Camping and backpacking are my favorite things to do. Being in nature literally cures my insomnia and stress on the first night. As for bonding with my older child, we enjoy catching salamanders and analyzing plants – far from an internet signal or screens to distract us.
So I was determined not to let having a baby stop me from going camping and backpacking.
I’d be lying if I said that having a baby didn’t require some big changes to how I enjoy the outdoors though.
My baby is in the 99th percentile (nearly 20lbs at 4 months) and I can’t carry her plus all our gear up a mountain. My husband has a physical disability, so he can’t even get up the mountain nevertheless help with carrying gear.
Since camping with a baby does require extra gear (there’s no “packing light” with a baby!), it means we will be camping nearer to civilization for the next few years (until baby can walk and my older daughter can carry more of her own gear).
This post is just a gear checklist for camping with a baby. If you want more advice and tips, read this post about Advice for Camping with a Baby. For advice specifically about sleeping, read this guide to Baby Sleeping Bags for Camping.
Gear for Backpacking or Camping with a Baby
Standard Camping/Backpacking Gear
- Sleeping bags (read about baby sleeping bags here)
- Sleeping mats
- Headlamps plus spare batteries
- Bear bag or canister
- Map, compass
- Mess kit + sponge and dish soap
- Camping stove + fuel
- First aid kit (see my list here)
- Water purification method (I used the Sawyer Mini)
- Hygiene items (TP, biodegradable soap, sun block, bug spray, toothbrush and paste, feminine items)
- Meals, snacks, and coffee
- Bear spray
- Notebook and pens
- Book, deck of cards, or other entertainment
- Glasses case (if you wear them)
- Personal location device
- Plastic bags for trash
Camping Clothes for Baby
You need to bring clothes that you can layer on your baby. This way, you can easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature. Layers also make sense if your baby gets messy. Just remove the part which got messy. Or, a jacket got a bit slobbery, the wetness probably won’t drip through all the layers so you can keep baby in it until it dries.
- 2-3 onesies with short sleeves
- 2-3 long-sleeve shirts
- 2-3 soft, stretchy pants
- 1-2 hoodies
- Hat with brim
- Jacket (if it will be cold during the day)
- Waterproof suit (if your baby is mobile)
- 2-3 pairs of socks
- Shoes suitable for wet conditions (if baby is walking)
- Swimsuit (you don’t want baby pooping in the water source – have a swim diaper to catch it)
*This is the bare minimum. You might want to bring more clothes than this depending on the weather, how long your trip is, and whether you are backpacking or car camping.
Pajamas for Camping Baby
This checklist is separate from the regular daytime clothes! You want baby to have clean, dry clothes to get into at the end of the day.
- 1-2 Base layers – Ideally wool, like these (if it is warm, you can just use a onesie as a base layer)
- Warm socks
- 1-2 Fleece or wool sleep suits (with arms and feet) – like this fleece suitor this wool sleep suit. (You need at least two in case one gets wet)
- Fleece or wool sleep sack – like this 4-season wool suit or this quilted sleep sack for warmer weather (61-68F nighttime temps)
- Hats and mittens – like this wool hat
- Bunting bag or baby snow suit (if it is really cold)
Sleeping Gear for Baby:
See my post on the best sleeping bags for babies to get more details on how this works.
- Sleeping mat or double-wide sleeping mat that you can share with your baby: You’ll need a mat for your baby even if she is sleeping in a travel bassinet, unless the bassinet has a bottom which is insulating)
- Leak catcher: I learned this the hard way! You need something to put underneath the baby inside the sleeping bag in case the diaper leaks! (an open diaper placed horizontally works)
- Small pillow: Diapers with something over them actually work great as a camp pillow!
Diaper Changing Gear
- Diapers: About 7-13 per day, depending on your baby (it’s better to have a few more than risk not having enough!)
- Barrier cream: Now is not the time for baby to get diaper rash!
- Zinc cream: If your baby is prone to diaper rash, bring this.
- Unscented wipes: Scented wipes will attack insects like bees!
- Lots of plastic shopping bags: For putting gross diapers in!
- Changing mat: My changing mat is really thin – just a piece of fabric with a plastic backing – so it isn’t much extra weight. If you are car camping, you could bring a thicker mat. Don’t skip this item because you’ll end up changing diapers on your jacket or sleeping pads.
Camping Food for Baby
My baby is still breastfeeding, so I don’t have any personal experience with camping food for babies. However, you should avoid those just-add-water backpacking meals. They are full of sodium and preservatives. Instead, here are some ideas of what you could bring:
- Pouches of baby food: Pouches are easier than jars.
- DIY dehydrated meals (like this hummus recipe)
- Dried fruit: Rehydrate and then mash up
- Sippy cups
- Bottles and formula
Extra First Aid Items for Camping with a Baby
In addition to the standard camping first aid items (see this checklist), you will want to bring these items for baby:
- Fever medicine
- Saline solution in little bottles (you’ll need this when baby touches her eyes with dirty hands and gets bits of leaf residue in her eyes – speaking from experience!)
- Cotton balls
- Antihistamine (especially if you aren’t sure whether your baby is allergic to bees or not and you’ll be far from medical help)
Other Gear for Camping/Backpacking with a Baby
- Hiking baby carrier: The ErgoBaby is probably the best option for both baby and mom/dad. It’s a bit pricy for me, so I just used a Mei Tai.
- Mosquito repellant: Like these baby-safe insect repelling stickers
- Somewhere to put your baby off the ground: Having a camp chair (like this one) or a stroller is great for little babies to play in or sleep in. You want baby off the ground where snakes and creepie-crawlies can’t get to her. So bring this eve if you are trying to “pack light”!
- Sunscreen for baby
- Toys: There is plenty to play with in nature. Only bring 1-3 toys, like a favorite lovey.
- Teething ring: If baby is teething!
- Extra rope: You’ll need this to make a clothesline for when (notice I say when and not if) clothes get dirty.
- Nail clippers: Those baby fingernails grow so quickly!
- Camping lantern or extra batteries for headlamp: You’ll need a lamp hanging in your tent for nighttime diaper changes and maybe for feedings too. You could use one of these cheap solar camping lanterns. Or, bring extra batteries for your headlamp and use a carabiner to hang it from the top of your tent (my tent has a loop at the top for hanging things!)
Optional Gear if You Are Car Camping
None of this baby camping gear is absolutely necessary. However, it can be really helpful. So, consider bringing it if you are car camping.
- Stroller: Some trails are stroller-accessible, and your back will appreciate the break from carrying baby around. The stroller is also great as a seat for baby while at camp.
- Pack-n-play: This is very useful if you have a baby who is mobile. Baby can play in there while you do camp tasks.
- Baby high chair
- Mosquito net: Good if you are bringing a pack-n-play or stroller
- Play gym: Or waterproof blanket to make a play area (I just used our foam sleeping mats since we were without a car)
- Bath tub
What other baby camping gear would you add to the list?