In my time, I have taken three different babies to festivals, to well-equipped campsites and bare fields, and I took them by planes, trains and automobiles. And buses. Here’s how:
Where will they sleep? Tiny babies who can’t roll over go in Samsonite pop-up cots and then their larger bubble cot, which accommodates them until they are 18 months old. Vaude and Little Life also make good travel cots to use from birth to about two years old.
Keeping children warm at night is crucial. Each of my babies slept in a double-layered sleeping bag with zip-on sleeves. Doubling or tripling the number of children in one room also keeps them warm – like gerbils. I take small sheepskin rugs to go under the cot for extra insulation. For older children, thermarest trail mats suffice. They do not require as much puff as a standard blow-up bed.
Tents are hot places in the day, making afternoon naps a problem; I often wheeled the baby around in the buggy, letting them nod off as and when. A sun shade for the buggy is essential.
The worst part of camping with babies is traipsing around a tent in the middle of the night in your long johns looking for clean nappies, wipes or bottles. Try to keep the tent tidy and these essential items close to hand. Glow sticks make good night lights for toddlers and will give you enough light to change them by without startling them. Head torches are not just for pot-holers: a small head torch means you can keep both hands free if you need to change or rock an infant back to sleep again.
Breast milk is by far the most convenient food for a baby on holiday. There are no storage or hygiene issues to take care of.
Cleaning bottles and keeping enough milk is particularly troublesome at festivals; when I went to Glastonbury, I planned ahead and breastfed my youngest daughter, only knocking it on the head (breastfeeding not the baby) when I returned.
One top tip is to freeze the milk before you leave and then put it in a coolbag. The frozen bottles act as ice packs, keeping your other provisions cool.
At other times, I have nagged stall-holders for hot water to wash baby bottles with, and Math has even bought a glass of milk from them when required. For older, weaned babies make sure you arrive at camp with a couple of meals already prepped. Give them something to munch on while you pitch camp. They have no patience when it comes to their bellies, and will not wait while you struggle with the tent, so it’s up to you to have foresight.
It will rain and your baby will want to crawl out of the tent to play in the puddles; waterproof suits (Muddy Puddles and Bush Baby make these) and waterproof booties (Bush Baby, Togz and Barts all make these) are good protection. If it is sunny the usual sun-cream, hats, full body coverage applies. Wellies for everyone.
Babies love the outdoors: they love the sounds of birdies singing, moo cows mooing and the wind blowing through the trees. They are quite interested in sticks they find on the ground and they like pulling grass up in their chubby little hands. Let them; dirt and the fresh air is why you took them camping.
It’s hard to pitch a tent and look after the baby at the same time, especially if your tent requires two pairs of hands to erect. Arriving late at night is always pretty tough. Try your utmost to get there in daylight hours. Do a dry run and practise pitching any new tents before you travel, even if it means pitching it in the local park.