Sleep Tips for Camping Trips.

We recently got back from a camping trip in the New Forest. As an adult, sleeping whilst camping can be tricky and uncomfortable, so I was a little apprehensive about how my two children would sleep. I have a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old who both sleep brilliantly at home, but sleeping outside in a tent surrounded by loud wildlife and other families is a whole different ball game! 

Thankfully, with a bit of planning and research, I was able to facilitate good sleep for the entire family – something that was much needed after tiring days exploring the forest and nearby beaches. As such, I thought it would be useful to pass on these tips to others who are planning on a camping trip with their little ones. 

So, here are my Top Tips for Camping Trips with little ones:

1. Plan, plan and plan some more!

I can’t stress enough how much planning goes into ensuring a smooth camping trip with kids. Think through:

  • The camping equipment you need (tent, sleeping bags, etc.)
  • Any cooking equipment needed (camping stove, BBQ, water bottle)
  • Kitchen & BBQ utensils
  • Cleaning & washing up supplies
  • Portable table & chairs (or a picnic blanket)
  • Wash kit & towels
  • Appropriate clothing for daytime & nighttime
  • Antibacterial wipes & hand gel
  • Portable potty/toilet 
  • Food & drink
  • Cool box & ice blocks
  • Torches, headtorches & lanterns
  • … the list goes on

And, on the sleep side of things, carefully think through exactly how their bedtime routine and sleep space is going to work in this new environment. Anticipate any problems and consider how you will tackle any challenges. 

2. Choose your tent carefully.

If you have the option of choosing the tent you are going to buy/use, I highly recommend making sure your sleep is set up for success. 

This means, looking for a tent that has: 

  • Blackout area(s) for sleeping – keeping out that pesky sunlight as long as possible, and preventing very early rising
  • A separate space where the children can sleep (especially if they have their own room at home)

The Berghaus Nightfall tents offer both of these options.

3. Consider the sleeping equipment needed. 

Sleeping bags are obviously a must, and make sure they are comfy and temperature appropriate (keeping in mind how low temperatures can get even in the summer). We also brought the boys’ pillows to ensure they had the smell of home and were comfortable.

In terms of what they sleep on:

  • For younger babies/children: bring their travel cot with a comfy mattress. You can even purchase special, smaller, pop-up travel cots that work well in tents
  • For older babies & children out of cots: blow up beds work well. We bought ours a double blow-up bed each because the tent had the space, and they were less likely to fall out of bed vs the smaller single ones. These were just £11 each from Millets and we couldn’t have done without them
    • If you don’t have the space for double blow-up beds and your children are still using bed bumpers, I would recommend the blow-up beds with built in bumpers, or just a ground mat so there’s less risk of them falling out of bed

4. Bring along some home comforts.

Being in a new sleep space can be a scary proposition for little ones, let alone being outside in the wilderness! Therefore, it’s a good idea to bring along some home comforts to make them feel as safe and ‘at home’ as possible. For example, bring their: comforters, pillows (for older children) and favourite books. Perhaps avoid books like The Gruffalo or We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, which could induce anxiety around being in the woods or outside.

We also brought my children’s portable sleep clock (which takes batteries) that told them when it was night and morning. This acted as a night light during the dark night. 

5. Prepare a ‘night station’.

Once you have the tent all set up, I would recommend preparing a ‘night station’ – an area in the tent where you have easy access to everything that you might need during the night. 

For all: torches/lanterns, water bottles and additional clothing.

For younger babies: nappies, wipes, change of clothes, spare dummy, sterilised bottles & ready-made formula (if bottle feeding).

6. Keep to your bedtime routine as much as possible.

Follow your bedtime routine as closely as possible whilst camping. Obviously, some adjustments will be required (and bedtime is also likely to be a little later than usual), but some form of familiarity will help your little ones settle down to sleep in this new environment. 

Our children had a quick shower before bed, and then we followed the same steps of our routine – books, cuddles and songs, followed by ‘goodnight’. 

7. Consider the noises of the night.

During the evening and night, it is likely that your little one will hear several unfamiliar and/or intrusive noises. For older children, I would recommend talking through the noises they are likely to hear (people talking, birds chirping loudly, dogs barking, people walking by the tent, etc.). This will help prepare them for the night ahead. For all age ranges, you could consider using a white noise machine to block out any unwanted sounds.

8. Be prepared for a night or two of adjustment.

It’s a good idea to prepare yourself mentally and physically for a night or two of adjustment before your little ones start sleeping well whilst camping. Remember, it’s a very different experience and environment for them. Get an early night yourself on the first night and be prepared to ride it out. Stay consistent and keep your home boundaries as much as possible, but understand that it’s fine to give more comfort as they settle in. Just get back to your normal consistency as quickly as possible. My husband and I ended up sleeping in the boys’ pod on the first night as they were a little unsettled, but on the second we moved to our own pod and they slept through. 

9. Have fun! 

You’re making core memories on these types of trips so try to relax and enjoy the experience! Remember, you can get back on track when you get home. 

For more tips & tricks or to talk through a specific sleep challenge you’re encountering, get in touch and set up a free Discovery Call with me. I’d love to hear from you.