It would probably be an understatement to say that I was *ahem*
somewhat apprehensive quite concerned about how our family camping holiday was going to go with a crawling, teething 13 month old baby in the middle of Winter to the freezing inland desert. But…it was awesome! I needn’t have worried at all. All my concerns about how on earth it was all going to work, with setting up camp, with moving every day, with long days in the car, with dirt and dust and mud and wet and frost… Somehow, it all just worked beautifully. And because I’m the caring sharing sort, I thought I’d throw a few pearls of wisdom out there for anyone planning a similar trip, or like I was: scratching my head wondering if we were quite insane to do this at all! I can confirm that camping with a crawler will not send you to the divorce courts as I thought it might. Nope! Of course, there were a few key items which helped with our overall family enjoyment. Behold…
Ikea Antilop highchair
This. Was. Key. I now can not even believe I questioned whether we’d take it or not. Was I crazy?!!! Eleanor spent 90% of our holiday in this thing – ha! She loved it though. Stopping for lunch? Get the Antilop out and plonk it atop the camper. Setting up camp? Get the Antilop out and shove some smallish toys that won’t fall over the edge too easily on the tray = happy baby for a few minutes at least. The Antilop has proven itself at home about a thousand-fold already, but as a camping item it came into it’s own. Admittedly, Eleanor is a fairly no-fuss baby when it comes to being contained, I know that some babies are much more turbo-charged and need to move about. Not our Eleanor. A few other families we met along the way also mentioned specific camping highchairs to us (which I’ve since investigated here) which would be great to save space. The Antilop was definitely a big space eating monster, it sat on the back seat along with our clothes bags, but with more than one child in the backseat we could be pushed for a spot for it. The durability of the Antilop and easy cleaning of the tray is brilliant though, whether camping or at home. The legs just snapped off and on, sometimes multiple times a day, and Eleanor was happy as a clam watching the world go by from her chair. And, it’s thirty bucks from Ikea. No brainer.
I have used the Ergo on and off since Eleanor was a wee one – always on the front, generally for walks in the paddock or just out to check the chooks etc. But it really came into it’s own on our camping adventures in the Flinders Ranges. We walked everywhere with Eleanor safely on Matt’s back – it was super comfortable for both of them and super easy to chuck her in there quickly and off we went! I did take the pram with us also (mainly because we had a few days in Naracoorte on our way whilst Matt went to a work conference) and I honestly did not get that pram out of the car once we begun our camping trip! The Ergo carried Eleanor around the Wilpena homestead, just around the campground, up Mount Ohlssen Bagge and on loads of short walks from car parks to little landmarks. Considering Eleanor hadn’t been in the Ergo for ages, and rarely on Matt’s back, I was so surprised to see her sleep soundly and solidly in it. She slept all the way up Mount Ohlssen Bagge! So, we love love love the Ergo. I’ve looked at bulkier papooses and backpacks for Matt before, but the Ergo does the job comfortably and is so compact to pack and easy to use. I did also have my ring sling with me, which I used a bit too, but for any extensive walk it was the Ergo (and Matt loved it too and left me with spare arms for my camera – so many photos of Matt’s back with Eleanor perched on it as I walked behind them!) Ours is the Original Ergo in sand, although I have a friend with the newer 360 model which looks pretty snazzy.
I was quite (quite!) worried about the amount of time Eleanor would be in the car for, we had some big days with big kilometres to cover. But, as always, I was surprised by how resilient and patient our blossom is. She mainly slept in the car, surprise surprise for anyone who knows of Eleanor’s penchant for a good snooze! But there were times where we were inevitably late getting to camp, bang on the witching hour of Eleanor’s dinner (5-5.30pm) and that’s where handheld, easy to pass in the car snacks came into their own. Rice crackers to the rescue! Also sultanas, strawberries, dates, cereal bars… And when we did eventually get somewhere and I’d unload the trusty Antilop, it was always good to put things in front of her which she could feed herself while I unpacked the car. I made her big batches of corn and zucchini fritters one night and then kept them in the fridge ready to throw at her (not literally…well, maybe) as she was happy to eat them cold while we got set up. I should mention that snacks were a saviour to us as we were doing a lot of driving and moving about, we moved camp every night pretty much. Camping trips of a different nature where you just set up and stay put are probably a very different kettle of fish when it comes to ‘essentials’ with a crawler. Which brings me to my next essential…
C Gear Mat
As I said, Eleanor spent a whole lot of time either in the highchair or in her carseat. Like, all the time. Which did have me a bit worried that this kid will never walk, she’ll lose the ability to crawl even! But of course she didn’t, and was quite fine being shuttled from highchair to Ergo to carseat to bed. Every night I did try and give her a good play on the bed and she’d crawl around playing with her few toys I brought with us. But generally she wasn’t too fussed about the no-activity! I guess she was still very busy enough anyway. On a few occasions we were set up at camp a few hours earlier than usual, or at Wilpena Pound where we stayed for four nights, and I made a concerted effort to let Eleanor go crazy on the ground. Our C Gear mat has been in our camping repertoire since our honeymoon adventures around Australia – it’s magical. It is basically a giant glorified shade cloth, it allows sand and dirt to fall through it…and not come back up! Brilliant. Surprisingly, Eleanor pretty much stayed on the mat, again probably more to do with her placid nature than anything else. I showed her the outside edges of the mat and said ‘uh-uh’ when she went off into the sand/dirt and she literally cut laps around the perimetre of the mat! Of course at times I just let her crawl around in the sand/dirt because that’s just what you do when you’re camping, but generally the C Gear mat saved our bacon (and washing pile). I also had with us a waterproof suit from Aussie Disposals but I didn’t crank it out as it wasn’t overly wet, but can definitely see it’s merits as a camping essential with a crawler in Winter. Also, we moved a lot, every day, so Eleanor’s playtime on the mat was an hour at most. If you were camped in the one spot for multiple days/a week I could definitely see us using a big ol’ playpen. With this type of touring/traveling camping trip though that just wasn’t an issue for us. You can read more about C Gear matting here.
Of course, now that I think of it there’s probably lots more things which made our trip brilliantly non-stress and carefree (a sweet placid baby girl is probably up there on the list!) These ‘essentials’ are very much for a traveling/touring type of trip like what we did. But honestly? Camping with a crawler was great. And I did not think I would be saying that upon returning home! If you’re worried about camping with your baby, don’t be. Truly! Just be prepared, be patient and most of all have fun, don’t sweat the small stuff. Happy campers all round then!