The truth about camping with a baby

When REI invites you to go camping and to try out their gear, 1) you do a happy dance 2) with baby in tow, you pack up and go.

We reserved a spot in a family-friendly campground up in the Arizona mountains, where we could escape the Phoenix summer heat (which is comparable to stepping into an oven, or on a windy day, turning a hair dryer directly onto your face). The reservation process taught us lesson #1: If they allow it, book your campground way in advance. The place we originally wanted to visit had every weekend from now until October fully booked.

Our runner up was Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. (Shout out to fellow Arizona blogger/videographer Kelsey for the recommendation!) Since this was our first family camping trip, we thought it was best to car camp for one night only, like a trial run. Dead Horse Ranch was only one mile from the town center, and the park even had a gift shop in case of forgotten necessities like first-aid kits or matches.

It's midsummer, so the campground was packed; tents, RVs, airstreams, children, dogs. In other words, there was constant commotion. It didn't feel like we were out in the wild, but rather in a giant backyard party, which was fine with us. We didn't want to be completely isolated with a baby on our first camping trip, (first time parents here) although the rowdy teenagers up at 1am did get on my nerves.

I'll be honest. The word "hotel" was tossed around a couple of times that day, and I'll tell you why.

Let me start by saying we had NO hiccups at all. In fact, everything went as smoothly as possible. Our reserved space was pretty sweet; clean, shaded, spacious. We packed enough food. We didn't forget diapers, wipes, or any other baby essential. It took R about five minutes to assemble our super lightweight tent on his own, no joke. (We put it together at home first, so it was a breeze.) We had a comfortable mattress, pillows and blankets. Our hybrid car has an electric outlet, which we could use to charge phones. We had firewood (provided by the park) and the surprisingly clean restrooms were just across the way. We basically "glamped" and it was lovely.

All that didn't stop me from feeling slightly stressed and anxious. (Hi, my name is Lo and I'm a recovering Type-A). We were a bit on edge, as it often happens when new parents encounter new experiences. But it was a great opportunity for R and I to talk it out and discover more about ourselves as individuals, as a couple, and as parents. That alone was worth the experience.

I realized I was so deep in "mom mode" making sure baby was safe, clean, fed, happy, cared for, safe, clean, fed, happy, cared for, safe, clean (you get the idea) that I almost forgot to enjoy myself. So when he fell asleep around 9:30pm, it felt like I could finally breath a sigh of relief, that he had made it through the day and was comfortable enough to sleep soundly, at least for a few hours at a time. 

He did really well, as he usually does with new (or any) experiences. Having been exposed to so many different people and places already, he's one easy-going dude, and we love that about him. The next morning we got to hike some trails, check out the river, lakes, and horseback riding area before heading back to Phoenix. Lots of options for outdoors fun.

All in all, it was a good experience. We didn't get much sleep. I worried. But getting out of our routine and into nature does wonders for the soul, and for our relationship. Monday came around and although we could all have used some extra sleep, somehow we felt energized and in good spirits. The feeling of exploring the unknown and conquering fears (however big or small) is something I wouldn't trade for the world.

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REI wants you to spend some time outside exploring too, so they are giving away their new evrgrn Starry Night 2P Tent ($199 value) and two evrgrn Campfire Rockers ($99 value each). You have two chances to win, so make sure you enter for both prizes! Enter using Rafflecopter below, leaving a comment sharing where you would take your new REI gear and by following me, my co-host Jenny Acevedo and REI on social media. (Open to 18+ legal residents of the U.S.) Good luck!

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About the Writer

I'm Louise, a Tampa Bay based Brazilian-American travel blogger. Join us as we learn and share the ins-and-outs of traveling with a toddler and our sweet rescue pup Oreo, while promoting local nonprofits and wellness along the way.