old is wearing to bed.
The best way to keep a one year old warm is to ensure they’re protected from the cold ground. This means layering blankets under them if they’re in a travel bassinet or f they’re co-sleeping with you on a camping mat. If they’re sleeping a travel cot, these tend to be off the ground anyway.
4. Keep your expectations for sleep low
It’s tough but some children don’t adapt well to sleeping in a tent, or seeping anywhere other than where they normally sleep. Combine this with a change in routine and you may be in for a few rough nights.
It’s best to do what you can to make the sleep situation as comfortable as possible for your one year old but keep your expectations low and don’t expect them to do a 12 hour stretch (though it would be nice!). If you’re out and about in the countryside all day then they’ll naturally get tired, but no blinds can mean late nights and early mornings on the campsite.
Before you set off, make a deal with the other grownups you’re camping with about who will take the early morning and late night shifts with the baby and have some ideas about how to keep your child entertained if they wake up at 5am! Going for a dawn stroll with your baby might be the perfect way to make the most of the peace and quiet before the rest of the campsite wakes up.
5. Stock up on their usual milk
Most one year olds will still be having around four milk feeds a day. If you’re breastfeeding then you don’t need to worry about bringing any milk with you! If you’re planning to stop breastfeeding then consider waiting until after your camping trip. Again, your baby is likely to have a more enjoyable trip if they have as many home comforts as possible.
If you’re camping without a fridge then you have two options – buying fresh milk daily (simple if there’s a shop nearby) or using formula milk cartons if your little one is used to having formula milk. Formula in cartons lasts for months and you don’t have to make it up as you would regular formula so it’s a much simpler option.
You can buy 500ml (just under 1 pint) cartons of UHT full fat milk. These will last for months you can take as many as you need and just open one at a time, to avoid the waste of using larger cartons, as UHT still needs to be refrigerated once opened. UHT will be a better choice than formula milk if your baby isn’t used to formula and may not like the taste.
6. Keep them entertained and in one place with a buggy and a playpen
There’ll be time on your trip when you need to make sure your baby is safely secured, either in a playpen when you’re cooking for the campfire is on, or strapped in safely while eating. We took a lightweight travel pushchair with us and used it pushchair for everything! When I was cooking, the baby was strapped in and given some toys to play with to keep him safe and we also used it as a high chair once the food was ready.
If you’re taking a travel cot then this makes an excellent (and portable) playpen. Before you go, fill a little storage box with your baby’s favorite toys (this box can also double up as a wash basin for them). To avoid annoying your campsite neighbors, leave the noisy toys at home! Pack toys that are easy to clean and difficult to break. Blow up toys and stacking cups or boxes are a great ideas as these fold up small and can be easily transported.
What’s the best camping sleeping bag for a one-year-old?
A sleeping bag with detachable sleeves means you can easily adjust your baby’s sleepwear depending on the temperature. Choose a sleeping bag with a tog of at least 2.5 as this should be enough to keep your one-year-old warm and snuggled in the tent. Most sleeping bag brands have a maximum of 2.5 togs for their sleeping bags, but the company Slumbersac sells sleeping bags that go up to 3.5 togs which is idea for cooler nights.
If you’re camping somewhere with mild nighttime temperatures then try a sleeping bag which features two bags in one so you can choose between a 1 tog and 2.5 tog sleeping bag. The Mama Designs Babasac Multi Tog Baby Sleeping Bag features 1 and 2.5 tog options in one but it’s only available for babies 18 months or over so will be a good choice for older one year olds.