Want to go camping in Banff National Park but you have a small baby? Yes, it is definitely doable. In many ways, it’s even easier to camp with a baby than a toddler or small child since your babies don’t really care where they are so long as their basic needs are met.
However, just like doing anything with a baby, it will take a bit of adjustment and extra planning. Here’s what you need to know about camping with a baby in Banff National Park to ensure your trip is safe and enjoyable.
1. Make a Reservation
Some Banff campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. You really don’t want to get turned away from a campground and end up with nowhere to stay when you’ve got a baby – so choose a campground which takes reservations.
Remember that Banff is really popular, especially in July and August. If you want a specific campsite – such as one near the bathrooms or need a large campsite – you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. Don’t be surprised if your first-choice campground gets booked up on the first day reservations open up!
2. Pay Attention to the Amenities Offered
Even if you are used to minimalist camping or backpacking, certain amenities can make camping with a baby easier. You’ll probably want to choose a campground which has these amenities:
- Hot showers: You’ll appreciate this amenity if you want to give your baby a bath or need a shower after a spit-up or diaper blowout accident.
- Cooking shelter: If it starts to rain, the shelter can be useful. You can hide there with your baby so you don’t get wet.
- Electric hookups: If you need to charge devices to keep an older child entertained, then you’ll want a campground with electricity hookups. Likewise, these campgrounds tend to be more popular with families (who may be more sympathetic when your baby starts crying). On the flip side, campgrounds without electric hookups tend to be quieter and attract less-rowdy campers.
- Wheelchair accessible: If a wheelchair can get around the campground, then your stroller will also be able to get around. You’ll also have at least one larger bathroom to use, which is useful if you need to bring a stroller inside with you.
Read more about Banff campgrounds here.
3. It Gets Very Cold At Night
Most front-country Banff campgrounds are at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters or higher (4,593 feet). At these elevations, the temperatures can drop quickly and drastically.
In July and August – which are the warmest months in Banff – the temperatures can easily go from 30C (86F) during the day to 5C (41F) at night. In September, it is common for it to drop to below freezing temperatures at night.
To stay warm in these temperatures, you will need a proper baby sleeping bag for camping and also a sleeping pad with a high R-value. Remember that most portable cots and cribs do not provide much (if any) insulation from the cold ground.
Some parents do co-sleep in the same sleeping bag with their babies. However, I don’t recommend this. Not only is it a safety hazard because the sleeping bag can go over your baby’s face, but it is incredibly uncomfortable. Do you really want to risk waking your baby each time you have to get in/out of the sleeping bag?
4. Don’t Bring Scentables
When camping in Banff, you’ll want to avoid all “scentables” which could attract wild animals. This includes perfumed baby wipes and creams. Even some diapers are scented, so make sure you check your products carefully.
If you absolutely must bring something scented, you’ll need to follow the “Bare Campsite Program.” Under these rules, all scented items must remain locked up in your car or a storage locker when not in use.
For example, you are NOT allowed to keep scented wipes in your tent while sleeping. Imagine how annoying it would be to walk to the car to get wipes in the middle of the night just to do a diaper change. It’s better to avoid this issue by choosing scent-free products.
5. Have a Rain Plan
While June, July and August are the warmest months in Banff, they are also the months which get the most rainfall. Rain can come suddenly without any warning, so you need to be prepared for it (regardless of what the forecast said for the day!).
Admittedly, it can get pretty boring camping in the rain with a baby – especially if you are forced to hide out in a small tent. Some better solutions are:
- Get a rain suit for your baby: Then you can continue doing activities regardless of the weather.
- Bring a rain cover for your stroller: So long as you have proper rain gear for yourself, then you can still go for walks.
- Set up a tarp or rain shelter: You’ll have a dry area to hang out in while waiting for the rain to stop
- Upgrade to a larger tent: With a larger tent, you’ll at least have enough space and headroom to walk around with your baby. This is important if your baby needs to be walked to sleep.
- Choose a campground with a cooking shelter: You can hide out in the cooking shelter during the rain, though be warned that other campers might have the same idea and it could get crowded.
6. Know How to Dispose of Diapers When Camping with a Baby
Be sure to contact the campground ahead of time to ask how you can dispose of diapers and dirty wipes. As a general rule, diapers cannot be put in outhouses and dry toilets. Some campgrounds have bins where you can dispose of diapers but others may require you to pack them out.
And you’ll definitely need to pack out dirty diapers when hiking. Unless you want to smell stinky diapers for the duration of your hike or have them leak into your pack, make sure you bring some trash bags.
7. Your Baby Should Wear Diapers When Swimming
If you want to visit hot springs in Banff, know that young children are usually required to wear swim diapers. Likewise, your baby should wear swim diapers when playing or swimming in any natural body of water. If your baby poops in the water, it will be gross for others trying to enjoy it. On top of that, poop can actually contaminate the water and cause environmental damage.
8. “Stroller Friendly” Is Subjective
There are several stroller-friendly hiking trails in Banff. However, this can be very subjective.
For example, Bow Falls Trail is often listed as stroller friendly but has parts of it with loose gravel and also stairs to go down. A small umbrella-type stroller won’t be able to handle this trail well. And don’t be surprised if your arms will hurt from pushing a stroller over uneven terrain!
Make sure you do your research before heading out on to a Banff trail with a stroller. Look at pictures of the trail to see what the terrain is like and ask at the campground for advice.
Ideally, you would use a proper off-road stroller which has these features:
- Large wheels
- Suspension system for absorbing shock
- Wrist strap
- Reliable braking system
- UV and water-resistant canopy
9. Use Trekking Poles If Your Baby Is in a Carrier
Since most hiking trails in Banff are not stroller friendly, you’ll have a lot more options if you use a baby carrier instead. However, for safety reasons, I highly recommend that you use trekking poles when hiking with a baby carrier.
Banff trails can be rocky, narrow and uneven. If you were to slip and fall, your baby could get seriously injured. Using trekking poles decreases the risk of falling. It also helps distribute weight, so your back is less likely to hurt after a day of hiking with a heavy carrier.
10. Be Aware of How Elevation Changes Can Affect Infants
When exploring Banff National Park, you might quickly change elevation. For example, the Banff gondola (which is generally considered baby-friendly) starts at 1,583 m (5,194 feet) and ends at 2,281 m (7,486 feet) – an elevation gain of almost 700 meters in just 8 minutes.
These changes in elevation can affect infants more than they would adults. Your baby might have uncomfortable ear popping or even difficulty breathing at high altitudes. To play it safe, you might want to skip the gondola with newborns and plan your scenic drives so you don’t change elevation too quickly.
11. Pouches of Baby Food Are Better than Jars
As a general rule, bringing glass items to a campground is frowned upon. If you drop it, the item will shatter – causing a mess of broken glass which is very difficult to clean up.
Because of this, pouches of baby food are better for camping than jars. Pouches are usually more convenient for travel anyway: you can just squeeze the food onto the spoon. If your baby doesn’t finish the pouch, you can just reclose the pouch since it wasn’t contaminated with a dirty spoon.
12. Using Formula? Ask for a Campsite Next to the Dishwashing Station
After your baby finishes a bottle of formula, you might be tempted to rinse it quickly and dump the dirty water on the ground. But this is actually against the Bare Campground rules as it could attract wild animals. You’ll have to go to the camp dishwashing station to clean the bottle.
It can get really tiresome to trek back and forth to the dishwashing station constantly. Make your life easier by asking for a campsite close to the station.
13. Bring All Baby Supplies with You
Banff town has several supermarkets and convenience stores, but don’t assume they will have your preferred brands of baby food, diapers and other supplies. The last thing you want when camping is your baby having stomach issues, a diaper blowout or getting a rash because you had to suddenly switch brands. It’s better to bring all the baby supplies you will need with you.