Desert camping with a baby and / or toddler in Joshua Tree is no easy feat, but it can be a really great time with these helpful camping with baby tips. Trust, you want to maximize fun for your baby and for yourself! Why go into this experience blindly, or by spending countless hours researching when you can take it from someone who has done this numerous times with and without baby.
I got choo, boo .. I got you.
1. Where to Camp in Joshua Tree? Why, Jumbo Rocks of Course
There’s so many public, private and free places to camp in Joshua Tree. One of my favorite spots is Jumbo Rocks. The boulder landscape here is gorgeous. It’s kid-friendly with so many places to explore. Hike to Skull Rock (1 mile round trip) or just explore the many rock formations around your site.
There’s vault toilets, fire pits, fire rings, grills and picnic tables. There’s even a small amphitheater at the Jumbo Rocks campground. Various ranger programs are held there which are great for the kids.
2. Take a Hike!
You can’t fully enjoy the magic of Joshua Tree without a hike. If you’re hiking with a baby or toddler, I highly recommend a baby carrier. This way your baby is safe from wobbling into cactus or chola trees. Pictured here is my favorite hiking baby carrier. This thing is a must for outdoor families who love to explore hours on foot. I also love the Tula baby carrier. It’s my every day use option, and they have the cutest prints!
We had planned to do a longer hike, but the desert winds were quite strong. If you’re looking for a short but beautiful hike, you gotta visit the Chola Cactus Garden. It was about a 20-minute drive from our campsite at Jumbo Rocks.
3. Bring a Tripod
It’s hard enough to get a family photos using your arm for a selfie! Heck, it’s hard enough to get your kid to look at the camera (and I’m not even asking for a smile). One of the best things we invested in for all of our travels is this nifty tripod. Super easy to use and ultra compact. We had originally purchased it for our backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls, prior to having Victoria, but now we take it on all of our family camping trips and travels.
Our other favorite travel tripod is the JOBY GorillaPod. This thing is great for attaching to trees, signs, rocks — you name it.
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4. Bring Instruments and Make Music
My daughter loves music. She also loves making music. Yes, we are a musical family with lots of talented musical friends, but even if you don’t know how to play an instrument, nothing beats strumming a few chords or beating some drums around a campfire. It’s one of our favorite sensory activities for Victoria.
5. Self-Care Yo’ Self with a Foot Stool aka Toddler Activity Table
Do you know the magic or a foot stool while camping? I had originally purchased this lightweight camping foot stool for our backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls. I was hiking with a torn meniscus and needed an option to elevate my feet. Even my husband used it to relieve his sore feet. Now, I never hit a campground without it. Mostly because it’s a wonderful self-care amenity after hiking all day and running after a toddler, but also because my daughter loves to use it as a play table.
6. Trailer Camping
While we absolutely love tent camping, especially in our new tent (that I can actually stand up in), we also like to trailer camp, especially in the desert. The Joshua Tree desert can get very windy. I’ve seen numerous tents blow away that were not properly staked for winds. The desert can also get very cold at night. This time around we opted for trailer camping. We rented a Trillium trailer that kept us warm at night thanks to its built-in heater. We usually use this heater when we tent camp. The winds got crazy strong the following night. We were thankful to have had a trailer. It makes sleeping easier. The last time we tent camped in the desert, our toddler woke up every hour due to the wild desert winds.
7. Create a Safe Play Area for Kids
Whenever we go camping, we always bring this super lightweight and compact pop up playground. It has a mini tent, crawl tunnel and ball pit. Our daughter and her buddy loved it. We also bring plenty of sand toys for digging. Victoria thinks she is an archeologist whenever there is dirt or sand nearby. If you have little ones that don’t walk just yet or are learning, you should definitely bring a pack and play or a portable play-yard. This allows for mom and dad to crack a cold brew or glass of wine and sit in a cozy camping chair while the kids play.
8. Smoothie Pouches
Can’t tell you how many times fruit and veggie smoothie packs have saved us. They saved us in Italy countless times, and they came in handy on our camping trip. They are a quick and easy snack for baby while hiking or on the road. This is out go-to smoothie squeeze pouch, but our daughter also loves these ones which tend to be a bit more hearty.
9. Layers, Boots, Layers
Desert camping calls for boots and plenty of clothing layers. Not just for you, but for your baby too! You don’t want to get those pesky sand pebbles in your shoes, nor do you want them in your babies shoes. We always rock our boots when in Joshua Tree.
These are my go-to boots for camping. They’re comfy and stylish. I also have a pair of these for cold, wet weather. My husband swear by his oldest pair of Red Wings and for baby we had her in these. But these rain boots also do a great job of keeping sand and pebbles out.
As for clothing layers. I always wear jeans or work out legging and pair them with a tank top, followed by a button up long sleeve, hoodie, and jean jacket. You’ll add or peel these layers as the chaotic desert weather changes.
Baby layers! During the day Victoria were a longsleeve onesie with a zip fleece hoodie and matching fleece pants. And we can’t forget the sunhat! Be sure to have a beanie for your baby in the evening. She loved this one. Once the sun set, we had Victoria in a long sleeve shirt and pants (these ones are perfect) with a fleece onesie over them. We also had her rain coat over all of it at one point when it got really cold. One thing we did not have and I wish we did, was mittens! Her little hands were so cold! We now have these.
10. Take Time for Yourself
This is YOUR trip too. If you want to have a successful camping trip with your baby, I urge you to take time for yourself. Have your partner watch the baby and go for a solo walk through the many magical rock formations. Find your perfect spot and read a book or meditate. Whatever you do, just be with YOU!