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Camping with a baby in cold weather is definitely possible, but it requires a bit more forethought and preparation than your typical camping trip. You’ll want to make sure that baby is both safe and comfortable, while at the same time allowing everyone to enjoy the trip.
These 10 must-know tips should help you get started.
1 – Bring Appropriate Clothing for Baby
Make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes for baby. Layers work well since you can easily add or remove a layer without needing to change the entire outfit.
A warm hat is particularly important since babies can lose a great deal of heat through their heads. Likewise, don’t forget warm booties and mittens. Weather sometimes changes quickly and unexpectedly so, in general, it helps to plan ahead for a variety of temperatures and weather conditions.
You may also want to consider bringing a warm infant carrier for wearing baby on long walks and hikes. Nourishing Joy has some good tips for baby-wearing in the winter which may be useful.
Aside from clothing and a baby carrier, consider bringing these other items on your next camping adventure to make sure you’re well prepared for any situation that may arise.
2 – Be Prepared for Emergencies and Unexpected Delays
While there are definitely benefits to packing lightly, this is simply not practical when camping with a baby in the cold. In order to be prepared in case of any unexpected delays, make sure to pack plenty of clothing, diapers, and wipes, as well as infant formula or medications if needed. Make sure you have plenty of food and clean water, as well.
You’ll also want to make sure to bring along all of the basic essentials such as flares, chains for tires if there is any chance of snow, emergency heat blankets, flashlights, basic tools, a portable pre-charged battery for your phone, and a well-stocked first-aid kit.
Consider starting a list of things to pack at least a week before your trip and adding to it as you think of new things. Checking off each item as you pack helps to prevent forgetting something essential at the last minute.
3 – Be Aware of the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Seasoned cold-weather campers will likely already know many of these warnings, but they are worth repeating, particularly when camping with a baby.
In order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to never use any fuel-burning equipment in an enclosed shelter such as a tent or camper. The CDC says this includes lanterns, gas stoves, heaters, and charcoal grills.
Also, never sit in a running car if there is snow covering or clogging the tailpipe, as this can also rapidly lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Along the same lines, sleeping in a running car when there is a possibility that it could begin snowing is also dangerous since snow could accumulate quickly and block the tailpipe.
4 – Introduce Yourselves to Neighboring Campers
If you will be at a campground with other campers nearby, particularly if they are within earshot, take a few moments to introduce yourselves. If they know that you are camping with a baby, they’ll know to expect the possibility of hearing baby cry sometimes during the night, so it’s a nice courtesy to clue them in.
Likewise, it’s great to have someone nearby you can reach out to in case of an emergency, or even to borrow something you’ve forgotten to pack.
5 – Plan Ahead for Cold Nights
If you will be sleeping in a tent, make sure you buy one that is rated highly for cold weather camping. There are winter tents specifically designed to hold in heat and be completely waterproof.
For the sake of everyone’s comfort, also make sure you choose a tent that is big enough for the number of people you intend to use it for. If you’ll be bringing a portable crib, keep that in mind when considering space within the tent.
Make sure that baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature at night. Consider bringing a baby sleeping bag as well as a warm sleep sack that baby can wear, and as always, layers work well for adjusting bedtime clothing to keep your baby comfortable as temperatures fluctuate.
Hike It Baby also has a lot of helpful tips specific to dressing a baby for sleeping in a tent.
Also, it helps to make things as similar as possible to your baby’s regular sleep environment. If baby uses a pacifier, don’t forget to bring it along; likewise, if there is a favorite small blanket or toy that baby is accustomed to having at night, consider bringing this as well.
6 – Bring Boots with Good Traction
Carrying a baby, either in your arms or in an infant carrier, can throw off your sense of balance a bit. The last thing you want is to slip and fall while hiking.
Make sure both parents bring boots that fit well and have good traction. This is particularly important if there will be snow or ice where you are camping.
7 – Take Care of Baby’s Skin
Cold weather and wind can dry out anyone’s skin, but babies are particularly susceptible to weather-related dryness, itching, and irritation.
Make sure you bring a good lotion and lip balm appropriate for use on babies. Try a bit on baby’s wrist a few days before leaving for your trip in order to make sure it doesn’t cause a skin reaction.
Another thing that’s easy to forget when camping during the chillier months of the year is sun protection. Sunburns can occur during any season, though. This is especially important in snowy areas, as the light can reflect off the snow and burn the skin rapidly.
Sunscreen is appropriate for babies over the age of six months, but the FDA recommends avoiding its use in younger infants.
For babies old enough to wear sunblock, consider using a product with mineral, as opposed to synthetic, active ingredients. Look for sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the only active ingredients. These are less likely to irritate a baby’s soft, sensitive skin.
The Environmental Working Group’s Best Scoring Sunscreens for Kids list contains quite a few mineral sunscreens that work well for babies. For infants under the age of six months, focus on using shade, clothing, hats, and blankets to keep the sun off of baby’s skin during peak hours.
8 – Be Aware of Potential Health Issues
Babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures as well as adults and older children, so hypothermia is a much bigger threat to little ones. Because of this, it is especially important to be vigilant about keeping them warm enough at all hours of the day and night.
Check out Lurie Children’s Blog for a physician’s advice on recognizing and preventing frostbite and hypothermia in children. Plan to stop and periodically check that baby is warm enough throughout the day, as well as during the night.
If baby has any history of respiratory issues, it is particularly important to consult with your pediatrician before camping. Cold weather can trigger asthma attacks. Likewise, if you will be traveling to a higher elevation, this can make breathing more difficult.
If baby takes any medication regularly, make sure you bring enough to tide you over in case of unexpected delays in returning home. Even in healthy babies with no prior health issues, it makes sense to check in with your pediatrician before leaving.
He or she may have some useful advice, and it will also be helpful that baby’s doctor already knows about your plans in case you need to call with any questions during the camping trip.
9 – Make Time for Downtime
Camping with a baby can be an enjoyable and memorable experience, but it will almost certainly also be very tiring. For the comfort of everyone involved, plan a lot of downtime throughout your days.
Even babies who normally sleep through the night are unlikely to do so while camping, so you will probably be up a great deal during nighttime hours. Consider napping, or at least spending some quiet time reading or just relaxing, while baby naps during the day.
Self-care is important to remember for parents. While it is important to focus on caring for your baby’s well-being while camping, also remember that the cold weather will take a toll on your own skin, energy levels, and comfort as well.
Make sure you are eating enough and taking some time out to care for yourself. Nursing mothers, in particular, will need to make sure to get enough rest and stay fully hydrated.
10 – Enjoy the Uninterrupted Time Together
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. In this technological age, we often have trouble unplugging from the Internet, social media, television, and such.
One of the great things about camping with a baby is the undistracted time you can spend together. Make sure your camping trip isn’t so activity-packed that you miss out on the joy of just being out in nature together as a family.
Babies need quite a few feedings throughout the day, and this is a great time to also just relax and reflect, listen to the birds, or sing to your little one.
If you tell people you are planning a cold-weather camping trip with a baby, you will definitely encounter some naysayers. It is unlikely to be the easiest or most comfortable camping trip you’ll ever take, but with adequate knowledge, care, and preparation, it can be an experience that the whole family will enjoy.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get started on your journey.
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