After an amazing hike or an adventure filled day outdoors, my favourite time was always after dinner, sitting around the campfire, looking up at the amazing stars, preferably with a mug of red wine (classy I know). But just add kids and bedtime to this tranquil scene and the whole experience can become wee bit more stressful.
Seriously though, one of our biggest expedition topics on ‘risk mitigation’ is sleep. Sleep is critical, not only for Morgan but for her parents sanity, happiness and also ability to physically recover day after day from walking across the desert.
And I say this with much authority, sleep deprivation is truly torture. Ask any new parent and they will tell you that helping your child learn to sleep in their first year is one of the toughest things about new parenthood.
Morgan has never been a great sleeper due to being a severe reflux baby and over the last year we have worked really really hard to help her sleep, on her own, in her own bed. So the thought of giving up this little piece of sleep heaven is not something I am looking forward to and is one of my biggest fears about this expedition – that’s right, brown snakes and dingo’s have nothing on a sleep deprived parent.
As with so much in the parenting game, it gets easier the more often you go out and do it and we have found a couple key sleep hacks, and are still trying to crack a few more, that can make everyones night a whole lot more wine filled and less whiney – ha – mom joke.
Make it fun
Before you even hit the bush trails, set up your tent in the living room and pile the whole family – including the labrodoodle – in the tent. Kids often love playing in forts and tents and if they see mom, dad and in our case Ollie the dog in the tent they are going to associate it with family and fun.
Then whenever you set up your tent outdoors, play in it for awhile with your little one. At least 30mins of book reading or play always helps Morgan get familiar with her new sleeping area and guarantees less late night wake ups and freak-outs. See below playing a riveting game of tent peek-a-boo.
Note: We chose the North Face VE25 for our expedition. Its super portable, though as nails and can take on everything from Antarctica to the Australian Outback to a rambunctious one year old.
The 2 hour rule
Make sure to arrive at camp at least 2 hours before sunset. Before we had kids we always wanted to stay out hiking and playing as long as possible, soaking up every last minute of daylight out adventuring.
Morgan has quickly taught us not do this with kids – thanks Morgan.
Having an overtired, over hungry, uncomfortable kid is not fun for anyone. The 2 hour rule gives everyone enough time to set up camp without stress, get dinner cooking and get everyone used to their new bed for the night before it gets dark. We aren’t big sticklers for rules but trust us on this one – on our first camp trial in the Blue Mountains we learned this the hard way.
With temperatures heading down to zero in the desert, pyjamas and layers are going to be essential. The best baby thermals we have found are Nature Baby’s merino thermals. We love them because they come in infant, baby and toddler sizes and made out of 100% organic New Zealand wool and are super soft, easy to wash, warm and safe on babies sensitive skin.
Her sleeping bag has proven to be a little trickier. Morgan is an active sleeper and there is no way she would stay sleeping in an blankets let alone a traditional camping sleeping bag.
At home, in winter, she sleeps in a 2-3.5 TOG sleep sack but that isn’t going to keep her warm enough in the desert when the temperature drops to near freezing.
Surprisingly there seem to be very few baby outdoor sleep bags on the market – don’t all families take their one year old out on desert expeditions?!? So this is something that is still a work in progress. We are trialling a few options and are looking to modify a sleeping bag with arms that she can’t wiggle out of but can move in. We will keep you posted!
The Fly Net
For Morgan, at home, having a sense of her own space where she can toss and turn as much as she wants safely and she can’t hear or see us has been critical in getting her to sleep through the night. Because bringing her cot along isn’t an options (although I wish it was) we are going to have to get creative.
The big two room camping tents and travel cots are great for car camping but are too heavy and bulky for an on foot expedition so we designed a ‘portable/light weight cot’ which seriously looks like a fly catching net! (Nice sewing by the way Justin!).
To our surprise, it actually worked pretty well! Morgan liked sleeping in “the net” but unfortunately she could still see us sleeping next to her so when she woke up in the middle of the night she just wanted to party – and these are not as fun as the pre children 2am parties either.
This is still a work in progress as well but the the final solution needs to be safe, strong, comfortable and give her and us some visual privacy. Keep you posted!