Some people thought we were crazy for taking our 1 year old on a week long backcountry camping trip, but it is a tradition that my husband and his family does every summer and this is the first year I’ve been able to join them. Lucky for us, we camped in the Kawartha Highlands, so the drive was only 1 hour to our first portage.
The trip was pretty smooth (except for when it was time to put on Isla’s lifejacket :p ), but here are 7 tips that can help make camping with a toddler a little more fun and a little less stressful.
1. Pack As Little As Possible
This is the hardest thing to do with babies and toddlers, with the excess amount of stuff that seems to come along with a baby. Especially if you are canoeing and portaging to your camp site, it is SOO important to bring as little as possible. I brought a handful of onesies, a few pairs of shorts, 2 sweaters, 3 pairs of pants, a swim suit, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of moccasins and a hat. We did have 1 rainy day, so next time I will invest in a good quality rain jacket and rain pants so she stays dry. We also brought a package of diapers, wipes, sound machine, travel cot, bedding, 2 books, 3 stuffies, a ball, Sophie, bottles and a bag full of easy baby snacks (Food pouches were our friend).
2. Make Their Sleep Set-Up A Priority
We splurged on a nice light travel cot (Phil and Ted) before our East Coast road trip in June and couldn’t be happier with it! It is super light to carry and fits perfectly in our tent along with our queen air mattress. It is a familiar bed for her to take her naps and sleep at night, and it keeps her contained so she can’t crawl all over the tent when we are trying to sleep. I also drape a sheet over the side so we’re out of sight, because she tends to fuss more if she can see us.
At home she sleeps with a sound machine (we use HoMedics) and she is also a light sleeper, so this was excellent in drowning out all our noise during and after dinner while she was sleeping. This left her sleep uninterrupted which was not the case on our last camping roadtrip without a sound machine. I was also impressed that I didn’t have to change the batteries all week. If I could bring only 2 items on this trip, it would be the travel cot and sound machine!
3. Don’t Worry About Keeping Them Clean
The entire trip Isla was pretty filthy. She just started walking about 1 month ago, so is still wobbly – especially on uneven terrain. So throw your cares out the window and embrace the dirt (like people say – It will only make them stronger). And the fewer clothes they have on, the easier they are to clean – just throw them in the lake for a quick ‘bath’.
4. Bring A Carrier – It Will Get Used!
This was one of the most useful items we could have brought along. Especially on tavel days, it allowed me to portage and carry gear with her on my back. And on days when it was too hot to nap in her tent or was feeling needy, I popped her in the carrier and went for a little hike. I only had to do this 1 day, since she was sleeping so well in the tent.
5. Bring Familiar Items
Although we only brought a handful of books and stuffies for Isla, it was nice for her to have some familiarity while in such a new environment. We brought 3 of her favourite stuffies to sleep with, a ball, Sophie and 2 of her most-read books. She is still at the age where she will literally play with ANYTHING – cracker wrappers, twigs, stones and leaves are the most exciting for her. So instead of filling her bag with too many toys from home, we used what the forest provided for us. A couple ‘toys’ she loved was an empty bottle filled with pebbles (shaker) and hitting a rock with twigs (drums) – the possibilities were endless!
6. Keep Them On Their Regular Schedule
It’s hard to stick to a tight schedule on travel days, but we stuck to her usual nap and bedtime schedule as much as possible. She got up a little earlier than at home because of the morning light in the tent, but other than that we stuck to her morning nap at 10am and bed time at 6pm. Babies are way more resilient and adaptive to new situations with more sleep!
7. Prep Them For Being In A Canoe
This is something we didn’t do, and next time I will make it a priority. She hated wearing her life jacket, so it made the canoe trips a little less than peaceful. Ryan paddled for both of us and I entertained/contained her. Because she felt so restricted in her lifejacket she was pretty miserable wearing it, so I’ll make sure to get her used to it beforehand next time.
Here are a few more photos from the trip. Do you have any more tips I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below!