How can I Help my Baby to Sleep While Camping?

by: Jessica Nugent and LiLing Pang

Sleep is a huge issue for most families.  So many of the woes in your child's first few year's of life revolve around helping them sleep well.  So it's no wonder that it's stressful for many mom's and dad's to think about disrupting their child's sleep by going camping.  Here are some tried and true tips from parent's who have camped many times with young kids.


How can I help my child have a good night of sleep while camping?


 Photo by: Flickr/Matthew Routley

The most important tip preparation you can do with your child is to familiarize your youngster  with your tent.  Set it up in your living room or yard.  Do this before you head out camping.  Make sure to set up the tent before your trip if you’ve had a few months break from camping or every trip, until you feel like your youngsters have a real hang of tent camping.  Believe me, I’ve paid the price of not heeding this advice.  I once had to sleep in the car while my child has slept in his carseat because he was afraid of the tent.  It happens. 


Photo by: flickr/redjar


If you are nervous about how your child will sleep at night, another great tip is to camping as close to home as possible for your first camping trip.  If you have a campground within an hour of your house, start camping there.  If the experience is rough you can hop in the car, drive home and return to the campground the next day to get your tent and gear.  But don’t give up. try again in a few months.

Some young children are very active sleepers.  It can be hard for them to stay in a sleeping bag.  When they wiggle themselves out of their sleeping bag, they often wake up because they are cold.  That’s why I always dress my kids in layers of warm pajamas.  If night time temperatures drop into the 40s, you might want to bring a wool hat that straps around their chin in case their head gets cold.  The strap is important because one without a strap won’t stay on long laying down.

If you regularly co-sleep with your child, you’ll probably do the same while camping and your body heat will probably keep baby warm and toasty.  Lucky you!  However, if neither you or baby are used to sleeping next to each other, you might consider purchasing a Kidco PeaPod Tent.  They are big enough for even a 4 year old to sleep in.  Place the Peapod tent inside your family tent to create a space where you child is contained in his own space.  You can place the inflatable mattress inside a kid size sleeping bag so it’s harder for your child to wiggle out of the sleeping bag.   If you still need to keep in more heat, throw a blanket over the peapod tent to keep in the body heat, but be sure to leave a gap for ventilation.

Be flexible.  If your youngster is in a good, decent mood have them sit on Mom or Dad’s lap and fall asleep in front of the fire.  If they are just tuckered out and cranky, accompany them into the tent.  Incorporate some home bedtime rituals into camping, such as a bottle or story at bedtime.  I always bring my son’s two favorite blankets and two tent buddies (a ball and a stuffed dog that plays bedtime music).  Drifting off to sleep may take a little longer but it will happen.  Don’t fret over it. 


What can mom and dad do to ensure they get some sleep too?

Sleeping in a tent isn’t just an adjustment for the kids, if you’re a light sleeper, it can be just as hard to get a good night of sleep while camping.  Now, if you’re not used to sleeping in close quarters with your child or get awaken easily by rustling sleeping bags, you might want to try the tips below. 

First and foremost, I highly recommend investing in a good air mattress or sleeping pad.  REI has 2.5-3 inch sleeping pads that are unbelieveably comfortable and aren't too bulky.  Do not skimp on this essential camping item.  Bring a pillow if you can’t sleep without one even if it is bulky. 

I also highly recommend bringing along ear plugs and placing them right next to you before going to bed so they are right there in case you need it.  Finally, make sure you use the bathroom just before going to bed so you don’t end up tossing and turning for hours.

Having a bottle of water in the tent with you is also important because being outdoors all day can be very dehydrating.  You’ll be surprised how uncomfortable the cold night air can be on a parched throat.

I have a child who naps, how can we provide for nap times while camping?


Photo by: Flickr/ccreitz


Some kids will sleep anywhere, while others need to be in a dark quiet room.  If your child sleeps well in a car, naptimes are a great time to take a scenic drive.  Bring your map and hit the road.  Most young kids will sleep nicely in their car seats while adults can take turns looking out over scenic overlooks.  This is also a great time to keep an eye out for local roadside stands; fresh fruit, veggies and firewood are some great things to buy. Alternatively, if your child will sleep in a backpack carrier or a stroller, plan a long hike to start during naptime.

If you’re hanging out at the campsite during naptime, try to pitch your tent in a shady spot so that your child can sleep in the tent during naptime.  Tents get very hot in the heat of the day.  If you are using the Kidco Peapod Tent, you could just move the peapod tent under a shady tree and throw a dark sheet over it to create a dark room.  To mask out noises, consider bringing along a battery operated white noise maker.


Do you have a question about camping with kids that our savvy parents can help answer? 

Ask us your questions





Jessica Nugent (aka fani*fam) is the mom of a a one year old boy and loves outdoor adventures.  They are known for braving the outdoors any season of the year.  LiLing Pang (TravelPangs) is co-founder and contributing author on Trekaroo - - a reviews website dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids.

Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA


updated: February 02 2011 by LiLing Pang

at 08/01/2013 07:02PM East of Eden wrote:
Riding the waves in a canoe is a wonderful way to help little ones get to sleep. A good-quality life jacket that is comfortable and a wide brim hat with a tie/ elastic helps to keep kids safe and comfortable. Place the child on a small booster seat (or Bumbo) and wedge them between your knees. It makes for slightly awkward paddling until the child falls asleep. Once the child is asleep, cover any exposed skin with a towel and let them relax while you enjoy the waves!
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