Autumn Goes to the Beach

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  Autumn Goes to the Beach (1)As new parents, Josh and I have been longing for a tropical beach getaway for the nine months Autumn has been with us, and probably for another nine months before that. Yet, like a lot of new parents, just thinking about the logistical challenges of traveling international with an infant were enough for us to stay put for at least for a few more months. Instead, we opted for a stay-cation at one of our favorite beach camping spots just 90 minutes from Portland -- and nowhere near a trip through Customs. In early June, we headed out on our second camping adventure with Autumn to one of Oregon’s best kept beach camping secrets. We packed most of our gear in our backpacking packs, since we would be hiking a mile and a half to our camp spot. We had bought a heavy duty baby carrier a few months earlier, and were eager to test it out with Autumn on this trip. The carrier had two storage compartments just big enough to carry most of her belongings, leaving one of us to wear another full sized pack carrying the rest of our gear. After a leisurely hike down a gravel road, over a sand dune and along the water’s edge, we found the spot where we had camped on many trips before. Our home away from home for the night was tucked between a steep hill with windblown trees and miles of rugged Pacific coast line. A fun night was had by all, but by morning we were ready to set off for our next destination – the best greasy spoon in town! Below are tips from Autumn’s second summer camping adventure:
  1. Put your stroller to work. Though we were able to cram most of our belongings into our packs, we still had water, camping chairs, a sleeping bag, dog food, a couple of pillows and some other things to bring with us. We had two choices – take two trips, or pack our BOB stroller with our remaining supplies. We opted for the latter, so that we could be beach bums for just a little while longer. You don’t need to own a BOB stroller to accomplish this, but I recommend using a stroller designed for jogging or trails, so that there's better traction for pushing in the sand. You may also find it easier to push closer to the water's edge when you reach the beach. We are so thankful for our BOB stroller, and are beginning to wonder how we’ll manage without it on our final culminating backpacking adventure later this summer.
  1. Bring shade! Though summer on the Oregon coast may seem non-existent, the sun does make an appearance from time to time. Like many past trips to this spot, we were prepared for rain showers, yet were pleasantly surprised with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-seventies for most of the day. Even if it's shady, the potential for sun burn on a beach with no natural shade is high. Therefore, we packed tent poles, rope and a tarp and created a canopy to offer shade for Autumn to sit and play under for most the day.
  1. Autumn Goes to the Beach (2) Now that Autumn was more than six months, I decided to apply a (nearly chemical free) sunscreen. I applied generous amounts of sunscreen throughout the afternoon, and made sure to dress her in long sleeves and a brimmed hat for most of the day.
  1. Prepare to be blown away. For most of the afternoon and into the evening, the wind whipped through the sand dunes -- this made us happy we had stopped to buy an additional layer (we forgot her jacket at home) for Autumn in town earlier that morning. When camping on the beach, it’s generally less windy to pitch a tent behind a sand dune. On this trip, however, we decided to stake our tent on top of a dune, so that I could hear Autumn better if she woke up. Poor decision. It was so windy, it made setting up our tent difficult and time consuming – which wasn’t helped the fact that we lost our stakes in the process! While getting our tent into place, we heard a cry from the pea pod tent we had placed Autumn in nearby. We turned to find her face down in the sand! The wind had blown so hard, it had flipped her tent on its side. After a few tears, she was fine. Covered in sand, but fine. The wind continued to make it difficult to sit by the campfire without playing musical chairs, and proved to be really noisy when whipping against the tent at bedtime - a challenge. Fortunately, the wind made its exit just as the sun hit the horizon.
  1. Don’t sweat the sand. We were prepared to deal with multiple face plants and a diaper full of sand on this trip. Though Autumn explored it with her hands on several occasions and did manage to get a fair amount on her skin and in her hair, she never tried to eat it. An occasional hand and face wipe helped, but to be honest, keeping sand out of dinner was a much bigger pain.
  1. Have fun. Being on the beach should be an enjoyable experience. If you’re concerned about the amount of sand your little one might eat, or whether you’ll get washed away by a big wave overnight, a beach camping trip may not be for you. However, if you can readjust expectations in consideration of the harsher camping environment, you’re bound to have a great time.
We had a blast on Autumn’s second summer adventure at the beach. If a little sand on your baby and in your sleeping bag doesn't bother you, then this may be just the trip for you. Happy camping! Autumn Goes to the Beach (3)

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The New Era of the Family Camping Tents
As your family grows, it's common for your family's tent needs to grow, too.  For us, life before Mason was a lot simpler when it came to camping. My go-to for years was a 2-man backpacking-style tent from Sierra Designs. It got the job done and I slept many nights under the stars. Then came baby. It’s funny how a little person can take up so much room. Life after Mason meant graduating to a 4-man Alps tent, which we loved hard for the last few years. But as of recent, our little family of three seemed to have outgrown this one, especially when camping in the rain or needing a little sheltered play space to tuck Mason into during the afternoon. Photo: Arika Bauer/Zion Adventure Photog I started to throw out the idea of something a little bigger, to which Mark, my significant other, rolled his eyes and insisted we didn’t need. But I when my sister showed up with her twins to camp with us, toting what looked like a circus big-top tent because it was so large, I had to admit I was a bit jealous. Then we had an opportunity to try out a Big Agnes Big House Deluxe 4-man and it was a game changer. The first time we pulled it out of the bag and began unrolling it, Mark groaned and whined for the first minute. But within five minutes, we had popped it up. Then when Mark walked into the tent and could full stand up, he was sold and there was no going back. We were both sold. While I am very aware these bigger tents also come with a bigger price tag, here’s what I’ve found with them: if you spend the money and pick the right one, this is a tent that can be with your family for many years. Family Camping Tents - Top 3 Picks Over the last year, we've been trying different “family-style” camping tents and decided on three we feel are completely worth every penny spent. I also include a runner-up tent that is at a lower price point. Big Agnes Big House Deluxe, 6-man / 3 Season If you're looking for the easiest setup of all time for a large tent, the Big Agnes Big House Deluxe might be it. There are two hefty poles that crisscross at the top. Lay the tent flat, cross the poles and feed them through a sleeve on top. Pop up and then snap the plastic hooks in place to secure it. This is one of the fastest tents to set up I've ever seen when it comes to large tents. There’s nothing complicated about the initial setup; however, like most large tents, you'll want two hands on deck. Photo: Arika Bauer/Zion Adventure Photog What I especially love about this tent is its headroom at 6.5 feet. And the top is mesh, so if you are in a dry environment, this tent is amazing for stargazing. The mesh also keeps it very breezy inside the tent. I was a little wary of the fact that, unlike most tents I've owned, this one didn’t have a mesh door, so when you zip it closed, that’s it – it’s closed. Another thing that makes this tent a great family option is the storage. There are mesh pockets running along the top of the tent just below the mesh roof, which are great for storing keys, phones and other things that you want to keep up and away from a baby or toddler crawling around on the floor. This is also a great place to slide a headlamp in for light inside the tent when you want to have light but don’t want a lamp on the floor. Spacewise, there is tons of room in this tent for families of 3 and 4. As you get to 6, you might find yourself feeling a bit cramped, but there is a vestibule option ($139.95) that can be added on for an additional storage area if you have a lot of people camping in the tent or if you brought a pack n’ play, which can take up a lot of space. The downside to this tent is the rainfly. We put it on during a bit of a windstorm in Zion National Park and found it to be a bit confusing to figure out the front and back. Also, there is a small tension pole that seems like it should be easy to slide in to hold the front of the fly out a bit from the tent so rain stays out of the tent, but it was really tight and hard to get in place. We felt like we were going to break the piece, so we put it in and actually have avoided using it since, which leaves us with a floppy fly. Luckily we have been mainly camping in good weather and we also have the vestibule, which means we don’t have to use this fly. This was pretty much my only complaint with the Big House Deluxe. But despite the rainfly, there were a few pluses: the packing down is very easy. Just roll it up quickly and slide it in. There are two pockets –  one holds the fly and the other holds the tent. The two side sandwich together and buckle. It's very easy to pack and head home. It’s also light considering the size. After hauling around a Coleman for a season, I was pretty surprised at how light the 13 lbs., 11 oz. family-sized Big Agnes was. Other great features: the poles are color-coded for easy setup and they're all pretty straight forward, making setup in the dark a breeze. Having doors on both sides is a major plus if you don’t want to crawl over anyone in the night. The “welcome” mat at the front door is also a nice added touch and a reminder of just how family-friendly this company is. To summarize: Pros: Easiest setup, high headroom, lots of storage options, two doors, easy to pack up and carry at under 14 lbs. Cons: Rainfly was hard to get into place. Price: $399.95 Nemo Wagontop 4-Person If you want a family camping tent that will likely last you until your toddler goes to college, Nemo is the one. Known for building both high-quality and aesthetically pleasing products, this tent is just another bomber item from the company. Again, we were surprised at how easy this tent was to set up – after the first time. While the tent is actually quite easy once you figure out the pattern, what I personally found frustrating was that the directions didn’t really spell it out clear enough and assumed the user had set up a similar style tent before. Luckily, I recruited some help from a nearby site to rescue me from ending up a weepy mom mess in the middle of the campsite while my son ran around like a wild animal. So give yourself time, patience (and an adult helper) the first time you set it up. After that, it will be a breeze. Photo: Arika Bauer/Zion Adventure Photog I was solo camping on this first trip with the Wagontop, so I had to manage my tiny four-nado while trying to get a new tent up and the sunset was long gone and dark was fast approaching. Yes, horrible planning on my part and I definitely should have done a YouTube scan on how to set this tent up before arriving, but I had been spoiled by my experience with the Big Agnes tent, so I expected the same. Once we figured out the crisscross pattern of the two very bizarre-looking poles, it was easy. I think the spidelike-ness of the poles can seem a little daunting until you have tried it a few times. The second time I set it up was easier, and then by the 4th time, I began to really understand why the designers did it this way. Here’s what’s awesome about this tent: it’s rock solid. I feel like you could practically survive a tornado in it. Definitely my son torquing on the poles and leaning deeply into it for “fun” is similar to severe weather. The pole system makes this tent feel like you don’t need the guy lines staked down as seriously as other tents. Another plus of this tent is while the tent only has doors on one side, there are two doors on the font, which means you don’t have to lean over your child or partner to zip out of the tent. And the headroom is awesome at 6.6 feet. It also feels a lot bigger on the bottom than many 6-person tents, so even if you have four people, you won’t feel crowded thanks to the design that flares out a bit. The thing that Nemo does really well is the single wall setup. This means no pesky rainfly flapping in the wind. The window flaps and extra front door piece that you snap on after setup will protect you in a rainstorm. The lack of fly also means there is less to dry out when you break down camp. Add the garage on and you have tons of extra space for muddy boots and wet jackets. If we have any complaints about the Nemo Wagontop (beyond the tricky first-time setup), it might be the weight (27 lbs. definitely makes this one a bit heavier to haul around) and zipping it into the duffel bag. You don’t have to be precise, but you do need to take time to pack it up or it may not fit in the bag. Once it's zipped in, it’s super compact and really slides into a trunk well. Another Nemo product we got to try was the Victory blanket. This is a waterproof mat that’s an excellent addition to throw outside your tent and stake down so baby can roll around on it with toys and not get dirty while you work your way around the campsite setting things up. Also, this is a nice layer inside the tent to keep the bottom a little bit cozier. It fits perfectly into the 4-man! To summarize: Pros: Tent is rock solid and sturdy; holds up well in rain or wind. Easy to set up (once you get the hang of it), tons of storage space with added garage. Cons: Instructions not explicit, so we found it confusing to set up the first time; heavier to carry (though compact). Price: $399.95 Therm-a-rest Tranquility 6 Are you a 2-parent, 3-kid family? The Therm-a-rest Tranquility 6 is the tent for you. 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The key thing that makes this tent easy to raise is that there are hard plastic loops on the poles to hook tent clips and rainfly into on the top of the tent to make it secure and raise quickly. Once you pop it up, you’ll notice a lot of great features. We love the boot and flip-flop prints at the entrance of the door, indicating the best spot to put your shoes before entering the tent, which is a good reminder for little kids popping in out with dirty shoes. We also loved the storage inside the tent. There were plenty of places to slide in a phone or keys up high and out of the way of little hands. The length of the tent make having a front and back door key. This one is a bit like a caterpillar and definitely feels like a 6-person tent. Another great part of this tent was the zipped-in separation area, allowing for a kid and adult zone. This can be zipped open and tucked away or closed easily. This tent gets an A+ for stargazing. 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There are also additional accessories that can be purchased to increase size in the tent if you need more storage and poles that can allow you to turn the rain fly entrance into a stand-up awning to protect the entrance from rain and making it easier to enter the tent.   We didn’t experience any windstorms in this tent, but we have read and heard it can withstand heavy gusts well. Based on the design and how sturdy it felt setting up, we would guess this one would do well in heavier weather. One last thing we would like to note is that we expected this tent to be a hard one to break down and put away (three tent poles, pretty long, seemingly tight backpack bag), but we were pleasantly surprised at how well this one packed down quickly and everything had a place within the pack. We were able to take it from brand new and pack it back down pretty close to what it looked like when we started. (Check out the picture below of Mark carrying it to see the size of it on a 5’10” man’s back for perspective.) If the price tag on this one scares you away, consider bumping down to the 4-man if you don’t need the 6-man tent. We also tried the 4-man out and it felt incredibly roomy and had the same standup height of the 6-man. To summarize: Pros: Dividers for privacy, packs easily into backpack, fairly light at 18 lbs., clear setup instructions, amazing for stargazing, rainfly can double as sun shelter, high headroom and sturdy for all-weather. Cons: More expensive than others on this list, but the features (combined with quality) are totally worth it for larger families. Price: $599.95 Family Camping Tent - Runner-Up While we know these aren’t in everyone’s budget, we're confident they're some of the best when it comes to larger tents. If budget is an issue, here's another suggestion we tried out and liked in a lower price bracket. Coleman Carlsbad 4-person Darkroom with Screenroom The Coleman Carlsbad offers a great price point option with the added bonus of being a dark-out tent, so it's great for midday napping toddlers. Downside: it’s hot. This tent doesn’t breathe, even with the fly off, so don’t plan on using this in Southern hotter regions. It's great for the Northwest or New England. Be aware that the lines inside the tent poles are a little weak and seem to snap easily. Price: $199.95 Photo: Read More Tips for Sleeping in a Tent with Babies Tents, Toddlers and Sleeping Under the Stars 10 Tips for Camping with an Infant What are your favorite family camping tents? What type of gear review should we do next? Comment below! ABOUT OUTGROWN OutGrown is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, OutGrown is a growing community of 280,000 families and over 300 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information on all of our programs can be found at    EDITORS NOTE: We hope you enjoyed reading this article from OutGrown. We’re working hard to provide our community with content and resources that inform, inspire, and entertain you. But content is not free. It’s built on the hard work and dedication of writers, editors, and volunteers. We make an investment in developing premium content to make it easier for families with young children to connect with nature and each other. We do not ask this lightly, but if you can, please make a contribution and help us extend our reach.  
Embracing Glamping with Toddlers and Babies
There was once a time when camping was a simple thing for my husband and me. Load up your gear in a backpack and hit the trail. The lighter, the better. Once, he even rigged up a used tuna fish can, punched holes in it, poured in white gas and that was our stove for heating water for dehydrated food packets. Then we had a baby. While you can hang tough and go with minimal when you have a baby, I have to admit that I’m loving our current glamping ways. It’s getting us out at least a few weekends a month with our 3-year-old because it’s easy. It’s not that I don’t think we’ll ever go back to true backpacking, but when you have everything you need to make camping comfortable for your kiddo, it’s much more encouraging to go often. Here are the five things to think about when spending days and nights outdoors with under-5-year-old kiddos. Go With Friends A few weeks ago I camped with a bunch of friends a mere 40 minutes from my house. Even though I could have driven home in a moment, and the people I was camping with I see often, it felt like an adventure because only a few of us had camped together before. Some people think just because you are camping you need to have a remote, solo experience. Maybe, but with toddlers it’s sometimes nice to have others around to help you muscle through tantrums in the woods or avert them all together. Find your tribe and make a plan. Keep it close to home so if it’s not working out for one of the families they can go home. In our case we went to Oxbow Regional Park. We like this park because is it is quiet (lights out by 10pm), no alcohol allowed (keeps the rowdy party crowd out), there’s a fee for people coming into the park in the day which keeps it fairly uncrowded and there’s a decent amount of staff always around which makes it unattractive for those who don’t want to abide by the rules. When you have little kids it’s nice to not have to worry about cars blasting through at high speed, loud music, broken bottles in campsites, overflowing trash cans and nasty bathrooms. While these things never used to bother me, once you have a little person in the mix it’s easy to become more sensitive. Once I camped–now I glamp. I’m OK with that. Sleep is Key Mason is a terrible sleeper. He doesn’t like light, he is particular about his pillow. He likes to roll around a lot. Life will suck when camping if you or your kiddos are sleep deprived. This summer we’re giving the Carlsbad 6-Person Darkroom Tent a go from Coleman. From the start I could tell this tent would be a winner for our family. The size is great for a 3-4 person family and all of your stuff, but not such a big footprint that your tent takes up the whole campsite. Once it’s all set up and you crawl in it is noticeably darker than traditional tents. If you want more light, simply remove the fly. The only downside I saw was that the black thick material which keeps the light out also feels a bit warm. For Northwest camping this isn’t a problem because we have trees, cooler evenings and a lot of rain. I could see this tent being not-so-good for somewhere like Joshua Tree mid-day, but a shelter over it could combat heat issues. Blankets are another thing to consider. In Oregon we have some pretty warm evenings that get cooler as dawn approaches, so being inside a mummy bag isn’t always a nice way to start out your sleep. For a while we just pulled bedding from our house, but then it got pretty dirty and required cleaning when we got home. Then we found the Rumpl blankets. This blanket is a cross between a sleeping bag and a comforter. It’s fairly weather resistant and toddler-proof, meaning Mason often drags his baby version through our campsite and it doesn’t pick up much dirt. They are super light and stuff into a stuff sack as well, making it easy to pull them out when sitting at the fire hanging out and great for throwing on a stroller for walks around the campground when a baby won’t fall asleep. Sheltering From the Elements Mark and I went on a raft trip once that was more or less a downpour for most of the trip. Not a lot of fun. The only saving grace was that we brought a shade shelter we could pop up over our tent which allowed us to come out during downpours and hang out without getting soaked upon leaving tent. These days we have two shade structures. A fast pitch one, Alps Tri-Awning, that’s more portable for taking to a beach or popping up if we are trying to keep our camping load light. We also have a super deluxe version that you can put the whole tribe under and has LED lights making it easier to cook, clean and play games at night. This structure is pretty hefty to haul around, but it’s nice when kids are in the mix and you have a crew. What we have found with taking a shade or rain shelter is it makes the decision to camp on a weather-questionable weekend a non-issue. Also, if rain does happen, pop your tent under the structure and you can wait out most storms in comfort and emerge dry. Should you need to pack up in bad weather, it’s much easier when you have something to shelter everything. What I love about the Coleman All Night Instant Lighted Eave Shelter that we have is even though it’s pretty massive to transport, once you get where you are going it has wheels on the bag which means even a mom camping solo (something I often do with Mason) can muscle the tent around. Set-up does require two people, however. Camp Kitchens Matter I love to cook at home, so I can’t help but take that passion when we go camping. Often I pre-prepare meals that we can just heat up later, but there will still always be some prep. Cooking with a tiny backpacking stove when you have an impatient toddler sucks. If your kids are hangry, no one will be happy. Two burner stoves can feel excessive and clunky, but when you can crank out food in ten minutes after a long day or running around in the woods, you’ll be grateful. My camp stove seems to keep getting bigger. Like most backpackers, I own a Jetboil. It’s easy to take everywhere. You can heat hot water up in a minutes and have hot chocolate or food fast with minimal mess. I actually still often take the Jet Boil camping for two reasons: emergency back up if our stove breaks (this happened to us a few months ago) and when I don’t want to deal with the whole stove because we pulled in late and just want to heat soup fast and eat. Once we start unpacking and get the kitchen set up we use a two burner stove. Our most recent trip I tried out a new Coleman Frye Commander 3 in 1. What is great about this stove is that it is super easy to pull the legs off of their tidy tucked away position, screw them on, click a button and cook. No need to set up a table to rest the stove on. Also, this allows you to move the hot stove away from where kids are crawling around like a picnic table or food bins. What I also loved about this stove was the ability to pop off the burner where I was cooking mac-and-cheese, one minute and pop in a grill to cook up sausages for adults a moment later. The grill allows BBQ-ing and boiling water at the same time. In the past we took a grill and a stove with us, so this combo is perfect for allowing me to chef it up at the campsite. With all the cooking I do we often have a fair number of dishes. Luckily my husband often is the dishwasher. He’s rigged up a great system for us with using two large metal buckets with handles that we can fill at any water spigot and then carry back to camp and wash with. Make sure you have an easy way to wash dishes if you are planning on cooking. Melt Down Management Toys, toys, toys. My husband used to laugh at me insisting on bringing toys camping. Then he did a solo trip with Mason and he was glad I forced him to bring a bag of legos and books. While you can hope your child will be so enamored with nature that he will not need toys, there’s also the reality that he may get bored from time to time and act up. Bring plastic toys  you can wash like big Lego blocks. Cars and trucks are great. Balls for kids to kick around. We often have a few tiny cars we can hand to Mason while on trail if he starts to throw a fit. Bubbles and crayons are great camp activities too.   Have a rough idea of what you are going to do everyday. Camping can be casual, but put a little bit of a schedule in place, especially if your kiddo is used to a schedule at home. Camping will go better if you know when, how and what you are getting it all done. Plan meals, naps and hikes according to how your life goes. If your kiddo goes to the playground at daycare at 10am and then naps at 1pm, make that your camp schedule too. Camping with babies can be a blast and a lot less daunting than you might think. You can do it minimalist or you can pimp it out as I have suggested here. Both ways you win because it’s more outside time for your family. Summer is passing us by quickly so now is the time to gather your gear and head out for a glamp out. Shanti Hodges is the founder of Hike it Baby. She and her family try to camp out at least every other weekend in the summer.