(Skip the saga and scroll to the bottom if you’re here for the tips for camping with a baby in Yosemite).
Tyler and I have always (usually) been optimistic. We make bold decisions and truly do believe that everything is going to turn out fine.
Most of the time, this optimism is one of our best collective qualities. We try to keep a big picture perspective and work on keeping each other “up” when worry sets in.
When my family invited us to join their summer tradition of camping in Yosemite Valley, I thought, of course we’re going. I had visions of the three of us resting peacefully in our tent, nestled in the midst of one of God’s greatest masterpieces.
We weren’t planning on climbing Half Dome or doing anything crazy–just a few relaxing days showing Charlotte all of our favorite spots.
It wasn’t until the trip began to creep up on us that some question marks floated to the surface. The logistics around how we would manage Charlotte’s somewhat rigorous daily routine in a…tent…looked a little murky.
I voiced my rising doubts to my older sister who brushed me off, saying “If you want to be a camping family, you have to camp.”
And that was that.
I’ve been toeing the line of being a “travel blogger” and “new mom” at the same time. Tyler and I are above-average travelers but way too new at parenting to even begin to formulate advice for others.
What expertise have I to offer yet about traveling with Charlotte?? Traveling (much less camping) with a baby is just as foreign to me as it would be to a college fraternity member.
However, I was hoping to glean at least a few tips and tricks from this adventure to share with my readers who might be in the same boat we are now. (again with the optimism).
I’m here today to say that the only “tip” I have is to avoid camping with a baby.
This blog post went from a “humble how-to” to “don’t do it” the second my daughter decided to party for two hours at 12am the first night we got there.
Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but it was much harder than I anticipated.
But I’ll share what happened anyway–maybe processing it in written form will spark some ideas for the next time I go parading towards disaster?
Everything is hard while camping. Going to the bathroom, showering (or not showering), brushing teeth, making food, and even getting a good night’s sleep all present a challenge.
Throw in an 8 month old baby in Yosemite, and you have dirt-covered chaos.
I was a little nervous about sleeping in a tent with Charlotte, as we haven’t slept in the same room as her since she was 8 weeks old. The girl is a light sleeper, and Tyler has a notoriously loud snore and sleep talking habit (not kidding).
We brought along our pack-and-play for Charlotte to sleep in and set it up between our two cots.
The first night she went down for bed totally fine around 7:45pm. Tyler and I went to bed a couple hours later.
(Well, he did. I stayed up until 10:30 with my eyes wide open and glued to my Kindle, finishing Verity by Colleen Hoover. Would not recommend this one to literally anyone. It was so dark.)
Anyway. I had just drifted off to sleep after finally shaking off the shocking ending to my book when I heard Charlotte start to wake up. I held my breath and thought “ok that’s weird, she’s probably just stirring.”
She wasn’t. Within 2 minutes she was sitting up and holding onto the sides of the pack and play, LAUGHING AND SQUEALING WITH DELIGHT. She could not believe that she was sleeping with us. Tyler and I just stared at each other over the gap between our cots and tried not to laugh. She was being so cute.
The problem was our tent was set up close to the bathroom, so the outside light made the tent way too bright. Normally she sleeps in pitch black in her nursery. Also, it was SO cold. I took the opportunity to bundle her up even more.
I tried to pat her back to sleep, nursing her back to sleep, even made Tyler fetch the Ergo carrier from the car to try to rock her to sleep like I do during her nap times sometimes when we are out and about. Nothing. She was babbling, smiling, so thrilled to be in our presence at such an hour.
I briefly considered just letting her cry it out, since she is sleep trained. But I couldn’t bring myself to let her cry in a campground. And it would have been excruciating/inhumane to make her cry right in front of us.
The midnight party went on for TWO HOURS. Finally I think she burned out enough that she fell asleep once I tried nursing her for the third time. She woke up again at 5am, and I pulled her into my cot with me because her little nose and ears were as cold as ice.
So then of course I didn’t sleep at all after that because I was so worried she was going to roll off.
The second night was equally as difficult. All four of my nieces and nephews were there that night and were roasting s’mores right outside our tent. Needless to say, she was NOT going to miss out on that.
She woke up 20 minutes after I put her down for the night and was wide awake until 10pm.
I’m sure you can imagine my panic with her being wide awake well past her bedtime, but my mom told me to chill and just wait until the kids fell asleep to even try again.
She went down finally when all was silent in our campsite. She slept soundly in the pack n play until around 2am. I noticed she felt cold again, so I kept her with me in the cot until she woke up for the day around 7am.
Anyway, I know no one cares about this stuff except other moms of babies. There is something so anxiety-inducing about an awake baby who is supposed to be a sleeping baby. At least for me.
Or perhaps it’s just that I turn into a monster when I don’t get a good night’s rest? Maybe I’ll be used to it with any subsequent babies?
Takeaway Advice, after reading this back:
- Definitely bring a pack-and-play. It was a little crowded in the tent but nice to have for her to sleep in (when she did sleep), and we also used it a lot during the day. We’d put it on top of our Gathre mat outside in the shade and put some toys in it. She was happy as a clam.
- I used her stroller for all of her naps during the day. It was way too hot in the campsite for her to be able to sleep in the tent, and we wheeled the stroller all around the valley floor while she snoozed. Something about the fresh air (and lack of night time sleep lol) allowed her to sleep SO soundly while we explored. We also used her stroller as a “high chair” to feed her during her meals. This worked perfectly.
- Go with family. My parents, despite also being in charge of my niece and nephew, were such a huge help. This post would have been far more dramatic (seemingly impossible but true) if we didn’t have the extra sets of hands. We even got to go on a sunset bike ride together the first night after we put her down. Still dreaming of those skies.
- Baby friendly “hikes”: We did a few really nice walks that were perfect for having the stroller. There is a loop around the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail is pretty flat, around a mile long, and brings you right to the base of the waterfall. We also walked from our campsite in Upper Pines to Mirror Lake one day. It was really hot out that day, so my nieces and nephews treated themselves to a dip in the water while got Charlotte out to stretch her legs and splash with her teeny tiny feet. And one morning, I walked through the valley floor from Yosemite Village back to the campground, but you could easily head towards Happy Isle instead.
- Try to get a site as secluded and as far away from the bathrooms as possible. The fact that our tent was as bright as day made things much worse.
- Look into tents with “dividers,” so baby can sleep on one side and you can sleep on the other. It won’t block the noise (such as your husband cussing in his sleep), but it would at least provide some barrier. I found this one on Amazon that looks pretty solid.
- BUNDLE THAT BABY. I had Charlotte in a onesie, her footed pajamas, and two sleep sacks. She still felt cold, though, and I think that was part of her problem. I wish I had brought a little beanie for her. Also, I just found this adorable sleeping bag/sack that she obviously needs should there be a next time.
- If you’re really smart, pony up and book a room at the nearest hotel. Kind of not kidding. If we go back to Yosemite in the next couple of years, you’ll find me cozied up at Half Dome Village.
I think this is the part of the post where I ask if anyone else has advice for camping with a baby?
One thing I did learn is that we just need to keep trying. And while tent camping might be on the back burner for a while, I am proud of us for giving it a shot.
I definitely do want to continue to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and do things as a family.
We have been saying for years that we want to travel with our kids. We want to cultivate a sense of curiosity, adventure, and imagination within our little family, and we believe the way to do that is to get our kids outside and in the fresh air.