There’s no blueprint on what to take camping with kids or how to pack for family camping. You want to keep it light and encourage your children to take a minimalistic approach. On the other hand, you don’t want to be caught cold in the wilderness without the essentials your family requires.
So it’s understandable if you’re scratching your head thinking, “what do I need to go camping with my family?”
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate family camping packing list. This includes:
- Tent & Sleeping Checklist
- Camp Furniture Checklist
- Kitchen Essentials
- What Food Should You Pack For Family Camping?
- Bare Essentials
- Clothing Essentials
- Fun Extras
- Family Camping Packing List - Everything You Need For a Great Trip
Follow this guide and make sure the only thing you need to worry about is having enough s’mores ingredients to go around.
Tent & Sleeping Checklist
Although your children will be super pumped for their first camping trip, you will need to sleep at some point. Therefore, it’s paramount that you have the right items for a good night sleep.
Here are the essentials you need to prevent your family from staying wide awake so everyone can count sheep all night (aside from the actual tent!):
- Groundsheet or a tarp
- Tent stakes, hammer or mallet, guide ropes
- Air beds - If you want to introduce your children to what they would experience on their first scout camp, you could go with just a sleeping mat. However, if you want to be more comfortable, consider packing air beds instead.
- Air pumps - If you go with air beds, the last thing you want to do is be emptying your lungs and manually blowing them up. If you want to skip out the pumping stage altogether, you can now buy air pumps that plug into your car.
- Appropriate sleeping bags for the weather - Not all sleeping bags are the same! Just as comforters come in different grades for different temperatures, so do sleeping bags. So pick ones that are within the temperature range of where you plan on camping.
- Pillows - If your little ones are new to camping, bringing your own pillow is a great way to bring some home comforts into the tent. Why not try our 55L pillow backpack? The first family camping bag with space for your own pillow.
- Welcome mat - If you want to extend the home comforts further, use a piece of carpet and provision a welcome/doormat at the entrance of your tent to allow people to wipe their feet before entering.
Camp Furniture Checklist
In addition to packing your own pillow or laying down a makeshift welcome mat, furniture also makes your campsite more homey. As a result, camp-friendly furniture is one of your must-haves for family camping.
Here are some of the furniture items you’ll need to load into the family car:
- Camping chairs - There are so many camping chairs to choose from. You may want a large foldable chair that provides maximum comfort while your children may only consider chairs with their favorite cartoon characters on them. However, whatever chair you go for, be sure to store it in your tent at night. Otherwise, it will get damp from the morning dew or the previous night’s rain.
Table - A foldable camping table can be used for a variety of things. From having dinner together to hosting an intense Uno tournament, these are essential items of furniture for any family camping trip.
- Picnic Blanket - Why not take the dinner party to the grass? One of the best things about camping is having regular picnics. So, in an effort to keep your tent and your children’s clothes as clean as possible, consider packing a picnic blanket.
A couple of additional items you may consider are a hammock or a tablecloth for the table. Little pro tip, to stop the tablecloth from blowing away or slipping off, you may want to peg some clips or pegs to pin it down. You’ll thank us later.
Making sure you’ve got everything you need to cook on your camping trip is of course vital. Furthermore, learning to cook whether in the kitchen or out in the open is a valuable life skill. Therefore, it’s good to get a helping hand from your offspring (if they’re old enough, of course).
Here are some specific points to consider first:
- You’ll want to opt for a double-burner camping stove, rather than the single burner variety that solo trekkers use, so you can cook more than one thing at once.
- The question of how much fuel to take is often difficult to answer, as it depends on how big your family is, how long you’re camping for, and how many hot meals you plan on cooking. As a rule of thumb a 16oz propane tank will last for about an hour on a high burn, so use this as a basis to calculate fuel needs.
- Bring lightweight stainless steel saucepans and pots, as these will conduct heat the quickest, definitely don’t bring thick casserole pans or heavy nonstick pans as you’ll use up a lot more fuel to heat.
- If you don’t want to buy lots of fuel, or clean lots of pans, have just one hot meal per day in the evening. Breakfasts and lunches are easily taken care of with cereals, fruit and sandwiches.
- If you want to heat water for your morning coffee or evening hot chocolate, buy a small camping kettle rather than boiling water using a saucepan, as it’ll be much quicker and therefore save fuel.
- Some small and medium sized durable plastic tupperware can be a lifesaver when it comes to preventing bugs from getting into food such as bread, oats and fruit.
And here’s a list of the other necessities for you to tick off:
- Water-proof matches
- Plastic cups and mugs
- Bottle opener
- Can opener
- A Thermos
- Wooden spoon
- Large serving spoons
- Chopping board
- Cooking knives
- Ziplock bags
- An icebox and ice
Depending on what you’re cooking, you may also need a colander, a cheese grater, and - if you really want to go all out - a camping oven.
What Food Should You Pack For Family Camping?
You want to pack food that’s easy to cook, doesn’t spoil easily, your children like, and tastes good. While we can’t help you with the cooking, there are plenty of camping recipes that require only a handful of ingredients. Here are the staple camping ingredients to bring:
For breakfast and lunch cold meals:
- UHT milk (so you can store it at ambient temperature)
- Soft fruits (but only a few days supply at a time, as they’ll spoil quickly in hot weather)
- Hard fruits (such as apples, can take a longer supply than soft fruits)
- Sliced Bread (consider longer-life bread if you’re camping for an extended period)
- Margarine instead of butter (forgo taste preferences and opt for margarine as it handles heat much better than butter)
- Cold cuts
- Tinned tuna
- Sliced hard cheese
- Salad vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers
- Sauces and relishes
For hot meals:
- Tinned sliced vegetables (they cook a lot quicker than fresh vegetables)
- Potatoes (choose softer varieties that cook quicker)
- Pasta (quick cooking varieties)
- Hot Dogs
- Pasta Sauce
- Instant Noodles
It really is up to your own interpretation but, as the old saying goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail”. Sit down and plan your menu. Then, you’ll know what you’re going to cook with.
What About Snacks?
Is the first question your child utters after dinner, “what’s for dessert?”. If so, you might need some sweeter things for the trip. After all, what’s a family camping trip without a cup of hot chocolate?
Here are some snacks and treats that both adults and children can enjoy:
- S’mores ingredients
- Cocoa Powder
- Energy bars (for when out hiking)
- Trail mix
- Cheese and Crackers
- … and more chocolate
Even though this comes after candy and two orders of chocolate, these items are more important. These are your must-have essentials to ensure your family’s safety, comfort, and cleanliness are provided for:
- Toilet paper
- Insect repellent
- Lip balm
- Anti-bacterial gel
- Face/body wipes
- Dry Shampoo (just in case)
- Shower Gel/Soap
- Plastic bags
- Rubbish bags
- Reservation details (if you’re out in the sticks, mobile data might not be a given)
- First Aid Kit
- Large water container (and water bottles for each member of the group)
- Flashlights - A headlamp, a normal flashlight and night lights for the children are a safe bet (the latter will likely run out of battery though)
- Batteries - In case the above happens!
- Day bags for each family member
When considering what to pack for a camping trip with kids, a key factor is what clothes you pack. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to hear your children complaining about being cold if the weather turns, and not have the layers needed on your packing list.
Of course, you may be a seasoned traveller and feel comfortable with a minimalist packing list. However, your children are unlikely to subscribe to the same ethos.
With that in mind, here’s some clothing essentials for you and your children:
- Layers - fleeces, pullovers, sweaters - whatever you call them. Depending on where you are, it can get cold at night. Therefore, extras layers are essential (especially for kids)
- Waterproof jacket - In case you’re caught in the rain on a family hike, make sure every member of the group has their own waterproof rain jacket.
- Wool socks (if hiking)
- Whole outfits - one a day for younger children, however, adults can probably use a few items more than once.
- Hat and gloves (if it’s likely to get cold at night)
- Undergarments - pack more than days (same with socks, too)
- Hiking shoes for when away from camp
- Tennis shoes for when ground conditions around camp are dry
- Flip flops for the communal showers and late night trips when nature calls
- Bathing suits - if you plan on swimming
- Comfy hoodie or fleece - When lounging at the campsite, make sure the whole gang has a little woolly number to stay cosy in.
In addition to these items of clothing, you need a durable light-weight camping backpack to keep your clothes in and help you pack for day trips.
Moreover, if it’s hot, pack some sunglasses and baseball caps.
However much of a keen hiker you are, there will be days where you and the family just want to take it easy. This begs the question, how do you keep the kids occupied on the campsite?
Devices may be low on charge and YouTube isn’t an option. With that in mind, here are some fun screen-less items you can pack that the whole family can enjoy together:
- Bubble blowers
- Plastic bowling or boules set
- Soccer ball
- Coloring books and pens
- Board games
Besides physical items, there are many camping games you can play as a family too!
Family Camping Packing List - Everything You Need For a Great Trip
So there you have it! After reading this, we’re sure you’re no longer wondering what to take camping with kids and you feel a lot more prepared to take your family on its first camping trip together.There’s no stopping you. 2020 is the best time to take that camping trip you’ve always talked about. So, pack your camping backpack with the items on this family camping packing list and you won’t be caught out by any unforeseen problems.