Taking kids camping can mean it’s a bit of a squeeze in the car, but for young children, high chairs are essential for stress-free mealtimes. When we were looking at taking our kids’ camping, we found a number of potential high chairs and alternatives to try out.
So can you take a high chair camping? Yes, but the camping high chair you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your car and what your child prefers.
The options are:
- an existing high chair, provided it can be taken apart or folds flat
- a specialist camping high chair
- something you’d be taking anyway which can double up as a high chair
Each has its pros and cons and below we look at some of the best space-saving, child-friendly options available that won’t cost you a fortune.
How to choose the best high chair for a family camping trip
Choosing the right high chair can help a camping trip run more smoothly as it won’t take up half the space in your car and, most importantly, you can help ensure your child has somewhere safe to eat at mealtimes.
The easiest option is to buy a high chair designed specifically for camping, but if you’re trying camping for the first time, don’t camp very often, or if your child will soon grow out of a high chair, it is probably not worth spending money on something you may only use a handful of times.
We look at specific camping hair chairs further down the page but for now, here’s a look at how you could use your child’s regular high chair for camping.
Traditional high chairs, i.e. those designed to be used at dining room tables and are stand-alone high chairs with built-in trays are ideal as children can be safely strapped in and mess is kept to a minimum due to the tray and wipe clean design. However, not all high chairs like this are a good option for camping as some of them aren’t designed to fold down or take apart.
Below are some tips for what to look for in a traditional high chair that could also double up as a camping high chair.
Portability and size
- Only take a high chair camping if it’s light. Traditional wooden high chairs are likely to be a pain to lift around a campsite and repeatedly open and fold flat.
- Choose one that folds flat or can be taken apart. The Ikea Antilop high chair doesn’t fold flat but it does come apart easily as the legs can be popped out. It won’t take up too much room either as the chair is bucket-shaped so can be used to pack things in the car.
- Check the high chair fits in your car. Some high chairs are designed to fold flat but have a wide, ridged frame which, if you have a small car, might not fit in your boot.
Maintenance and cleaning
- Don’t take a wooden high chair camping as rain and dampness could damage the wood (plus they’re pretty heavy!).
- Choose a simple, wipe clean design with minimal parts so you can easily wipe the entire high chair clean after meals. Residual food could attract insects and vermin so it’s important to clean and store your high chair as soon as your child has finished with it.
- Avoid chairs with fabric, unless this can be wiped clean or is machine washable.
- If the ground is uneven where you’re camping then a high chair with a wider base or legs will be safer than one with a smaller base.
- On the flip side of this, high chairs with wider legs/bases can be a tripping hazard so position the chair away from areas of high foot traffic.
- Always choose a high chair with at least a three-point harness (where there’s a strap on both sides of the waist that clips into another strap between the legs).
Using a car seat or a buggy as a high chair
If you’re only going camping for a night or two or are really short on space then you might want to use your child’s buggy or car seat as a high chair.
Although car seats come with built-in straps so will keep your child in one place they’re not a great alternative to a high chair. This is because unless you want your child to eat their meals in the car, you’ll have to remove the seat every time your child eats. Taking car seats in and out can be a very faffy and awkward process.
Another issue with car seats is that they have to be placed on the floor (never attach a car seat to a regular chair or place on a table) so your child won’t be at the same height as the rest of the family for mealtimes. Whether this is a problem or not will depend on your and your child’s preferences. However, positioning the car seat on the floor could be dangerous as it’s likely to be unstable and could easily be knocked over.
The final reason why using a car seat as a high chair alternative is not a good idea is the mess! Car seats are notoriously difficult to clean, with lots of straps, cushions, pads, and crevices for food to get caught in.
Using a buggy as an alternative to a high chair is a better idea as it’s off the ground and safe, provided the brake is on. Buggies are easy to move to different positions (for example if you want to move your baby out of the sun while they’re eating) and you’re probably packing one anyway so it’s a great way to save space on taking a separate high chair.
There are a couple of downsides to using a buggy though – the main one being the mess. As with car seats, many buggies have fabric and crevices that are magnets for crumbs and spillages and can be time-consuming to clean.
The best way to avoid too much mess if your child is eating in a buggy is to:
- remove the bar from the front of the buggy as this will be a prime target for spills
- sit your baby on a towel before putting them in the buggy
- use a large bib (one that goes down to their knees is ideal)
- bear in mind that your child won’t have anything to put their food on so you’ll need to hold it for them or pass them small items of food at a time.
It’s important that children sit upright for meals to help reduce choking hazards, so if they do eat their meals in their buggy, ensure it’s in an upright position.
Booster seats – the easiest to pack and smallest alternative to a high chair
Booster seats attach to dining chairs with straps and are usually used when a child is too big for a high chair but not yet large or stable enough to sit unaided at a dining chair.
Booster seats make ideal options for camping high chairs as they fold flat, take up very little room and often come with a tray. Some even have extra storage in the seat itself so you can pack your child’s cutlery and bowls in the seat – how’s that for space-saving?
The main downside is that you won’t be able to safely strap the booster seat to a camping chair or a plastic chair, as they could topple over if the baby wriggles or is knocked.
They can be placed directly on the floor though so your child will be safe but, as with a car seat, they will be at a different height to other family members. However, this may not be much of a problem as camping meals tend to be very informal.
As a safety precaution, make sure you sit with your kid when they’re eating so if they do start to topple over you can catch them and make sure the seat has something solid behind it, such as an ie box, to help stop it falling backwards.
- Can I use a hook-on hair as a camping high chair?
This isn’t a good idea as these hook-on seats usually need to be attached to a strong and sturdy table to be safe. As most camping tables are plastic or foldaway, it’s unlikely they’ll be strong enough to support the hook on the seat and your kid.