Part of the reason I haven’t written in a month is that we spent a week and a half at camp meeting. Leading up to camp meeting we were spending some good family time with my sister and niece. Since then, we’ve been car shopping and recovering from camping and car shopping.
Last year I was pregnant and the heat and the long walk to the bathroom presented a challenge. (I do not consider outhouses to be acceptable bathrooms unless I am truly in the wilderness. Even then, I am not very happy about them.) This year, we had basically the same campsite, and the walk to the bathroom was just as long, but we had the added challenge of our Baby Guy being with us. Just preparing for nine nights in a tent away from home posed a problem for us this year: we had all the stuff we needed, but only my trusty little Honda Civic to put it all in. So, we had to rely on the generosity of a friend to loan us his minivan for the trip up. We packed our stuff in, hit the road and, a mere five and a half hours later, arrived at our destination (which should’ve only been about two and a half hours away…things take longer with a baby).
Thankfully, my husband had set up our tent and our dining shelter a few days earlier during his down time at camp pitch, and we were able to start moving things in right away. Baby Guy played in the grass, and while we were setting up camp he managed to sit upright from being on his belly for the first time ever! We congratulated him, of course, and kept working.
Our main concerns about camping (especially for so many days and nights) were about our son’s sleep. Since we’d be in a tent, how would we keep the noise of all the other people around out? How would he be able to take naps during the very hot days? If it was cold overnight, how would we keep him warm?
Well, the answer to two of those questions was box fans. My husband bought two inexpensive box fans, and we placed them on opposite sides of the tent. During the days, we’d have them both blowing the same direction to create a nice breeze throughout the tent and keep Baby Guy relatively cool during his naps. At night, we’d turn one of the fans around so they were blowing in opposite directions, out of the tent. This way we were not blowing cold air into the tent or creating much of a breeze, but the noise from the fans would still help drown out the sounds from everything else going on around us.
To keep Baby Guy warm, I draped blankets over the sides of his travel crib, just to block any breeze that might come through, and, after he was asleep, I’d put a blanket over him, as well. He was also bundled in warm pajamas, two sleep sacks and his Zipadee-Zip on cold nights. There were three nights that I had to bring him into my sleeping bag with me to keep warm, from about 3-4 a.m. until it was time to wake up.
To my great surprise, Baby Guy actually napped fantastically while we were camping. There was only one day, the last Sabbath, that was too hot for him to take a good afternoon nap; the rest of the time the fans did the trick. Night sleeping was more challenging, but still, pretty good for the huge upset in setting and routine. He usually woke up twice in the nights, and I gave him bottles each time. I know he shouldn’t need to eat that often at night, but I figured that with the heat of the day, there was no harm in extra hydration and nutrients. Don’t judge me. He went back to sleep without fussing each time, and honestly we were quite impressed with how well it went.
My sister had the great idea of using a little inflatable pool (really it’s a bathtub) to entertain and cool baby off during the day and she sent us one! Baby Guy loved his ducky pool, and it was nice to be able to cool him off, bathe him, and let him splash and play at the campsite on hot afternoons.
I was worried about sunburn as well as the chemicals in sunscreen not being safe for babies, so we picked up some Keeki sunscreen, SPF 45, and used it faithfully on him. It did a good job, as we couldn’t avoid direct sunlight all the time. It smells great, and doesn’t feel too greasy. It’s safe for babies 6 months old and up. The sunscreen is more expensive than I wish it was, of course, but some things are worth spending a little extra for. I bought mine at the “local” cloth diaper store, Ecobuns, but it’s available online as well.
Our new safe insect repellent, I’ll Fly Away (from Ecobuns, too), also did a good job. Baby Guy had no bug bites during camp meeting, and I didn’t find any ticks on him, either, in spite of the fact that he spent a lot of time playing in the grass. It smells good (to me, anyway), too!
As for the stroller, my husband picked up an older Chariot stroller from a garage sale right before camp meeting. It came with attachments for jogging and biking, as well as with mosquito netting and a rain cover. It kept Baby Guy dry even when I had to push him through drizzle, and it was up to the grass, dirt roads, and uneven terrain that makes up camp meeting. Besides the great features of the stroller, I was glad to save my regular stroller from the wear and tear that the rough ground would have inflicted on it. The Chariot is very wide, which means it’s roomy for Baby Guy, and even great for buckling two kiddos into, if need be. However, that means it’s kind of tough to push through doorways or in crowded spaces, so it is definitely better suited for outdoor pursuits.
Because my beloved Boba wrap is getting too easy for Baby Guy to wriggle out of, we needed a new, comfortable option for carrying him when it didn’t make sense to use a stroller to get around. We looked at some of the pricey soft carriers, but decided on a more economical option: a Boba Air. It’s not as cushy as the expensive and more conventional carriers, but Baby Guy seems comfortable in it, and it is extremely portable. It allows for front and back carries (though I haven’t been brave enough to put him on my back yet), and has a little flap hood to hold his head if he falls asleep. The whole thing folds into a little pouch (a pocket on the carrier itself, so you can’t lose it!) and fits easily in the diaper bag for easy access at all times. It’s lightweight and cool for summertime, easy on the shoulders and back, adjusts easily to fit both of us, and we’re happy with the purchase.
Because it was a trip of such long duration and with questionable access to laundry facilities, we used disposable diapers during camp meeting. So, that’s one thing I wish we could do differently but I don’t really see much of a way around it. Maybe by next year I’ll think of something…or maybe Baby Guy will be good to me and potty train himself at 18 months. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
With our new gear and our big family tent (an REI Kingdom 6, purchased last year), we had a great camping experience, and after spending a little more than a week camping at camp meeting, we feel confident enough to try again for a few days in a national park this summer. It will be a little bit more rugged (no electricity for fans), but hopefully we can pull it off and get our son out in nature as often as possible so that he will never know a time when he didn’t love camping and the outdoors.