Overlanding With Toddlers Discussion Thread

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Hourless Life

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I'd like to start a fresh thread about overlanding with toddlers. Obviously this won't apply to everyone but for those it applies to I think it would be helpful to have something fresh.

First things first, if you are already doing this please comment so that I can give you a follow here. Also if you have a FB, Twitter, YouTube, or IG please link it so I can follow your adventures there as well.

First off I think anyone who is brave enough to overland with toddlers is awesome. The life experiences that the little ones get, the time with family, and being off the grid in today's world are all huge benefits. So if you are doing this already, Bravo!

(Our story in brief: Just got into overlanding. Have a ton of questions. We have a 20 month old son. Been traveling full time for 5 years but now going to the next phase of our adventures by overlanding in a Jeep. Heading to Mexico in 2019)

So please comment. Get involved. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is out there with little ones.

Thanks!

Eric AKA Jeepsies
 

WheresWaldo

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No toddlers myself but recently spent a week with my brother and his wife and their 2 year old and 6 year old girls overlanding in the Southwest US in my old Landcruiser. They all slept in the rooftop tent which worked pretty well for them. My brother also constructed a shower out of a 50 liter water tank to which he attached a pump and hose so the kids could be sprayed down from time to time. We tried to limit driving time every day to 4-5 hours and always had tons of snacks on hand. I did spend a lot of time reading the same book to the 2 year old when it was my turn to sit in the back... there were some expected meltdowns but overall we had a blast!
 
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We tried to limit driving time every day to 4-5 hours and always had tons of snacks on hand. I did spend a lot of time reading the same book to the 2 year old when it was my turn to sit in the back... there were some expected meltdowns but overall we had a blast!
Hey thanks for being the first to respond Waldo. Glad to hear that we aren't the only ones doing this. Are your brother and his wife here on OB? Or do they have any social media pages about their adventures? Would love to follow along.

Also definitely a good tip on limiting driving time, snacks, and books. Our little guy has been a fulltime traveler since birth so he's used to the drives (he doesn't know anything different and thinks this is normal life) we move 250 miles every two weeks or so.

One of our concerns is him falling out of the RTT... they don't make a gate for that haha. We might need to come up with something.
 

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Following! I decided to go back to my roots and into the woods because of my first born. I wanted him to grow up being active and seeing things on more than just a TV screen. Now we have two and we've traveled quite a bit with them but the camping has been limited. My infant daughter is up for anything as long as she can be held but my son treats the tent like a bounce house haha. I look forward to seeing how this thread goes.
 
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Following! I decided to go back to my roots and into the woods because of my first born. I wanted him to grow up being active and seeing things on more than just a TV screen.
So much yes to this! I hope we get some participation in the thread too! BTW we'd love to connect with other overlanders with little ones. Having playmates is fun!

Eric aka Jeepsies
 

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Well let me start out by saying I have a 6 month old and my wife and I are planning our first trip to colorado (with the bambino) for 2019. We have big plans for this trip but as anyone with kids knows most of the time those plans change,but anyway we are excited to be part of the overland community and glad to do something "different" as a family. I will be unable to be any help with this thread until this time next year. But glad to know I'm not the only one trying to do this.
 

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We have an 8 month old. And we actually started prioritizing camping once a month if possible once she was about 4 months old. My wife and I both grew up backpacking and camping, don’t really have the energy to do that as new parents, so now we car camp. Or overland. Or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days.

We’ve been on 3 trips this summer, with the roof top tent. We’ve got 3 more coming up this fall and winter. Just some random observations:

1) pack and play is worth the space it takes up in the rig. We know our daughter is 100% safe in that and isn’t going to get dirty or scratched. Also great for naps.

2) RTT is fine. The 3 of us sleep up there together, it’s a bit tight but it works. She normally sleeps at my wife’s feet, on a little bed of folded up blankets. If she wakes up and is fussy we put her between us.

3) Bedtime is rough. We’ve learned to not force 7:30 bedtime when camping, it just doesn’t work as well. So bedtime for the baby is later. But we still put her to bed way before we go to bed. She also has a lot more trouble going to sleep because she’s not in a quiet room, there’s a lot more lights and sounds at night that are distracting to her when we’re trying to get her to sleep. My wife normally takes her up in the RTT, nurses her and gets her almost asleep, then we let her cry it out for a while. Then she’s fine. And we can hang out around the campfire and be normal adults for a few minutes.

4) we don’t worry about her falling out of the RTT. We just fold up all the windows but zip all the mesh doors and windows closed and she can’t get out. She’s normally fine, one time she rolled into a corner funny and woke up crying, we went up there, fixed her up and got her back to sleep. She’s not going to fall out, and we’re sitting right under the tent, we will hear it if she has a problem.

Our long term plan is having her sleep in a cot in the RTT annex we keep attached, as soon as she’s old enough to sleep on her own in a tent without getting scared, or without us worrying about her falling off the cot or something. We don’t do the cosleeping thing, that’s just not us. She’s just too young to be on her own if she’s not in her crib, at least that’s how we feel for now.


All in all, it’s doable. Difficult, but I think everything about parenting is more difficult than the non-parenting version lol.
 

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Also i just want to say this thread is great. We tried to research and found very little info out there for camping with infants or toddlers. Good to know there’s some other parents out there trying it out and getting their kiddos started young!
 
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v_man

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We have a 2 year old and a 5 month old. I'll get to the point of what we've learned so far.

-Dial everything down. Distance traveled, time in carseats, difficulty of the trail, remoteness, whatever.
-Pack lots of toys. We bring a new toy for them every drive, something simple that's new and novel.
-Bring other human beings if possible, friends, family, grandparents, they help with the load.
-Assume everything and everyone will be filthy eventually
-We bring an 8'x8' piece of carpet that they play on, rolls up nicely on roof rack.
-Those sun shade fold up cabana things work well
-Consider a fridge. Cold snacks, keeps breast milk cold, cold beer and wine.
-Don't be too proud to get a hotel room for the night
-Find something to enjoy in every moment, even the tough ones when they're crying in stereo in the back seat.
-Get a AAA premiere membership for that long distance tow
-Carry a first aid kit

That's all I can think of at the moment...



\
 

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We have an 8 month old. And we actually started prioritizing camping once a month if possible once she was about 4 months old. My wife and I both grew up backpacking and camping, don’t really have the energy to do that as new parents, so now we car camp. Or overland. Or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days.

We’ve been on 3 trips this summer, with the roof top tent. We’ve got 3 more coming up this fall and winter. Just some random observations:

1) pack and play is worth the space it takes up in the rig. We know our daughter is 100% safe in that and isn’t going to get dirty or scratched. Also great for naps.

2) RTT is fine. The 3 of us sleep up there together, it’s a bit tight but it works. She normally sleeps at my wife’s feet, on a little bed of folded up blankets. If she wakes up and is fussy we put her between us.

3) Bedtime is rough. We’ve learned to not force 7:30 bedtime when camping, it just doesn’t work as well. So bedtime for the baby is later. But we still put her to bed way before we go to bed. She also has a lot more trouble going to sleep because she’s not in a quiet room, there’s a lot more lights and sounds at night that are distracting to her when we’re trying to get her to sleep. My wife normally takes her up in the RTT, nurses her and gets her almost asleep, then we let her cry it out for a while. Then she’s fine. And we can hang out around the campfire and be normal adults for a few minutes.

4) we don’t worry about her falling out of the RTT. We just fold up all the windows but zip all the mesh doors and windows closed and she can’t get out. She’s normally fine, one time she rolled into a corner funny and woke up crying, we went up there, fixed her up and got her back to sleep. She’s not going to fall out, and we’re sitting right under the tent, we will hear it if she has a problem.

Our long term plan is having her sleep in a cot in the RTT annex we keep attached, as soon as she’s old enough to sleep on her own in a tent without getting scared, or without us worrying about her falling off the cot or something. We don’t do the cosleeping thing, that’s just not us. She’s just too young to be on her own if she’s not in her crib, at least that’s how we feel for now.


All in all, it’s doable. Difficult, but I think everything about parenting is more difficult than the non-parenting version lol.
Thanks for the transparency in your post. I hear you on the whole co-sleeping thing. Can we talk about sex here? LOL

Ok I digress...

Eric AKA Jeepsies
 
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Hourless Life

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We have a 2 year old and a 5 month old. I'll get to the point of what we've learned so far.

-Dial everything down. Distance traveled, time in carseats, difficulty of the trail, remoteness, whatever.
-Pack lots of toys. We bring a new toy for them every drive, something simple that's new and novel.
-Bring other human beings if possible, friends, family, grandparents, they help with the load.
-Assume everything and everyone will be filthy eventually
-We bring an 8'x8' piece of carpet that they play on, rolls up nicely on roof rack.
-Those sun shade fold up cabana things work well
-Consider a fridge. Cold snacks, keeps breast milk cold, cold beer and wine.
-Don't be too proud to get a hotel room for the night
-Find something to enjoy in every moment, even the tough ones when they're crying in stereo in the back seat.
-Get a AAA premiere membership for that long distance tow
-Carry a first aid kit

That's all I can think of at the moment...



\
Great advice and love the photos. Not sure the pack and play will travel with us, but we do have a little playmat that would roll up. Our RTT is huge and can be used as a pack and play... but then there are those hotel stays lol. So yeah.. pack and play is going to have to find a home. #toddlerlife

Eric AKA Jeepsies
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slomatt

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My daughter is a little over 2 and a half and has spent 5 nights in the tent so far this year. Every kid is different of course, but here is some general input.

On the road/trail
We've found that 4-6 hours is about the maximum time she will be in the car before getting antsy or crabby. Having lots of snacks is key, and we try to stop every 2 hours or so to let her out for a bit to burn off some energy. She is allowed to play games on an Amazon Kindle when in the car (but not at home) which helps to keep her entertained. She's also now old enough that we can play games like "spot something yellow", or the new game she recently invented called "what size is that tree?" (big tree! little tree!). We try to talk to her a lot about where we are going so she gets excited about the destination. She does ok on dirt trails, but does not like getting tossed around when rock crawling and sometimes complains about the bumps. Unfortunately she is not yet strong enough to pull out the winch cable. :)

In camp
Before our first trip I set up our tent at home and she spent the afternoon playing in to get used to being in the tent. This definitely helped the first time she slept in it on a trip. I purchased a large Nemo Victory blanket that covers the floor so the ground is "carpeted" and comfortable to walk on without shoes. On top of that we put three air mattresses side by side and she sleeps in (or mostly out of) a spare adult sized sleeping bag. We have a pretty strict bedtime routine at home and luckily that seems to hold up when camping, she usually calms down and falls asleep pretty quickly.

The first night she spent in a tent was cold and damp and temps got down into the high 30s. This weather was unexpected, and she did wake up about 5am saying she was cold. The problem is that it is difficult to get kids to stay inside a sleeping bag, so I recommend bundling them up as much as possible if you expect low temperatures. She also woke up at one point and was a little scared since it was dark and she couldn't see us. Ever since then we have left a Luci Lux LED lantern on all night as a night light and it has worked out great.

I think the real key is to keep up any routines you have at home such as reading a book before bed, having milk, sleeping with stuffed animals, etc.

Camp safety is something to keep in mind also. She knows not to touch knives at home, but we definitely had to have a serious talk about not playing with the fire or running around it or the cooking area. It would be really easy for a kid to trip and touch something hot which would make the rest of the trip less fun. And I think that is really the key, if you make it fun and not-stressful for the kid then they'll want to camp more often. Often this requires us to slow down and adjust our expectations for how much we can do in a day.
 

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My daughter is a little over 2 and a half and has spent 5 nights in the tent so far this year. Every kid is different of course, but here is some general input.

...

I think the real key is to keep up any routines you have at home such as reading a book before bed, having milk, sleeping with stuffed animals, etc.

Camp safety is something to keep in mind also. She knows not to touch knives at home, but we definitely had to have a serious talk about not playing with the fire or running around it or the cooking area. It would be really easy for a kid to trip and touch something hot which would make the rest of the trip less fun. And I think that is really the key, if you make it fun and not-stressful for the kid then they'll want to camp more often. Often this requires us to slow down and adjust our expectations for how much we can do in a day.
Great advice to keep up any routines you have at home. Plus points for this.

Camp safety and adjusting expecations +

Thanks for the input.

Follow up: What meals have you found are good for the trips for your little one? Any favorite quick and easy meals? Things to pack that are fan favorites? (note we do have a fridge freezer...just looking for ideas since you have some experience out there!)
 
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Having just gotten into the overlanding idea, but having been into camping and backpacking in the past, we've started to introduce our munckin to it (she's now 2.5 yrs old). We were out for one camping trip last fall, and plan to get out much more this coming fall. She definitely enjoyed it last year, even though the overnight temps sunk into the 40's. Luckily we were prepared, and kept out Kodiak 10x14 tent warmer with a small electric heater. So far, she travels well and sleeps in her pack and play well, and while we have relatively strict routine at home as far as bedtime goes, we are a little more relaxed in a new-to-her situation (first night of a trip, etc), until she can get a feel for the routine and how things are different. Definitely looking forward to some more travel and camping this coming fall.







 

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My son is now 27. He was born 11/29 and his first off road trip was a new years run, it snowed. By the time he was 1, he had done several camping (sleeping in motor home) and had spent a week in the jeep running the Rubicon and surrounding trails. Sleeping in a tent. This is how he grew up.

What I want to mention here is how I prepped for him being in the vehicle, specifically the car seat.
I spent quite a while looking for a car seat with real high sides. I cant remember who's it was but I do remember it was from a performance seat company possibly Corbeau. Using rolled up towels, I braced his neck and head for the rough roads. I probably went overboard with the mounting but, if anything happened, I assure you he would be the one to walk (crawl?) away.

The next thing is based on my observations of other people. I have attended 4wd events for years. Most of them in the desert. You would not believe how many people run a bikini top on their Jeeps, leaving their toddlers, small children in direct sun light. Some had the top covering them but failed to understand that sun light doesn't go straight down. The sun would still be hitting them from the side. I had rigged curtains on the side that I could tie up if I wanted to run with my windows off the soft top.
Even in the forest we have to watch for signs of dehydration.

I am constantly amazed on how people forget their children in the back, while off roading. If I mention this to people some would look at me in horror once they realize what they did and some would get pissed because I poked my nose in their business.

Scott
 

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Awesome thread! My wife and I take our three kids out multiple times a month, some long trips, some short weekend things. Ages are 1/5/10 but when the baby was 5 or 6 weeks old we took here along for a 6-day overlanding trip around southwestern Utah. My wife and I have just recently started trying to vlog our adventures over on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLT-YP44DcJcyP64ui6D3-JfLNvfyZHw0Q Please give us a subscribe if you are interested in following along. I'm also on instagram as @handsomeanchor

We used to bring big metal Tonka trucks for the boys to play with while camping, but when baby arrived space became even more limited so they are reduced to each bringing a backpack with whatever they want inside it. They typically ignore whatever they bring and just start building forts and such out of whatever they can find, it's pretty rad to see. Baby is pretty keen to just chew on rocks and sticks at the moment. We have a floor saver for our awning which acts like a carpet and usually does a good job of confining her to that area. We also pack along a large camping playpen which straps nicely to the side of our cargo rack with some bungees. I think we found it at Target for about $70. For sleeping arrangements we have a ground tent with a queen sized air matress and plenty of room for clothing bags and such. We also put a very compact travel bassinet in there, it's the "Brica Fold n Go™ Travel Bassinet", also from Target, hah. The wife and two younger kids always sleep in the tent. I always sleep outside either in a hammock or on a ground cot, our 10yo splits his time between a hammock and the tent.

Up until about a year ago we were pretty militant about "no screens" on the adventures, but sometimes the driving sections are fairly long, and the boys get pretty bored of staring off into the desert for hours on end. We made the decision to let them have their tables/gaming devices in the vehicle for the long driving parts. It's been magical.

We always make sure the boys have a full waterbottle handy so they can stay hydrated, I also pack horchata, tamarindo, and coolaid mix for when they are not interested in water but need to stay hydrated. Somebody above asked about food, so here's some of our "go-tos" that we make for the kids
- Pre-cooked pasta mixed with chili or sauce from a can
- Hot dogs
- Udon noodles or ramen (usually pre-cooked) with some soup. We pack bouillon and dehydrated mushrooms in our camp kitchen so we always have stuff to make soup on the fly.
- Cheese quesadillas
- English muffin pizzas. I toast the muffin halves on our cast iron griddle, then sauce them up, sprinkle cheese and toppings on them, then cover them up on the griddle by placing a cast iron skillet upside down over top of them. It's kind of like a makeshift dutch oven, and after just a couple minutes the cheese is melted and they're ready to eat. Oh, another pro tip: often i will pre-fry the pepperoni on the griddle to get it warmed up and just a tad crispy

Speaking of camp kitchen, last week I did a video tour of what we currently use for our bin-based camp kitchen setup, this may be of interest to the other parents here, as most of our setup and decisions was geared around not really having to do detailed meal planning since the kids will like something one day and hate it the next day. With this setup it's much easier to bring more base ingredients and then play-it-by-ear on the trails:
Edit: hmm, it seems i can't just post a link to the video, the forum imbeds the video no matter what.
 

Hourless Life

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Awesome thread! My wife and I take our three kids out multiple times a month, some long trips, some short weekend things. Ages are 1/5/10 but when the baby was 5 or 6 weeks old we took here along for a 6-day overlanding trip around southwestern Utah. My wife and I have just recently started trying to vlog our adventures over on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLT-YP44DcJcyP64ui6D3-JfLNvfyZHw0Q Please give us a subscribe if you are interested in following along. I'm also on instagram as @handsomeanchor

We used to bring big metal Tonka trucks for the boys to play with while camping, but when baby arrived space became even more limited so they are reduced to each bringing a backpack with whatever they want inside it. They typically ignore whatever they bring and just start building forts and such out of whatever they can find, it's pretty rad to see. Baby is pretty keen to just chew on rocks and sticks at the moment. We have a floor saver for our awning which acts like a carpet and usually does a good job of confining her to that area. We also pack along a large camping playpen which straps nicely to the side of our cargo rack with some bungees. I think we found it at Target for about $70. For sleeping arrangements we have a ground tent with a queen sized air matress and plenty of room for clothing bags and such. We also put a very compact travel bassinet in there, it's the "Brica Fold n Go™ Travel Bassinet", also from Target, hah. The wife and two younger kids always sleep in the tent. I always sleep outside either in a hammock or on a ground cot, our 10yo splits his time between a hammock and the tent.

Up until about a year ago we were pretty militant about "no screens" on the adventures, but sometimes the driving sections are fairly long, and the boys get pretty bored of staring off into the desert for hours on end. We made the decision to let them have their tables/gaming devices in the vehicle for the long driving parts. It's been magical.

We always make sure the boys have a full waterbottle handy so they can stay hydrated, I also pack horchata, tamarindo, and coolaid mix for when they are not interested in water but need to stay hydrated. Somebody above asked about food, so here's some of our "go-tos" that we make for the kids
- Pre-cooked pasta mixed with chili or sauce from a can
- Hot dogs
- Udon noodles or ramen (usually pre-cooked) with some soup. We pack bouillon and dehydrated mushrooms in our camp kitchen so we always have stuff to make soup on the fly.
- Cheese quesadillas
- English muffin pizzas. I toast the muffin halves on our cast iron griddle, then sauce them up, sprinkle cheese and toppings on them, then cover them up on the griddle by placing a cast iron skillet upside down over top of them. It's kind of like a makeshift dutch oven, and after just a couple minutes the cheese is melted and they're ready to eat. Oh, another pro tip: often i will pre-fry the pepperoni on the griddle to get it warmed up and just a tad crispy

Speaking of camp kitchen, last week I did a video tour of what we currently use for our bin-based camp kitchen setup, this may be of interest to the other parents here, as most of our setup and decisions was geared around not really having to do detailed meal planning since the kids will like something one day and hate it the next day. With this setup it's much easier to bring more base ingredients and then play-it-by-ear on the trails:
Edit: hmm, it seems i can't just post a link to the video, the forum imbeds the video no matter what.
This is awesome advice! Man thanks for sharing all of it. I'm going to follow you on IG and I don't follow many. Also giving you a follow here on the forums. Would love to connect with y'all on the trails someday. Thanks for taking the time to share your insight.

Eric AKA Jeepsies
 
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Would love to connect with y'all on the trails someday.
Definitely! I see you are headed to MX sometime next year, maybe well cross paths there if not before. This November we're heading down into Sonora and Sinaloa, and then over to Baja and back up. Next year sometime (likely June - July or somewhere around there) We're considering maybe a much longer trip all the way down to Oaxaca or over to Yucatan, still in the 'extremely loose ideas' planning stage of that trip.
 
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Definitely! I see you are headed to MX sometime next year, maybe well cross paths there if not before. This November we're heading down into Sonora and Sinaloa, and then over to Baja and back up. Next year sometime (likely June - July or somewhere around there) We're considering maybe a much longer trip all the way down to Oaxaca or over to Yucatan, still in the 'extremely loose ideas' planning stage of that trip.
If you have any interest in possibly caravanning, let me know. Our plan is to head from Texas to Puebla, Puebla in January 2019 and it would be awesome to go with another OB family. Plus I think we get some kind of OB badge haha.

Seriously though, let us know if you're up for a Jeep trip! Oh and this is us.... (L-R: Eric, Brittany, Caspian aka #babynomad)

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I'm not sure January will be doable for us at the moment, two kids are in school (Kinder and 5th grade) so we'd probably only be able to join for a week or two before having to head back north. Lets definitely keep in contact about that trip though, it may work out.

Re Your OB badge comment: I'm actually working on creating some rally magnets for my upcoming 10-day Sonora/Sinaloa/Baja trip like the ones that we got at the OB OTG event last year:
I think i'm going to start making these for any longer more coordinated trip we go on, especially when we are in another country. They're so fun!