It will come as no surprise that both James and I are huge 'gear' enthusiasts. Neither one of us gets excited about shopping for clothes, but I go nuts for kitchen gadgets, he is loopy for car stuff, and the affection for all outdoor equipment is shared. We already have four car-camping trips planned for this summer and are hoping for a few more with some friends, and with a small kid and a baby along for the ride, we really wanted to start the season organized. These are a just a few of our top picks for fun kid and baby friendly camping gear.
*Little Smith was bananas over assisting in this photo shoot. Organizing things in grids and lines is a major hobby for him. Baby Roo totally did not think this was a fun way to spend an afternoon and prevented us from continuing on to the mom and dad version (she is just out of frame in each of these shots, trying to grab everything and tear it apart!).
little kid day gear: hat for sun / hoodie / durable water bottle / special snack / rain gear / easy to balance plate and bowl combo / bandanna / kid friendly bug spray / sunscreen / biodegradable soap / binoculars / versatile water shoes / rain boots / backpack / guide books
little kid night gear: favorite stuffed animal / quiet games for the tent / woolie / headlamp / sleeping bag / thermals / bedtime books / warm blanket / sleeping pad
Little Smith really got invested in assembling his own camping supplies this year. We found him his very own sleeping bag a few months ago, and he has been looking forward to 'sleeping under the stars' ever since. This is the only truly toddler sized performance mummy bag that I could find, and it's still synthetic fill so it doesn't pack down as small as I would like. Still, it's the perfect length (many are way too long), is rated to thirty degrees, and is insanely cute with him slumbering inside. We also found this sleeping pad that is a great size for a small kid. It's not a ton of cushion, but very comfy according to Little Smith.
After reading the millionth article about how bad plastic is, even BPA free varieties, I was determined to never go for any food related items that were plastic again. Most of our camping dishes are metal, but we do a lot of our eating by the fire with meals balanced on the lap. Little Smith doesn't enjoy the warm lap that comes with metal, and finds it tricky to keep flat as well. These plates are recycled plastic (so better for the environment, but yeah still plastic), but have worked out so awesome. The edges of each compartment are curved, so you can have chili or oatmeal in one and dry goods in another. I'm sold.
I love to have games and books that reinforce our activities, so I try to bring along woodland themed items for sleeping in the great outdoors. These colored acorns are great for evening sorting games in the tent, and this book is fun for prompting discussions about being quiet and watchful in nature. Of course every camper needs a headlamp for those late night reads, and this one is perfectly sized for little heads.
baby day gear: hat for sun / hoodie / durable sippy cup / serving bowl / seat or highchair / easy food / bandanna / baby friendly bug spray / baby sun screen / baby friendly biodegradable soap / rain gear / warm hat / moccasins / toys and teethers
baby night gear: favorite stuffed animal / pacifier / lightweight hat / lightweight sleepsack option / small toys for tent play / bedtime books / lavender oil / warm jammies / teether and teething gel / warm blanket / warm sleepsack option / cozy slippers / small light for evening diaper changes
Camping with a slow moving baby is far easier than a busy toddler (and I may get to experience both in this single season, depending on how quickly our girl's skills develop in the next few months!). However it is definitely more work with two children, as opposed to our first season as new parents when we were still able to travel fairly light. The big key is to have some place to 'store' baby safely when it's time to set up camp, cook, or just assist the older kid. I had planned to bring this little seat pictured, but when the forecast called for rain and I knew we'd have mud everywhere, I made a calculated decision to tote our Ikea highchair. It was hands down the best choice. The legs pop off for somewhat compact travel, and it was fantastic to have her up off the ground and kept busy eating snacks. We even got to eat together as a family around the campfire without trying to balance baby in one arm... major score.
I am pretty paranoid about bug spray coming into contact with my kids' skin, or even my own skin actually. My favorite method for keeping bugs at bay is spraying a bandanna and wearing it on the head. We do look like some kind of gang when we all sport bandannas around the campsite, but it works. I also won't use anything with Deet, even though I do know it's debatable whether being bit by a tick is more harmful than icky chemicals. I think I've tried all the natural bug repellents out there, and this one and this one are my two favorites.
It's surprisingly challenging to find good rain gear for infants. We got this rainsuit way back in the day for Little Smith, and it is still as good as new. I love baby clothes that are tough enough to be passed down and thoroughly enjoyed by a bunch of kids. We faced some true wet weather and our baby girl was probably the driest in the bunch. Speaking of hand-me-downs, I just love this hat, perfect for evening snuggles in the tent. Little Smith used to wear it all the time until it barely fit, so I was happy to get it out again for more campside cuteness.
Of course there is so much more to add to this list, including many practical items (like lots of warm socks). It's amazing how much stuff you need to tote around when you have children, our car was literally filled to the brim (I mean filled, we are seriously considering getting a new car in the nearish future because we barely squeezed it all in around the car seats... and we actually do try to simplify and edit). But I do have to say that I felt pretty well prepared for our latest adventure, and that's probably a first. Being organized seems to pay off. At least that's what I kept telling James when he asked how taking pictures of our stuff instead of packing it qualified as 'getting ready' for camping!