We went camping with toddlers! And survived!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that we went camping this past weekend.

It was our first time camping since our honeymoon (where we spent 2-3 nights camping in the Serengeti), and obviously our first time ever camping with toddlers.

Our first experience camping with our toddler & baby was a success!

I tried s’mores with Reeses for the first time and my life will never be the same.

Oh what an adventure it was. Meaning, packing was horrible but once we got there it was absolutely wonderful.

I know nothing about camping. Nada. I had no idea what to bring or how many clothing layers we would need or what would make me comfortable or basically anything at all.

Food? What do vegetarians eat when they’re camping?! No clue.

Luckily, we went with 5 other families who are camping pros, so they covered all of the main stuff. And, it turns out everyone in the PNW camps regularly, so I was able to easily borrow all of our gear from a friend. (I’m telling you, we are surrounded by a fantastic community here and we keep finding all of our needs met!)

Still, packing the morning of our departure was stressful and I vowed (yet again) to start packing for trips the night before. Crazy idea, I know.

Our first experience camping with our toddler & baby was a success!

Marshmallows were her favorite part of camping. That, and the swings we hung at the campsite.

This past Friday we drove about 1.5 hours up north towards Bellingham, WA to Larrabee State Park for our camping adventure. We arrived, found the group camp site (highly recommended!), and the rest was a blur.

Fond memories of our first family camping trip include:

  • S’mores. So many s’mores.
  • Watching our babies crawl around in the dirt and love every second of it.
  • Playing on the beach. Our friends brought a paddleboard and Clara went out on it… I was so proud of her for being brave!
  • Eating delicious food. It turns out that even vegetarian can eat well while camping!
  • Good conversations around the campfire.
  • Hiking to Fragrance Lake (carrying a very-heavy Isabelle on my back).
  • Waking up at 5am with a wide awake Isabelle. Unfortunately no one else was up that early and I don’t know how to make a fire nor coffee. It was the two longest hours of my life. I was cold and caffeine-deprived and hungry and alone with a baby who wanted to happily roll around in dirt. Sigh. Every time I heard another baby cry from inside a tent I was hopeful that another parent would come wandering out to join me, but nope, all of those babies went right back to sleep. Lucky other parents! But really, it was really peaceful in an uncomfortable sort of way.
  • Seeing our toddlers read to each other and swing in the hammock and run around outside all day long. It is really fun to watch kiddos thrive outdoors. My girls love being outside and to watch them in their element is a treat.

Our first experience camping with our toddler & baby was a success!

I should mention that the group we camped with was comprised of 12 adults, 8 kids (a 5 year old, almost-4 year old, almost-3 year old, almost-2 year old, 18 month old, two barely-1 year olds, an almost-1 year old, plus one baby on the way). And two dogs. Basically, it was toddler/baby mayhem. I’m surprised any of us got any sleep – but we did! Well, kind of. The first night I was freezing (I didn’t borrow the right sleeping back for the cooler temps), so I only fell asleep after hours and hours of tossing around. But the second night a friend gave me his sleeping bag and I slept super-well! Lesson learned. Our kids all slept pretty well, too! Clara even slept in until almost 9am, when I finally woke her up. I think the fresh air definitely agrees with them, and honestly I was so worried that Isabelle would be screaming all night and that wasn’t the case at all.

Our first experience camping with our toddler & baby was a success!

Camping was one of those experiences that I truly did not think would be worth it. In fact, whenever someone mentioned camping with babies I was like “WHY?!” It seemed like a surefire way to torture yourself. But now I know why people go – it is awesome.

Granted, I think the best way to camp with really young kids is to go with other families, because otherwise it would truly be a ton of work. For instance, I was able to relax a tiny bit while some parents cooked and other parents watched multiple kiddos. I can imagine if it were just Tim and I camping it would have been a ton of cooking, cleaning, setting up, and watching the kids… with barely a moment to just sit down. I appreciate that I truly felt like I could breathe during this camping trip.

Our first experience camping with our toddler & baby was a success!

I’m going to write another post about more lessons learned and tips on how to camp with little ones, but I’m happy to report that this was one adventure that exceeded my expectations! I already can’t wait for our next camping trip.

Now I’m off to research tents and sleeping bags so we’ll be better prepared next time…

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27 Responses to We went camping with toddlers! And survived!

  1. erinhzauner says:

    I think that you might be right about it being easier with other families…I think I could be talked into camping with my kids if it was a communal situation haha.

    • Lisa says:

      I had visions of one of us (Tim) needing to sleep in the car with a screaming baby, but it never happened! It’s definitely much, much easier with friends, though. And while camping it’s completely appropriate to day drink, so if the kids get overwhelming there’s always that.

  2. I would love to read your tips on camping with little ones!!

  3. Heather says:

    I like the tip about going with other families. We still haven’t taken our girls camping yet because we were dreading all of the things you describe (no one sleeps, everyone is cold, etc) when they were littler. We have big plans to go this summer though – once or twice with friends and also with our parents so there will be lots of help! 🙂 I love that you had such a great time!!!

    • Lisa says:

      You should totally go if you have people to go with! I really thought it was going to be a LOT worse than it was. The girls slept better camping than they do at home!

  4. This sounds like an awesome trip! I love that you guys went with other families and split the responsibility and they took you under their wing. So cool! And it’s awesome that your girls love to be outside!! What a fun experience!

    • Lisa says:

      Yessss I’m so happy that I didn’t have to figure out how to camp by myself. It would have been a disaster if the four of us had done it solo!

  5. ” it was peaceful in an uncomfortable kind of way” hahaha, that’s a great way to describe it. I’m glad it was a good weekend, despite your early wake up call.

  6. Julie Hood says:

    How’d you find so many friends with babies?! This sounds like such a fun group and fun trip!!

    • Lisa says:

      We went with our church small group, which happens to be all growing families! We definitely lucked out in finding this community. <3

  7. My husband and I were JUST talking last night about the idea of camping! We are going on a huge road trip and leaving next week, and we thought “What if we camped instead of staying in a hotel?!” We have a 3 and 1 year old though, so we laughed and thought there is NO way we could camp with toddlers! And then your post popped up with that title and I laughed. What an amazing time with friends! I really would love to do something like this. Thanks for sharing your fun!

    • Lisa says:

      I mean, you would have to pack a lot more gear if you camped but it would be cheaper! Although honestly if I was going to go camping with just my family, I’d still go out to casual restaurants instead of attempting to cook… much less effort in cooking and clean-up! I bet it really would save you a bunch of money if you could coordinate it and if you had room for all of the stuff in your car!

  8. Camping is so much fun! I’m glad you had a great time even with the kiddies in tow!

  9. Laurie Olsen says:

    Reese’s and smores!! Now that sounds heavenly! I think you all are so brave to attempt this so go you!!

  10. Kaitlyn says:

    So glad you guys had fun camping!!

    One rec to save $ and still get an amazing tent: if you sign up for an REI credit card / membership (the membership costs a little but is good for a lifetime), they will give you a $100 Gift card. Then, at every holiday, there is a huge sale and they will send you an additional discount coupon for a deeper discount, and amazing things go on clearance (granted, they are usually weird colors). If you can hang on until Labor Day then you can definitely hit a major end-of-season + holiday sale and get an amazing tent at a super-low price, with or without the $100 gift card. I’ve gotten 2 phenomenal (albeit bright orange) tents super-cheap this way. Plus, REI has a great repair/replacement policy so they’ll fix anything that goes wrong.

    I love Sierra Trading Post for smaller random things that aren’t such a big investment, like sleeping pads, socks, etc.

    • Lisa says:

      I swear I didn’t get $100 gift card when we signed up! Although, maybe Tim got it and somehow I didn’t know about it… I hope we didn’t waste it by never using it! This reminds me that I really need to change the contact email address to mine so we find out about such events, because Tim has about a bijillion unread messages in his inbox. Sigh. I’m going to check out the next REI Garage Sale for sure! I don’t care about colors, I just need a tent! I’ll also check out Sierra Trading Post… thanks for the tips!

  11. oh my goodness – i adore these photos! makes me miss the PNW and i hope i can convince my husband that we should all go camping someday (he is quite the city boy)! glad it was worth it!

    • Lisa says:

      I’m actually more of a city girl myself but the outdoors makes me happy and I loved camping way more than I thought I would! I think just seeing my girls in nature makes the whole thing worth it for me.

  12. Steph Gregerson says:

    These photos make me want to head out of the city immediately – especially the first one, because s’mores. 🙂

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  14. Susannah says:

    Wowie, girl! Way to go camping with kiddos! We slept in the same room as Caleb recently and he woke up every hour asking us if we could get up to play. Camping would have been the worst! 😉

    • Lisa says:

      Hahaha and you didn’t love that request in the middle of the night?! 😉 I think camping wore my girls out so they slept pretty soundly – even with a train going through the campground at night!

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