Up until recently, I would have thought that packing a baby camping bed was a dumb idea. My general philosophy about camping is that lots of stuff = lots of stress. A separate camping bed for a baby seemed like pure excess.
But then my baby started crawling and walking. Co-sleeping in the tent suddenly wasn’t such a good option anymore.
- Best camping bed for infants: Brica Travel Bassinet
- Best camping bed for crawling/walking babies: Phil&Teds Travel Crib
Keep reading to see all of my picks for the best baby camping beds.
Not sure what else to bring? See my camping with a baby checklist here.
Why Bring a Baby Camping Bed?
When Lydia (who is now 14 months) was still a small baby, she would just fall asleep while breastfeeding. So, on our first camping trips, I just put her in a baby sleeping bag on her own sleeping pad (see what baby sleeping bags I use here).
As she got older, I stopped nursing her to sleep and taught her (I hate the term sleep training) to fall asleep in her crib on her own. The moment she realizes that she is “trapped” in the crib, she gives up on the idea of more playtime and falls asleep quickly.
I might have screwed myself because she absolutely will NOT fall asleep cuddling next to me anymore. The moment she realizes that she can escape, she will start running away from bed. She does this even if I’m lying next to her, attempting to trap her in my arms.
Obviously, this presents a problem when camping or traveling. The only smart solution is to get a camping crib/portable travel crib. Then I can put her in it and she will give up on escaping fall asleep peacefully. 🙂
Other reasons to bring a travel bed when camping with a baby:
- So you don’t worry about squishing your child while co-sleeping in the tent.
- To have somewhere to put your child while you do camp chores.
- Keep mosquitoes off your child (many have built-in mosquito nets).
- Keep other creepy crawlies like snakes and spiders away from your child.
- Prevent your child from wriggling all over the tent (and kicking you in the face!)
There are a lot of types of portable cribs and travel bassinets that could be used as a baby camping bed. But not all types achieve all of the goals listed above. So really think about how and where you will be using the camping crib/bassinet.
What Type of Baby Camping Bed?
You’ve got three main options for a camping bed for your baby: co-sleepers, portable bassinets, and portable cribs/playpens. If you don’t mind bringing a lot of stuff while camping, you might even want to bring two of these options (like a bassinet for inside the tent and a playpen for the campsite).
Here’s the pros/cons of each camping bed option and what they are best for.
Option 1: Co-Sleeper Boxes
Co-sleeper boxes are designed to prevent you from rolling over on your baby while co-sleeping. They also have the benefit of keeping your baby in place – which is great for babies that like to wriggle off their sleeping pads while camping.
Many of these are pretty similar to portable bassinets. The difference is that they never have 4 legs (some have two legs so they can be attached to your bed, but you can’t use these as a baby camping bed).
The walls around co-sleeper boxes are also usually lower than with travel bassinets, or might be missing one side, which makes nighttime feedings a bit easier.
- Good for infants
- Keeps baby from wriggling off sleeping pad
- Prevents you from squishing your baby
- Easy to fit in a tent
- Makes nighttime breastfeeding easy
- Doesn’t elevate baby off the ground
- No mosquito protection
Get this if: You will be camping with an infant and your major concern is rolling over on your baby.
Option 2: Portable Bassinets
Portable bassinets come on legs or flat. If you are breastfeeding and your baby wakes up many times during the night, I’d recommend getting a flat one. It will make getting your baby in/out of the bassinet for feedings easier.
If you go with this option, then get a portable bassinet which has a cover for shade or mosquito netting. You can rig a mosquito net over other bassinets, but your baby might pull it over her face – so better to go with an option that already has one built-in.
- Good for infants
- Some elevate child off the ground
- Mosquito and sun protection
- Not suitable for older babies or toddlers
- Awkward to put in a small tent
- May take up a lot of space in tent
- Have to lift baby in/out of it for nighttime feedings
Get this if: You are camping with an infant and you want to keep mosquitoes/creepy crawlies off your child.
Option 3: Portable Cribs and Play Pens
Once you child starts walking (but is still too young to understand the concept of danger!), these are great for camping. The larger ones double as play pens. You’ll be able to put your child down without worrying that she’ll run off or start eating a bunch of mud (though that would probably boost immunity 😉 ).
If you have a smaller tent, then many portable play pens won’t fit inside. There are smaller options available. You still might want to get the play pen to bring with you though for all the times you want to do camp tasks.
- Good for older children too
- Crawling/walking babies can’t escape
- Can play in it while you do camp tasks
- Easy to put a mosquito net over
- Often come with changing stations
- Take up a lot of space
- Have to lift child in/out for nighttime feedings
- Difficult to get sleeping baby in without waking her
- Legs might damage the tent floor (see how it is propped on blocks in the image above)
Get this if: You have an older baby, want a safe play area for your baby outdoors, and/or have a very large tent.
Important: Sleeping Pads and Camping Cribs
Many portable cribs and bassinets don’t have mattresses underneath them, or the mattresses are really crappy. It is really important that you provide insulation for child from underneath.
Otherwise, the ground will literally suck the heat right out of your child. I talk about this in my post about the best sleeping bags for babies.
Best Camping Cribs and Bassinets Reviewed
This is a really basic, cheap co-sleeper box. It is great for camping with babies because it doesn’t take up much space. The metal frames are sturdier than the wobbly plastic ones one some co-sleeper boxes.
The mattress is about 1-inch thick. If you are camping in cold weather, make sure to put a sleeping pad underneath the sleeper box. Get it here
The main thing to like about this travel bassinet is that it has built-in mosquito netting. You can easily open or close the netting to get to your baby. The mattress is about 1 inch thick. So, like with the co-sleeper above, you’ll need to put a sleeping pad underneath the bassinet if it is really cold weather. Get it here
This camping bassinet doesn’t fold down as small as the others, but that’s why it can have a large, round shape. There are actually two canopies that you can open/close to completely protect your baby from sun (UV 20) and insects.
The Baby Dome is a lot bigger than it looks in the pictures. It’s good for babies up to 27 inches long. But, once your baby begins to pull up on the sides, the bassinette shouldn’t be used anymore. However, a lot of people say that they used it with their older babies without a problem.
The bassinette does slightly elevate the child off the ground. The mattress is very thin. You will need to insulate the bottom of the dome somehow if you want to use this for camping in colder weather. Get it here
This portable camping bassinet actually has legs so will get your child off the ground. This is good if you are worried about your older children crashing into a bassinet on the ground, or you want a better view of your baby while you sit in your camp chairs. However, the fact that the bassinet is on legs does mean it will be annoying to put in a small tent.
The legs mean that the bassinet takes up a lot more space when folded. It does have a storage pocket underneath for keeping diaper items. There’s a double canopy so you can protect your baby from insects and some sun. It’s suitable for babies up to 25lbs. Get it here
When it comes to travel cribs, the Pack ‘n Play is legendary. It doubles as a crib and a play pen. Plus, there’s an option for a bassinet insert that goes up on top.
Because the walls are so high, it’s really easy to add a mosquito net over top of this. I’m sure that every safety board would say not to just drape a net over since it could fall on your infant and cause SIDS, so do so at your own caution/risk. 🙂
The only thing I don’t like about the Pack ‘n Play is that, because of the tall walls, it is very difficult to get a sleeping baby into the crib without waking her. This Playard option has a removable bassinet that you can put inside so your baby is up higher. It makes it easier to get infants in/out. It also has a diaper changing table which goes on top.
The mattress on the Pack N Play does provide decent insulation, but you’ll still want to add a sleeping pad or some blankets for colder nights camping – especially when sleeping in the bassinet insert. The air flowing underneath takes away body heat! Get it here
This is the travel crib that I found recommended in many parent camping forums. It is slightly smaller than the Pack N Play. It’s also a lot lighter – just 6lbs compared to nearly 17lbs with the Pack N Play.
Another cool thing about the Phil&Teds camping crib is that you can zip the top up to keep insects out. There’s also a zippered side entry. This is incredibly convenient. For example, if you are breastfeeding, you can keep the side unzipped at night to make feeding easier. No need to lift baby in/out at each feeding!
The side opening also makes it easier to get a sleeping baby inside without waking her. Just rock your baby to sleep, squat, and then gently put her down. Of course, it never ends up being that easy, but it’s still easier than trying to lower a baby over those tall walls!
The mattress on the Phil&Ted camping crib is thin. So, get a good sleeping pad or other insulation for your baby for cold nights camping. Get it here
Do you go camping with your baby? What bed setup do you use? Let us know in the comments!