Van Life, Baby

The Barczas

Lauren Barcza still remembers the reactions from her family when they heard that she and her husband, Alex, were taking their four-month-old infant on a camping trip in their 1984 Coleman pop-up camper.

“There was a lot of shock and some doubt,” she says, laughing. “Some people thought we were poor parents for taking our kid out to the desert to sleep in the cold.”

But camping, traveling and biking was a huge part of the Eagle, Colorado, couple’s relationship before baby. “We wanted to continue doing what we love and to share it with our child,” says Lauren.

Sure enough, two-year-old Oliver fit into the couple’s scheme. He loves playing in the dirt and riding his Strider during camping trips, which typically range from long weekenders to three-week, multistate adventures. The family eventually graduated to a 1997 Road Trek camper van, which they’ve taken as far afield as California.

Lauren says that Oliver has hit some milestones during their road trips, including his first words and first step. She attributes it to the stimulation and intense family time he receives during these trips. “It might take a couple of weekends to figure out how it will work best, but it’s good for the family, the child and the couple,” she says. “Just go out and try it.”

The Voneshes

Finding the right adventure vehicle is especially important when your rig needs to accommodate a baby’s needs. Avon, Colorado, residents Amelia and Jimmy Vonesh chose an eight-foot pop-up camper—but with a one-year-old boy and three-year-old girl, they needed to make sure that their truck and camper were toddler-friendly. So Jimmy built hidden storage compartments, a homemade pony-keg shower, a power generator for 2 a.m feedings, and a tailgate diaper changing station. One week after their Marley, was born, they put the camper to the test on a six-week-long road trip from Colorado to Canada.

“As a family bonding experience, it was huge because we literally spent every minute of every day together for the entire first six weeks,” says Amelia Vonesh.

The Krehbiels

Red Cliff, Colorado, mother Ashleigh Krehbiel admits camping with a baby isn’t always easy. But she and her husband, Nathan, say it’s worth it. The two started taking their now one-year-old son, Carson, on trips in their 1989 Astro Tiger camper when he was just six weeks old. Excursions included a month-long trip with stops in Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.

Ashleigh had a lengthy postpartum recovery, preventing her from out-the-gate backpacking and epic bike rides. But out on the road, the family hiked and biked and even switched off watching Carson to kayak some off-the-beaten-path rivers. According to Ashleigh, the trip was a mental relief and kept them both from feeling trapped at home. “We knew it wasn’t always going to be fun and easy, but we saw maternity leave as a chance for a good trip,” she says.

 —Melanie Wong

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