Pearl’s First Camping Trip

IMG_3863Peter and I have camped several times together in the years that we’ve known each other. We’ve camped with friends or just the two of us but we’ve never camped with a toddler. Until now!

When it comes to parenting, I’m learning that often you simply have to take the plunge. We’ve always known that we want to camp with Pearl and it’s been a given that camping will be a common summer activity for our family. But that thought of actually doing so with a seventeen-month-old was kind of intimidating. I asked friends how they did it, Peter and I talked it over and, finally, we just picked a week and we went for it.

Very early in the morning.
Very early in the morning.

We decided to start easy with one night away in a location not too far away. We went to Keats Island, somewhere we’ve camped several times before, and is only a short boat ride away. (We took the public ferry from Langdale but we’ve also kayaked from Gibsons in the past.)

View from our site.
View from our site.

The good news is that we had a terrific time. I can’t wait to try it again. Hopefully, later this summer. Hopefully, with a few lessons learned.

We left Thursday afternoon on a direct ferry from Langdale to Keats Landing. The provincial campground at Plumper’s Cove is a 2km hike from the Landing where the ferry drops you off. (Hence the advantage of taking your own boat over.) We packed as light as we could for our one night. I carried Pearl in her big Deuter hiking pack, along with our dry food, our water, and Peter’s clothes. Peter carried everything else (tent, blankets, mine and Pearl’s clothes, and our little cooler). He’s a champ.

Just getting started on the hike in.
Just getting started on the hike in.

Pearl actually walked a good portion of this hike on her own, for which I was thankful. Normally, the hike takes around 30-40 minutes but it obviously took us a little longer that afternoon.

Also note Peter's giant bag.
Also note Peter’s giant bag.

Plumper’s Cove works on a first-come-first-served basis so arriving on the Thursday before a long weekend meant it was busy but there were still sites available and we were able to find one with decent privacy.

Our tent was one of our first big purchases as a married couple and it’s been awesome ever since. It is technically a 3-person tent though I doubt I’d want to sleep in it with 2 other adults. For the three of us, it worked well.

Having had some co-sleeping success on recent trips, we opted to make one big bed in the tent with one sleeping bag and a blanket. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic all week so staying warm wasn’t an issue.

As soon as we set up camp, we headed for the beach. The water was perfect and Peter and I enjoyed a swim while Pearl stayed on dry land, wearing her life jacket.


In fact, she insisted on wearing her life jacket for most of our camping time, regardless of distance from water. Safety first is Pearl’s motto!

We kept our meals simple in the interests of packing light. Dinner was hot dogs cooked over an open fire. Pearl became an unusually picky eater and subsisted primarily on crackers and cucumbers and bites of granola bar.


Night-time sleep was, of course, our biggest concern going into our adventure and the thing I’d asked most people about. Here’s what we did and here’s what I would do differently.

We kept Pearl up until about 8 o’clock, around an hour after her bedtime. We tried to follow her usual routine as close as possible and read stories and cuddle in the tent. At home, we then put her in her crib with her bear and let her fall asleep on her own. That definitely did not happen while camping. Especially when she figured out how to get out of the tent on her own. I rocked her and sang and Peter and I took turns laying down with her but it took a long time and there were a lot of tears. In the end, at around 10:30pm, both Peter and I got ready for bed and lay down together with Pearl. It helped that it was dark by now and she fell asleep shortly after this. She did wake once in the night and seemed scared in the foreign space until I held her close. In the morning, she had squirmed her way to sleep in the top corner of the tent, on her own, bum in the air. We were all up and eating breakfast at about 5:30am.

Very early in the morning.
Very early in the morning.

So here’s what I would do differently: First of all, the tent was too exciting. I think if we had set it up in our backyard a few days earlier and let her nap there or even camped out for a night, Pearl would have had an easier time associating it with sleeping. Sticking her in it and expecting her to fall asleep the first time was, perhaps, overly optimistic.

Second of all, I think next time we camp we’ll simply all go to bed at the same time. If that means Pearl stays up late (and until it’s dark), so be it. I think we’ll all get a better sleep that way.

But even on a lesser amount of sleep, we had a fun day. We made morning s’mores on the campfire, went for a hike (which Pearl slept through), and swam some more. In the afternoon we hiked back to the ferry landing. Pearl slept the whole way this time so I packed all twenty-three pounds of her.

Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.
Pearl liked putting Big Bear in her pack. He would have been much lighter to carry.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of our family camping adventures! If anyone has further tips on camping with a toddler, I’ll gladly hear them!


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