Camping With Toddlers & Infants
A big part of our couple culture is enjoying the outdoors and embracing nature. Any chance we have, my husband and I are outside exploring, and experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer. Whether we are in the desert, being mindful of the cacti and native reptiles, or in the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of a deer or elk, we consider the natural space of Earth to be important.
This year we had the opportunity to share this with both of our kids. M turned three in July, and CJ is on the upside of 7-months. In April I decided I would do some research on camping with children, and search for availability at Arizona campsites for Labor Day Weekend. As luck would have it, other brave parents travel, camp, backpack, and kayak with their young children. It can be done!
Though the weekend was reserved at nearly every woodland campsite in Arizona, a few had Thursday and Friday spaces available. I jumped on an opening at Christopher Creek just east of Payson—It was even Creekside! Now I will say, camping with young children does take quite a bit of preparation and planning. After sorting through our camping gear, I discovered CJ did not have any warm clothes. In AZ it is hard to find winter clothes, especially while it is still 100+ degrees outside.
There is a great children’s resale store called Kid-To-Kid and I had no problem finding warm, footie pajamas and knitted hats at a very low cost. I also have a Kelty hiking backpack for infants I purchased when M was still a baby. CJ loves it and is comfy and shaded when I hike. I prepared snack bags with M’s favorite treats, and made sure to bring her sand toys, and items durable enough to be played with outside. I also went to two different dollar stores and found plenty of kitchen goods and inexpensive toys that could be beat up. Cabela’s had children’s lanterns and head lamps. My mom found a mosquito net for pack & plays at Marshall’s!
The campsite was clean, conveniently located, and far enough away from the main highway. The spots were close to each other, and we ended up downwind from the restroom, but the flat space was nice because M only had one major spill during the two-day trip. The creek was very shallow, and there was a small swimming hole that was a quick 5-minute hike away from the campground. M had a blast splashing around in the water with her dad.
CJ is beginning to crawl, and pull himself to a stand. I think I have an early walker on my hands! To keep him contained during the day, I brought an inexpensive inflatable pool that we set on a tarp. My sister-in-law brought foam puzzle piece mats to help give him cushioning. We would move it to the shade during the day and he was happy to crawl around and play with his toys. We used a small pack & play in the tent, and I dressed him in layers to keep him warm.
The first night was a little rocky because he woke up hungry, and in return woke his sister up. She stayed up with us and I convinced her to use the bathroom with me. She had a zero-accident trip, and slept pretty well in her cot. Her dollar store lantern turned out to be the perfect nightlight and I was pleasantly surprised at how well both kids slept!
Overall, the trip was enjoyable and it was a pleasure to see how the kids interacted with their natural environment. When we were packing up to leave, M kept saying she didn’t want to go home. She keeps asking when our next trip is. Next year I plan to search for a campsite much earlier in the year, and, I think we will try dispersed camping so we can bring Sheba too.
Stores to check out for affordable gear: Local children's resale stores, Dollar Stores, Target & Walmart
Stores with outdoors gear and children-specific tech gear: Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse