Fear not, Rachel Tompkins is on hand with some failsafe tips to ensure you survive under the canvas with your baby and/or toddler...
There’s nothing like getting back to basics with a good old camping trip. Or maybe that’s what you thought when you were young and childfree. Throw a baby, or two, into the mix and Carry On Camping quickly becomes Carry On Crying (and that’s not just the baby)...
I’ll never forget my first festival camping experience. Lugging what felt like the world’s heaviest tent through one bog-like field after another, before trying to pitch it in the dark as rain pelted down. Our joy was twofold when we discovered that our ‘two-man’ bargain tent might have been big enough to sleep two people – of the pixie variety! Small is an understatement. Luckily neither of us are over 5ft 10 but still it felt more like living in a wendy house. Moral of the story is pick a tent that’s big and easy to assemble. Chances are if you’ve got a baby you won’t be lugging all your stuff too far, so the weight bit probably isn’t such of an issue. My friend recently recommended an inflatable tent. Forget faffing around for hours pitching it old-school style, inflatable tents can be erected in minutes. This one sleeps four.
Comfort is key
Your tent is going to be your home, so comfort is key. And the quicker you can achieve that the better! If sleeping on a hard, cold, damp floor doesn’t appeal then investing in one of these self-inflating mats could be a lifesaver. They go up quickly, and provide a soft, warm base for you and your little one. It’s water repellent too – always handy for bodily fluids – babies not yours obviously! For babies, the Sleepyhead is a Godsend. Creates a little nest for 0-8 month-olds to sleep in, and can be used when co-sleeping or inside a normal cot or travel cot.
Don’t forget a bell
Just a small one, not the sort they used to ring at school when it was dinner time. Attach it to the zip on the tent door, and it’ll wake you up if any little ones try to escape in the night. A couple of those bells that come around the neck of chocolate rabbits do the trick (good excuse to eat chocolate rabbits too).
In my experience, the words ‘baby’ and ‘patience’ simply don’t go together. When your baby needs something, they usually need it NOW. Avoid having to empty the entire contents of your rucksack out to find their muslin comforter, by sorting everything into clear plastic bags before you go. That way you can separate it all into different categories, and be able to pull out a bag and see what’s in it much more easily than just rummaging through a bottomless void of stuff.
You can buy clear plastic bags like these, or alternatively strong sandwich bags will do the job.
Bring a sling
Normally I couldn’t survive a day without my buggy. But dragging even the most rugged, outward-bound buggy across an uneven, muddy field fills me with dread. Not to mention the poor child who’s sitting in it! Bring a sling/baby carrier instead. They take up hardly any room in the car, and most babies love being carried around in them and will nod-off while snugly inside. Better still, they’re perfect for leaving your hands free to carry out other camping duties.
With my first child I had a cheap baby carrier that was impossible to put on and chafed like crazy. Second time around I did a bit more research and invested (secondhand from ebay) in an Ergo Baby 360. The beauty of this one is that you can get an insert for it which means you can carry babies from birth, and once they’re a bit bigger it can be worn in four ways – on your front facing you or facing outwards, on your back, and on your side.
Keep your hands free
There’s nothing more frustrating than scrabbling around in a dark tent looking for your face glitter/flower hair garland/hot pants. Reality check: make that a baby’s dummy! Then add into the mix that aforementioned baby is screaming the place down and face glitter scenario pales into insignificance! A head torch will be your saviour. Yes, you’ll look like an idiot. But a smug idiot. You can even find quirky animal varieties for the kids.
Try and pack things that can be used for a variety of functions, for example, one friend (a hardened camper) told me she always takes a little paddling pool. Works as a baby bath and doubles up as a play pit too.
Invest in some baby thermals – even in the height of summer it can get pretty nippy in the evening. Bring enough to add and remove layers as necessary. Polarn O Pyret have some really cute thermal babygros and long johns which start from newborn.
Don’t forget yourself
I don’t mean that literally... rather, that it’s so easy to become wrapped up in making sure you’ve got everything for the baby, that you forget about your own happiness. Ditch the crisp white summer clothes and the Insta-worthy co-ordinated outfits, and opt for stretchy patterned numbers (hide stains better and don’t crease), and a very, very, big box of wine (remove cardboard box and you could probably squeeze two in!). According to some dodgy YouTube video, once you’ve drunk the wine the bag inside can even double up as a pillow. Now that really is responsible drinking!