There are some things which you have to have when you’re traveling with a three year old and a baby. I won’t bother with the obvious ones, I’m sure you already take diapers, wipes, enough snacks to sink a battle ship etc. These are the things you need for a day trip, what I’m talking about are the things you need for longer term travel.
I would like to make clear, these are all things we’ve bought 100% from our own money without inducement, just things we like to take on the road and that make every journey the adventure it should be.
1 – Solar shower and shower tent
Let’s face a simple truth of kids, no matter what you do, they will get muddy, and they need to wash. Maybe for a dew days, you can get away with a wet wipe bath, but for longer term travel, you need to hose them down.
We like the Nemo Helio shower. It’s a simple light weight package that packs down to the size of a small saucepan. When filled, it will hold 3 gallons of water, and left out in direct sun (especially on a car bonnet), it will heat to a nice warm temperature.
It has a foot pump to create pressure and a hand shower much like you get on a kitchen sink. S loves to use it for showering, cleaning things and washing his hands. The last is a real bonus use, even if you’re not going to shower, having a clean source of warm water to quickly wash hands before a snack is great around camp.
Whilst S loves to get naked in public… we do also have a shower tent by Ridge Outdoor Gear. It folds down flat and a circle about 24 inches in diameter. When raised, I can stand in it comfortably (I’m 6 foot 4) and the kids love it.
There’s a number of hooks and pockets to hang clothes and put soap in on both the inside and outside and it comes with tent pegs and ties to secure when it’s a bit blowy. The door is accessed through a zip up front. Make sure you position away from the wind or it’ll take off!
We have a bamboo shower base thing we stand on as most of the time you’ll be out in a field which gets muddy underfoot.
You can buy the Ridge Outdoor pop up tent through their facebook shop here https://www.facebook.com/commerce/products/2172835126091926/
2 – Solar charging unit and light
These simple devices are a life saver when you’ve put the kids to bed in the trailer and are enjoying a quiet romantic evening in front of the campfire together. It’s inevitable that you forget to charge the monitor and so you have to choose to stay in the trailer, sit in the car while charging of the engine, or use your convenient solar charger.
We love to avoid running items off of mainstream power or fossil fuels, so having a small battery bank off solar allows and easy place to plug in the monitor to charge and saves the day. Ours also includes these energy efficient fairy lights to make that special night.
You can buy them at most camping stores and supermarkets, we like the Mpowerd Luci Solar string which you can pick up at REI.
Mpowerd is a sustainable company trying to provide free lights to those in developing world without reliable power sources.
3 – Frame carrier and sun/rain cover
We have a Deuter Comfort 2 and brought with us the sun shade and rain cover. It’s a life saver with two kids for a couple of reasons.
First, E cannot hike at 8 months old, so needs to be carried everywhere. For short hikes we use a cloth carrier, but for longer hikes, the frame carrier gives us extra places to stash snacks, add in a water bladder and give her a high view of the world with a pillow to pass out on.
Second, the weather changes frequently on the road, as we’ve found in Bryce Canyon recently, from rain to snow to brilliant sun, so you need a waterproof, sunroof option. Cloth carriers are wonderful, but once they’re wet, they take an age to dry and it seeps through fast. The Deuter is waterproof and the covers provide protection against all elements so E is warm and snug in her little frame pack without fear of getting cold and wet, or caught out in the sun.
One word of advice, with sunshine, E likes to dangle her head out the side, so don’t rely solely on the shade, always slip on a sunproof shirt, slap on a wide brim hat and slop on some suncream.
You can get Deuter now in a women’s fit range rather than unisex, although the comfort series has a number of fitting options that mostly work for Monique at 5’6’’ and me at 6’4’’.
We bought ours at REI here although the 2 is no longer available, I’d thoroughly recommend trying one out in a store for fit before you buy. The Osprey’s quite nice too…
4 – Patagonia sun tops
Cannot recommend Patagonia’s sun tops enough. They are a light weight long sleeve top (some with hoods). They are spf 50+ and so keep your kids safe from the sun. They come in a range of awesome designs for all ages (Monique and I both have one each also), are lightweight to wear in hot weather, and work equally well as an emergency rash vest in the swimming pool.
It’s hard enough to make sure you are protected from the sun completely and to remember to reapply, so when it comes to kids, do yourself a big favor and take memory out of the game and put them in sunproof clothing.
Also, since it’s Patagonia, it’s ethical and sustainable and whilst they can’t guarantee it’ll fit for life, any defect will be remedied for free. For grown up ones, I believe they’re covered by their free repairs service too.
Whilst you can buy these direct from Patagonia here, I’d recommend finding them at your local REI or outdoor store since Patagonia still insists on shipping every item in a separate plastic bag (why Patagonia? could you wrap in paper or surely some other non-plastic option is out there?). This is S’s favorite of the sun tops.
5 – Woolino four season sleep sack
We discovered these amazing baby’s sleep sacks when S was little.We make big long kids, who love to wave their hands about when asleep (apparently I do too).
Woolino make a range of sleep sacks, for various ages, but we love the merino wool four season sleep sack. It keeps E super warm, has poppers around neck and arms to ensure it can’t ride up and lasts for an age (S used his first one from 6 months to 2 years). Whilst they are a little pricey, they are easy to clean, useable in all temperatures when combined with sleep suits or fleece PJs and have a zip that zips downwards to make nighttime diaper changes easy.
For those of the “sniffing for poop parents”, there’s a convenient pocket opening at butt level if you need a sniff to be sure…
You can buy them direct from Woolino Here
Let us know what items you find essential on the road.