Car Camping with a 1 year old

Can it be done? Why yes, yes it can. Our little one just turned 14 months and we had a 4 day weekend coming up in late August. It is a perfect time of year for camping in Wisconsin.  The days are getting shorter, the nights are cool, and the days are tolerable. Here are some tips we learned along the way.

The Food

One thing I noticed that was different than just camping as a couple is all the prep work. Cassi planned, A LOT! She is simply amazing at this sort of activity. We, well really she, food prepped for every single meal, snack, etc... Everything was precooked so we only had to heat it up over the fire or with our little camping grill. S'mores were a must for a nightly snack.
  • Day 1 we had hotdogs over the grill with watermelon (precut) for dessert.
  • Day 2 we had eggs, sausage, and diced potatoes (precooked) for breakfast. All cooked on the travel grill. For lunch we had chicken salad sandwiches and for dinner we had burritos cooked in a grill pie press.
  • Day 3 we had eggs, sausage, and diced potatoes for breakfast with some watermelon. For lunch we had chicken salad wraps with side green salad. Then for dinner we had cheese burgers (precooked ground beef) on regular bread pressed again with the grill pie press.
  • Day 4 we had egg and sausage burritos for breakfast. For lunch we were traveling home so we got our classic traveling bad food, McD.

The Snacks

People need snacks! We packed a lot for the little one here, all her favorites. Cut up grapes, graham crackers, cottage cheese, pickles (yep, she likes our homemade pickles), applesauce, and yogurt. All in little containers or bags for easy grabbing. For the adults we packed trail mix and granola bars.

The Adventures


We camped at Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin where there are pretty great forest hiking trails. 

We did a 3 mile hike on the first day. On our way there it was actually really nice, all down hill for the most part. The views were fantastic. As we made our way to the end we followed a shallow creek to an amazing waterfall.

The hike there was kind of hilly, but nothing too crazy, so we thought. After seeing the waterfall and resting we started the trek back. Once we got to the switch backs our "kind of hilly" beginning began to feel like Mount Everest, haha. Shockingly, we made it!

Me acting like I was hanging us off of a cliff. 

Day three we decided to be a bit more adventurous and take a 5 mile hike around some of the lakes. The sites were amazing. Great views of forest and fields.

Lots of valleys and hills. During the trip we fantasized about the ideal trail stop. It consisted of air conditioning, a bench, and some snacks. Funny enough the hike ended at the beach that had a concession stand with AC. We had delightful ice cream and then made our way back to camp.

The Lessons Learned

  • If you are nervous about disturbing your neighbors just go have a friendly chat with them right when you get there. Talk to them about how your kiddo usually sleeps well. We found both of our neighbors to be parents themselves and they were excited to see a parent bring their little one out to explore the world. If you are really nervous bring your neighbors ear plugs.
  • Bring a battery operated sound machine.
  • Somewhere we read overpack on diapers, I agree with this statement. We had plenty but it would have sucked not to
  • Keep an eye on the lows during the night, it got chilly a couple times and required some clever solution creation to keep the little one warm.
  • Kids like to try to eat rocks
  • Camping with little kids is very different, but its so worth seeing their eyes light up on all the different things they are experiencing. 
  • Kids are resilient.
  • We found the KidCo tent worked a lot better than a pack-n-play for our little one. The first few nights were rough. Have I mentioned Cassi is amazing?
  • Food prep makes meals simple.
  • Bring outside toys that you don't mind getting dirty with a blanket that is meant for outside to put on the dirt. Our kiddo played A LOT on this mat (shown on the left)
  • Verify your campground is kid friendly on Camp Ground Reviews

Any additional tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy camping!

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