First hand : Camping with a 2yr old

One of my many distractions from hobby and this blog over the last few weeks has been camping. Like most new families, we’re going to have to get used to weekends away and short breaks under canvas over the next few years.

I’ve got some fond, and not so fond, memories of camping as a child. We used to set off for Devon or Cornwall at about 2am- ‘to beat the traffic’, end up getting on a damp camp site at 6:30am and then try and pitch our massive tent for the rest of the morning. It’s funny that you notice things like phones and TVs getting smaller and lighter, but you don’t notice tents getting smaller. The tent we had was no bigger than modern tents, but had miles and miles of stainless steel poles, acres of canvas and yards of guy ropes. It took a small army of trucks and men to lift, transport and erect this behemoth. Anyway I digress. The point is, I used to go camping and I’ve been recently.

I thought I’d put together a few pointers for others embarking on their first camping trip with a toddler. We’ve only been twice, but the second time was much easier than the first because we changed a few things to our advantage.

1. Remember it’s a holiday and to enjoy it. This is probably the most important thing to remember but one of the hardest to do. Two year olds like routine. Taking them out of their bed away from their toy box and putting them in a field for a few nights is really hard. It will not be easy for them. Not only will there be lots of new things to explore with the tent and all the camping equipment, but there won’t be the usual set of distractions that you have at home. Keep all that in mind when they have ‘challenging’ moments. You’re on holiday too so don’t stress about it.

2. Get everything setup before releasing the Kraken. The first time we went, we got to the site after a hour and a half in the car, let the boy out and I tried to set everything up. After a while though he became a nuisance as I tried to finish off putting up the tent and putting everything in it. Second time we went, we kept in him the car seat with my wife entertaining him so I could get everything done really quickly. It made a big difference.

3. Pack the car smartly. This leads from the previous entry, anything that you can do to be more efficient at getting setup is something worth doing. Have the tent and groundsheet easily accessible. Have any toys, books and other distractions at hand as well as any snacks and drinks that you may need.

4. Prepare for long days. You’ll be living by the sun for the next few days. We were up at between 5am and 6am most days and all going to sleep together at about 9 – 9:30pm. These are long days so make sure you have enough to do. We’re lucky because our son loves football and beaches. An early morning walk on the beach and a late evening kick-about keep everyone happy and hopefully drain the energy stores enough for a good nights sleep.

5. Bring the essential home comforts. To try and smooth out the transition to our new environment don’t forget to pack the books, toys, pyjamas etc that your little one loves the most. We made sure to have a few favourite books and a few soft toys for bedtime to help make things more familiar.

6. Don’t do too much, too soon. We’re lucky to live in Devon and so don’t have too far to go before we get to some amazing countryside or coastline. The two camp sites that we selected are only 90 minutes up the road. If things didn’t work out we were prepared to pack up and come home knowing it’s not too far to come. If you’re able to then I’d recommend a short, local break before you try and do a week away in the school holidays.

Not many tips but useful nonetheless, I hope.

In terms of sleeping we got a Kampa Junior airbed with bumpers and a junior sleeping bag which both worked really well. We also kept equipment to a minimum and all slept together in one section of the tent. We have a 5 man tent which can be split to 3+2 sections. We decided not to out up the divider and to all sleep in one section.

We loved camping and so did our little boy. We’ll be going a couple more times over the summer and are braving the Beautiful Days festival next week!!

If you have any camping hints and tips please add them to the comments section below. I’m still learning and am always on the look out for things that make life better or easier.

Putting up the tent

Putting up the tent

The tent ready to go

The tent ready to go


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