First Camping Trip with Baby

This past weekend we went out for our first camping trip (and hike) of the season and E’s first ever!

I started planning our trip a few weeks ago by booking a single night of camping at Bow Valley Campground near Calgary. I chose the location because it had reservable campsites available, looked nice enough and is a short 45 minute drive. While there is the argument that it takes just as much work to go for one night as for two or three, booking a single night also had many advantages – I wouldn’t be losing out on several nights of camping fees if we bailed early due to weather or too many diaper explosions, food prep is way easier and you can save a lot of the camp clean up duties for at home.

We keep most of our camping gear in rubbermaid tubs but because this was our first trip of the season I had a quick look through the bins and then we were ready to go. We were able to borrow a larger tent (since we weren’t all going to fit in our 4-man) and I bought some easy meal items (sandwiches made at home for both day lunches, smokies and a bag of kale salad for dinner and cereal for breakfast. One of my gear bins is food so we always have coffee, hot chocolate, sack bars and the stuff to make s’mores on hand.).

The morning of we put the Thule on the Disco and packed up all our gear. Stuff for the baby didn’t actually add much to our gear pile – a few outfits, a couple sleep sacks,  diaper stuff, his pack n’play, a couple of toys and the soft carrier. E showed us he was already going to be a great camper by taking a nap so we could both pack.

We were able to get on the road just after noon which meant that even with a few stops to grab supplies we arrived at our campsite by 1:30 pm. Official checkout time isn’t until 2 pm, and check in isn’t until 4 pm, but we were able to get out campsite permit early and arrived at our site to find the previous occupants had already vacated. We set up our tent and then loaded up with the supplies for lunch and a short hike.

Te campground is along the Bow River and a trail lead right from our campsite (A-39) to the Whitefish Day Use Area (an easy 30 minute walk).

Walking along the Bow River

It was super hot (+30C) so Patches had a swim and we ate our sandwiches in the shade before walking up the road to the Many Springs Trail.

Almost got everyone looking at the camera

The trail is only about 2km but with the heat and Patches being very  much a senior citizen it was just the right distance. For such a nice day we had the whole trail to ourselves.

Easy mountain views
Where the many springs are
Snoozing through the hike
You just have to accept that the baby and the dog won’t be looking at the camera

Everyone was feeling the heat by the time we were done so we re-traced our steps (stopping for another swim) and got back to the campground around 4 pm.

I’d picked a site that was walk-in (less than 50 m) but we still opted to only bring it what we needed. We worked at setting up camp, taking turns to hang out with the little guy in the hammock. Being right along the river without breeze meant that there were a fair number of mosquitos and we both got bitten a lot (we managed to keep them away from the baby).

Any excuse to put up the hammock

Then it was time to just hang out.  I’d chosen the site because it is right along the river so the dog was able to swim and we had a spectacular view of Mount Yamnuksa. While it was a lovely location I probably wouldn’t stay in the site again – it was a bit tiny (even though our tent wasn’t huge) and not as level as some of the other walk in sites. Being riverfront was great but since the hiking path was right along the river it had the potential to be a busy spot (luckily not too many people were out using it).

Campsite A-39 probably has some of the best views in the whole campground
He was fascinated by the trees
Just hanging out with Dad
Patches was so tired from our hike that he soon dug himself a little dog bed and slept the evening away

We got a campfire going and roasted smokies for dinner and s’more for dessert. Since I knew we were headed home the next day I just packed up the dirty dishes so post dinner clean up was super easy and we had time for more hanging out before getting ready for bed.

Cooking dinner
Hanging out with mom

The tent was the exact right size for our camping set up – adults on a “queen” sized air mattress, the dog on his dog bed and E in his pack n’play. There are lots of different sleeping arrangements out there but the pack n’play kept E safely up out of the way of the dog (who has been known to panic while sleeping in the tent). Much to my surprise both the dog and the baby went to sleep right away in their respective beds and slept until about midnight (when a train went through). I fed the baby, put him in a sleep sack and attempted to sleep myself. When he woke up again for his feed around 4 am I snuggled him up in another sleep sack but I think he was too chilly on his own and he eventually ended up in bed with us. I managed to sleep in until about 7:30 which is pretty good in the tent!

We woke up to cloudy skies and a light sprinkling of rain so decided just to pack up and head home. It didn’t take too long to pack up camp and we were able to get on the road just after 9 am. Our timing was perfect since it started pouring rain just as we got the last items into the Disco and I was thankful that we’d decided to skip making breakfast!

While one night out is hardly an epic adventure I am pleased that we were able to make it work. I think we’re ready for more camping adventures!

Pretty happy after his first night in the tent

Some thoughts on our first camping trip

  • Bow Valley is a big campground so it has lots of amenities (although we didn’t use any of them) and still seemed to be fairly quiet. There were lots of families camping there so I assume it is also a nice place to bring older children. There are some short hikes in the area (like the Many Springs Trail we did).
  • We chose a walk in site for this trip and while the location was great, and the distance from the car very manageable, I wouldn’t choose to do another walk in site with E right now just because one adult always had to stay in the site while the other went to get items, even something simple. In a site with the vehicle parked right there it would be possible to grab something from the car either holding the baby or letting him sit in his play chair.
  • As much as I’d love to rush out and buy new camping gear what we own works just fine for camping with the little guy. I’ll keep my eye out for deals on screen shelters but everything we used when it was just the two of us and the dog is still enough stuff.

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