Hiking and Camping with Small Kids – an Interview

Diane Vukovic is a mother of two and blogger with a real passion for camping and backpacking. She runs the blog MomGoesCamping.com where she shares her experience as a single parent with (now) two kids in the wilderness. She hopes that her experience will inspire other parents, especially mothers and daughters, to go hiking and camping. Women strongly believes that not even motherhood should be an excuse to stay home as she has proven many times over when backpacking and camping with her baby girl. In her own words, ‘If I can do it, so can you!’

Diane and her daughter Isabel

Diane Vukovic from MomGoesCamping

with her older daughter, Isabel

Hiking and Camping

1. How was the first time you went outdoors with your daughter?

Diane Vukovic:

First camping trip with my older daughter

The first time I took my older daughter camping, she was 3 years old.  Even I thought I was insane for doing that trip – we went to the remote mountains in Albania where there are venomous snakes and bears!

I planned like crazy for that trip, even learning how to say “viper” in Albanian and figuring out where the nearest clinics with anti-venom were located.

That trip is still one of my all-time favorites (and we’ve done a lot of traveling!).  It was actually more fun to backpack with a small child because we met completely different types of people.  So many locals talked to us because they were surprised to see a mom with her daughter alone.

That’s also when I realized that kids make the outdoors more fun.  My daughter found everything fascinating.  When you see it through their eyes, it makes you realize things like, “Wow! There actually is an entire ecosystem in this puddle she is poking!” or “Huh, check out how many different colors there are in the rocks.”

hiking camping small kids

First camping trip with a baby

My older daughter is now 8 years old. Since that first trip, we’ve gone wild camping many more times. I also now have a baby (6 months).  The baby’s already gone camping and hiking several times.

Camping with a baby means a lot of extra weight: there’s the weight of the extra gear plus the weight of the baby (my daughter weighed 18lbs at 4 months!).

It simply wasn’t possible for us to backpack into any remote area.  Instead, we went “semi-wild camping” in front of mountaineers’ cabins.  I wasn’t worried about anything because we were so close to civilization.  Should something go wrong, we still had a cell signal to call for help.

It is nice being in nature with the kids, but I do have to admit that it’s a bit of adjustment.  I’m used to total isolation and pure nature.  In areas that are accessible, there are too many annoying day-hikers and picnickers (who leave trash everywhere and do things like blast music).  It makes me sad, but having a baby means that I won’t be getting into any “real” nature for a while.

2. In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider when going hiking or camping with a baby?

hiking camping small kids

Diane Vukovic: By far, the most important thing when camping with a baby is the sleep setup.  If you and baby don’t get a good night’s sleep, then you both will be tired and grumpy the next day – which will ruin the entire adventure.

I find that babies are pretty good at sleeping anywhere.  It’s the parents who are worried, “Is baby too cold?”  or “Am I going to roll over on baby and suffocate her?”  I admit that these thoughts made it hard for me to sleep well the first time I took my 4-month baby camping – despite the fact that she actually slept better than at home.

Since you can’t put babies in a sleeping bag, you’ll either need to co-sleep with the baby or put her in layers and a sleeping sack.  I would NEVER recommend co-sleeping with a baby while camping.  Layering is a much better option.  I talk about this in detail in my post on best sleeping bag options for camping with an infant.

3. Which is the most important piece of gear to take with you?

Diane Vukovic: If you are going camping, obviously you need gear like a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and proper clothes.  However, if I had to choose one piece of gear to be with you (for both hiking and camping), it would be my Sawyer Mini water filter.

Having a water filter means that I don’t have to lug tons of water with me everywhere (a gallon of water weighs 8.3lbs!) This matters a lot when you’re already carrying all your kids’ gear plus your own.

I just make sure to plan my hikes and camping spots near a water source.  I could even drink water from a puddle if I had to.

4. Which are your favorite places for hiking and camping so far?

hiking camping small kids

Diane Vukovic: I live in Eastern Europe, so I usually go camping around here.  My favorite place to go is Albania.  The country has everything from gorgeous giant mountains with untouched nature to beaches with crystal-clear water.

The best thing about Albania though is how kid-friendly it is.  People there tend to have many children, so it isn’t strange to see kids in cafes.  There are even nice restaurants with kids’ play areas.  The Albanians do get really confused when they see a mom alone with her kids in the middle of nowhere.  Immediately they offer help and I’ve been invited home countless times.   Sometimes they don’t understand that we are sleeping outside on purpose. 🙂

5. What is your advice for parents who want to spend time outdoors with their children but don’t have the courage?

Diane Vukovic: There are two things that I’d advise parents who want to go camping with their kids but are scared.

First, pinpoint exactly what scares you.  Fear is a good thing – it helps keep us safe.  And, honestly, if you are scared, it might be a sign that you aren’t prepared to go outdoors!

Once you pinpoint your fears, you can start learning about them.  For example, if you are scared of bears, you should learn about bear safety like how to hang a bear bag, what to do if you see a bear, and buy some bear spray to carry with you.

Second, I’d say to take it slowly.  Start with some safe, baby steps into nature.  For example, you might start by joining a local hiking group for some guided hikes.  Next, you might try sleeping in a cabin and going on some day hikes by yourself.  After that, you could try tent camping at a campground.  Work your way up to wild camping or backpacking in the wild.

Have you enjoyed Diane’s tips on camping with small kids? Do you still consider backpacking or camping with a baby a huge challenge as a (single) parent? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. And meanwhile… Happy camping!

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