Gilad wanted to go out camping with the baby almost from the moment she was born. He had spent my pregnancy researching trekking experiences with babies, from ultralight minimalist die-hards to car-camping families doing day hikes. He knew it could work. He just had to get the gear and convince a first time mother that it was a good idea. Ha.
We worked our way up to it. Some day hikes here, a trekking weekend where we stayed at an inn overnight – all designed to show me how great it could be, despite my significant skepticism.
Finally, we set a date, we were ready for our first camping trip with a baby. It was in mid September, so the little one was 8 months old at that point. Gilad had done all the research, and we had the gear list ready. In truth, the only trekking-related piece of equipment for the baby was her carrier, which we had already (the ErgoBaby performance carrier – so highly recommended! We used the newborn insert from the day she was born, and continued without it as soon as she was big enough). Other extra bits and pieces included an additional sleeping mat, and of course nappies and bottles and muslins and clothes and a hat and a down suit… Basically my whole backpack was filled with baby stuff. Gilad carried our regular kit, which is all we would have needed for just the two of us.
The route was part of the South Downs Way, with a camping place booked ahead of time since spontaneity went out the window as soon as the baby arrived in our lives. We planned relatively low mileage, so we could enjoy and deal with any unforeseen events that may crop up.
The train dropped us off at Southeas, which was on the South Downs Way path, at mid-morning. The little lady had slept on the train and so was ready and raring to go, as were we. The flexibility needed to trek with a baby made itself evident immediately since she was hungry. We made our way along the path until we got to a meadow where cows were grazing, and we stopped next to it for a break despite only having been walking for about 7 minutes.
The day followed in the same vein. When she was awake, the little lady rejected the beloved ErgoBaby, preferring her father’s shoulders from which she could pull his ears, bang his head like a drum and generally direct the various goings-on on the trail. We hadn’t expected this, and it was much slower going than we had anticipated. But we had a blast nonetheless.
Our campsite was at Housedean Farm near Plumpton. Gilad got the tent set up and the little one had a grand old time playing around in there before it was time for her to go to bed. Pyjamas, feed and into the tent she went.
Now this is where the story takes a dark turn but first, some context: our baby was in the midst of teething and her first real cold ever, and I had gotten it into my head that she needed to be sleeping in one of those baby sleep bags since she moves a lot in her sleep and kicks the blanket off. We later realized that she HATED them. But at the time of the camping trip, we didn’t know that. So with those disclaimers…
It was one of the longest and most miserable nights of my life, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t an exaggeration. I won’t go into detail but there was crying, screaming, tantrum-ing and a quick discussion about whether there was any way we could get back to London immediately (there wasn’t). We all finally managed to get a few hours of sleep, and awoke in the morning exhausted and humbled. I took the troublemaker over to the other campers so she could apologise for her behaviour, which they thankfully understood since they all had children. After a fantastic breakfast, we were off.
The rest of the walk passed uneventfully – we sang Baa Baa Black Sheep to the sheep we saw, cheered on runners doing an ultra run along the Downs, and made our way to the train station. We had survived, and learned some valuable lessons: don’t take a sick baby camping, light gear is still useful after a baby if only because their stuff is so plentiful, and camping with a baby is doable – if you throw all your pre-baby hiking expectations out of the window.
If you are planning a similar camping trip with a baby, let us know in the comments, and maybe we can help you get organized. In the mean time, you can download our gear list here – Family Camping Trip Gear List – UK – Sep 2014.