ROOKIE DAD LESSON LEARNED #106 - Camping with a toddler is a lot of work

Sunday, August 24, 2014

(Camping at Kejimkujik National Park)
posted by Romy (@daddontlie)

Rookie Dad Lesson Learned #106

Camping with a toddler is a lot of work

I don't know if you've ever packed for a camping trip for one toddler for one night, but there's a hell of a lot of work and preparation involved.

My wife and I enjoy camping in the summer. She introduced me to "real" backwoods camping not too long into our relationship. On our first trip, she packed a cooler full of food and beer, threw it into the canoe along with a tent and other 'necessities' and told me to paddle to the site she booked at Kejimkujik National Park. I enjoyed being in the outdoors and it became a tradition for us, one that she had begun as an infant with her family. We'd paddle to our island site and 'ruff' it out for a few days (usually on a comfy air mattress with plenty of good food, beer and even tunes from an iPod).
Last summer, we missed out on our camping trip as Kyrie was born at the end of June and we weren't ready to throw him in a canoe at only a few weeks old (we're adventurous parents, but not that adventurous.) But this summer, Naomi suggested that it was time to take our 13-month old on his first camping trip, but we would take baby steps and introduce him to camping in the main campground...for ONE night...with the possibility of extending for a second night if all went well. I was a little hesitant. I only imagined a screaming baby at two in the morning in a campground of 100+ camp sites. Where would we put him to sleep? What would he find in the woods to put in his mouth? What if a bear paid a visit to our tent? I wasn't ready. It sounded like a lot more work and worry than fun. I apprehensively agreed to take this risk.

Packing for this trip was ridiculous. First off, where would he sleep? A pack and play barely fit in our tent but luckily my brother's family had a massive 'Breezy Lake Cabin' tent that they could lend us. This Cadillac of tents fit our air mattress and pack and play with three quarters of the tent to spare.

The car was jam packed for our one night getaway. On top of our regular camping gear, we had to add a pack and play, toys, a high chair, a life jacket, medication (in case he had an allergic reaction to something) and all the additional food for him.

We ran into a couple of minor challenges when we arrived. Setting up a tent usually only takes about five minutes, but setting up the 'Breezy Lake Cabin' 12x12 tent took quite a bit longer and it was tricky juggling tent poles and a baby on the move in a busy campground with cars constantly driving by.

Once we finished our lunch, which went smoothly with our portable highchair that fastened onto the picnic table, it was time for Kyrie's first canoe adventure. My in-laws were backwoods camping that weekend so we had them come to the shore and pick us up in our canoe that we lent them.

Here was our method: My father-in-law paddled in the stern while I was in the bow, Naomi and her mother sat in the middle...her mother took the dog and she took Kyrie (tightly gripped and in a life jacket of course). It was about a  twenty minute paddle to the campsite so we brought a few books and toys that were tied to the canoe to prevent our little one from going in after them if they went overboard. Everything went well, Kyrie enjoyed the canoe ride but there were a lot of songs sung along the way to keep him entertained (and to keep my wife calm).

The evening went as planned, we had our supper and saved the campfire for after he went to bed (that would be another adventure for another time). Getting him to sleep took a little longer than usual since he was in a new place but we eventually got him down. It was time to relax and have a couple of beers in front the campfire.

We got to bed alright....and then 1:00 AM hit. He woke up. Now, campgrounds at night when everyone is asleep get SUPER quiet. You could hear a pin well, Kyrie beginning to fuss and cry. This was my biggest fear coming upon me. We didn't want to wake up the whole park so we had to quickly respond to any slight noises. We would get him to sleep for small intervals at a time but it was close to 4:30 AM before we got him back in the pack and play. Then he was up about an hour later and then off and on while he cuddled with us in our sleeping bag.We were up for the day just before 7:00 AM....exhausted.

As expected, we didn't decide to stay for a second night.

All in all, with the exception of a relatively sleepless night, we had a relatively good first camping experience with our toddler. Sleepless nights are nothing new to us at this point. I look forward to many more camping adventures to come, hopefully with a bit more sleep, perhaps for longer than a night with a few more beers.

Read more Rookie Dad Lessons Learned

Romy is a dad, husband and blogger based out of Halifax.  He also writes about hoops too at  For dirty diaper stories,  follow him on Twitter @DadDontLie and for hoops talk, follow @RomyAquino

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