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The Ultimate Camping With Kids Checklist

Camping is an excellent vacation option for families. And with this camping with kids checklist, you’ll be packing like a pro whether this is your first outing or you’re a seasoned scout.

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The Key to Every Great Camping Trip with Kids

It should come as no surprise to most parents that the key to any successful trip with kids is preparedness. This commitment to preparation is why my purse weighs as much as a prize-winning watermelon most of the time. 

Preparation is especially important while camping. Depending on how and where you’re camping, options may be limited on what you have access to in terms of facilities such as restrooms, showers, stores, etc. 

That’s why I’ve created a comprehensive camping with kids checklist to help guide you in your quest to pack for a successful camping trip. 

I’m a list-maker by nature, and I usually begin planning for trips at least a week in advance. I like to start with an initial brain dump and add other things as they occur to me throughout the week. 

For camping, I’ve kept an ongoing list for years that I adjust as the kids grow and our needs change. This year, I decided it was time to ditch the barely legible list I’ve been referring to and make something pretty and functional. And I’m excited to share it with you! 

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This list represents the items that work best for my family for tent camping. Depending on the ages of your kids and your method of camping, you may find that some items are unnecessary for you while other things may need to be added. 

Feel free to adjust as needed to make it work for you and your family’s needs. 

Pro Tip: While camping, keep a separate list of things that you want to pack in the future and/or things that you didn’t end up needing that can be left at home next time. There’s often a fine line between being prepared and taking way more than you need. Remember, what you take camping you have to pack, unpack, clean and put away so it’s better to only take necessary, sanity-saving stuff.

In the meantime, continue reading for a sneak peek of some of the items included on my camping with kids checklist along with some of my favorite camping gear!

Free Checklist for Camping with Kids Pinterest Pin Image

Camping with Kids Checklist - Campsite

  • Tent – A good tent is essential for camping. Depending on your kids’ ages and comfortability levels, you may want to invest in a large, family-sized tent or a separate tent for the kiddos. When purchasing a new tent or if you haven’t busted your tent out in a hot minute, I suggest pulling it out and putting it up ahead of your next camping trip to make sure it’s in good, working order. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but shelter is the most important thing when camping so you don’t want to find yourself without an adequate tent while roughing it. 
  • Sleeping Bags – Sleeping bags aren’t necessarily essential. I camped for years with just blankets. But I do prefer sleeping bags for their packability and warmth. Especially if camping in the late fall or winter. 
  • Mats/Cots/Air Mattress – Ok, again these items aren’t necessarily crucial – at least for kids. But for my husband and me, they’re a must. We recently splurged for these cots, and they are amazing. Relatively lightweight, easy to pack and unpack and pretty comfortable. I also like having the extra storage underneath and the pockets on the side. The girls use these self-inflatable mats, and they also work great.
  • Folding Tables – Not every campsite is equipped with a picnic table in which case a folding table comes in handy. We take ours even for sites that have picnic tables so that we can cook and prep on the folding table and reserve the picnic table for eating and hanging out.  
  • Portable Potty – A lot of campsites do have bathroom facilities. However, sometimes they can leave a lot to be desired or they aren’t close enough to be practical. While most of our family isn’t above pooping in the woods, I much prefer having a more conventional bathroom option. My mother-in-law gave us a Luggable Loo, and we love it. Paired with a portable changing tent, it is damn near luxurious by camping standards. They also make biodegradable bags for easy disposal, however, I stick with these doggy poop bags. They’re also biodegradable but they’re a fraction of the cost. 

Pro Tip: Keep toilet paper, extra bags, a mini bottle of hand sanitizer and a tampon or two in a coffee can for a convenient, weather-resistant way to keep your bathroom essentials handy.

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Tent Set Up Next To A Tree Surrounded By Other Trees

Camping with Kids Checklist - Camp Kitchen

  • Camp Stove – It isn’t always practical or possible to cook over an open fire. A propane-powered camp stove is a portable, lightweight option that works well in most situations. Just make sure to pack extra propane!
  • Cook Set – For years, I used some old pots and pans that I picked up cheaply at Goodwill. And while they worked fine, they weren’t the easiest to pack. I like this cook set because it also includes plates, cups and bowls. The carrier even doubles as a wash basin if needed!
  • Cooking Utensils – Cooking utensils such as tongs, spatula, serving spoons and a knife are also a must.
  • Cast Iron Skillet – When I can cook over an open flame, I do. This helps to preserve our propane and it just feels empowering! A cast iron skillet is perfect for this method. 
  • Silverware Set – We keep a dedicated silverware set just for camping. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough for each person.
  • Percolator – Coffee is a must when you’re up at the crack of dawn each morning…Who am I kidding, it’s a must regardless of what time you roll out of bed!
  • Marshmallow Roasters – Can you even call it camping if you don’t roast s’mores? My kids think not 😉 
  • Cooler – You’ll want to have at least one cooler to pack cold stuff in. Depending on the length of your trip and how many people you’re feeding, you may need several. We generally take one big cooler for food and devote a smaller cooler for drinks. 
  • Water Jug – A water jug is great for keeping fresh drinking water on hand and/or to double as a handwashing station. 
  • Washing Tubs – Ok, I admit it, I have a serious addiction to collapsible objects. So, naturally, I HAD to pick up these collapsible tubs. I just had to. I love that there are two of them so I can use one for washing and one for rinsing. And since they’re collapsible, they’re easy to pack in and out of camp. Like I said, I HAD to get them. 

Pro Tip: Place clean dishes in a mesh bag, hang from a tree or clothesline and allow to air dry.

Free Checklist For Camping With Kids Pinterest Image

Camping with Kids Checklist - Gear and Utility Items

  • Headlamps – Headlamps are a must for seeing our way around in the dark for midnight snack runs and potty breaks. We also keep a few flashlights handy in strategic locations just in case. 
  • Lanterns – It’s a good practice to pack at least one lantern when camping. We’ve been using these solar-powered lanterns for years. They’re water-resistant and collapsible. 
  • Hatchet – A hatchet is a great camping tool to keep handy. We even use the backside of ours as a hammer to beat our stakes into the ground.
  • Fan – Ok, so a fan isn’t a crucial item for camping, but it is crucial for my ability to sleep. We have a whole host of Ryobi products, so we picked up the fan attachment to complete the set and make sleeping tolerable for me. The batteries are all interchangeable as well.
  • Power Bank – I think it’s safe to say that most of us have at least one, if not multiple electronic devices on our person at any given time. Even while camping. It’s a good idea to keep a power bank handy to keep devices charged in case of an emergency. Or to keep snapping nature pictures 😉 
  • Storage Bins – Storage bins are great for camping gear. While any storage bin will work, it’s better to invest in heavy-duty bins because they will take a beating with continued use. We dedicate one bin just for our dry goods, so having something with sturdy clasps is crucial to keeping the critters out. It also doesn’t hurt to tie a strap or bungee cord around any bins with food in them. Raccoons are surprisingly resourceful and resilient…I also prefer to stick with clear containers so I can quickly scan contents from the outside without having to open them up every time. 
  • Nylon Rope/Storage Strap – It’s always a good idea to have rope and straps when camping. One of the first things we do after setting up our tents is throw up some rope to create a clothesline for wet clothes and towels. 

Pro Tip: If preparedness is the key to success, then organization is essential in keeping you sane while camping. When and where possible, I like to hang a clothesline or storage strap near the kitchen zone of camp to keep essential items within reach. I hang mesh bags with S-hooks and keep a separate bag for dishwashing/cleaning items, utensils, fire-starting equipment, snack bowls, etc. I also frequently use a small, mesh shoe storage bag to create a kid station for items such as sunscreen, glow sticks, card games, sanitizing wipes, etc.

Clothesline Running Between Two Trees With Mesh Bags Hanging From Line Holding An Assortment Of Camping Items.

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Camping with Kids Checklist - Health and Hygiene

  • First Aid Kit – A well-stocked first aid kit is an essential camping item. I stock ours up with an assortment of bandages, ointments, burn treatment items and over-the-counter meds for pain and upset tummies to name just a few.  

BONUS! Snag a free DIY First Aid Kit Checklist by visiting my related post: How to Make a DIY First Aid Kit Using a Tackle Box.

  • Towels – I know towels may seem like a no-brainer for most, but there was one particularly crazy camping trip when I spaced on bringing towels. Now we use these quick-drying towels that we keep with our camping stuff so I don’t risk forgetting them. Again. 
  • Toilet Paper – Do not take it for granted that toilet paper is available, even if your campsite has bathroom facilities on site. Take it from me and pack in toilet paper. 
  • Prescription Medications – There are very few pharmacies located in the wilderness, so make sure to pack any prescription medications your family needs for the trip. 

Pro Tip: Keep your shampoo and body wash handy by attaching travel-size bottles to lanyards. Wear like a necklace and keep your cleansing products within reach while bathing.

Overhead Shot Of Tackle Box Outfitted To Be A First Aid Kit For Camping

Camping with Kids Checklist - Clothing

  • Rain Jacket – In the part of the country we live in, pop-up rain showers are just a given. Even if fair weather is forecasted, I recommend packing in a lightweight rain jacket just in case. 
  • Hiking Boots/Sneakers – Kids are going to do some exploring, so it’s ideal to pack a pair of hiking boots or sturdy shoes when camping. 
  • Water Shoes – If camping near a lake or creek, water shoes are great for keeping little feet safe from sharp rocks and sticks. They also dry quickly. 
  • UV Shirts – I pretty much exclusively swim while wearing a UV shirt these days. But I especially love them for the kiddos. 
  • Pants/Long Sleeve Shirt/Sweater – Even when camping in the summer, I pack at least one pair of pants and long sleeve shirt or sweater for each of us. You just never know when you’re going to be faced with a situation where you need full coverage. Such as climbing a tree to fish out a frisbee. Also, who am I kidding, I wear sweaters every day of the week regardless of the time of year. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to check the weather forecast when packing clothes and plan accordingly.

View of Island Shoreline On Shale Bottom Lake With Lots of Trees

Camping with Kids Checklist - Kid Stuff

  • Games – While we spend most of our time exploring, swimming and hiking when camping, there are times when it’s nice – or necessary – to chill out. There are also times when everyone is stuck inside their tents due to rain showers. In either case, it’s good to have some games to play. Here are some of our favorite games to take camping:

Be sure to check out the posts below for even more game ideas!

If you're looking for some free games for kids while camping, I've got you covered!

Check out these free camping printables with 5 different activities to choose from. Whether you’re in the great outdoors or your own backyard, these camping printables provide kids with some good, clean fun so adults can kick back and enjoy a nice, cold beverage. 

  • Nature Journal – I just love this camping journal. It helps encourage exploration and also doubles as a basic field guide for kids. 
  • Walkie-Talkies – Arm kids with some walkie-talkies so that they can freely – and safely – explore the great outdoors. 
  • Camera – See the world through your kids’ eyes by providing them with their very own camera. 
  • Scooter/Bicycle/Roller Blades – Depending on where you’re camping, it may be worthwhile to pack scooters, bikes or skates. I like that this particular scooter folds down for easy storage.  
  • Collapsible Snack Bowls – I didn’t think it was possible, but our girls eat even more snacks when we’re camping. I suppose it’s not too surprising as they do play hard pretty much all day long. These collapsible snack bowls are super useful and convenient. We like them so much, we keep a set with our camping stuff, in my car and with our pool stuff. More evidence of my strong addiction to collapsible objects…

Pro Tip:  While camping is often a low-cost way for families to vacation, there is some initial cost involved for some of the gear. Kill two birds with one stone by gifting camping gear to kids for holidays and birthdays.

Two Young Girls Sitting On The Beach Overlooking a Lake While Camping

Tips and Tricks

  • Freeze some of your refrigerated items ahead of your next camping trip to help keep everything colder for longer. Some items that I freeze ahead of time are Go-Gurts, orange juice, some drinks, meats, etc. 
  • Make meal preparation easier when camping by doing most of the prep before leaving. Before camping, I pre-chop all our fruits and veggies, crack all my eggs, cook-off meats and even pre-cook noodles. 
  • Instead of packing full-size condiments, transfer a small amount to travel-size toiletry bottles. I also reuse old honey bottles and such for this exact purpose. That way condiments don’t take up valuable real estate in our cooler, and our youngest daughter still gets her BBQ and tabasco sauce fix. 
  • Do a little research on your intended campsite ahead of time to understand what facilities are available. You may need to pack differently depending on the availability of restrooms, laundromats and stores.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE CAMPING CHECKLIST!

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What are some of your family’s camping tips and must-haves?

Let me know in the comments below!

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The Curious Dig
2 months ago

Such a comprehensive list! Thanks for sharing.

Adele
2 months ago

Love it! I wanted to go camping with my family last year, but that never happened. Hopefully this summer! Checklist is a great idea, as it’s super easy to leave something at home only to realize that you need it by the lake…

Home and Family Life
2 months ago

Now I want to go camping!!! Thank you! What great lists! I how thorough this article is. There are so so many good tips in here. You thought of everything!

Angela
Angela
2 months ago

Wow, a fabulous list for camping. We always seem to forget something but hopefully with your checklist we won’t.

Katrina Vadan
2 months ago

I needed this! The last time we went camping with kids was a disaster hopefully this time will be better. Thanks for sharing

Crystal
2 months ago

This is a fantastic, comprehensive list! Thank you so much!

Christine
2 months ago

A great camping checklist and I think you covered just about everything. I think you must have done this many times over. I especially like the tips and tricks section where you noted all the meal-prepping ideas. Another great post. Thanks for sharing.

Courtney
2 months ago

This is a great list! I love your tip for keeping a list of things you didn’t use and things you wish you had.