Sharing the outdoors with your child is a valuable experience for everyone.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth. – Walt Whitman
Parenthood has brought many challenges, obstacles, and considerations that were once foreign and barely fathomable. One of the greatest shifts in perspective comes from our hard-wired predisposition to protect our young. Whether it is driving a vehicle, baby-proofing a house, or just making general lifestyle choices that reflect a responsibility for another human’s life, parenthood changes a lot of the things we do in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, our greatest intentions sometimes lead to our greatest folly, and our own apprehensions can stop us from experiences that can foster the most meaningful personal growth.
When I first became a parent I had an unreasonable fear about taking a baby camping. There were simply too many what-ifs. So very many things could go wrong and turn a fun trip into a horrible experience. Is it safe to take a baby camping? What we need to pack? Would it be too cold? What if she cries all night? What if, what if, what if… It all sounded like so much work and so much stress.
Reinstein Ranch / Livermore, CA
We felt like the chance to have a child whose earliest memories are connected to the outdoors was worth any of the perceived risks. The “risks” were, and are, more of a figment of our imagination than anything else. The truth is, the drive to any campsite contains statistically more danger than camping itself. The value of camping, however, is so great, and runs so deep that it can’t ever be properly quantified. Not only is the experience enriching for the kids, it is also rewarding and empowering for the parents alike! The act of living under the stars, in nature, is transcendent and provides a true sense of connectedness to the natural world.
Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center / Caspar, CA
The purpose of life is undoubtedly to know oneself. We cannot do it unless we learn to identify ourselves with all that lives. The sum-total of that life is God. – Mahatma Gandhi
I can’t say that we weren’t nervous on our first camping trip with Birdie, as she was only a month old at the time. The site was also a new Hipcamp listing, which meant we were going to be completely alone in a place neither my wife or I had ever been. The nervousness and excitement add to my memory, as I recall the satisfaction of setting up camp tucked within a thick laurel grove. Watching our newborn become transfixed by the sway of the branches overhead and soothed by the whoosh of the wind through the trees is a memory that I will forever cherish. I don’t fully understand what those experiences will end up meaning to Birdie, but I know there is value in them. I also know that I have grown from those experiences as it gives me a new way to live in the moment and really soak up life.
True Grass Farms / Valley Ford, CA
What we have learned along the way is that babies are going to be babies. They will not cooperate all the time, they will cry, poop and pee at the most inconvenient times, and will sometimes shriek like a pterodactyl. It doesn’t matter if you are at home, in the desert, in the forest, or by the ocean, babies are going to do baby things. We have also learned that you should always pack extra clothes, extra blankets, and extra diapers, because s*** happens.
The bottom line is that camping with a baby (or children) won’t cramp your camp vibes. The best adventures are those that are shared, and sharing such adventures with the people you love most is as pure as it gets. There is no perfect time to go, so circle a date on the calendar and make it happen.
Nic is a photographer, explorer, and self-proclaimed champion of bar-room athletics. You can follow his adventures (with @campingwithbirdie!) on Instagram @niccastellanos. You can also follow his Field Scout adventures!