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Camping Adventures with a Baby

We've loved the outdoors ever since we moved to Aus and, living in Darwin, we have great access to some incredible national parks and camp sites. Soon after we settled here we bought our first 4x4, and I gradually upgraded our camping kit to the point where Laura, my wife, got quite mad, which is of course the universal indicator that the camping kit has been upgraded enough! Since Isla Ember arrived, her middle name itself a homage to our adventures and outdoors-y lifestyle, we were very keen to introduce her to the life. Of course, she bloody loved it, but following a few handy dadventurer tips can help make sure the whole family gets the most of your adventures "out bush".

1. Over plan and over pack

Our first few camping trips with Isla involved a couple of swags and a lot of food and we lucked out most of the time but we got caught out a couple of months ago in a crazy rare dry season rain storm and learned a valuable lesson. Prepare for every eventuality, however unlikely! The 14 hours that Isla and my wife were stuck in their swag, and me in mine, were a horrific experience (for mum particularly - she's a great sport!) Having a nice comfy, big tent handy just in case that unlikely event happens would make the difference between a fun night avoiding storms and a boring, tiring, near drowning that only Isla seemed to get any enjoyment out of - She rarely lets the weather get her down! Make sure you take heaps of toys, food, kit and cover so that whatever happens you can make sure baby is having fun and you can relax into it, which is what it's all about.

2. Know your drive

Knowing the drive, how long it will take, a few cool stops along the way and the actual direction to drive in can make a real difference to your weekend camping. If you plan the drive through and make sure that, if baby arises a bit too screamily at any point, you know where you can stop for a feed, a wee or whatever else mum, dad or baby need. Of course, knowing the directions accurately is vital, you do NOT want to be pushing baby's limits too much or getting to the site late and setting up camp in the dark!

Bonus tip: for 4x4 driving allow HEAPS of time and make sure baby's head is very well supported in the child seat.

3. Know your limits

The safety of your family is the most important consideration when booking your camping trips. Have a real long think about what you, your kit and your baby is capable of before booking any hikes, scrambles, off-roading or anything else. The last camp trip we went on (Koolpin Gorge, Kakadu) involved a bit of scrambling to the croc-safe swimming pools. For a few of these I had to leave Isla with mum and have a climb without the baby carrier to make sure I could guarantee Isla's safety. This was pretty fun, but pretty tiring. And I would have hated finding out at that stage (after the 3 hour drive!) that we couldn't make it to the pools.

4. Let baby enjoy it for what it is, not just what you bring

Although it is important to bring all you need for baby to enjoy themselves, it is so cool to watch them roll around in the dirt, chase the birds and wildlife and just enjoy the great outdoors. I sat and watched Isla soak up the nature for ages and she just loved it, everywhere she looked was something new and exciting for her and everything we did we involved her in. It did take a hell of a lot longer than usual to pitch the tent and pack the car, but it was well worth it to see the grin on her face and the value it added to her weekend.

Bonus tip: Make sure your tent is easy to put up for 1 person... there are times when baby will not want to mess about with a tent and your efficiency may depend on some solo work!

5. Go for it!

Whatever you do, wherever you go. Sit back, relax and enjoy the extra value that your baby brings to the experience... It is well worth it!

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