Sleep for Camping Toddlers

Before our camping trip to Washington’s Olympic National Park earlier this month, we had some concerns with how a few things would work logistically with a toddler in tow.

Ruby Beach: Olympic National Park |

We wanted our meals to work well.  They didn’t need to be gourmet, but we also wanted to do more than heat up a can of chili.

We also wanted to make sure we packed the right supplies.  We didn’t want to bring too much, but we also didn’t want to be lacking in anything.

We wanted to set-up camp in the most efficient way possible.  We wondered how we would get everything done while still making sure Bergen was safe, and Norman (the dog) wasn’t running amok or barking his head off.

What weighed most heavily on both of our minds though was sleep: Not so much for ourselves (though that’s great too), but for our soon-to-be 2 year old.  Visions of Bergen screaming in the middle of the night waking the entire campground, and worries of him not falling asleep in the first place because of the foreign environment kept us up in the nights leading up to our trip.

To try and ease our minds, we thought logically.  He sleeps well at home and he sleeps well when we travel to non-camping destinations.  We simply had to do our best to ensure that all his usual sleep routines, comforts and associations were somehow represented in this outdoor situation.

Sleep for your Camping Toddler

Tip: Analyze your child’s sleeping arrangement at home, then plan and figure out how to replicate the set-up at your camp site.

Here’s what worked for our little guy who at home sleeps in his own room (right next to ours) in a crib:

1. Supplies

  • His usual comfort items: special “lovies” and blanket
  • Fleece footed pajamas and a fleece sleep sack for extra warmth (temperatures got to 50 degrees F at night)
  • Battery operated Sound Machine for white noise
  • Sleeping bag
  • Go-Crib Adventure Crib
  • Tent (Kelty 2-person)

2. Set-up

Since Bergen sleeps in his own room at home, we felt that our sleeping situation while camping should be no different.  We are lucky to have 2 tents, so we set up both side by side at the campsite.  His portable crib fit perfectly in our 2-person Kelty tent.

3. Routine

With modifications respective to our camping situation, we followed Bergen’s normal bedtime routine.  After dinner, he gets into his pajamas, we read stories while he drinks a little cup of milk, then we put him in his sleep sack, brush his teeth & say good night.  He sees all of these activities as sleep associations, so I feel like he really understood that it was time for bed and time to sleep.  It was important for me to go through this routine meticulously in my mind before our trip so that I didn’t forget anything integral to the process!

4. Flexibility

While we were very serious with our planning, we also went into the whole sleeping situation with an open mind.  Bergen usually goes to bed around 7:30 pm, but on the first night we were worried that he might not feel like it was truly time to sleep until it was dark (he has blackout curtains at home).  Instead of being strict, we waited until about 9pm to ease some of that worry.  For the second night, since he went without a nap that day he was more than ready to go down before the sun.  I also knew that he wouldn’t wake up at his usual time, and expected an earlier wake up.

We hoped for the best, but knew that one of us might need to go in to comfort and reassure him.  In the end, he was a champion sleeper! We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome with him falling asleep easily at bedtime, and giving us a reasonable wake-up call at 7:00 am.  Our only sleep hiccup was that we missed his sleep window for an afternoon nap on our first full day at camp.  We merely waited too long, and it was too late for him to get to sleep.  It turned out alright though because it made it that much more easy to get him to bed that night!

Sleep for the Camping Toddler |

Have you gone camping with children? What was the sleep set-up like? How did it go? 

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3 thoughts on “Sleep for Camping Toddlers

  1. You’re so fortunate that it worked out for you!!
    (Or maybe you just did it right!)

    We recently took a car camping trip with our 18 month old. He’s a poor sleeper at the best of times, and combining that with a slight cough, meant he was howling inconsolably in the middle of the night (3 am) and early in the morning (5:30) at the top of his lungs (for 2 nights straight). I could deal with that, if I didn’t know that he was waking up the entire campground. We left a day early.

    I look forward to next year’s trip. Things should get easier.

    • That is rough for sure, Cathy. We are lucky in that Bergen is in general a great sleeper.

      The first time we took Bergen camping (stayed in a yurt though at the campground) was when he was about 6 months old. He also had another first on the trip–his first cold! It was tough getting him down in the first place, and then woke up every 2 hours throughout the night. I completely understand wanting to leave early!

  2. Pingback: To Nap or To Explore: Olympic National Park’s Ruby Beach | Wild Tales of...

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