By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 6/16/20

If you enjoy the outdoors and love to spend your time hiking, camping, or pursuing other outdoor related activities, you’ll know that the more you dial in your gear and streamline your process, the more time you’ll spend enjoying the wild, rather than setting up camp. This is a basic truth for anyone who has been camping for a number of years. The more you get into it, the more you fine tune your process.

But what happens when you suddenly add a new family member to the mix. Now there are an extra 20 things to pack and organize and you haven’t even left he house yet. Fortunately, enjoying the outdoors does not have to become a burden if you are a new parent. Each person will find their own path to outdoor success with their kids. I understand that everyone’s priorities and budget are different, so it’s not my place to suggest the best way to get it done.

I simply wanted to share our experience in case others out there might find it useful to learn from our mistakes and successes.

When my partner and I got together, she already had a four year old girl. We still found a way to get out and camp, but it was mostly state park tent camping, with easy access to restrooms and showers. But we wanted to go a little wilder. When her daughter was 6, we set off on a twelve day overland trip to visit a bunch of National Parks in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. It went really well. We tent camped and cooked outside many times. You can read more about that experience here.

While on that trip, we also knew that we had another kid on the way and began thinking about how we could continue to spend time doing what we loved, but also keep our lives simple with a newborn on the way. Tent camping with a baby is a tough situation. Our answer was to pick up a ten year old, 19 foot, Airstream International we call “Bubs.”

The Airstream allowed us to take most of the comforts of home with us on the road, but still allowed us time in the wilderness. Spending $30,000 on a heavy metal tent isn’t going to work for everyone, but we did our research and found that we could rent our camper out when we weren’t using it. That meant that we could offset a great deal of the cost. So far, the camper has paid for itself and we have never had to compromise on renting it vs using it ourselves.

If you are thinking to go this route we have some really great product recommendations to make life with a newborn or young child much easier in the Airstream. Or perhaps you end up with a pop up camper or just a larger tent. All of these items may come in handy for you too.

Goal Zero Yeti 400 and Boulder 100 Solar Panel – $775 – Most of the time we have power on demand in the Airstream if we are plugged in at a campsite. However, something you may not know when about when buying a camper, is that they won’t allow you to pull D/C power from your outlets if you are running power off the batteries. So for example, if we are boon-docking at a remote site in the Black Hills, our fridge will stay cold with propane, our fans will pull air using the batteries, and our LED lights will stay bright (again batteries), but we aren’t able to charge our phones or laptops from the camper plugs. Enter our back up power supply. The Yeti 400 is a little champion when it comes to keeping our juice needs met. It easily lasts an entire week of duty charging our phones and laptops without a recharge. If you are running low on power simply throw out the boulder 100 briefcase panels and in about 8 hours of sunshine the Yeti will be topped off and ready for more. While this product may not be baby specific, peace of mind is invaluable and will help you put your attention where it needs to be. Spending time with your kids outdoors not fretting over your dead phones.

Baby Joy Pack and Play – $115 – One of the first things you’ll need to address when taking a baby camping is where will he or she will sleep. Many people simply put them in a warm suit and lay them between them, but with the Airstream at our disposal, we wanted a safer more secure option for the baby. We found this model based on its small packed size and even more Airstream friendly footprint when assembled. It fits perfectly in front of the sink and doesn’t obstruct access to the converted bed over the dining table or to the fridge. Still plenty of room for people to walk by to the master bed and bathroom. Perfect for Airstream parents looking for a crib that fits the smaller Bambi lifestyle. Once it is packed away, it also stows beautifully between the sink and couch cushions while travelling.

HoMedics Sound Spa Portable Noise Machine – $32 – After doing a lot of research we specifically choose this noise machine for our baby as our home unit, because it was so easy to take on the road. Our son sleeps with the ocean waves sound on and we love its quick charge (1 hour) for over 12 hours of relaxing sound. It can be charged with and USB cable or of course by any wall outlet.

Next up is the LilleBaby All Seasons carrier – $70 – While we tend to use our Baby Bjorn classic around the home or office more frequently, we find that for camping this carrier is our favorite. We also have a more robust backpack carrier from Osprey, but find that the LilleBaby gets the most call to duty for time spent hiking and camping. It’s a warmer option than the Bjorn, if the weather is chilly, but also easily converts to a front facing holder to keep the baby cool on the warm days. More importantly it is lighter and stows just about anywhere and with much more flexibility that the solid framed Osprey. It also has additional support that helps keep the pressure off your shoulders while hiking.

Badger baby Sunscreen – $13 – Pretty self explanatory. The happier you can keep your kids while out on the trail, the better they will treat you. Keep them well hydrated and well fed.  Avoiding unnecessary breakdowns and ailments like sunburn is pretty basic. We like this option.

HiccaPop Baby Camping Chair – $35 – This mini camp chair stows away very small and gets a lot of use on our trips. It’s easy to bring along in your car or even fits in a basic backpack. It sets up as quickly but feels sturdy on many surfaces. It works as well on our Airstream dining table as it does on a dirt pad next to the campfire. Not too close to the fire of course.

Here’s to happy travels and good camping.

6 replies
  1. Jim Findlay
    Jim Findlay says:

    Hi Paul! Good article. I’ve sold the Class C and have bought a Rockwood GeoPro to use as a base for my trials and non-motorcycle travel. I also use the Goal Zero power supplies and boulder 100’s. Most of my camping is off grid and the Goal Zero products have been great. Take care and safe travels!


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