Camping with Kids: Packing Check List and Tips

I married into sweet tea and camping when I said “I do”, to my amazing husband.

Before marrying him I thought I loved camping but after going camping with his family for the first time I realized I was only a nominal fan of camping.

His family knows how to camp and they love doing it.  One of our wedding gifts from his father was an enclosed white trailer filled with camping gear. I told you they love camping.

I hope that this list is helpful even though I am sure my father in law would add 50 other things to it. Also, if you’re looking for other helpful camping posts here are some of my faves:

Camping Crafts & Activities For Kids you’ll want to check out our fun ideas.

Camping Hacks Series

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This Camping with Kids: Packing Check List does not cover all types of weather camping. It’s the basics for your average camping trip and not your “roughing it”, off the trails camping.

Honestly, I am not a list maker, in fact, I like to brag about how I don’t need to make list but for camping and traveling I have found that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Camping with Kids: Packing Check List and Tips

But as I get older my new motto is: Make a list and check it twice!


Camping Gear

If you haven’t done much of camping you’re probably overwhelmed with all the gear you can purchase but if you’re not sure you’re really going to be a camping family I would stick to the basics for your first camping trip. If you do know you’ll be camping quite a bit here’s our list of fun camping gear!

We have slowly accumulated this gear which I mostly give to my hubby for Christmas or Father’s Day since I know he loves it. The items below are affiliate links.

Hobo pie irons – We love our hobo pie irons. You just place them over the fire and you’re set. We purchased ours online and slowly added to our stash until we got 1 for each person. You can see the ones we got here Hobo Pie Iron. They are not expensive and well worth your money. I bought one for my husband for Father’s day, such a great gift idea for my camping man. They are amazing to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner on. Make sure to bring cooking spray. The above picture is french toast, roasted apples with berry sauce all made in our pie iron (not the sauce).

Tripod Grill and Lantern Hanger – This tripod changed our camping meals. We use it every time we go and it allows for more even cooking because we can change the length of how high or low we want to set our pots over the fire. This is the one we own Tripod Grill.

Tent – We have a nice big family size tent, all 5 of us fit comfortably in it and there is even room for a pack and play.  It’s an affordable one we got as a gift, you don’t need a big name brand to keep the water out. The features I really like: room divider, the mesh around the sides of the tent that zip up, the tent cover, little hooks inside to hang things, pockets to store stuff and it’s easy to put up even though it’s big. This is the tent we have: Ozark Trail 10-person Tent.

Sleeping Bags– If it’s cold in your neck of the woods purchase good sleeping bags we have down feathered sleeping bags and I will never go back. When I was in college I camped in a cheap sleeping bag, in North Carolina mountains, in the winter, it was the biggest mistake of my life. Our boys sleeping bags are cute Transformer bags but they are not warm at all. So we usually have to take their down blankets with their sleeping bags. When purchasing those cute sleeping bags make sure you check out how warm they will keep you based on the weather you camp in. I highly recommend you not getting just any old sleeping bag if you’re ever going to be camping in cold weather. This is the sleeping bags we own but there are many to choose from. This Coleman sleeping bag is less expensive and it says it’s for cold temperatures.

Camping stove– We have a single burner camp stove that is small and we have used it every where at outdoor concerts, back yard and camping for heat hot water or making soup. It’s a great little light weight piece of equipment. We have made all sorts of meals on it with our little metal cooking pans. This is the one we own- Coleman single burner stove.

Camping chairs– You can find chairs in all shades sizes and styles. We have some simple camping chairs and my husband likes his big manly one. We have learned the hard way that it’s important to pack a camping chair and a flashlight for EACH child.  Otherwise, you will spend your whole time breaking up arguments on who gets to use it next.

Camping Tips

My father in law likes to take hay and place it under the tents for padding. You can also use inflatable pads (not to be confused with inflatable mattress, though this also works) these are easy to store and not as big. The picture below my son is laying on a sleeping pad.

  • Also, if you are camping for the first time you may want to do a trial run in your backyard or short drive from home.
  • Kindling: There are lots of things you can use to start a fire-newspaper, lint, twigs, pine needles, potato chips (I read this but never tried it), pine cones…. just to name a few.

If you are camping with a baby: I would add to bring along:

  • diaper rash cream
  • tarp or shower curtain to lay on the ground for them to play
  • if bottle fed:extra bottles
  • pacifier
  • extra onesies
  • baby carrier
  • stroller
  • extra diapers
  • sippy cup
  • pack and play (those are great for indoor sleeping and to set up outdoors to let them play)
  • johnny jumper
  • bedtime story book
  • Stuffed animal- If they have a blankie or special stuffed animal make sure to bring it along.

Camping with a toddler – I would add bring along some of the things mentioned above plus:

  • Bright/noticeable string or tape to set boundaries for them to know where they can’t go pass.
  • Lots of toys -For extra entertainment if they get bored with dirt, rocks and branches.
  • healthy treats and snacks (apples, carrots, oranges, cheerios, trail mix)
  • Let them pack a back pack with whatever toys, coloring books, books they want to take once it’s filled that’s it.
  •  Once again don’t forget that comfort sleeping blanket or stuffed animal they need to fall asleep.

Extra Tips:

  • Let them get dirty. Camping is all about getting dirty, so let them. Seriously, if there is ever a time to wander around with dirt on your face and no one thinks twice about it, it’s at a camp site.
  • In a large ziploc baggie -place their clothing for the day so they don’t have to dig everything out of the duffel bag to find socks and undies.

  • Whatever you do don’t forget extra clothing. The picture above is exactly why you should pack extra clothing. We have regretted each time we have forgotten to pack extras.
  • Make sure to pack the medicines you need, plus extra.  I always get headaches on car rides so it’s a must that I have some Advil when I get out of the car.  Don’t forget that first aid kit.
  • We forgot toilet paper this last time so we were rationing out the napkins.  Pack extra just in case it gets dropped in the toilet.

  • Fun things to pack: binoculars, compass, insect jars, hammock, family outdoor games like: bocce ball, frisbee, bicycles. We have a bike trailer so we put our baby in it and enjoy the paths.
  • Ice chest is good if you have lots of food that needs to stay cool. Place ice in large baggies (for a large cooler) and freeze to avoid a mess. This way you can also reuse the water.
  • Plastic trash bags are great to use for trash, dirty and wet clothes and for those little ones who can’t stay dry at night. We place the bags under them so if they have an accident at night it doesn’t get everywhere.

If you forget toys don’t worry they will figure out how to play with nature.

What are some of your camping with kids tips?

Other articles you may like:

Camping with toddlers

Pine cone crafts

Nature hike craft: Tree frame

Camping Activities for Toddlers

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  1. I agree. We camped for years with our kids and I never could have done it without a list! I still have it in my computer. Visiting from Tattertots and Jello.

  2. What a great resource. I would never have thought to bring some of this stuff. Thanks for sharing at Mom’s Library!

  3. We haven’t taken our kids camping outside of a cabin yet. I camped in tents in mountains as child and I can’t wait until we are brave enough to do it with our kids! Our oldest is 3.5 years old with our youngest due in February, so one of these years, we’ll brave it out. I’ll keep this post in mind. 🙂

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  6. I saw this on pinterest and it got my attention because my family loves camping as well. One thing I wanted to mention was our experiences with packing food and keeping it cold. Coolers are a must obviously, so we have those big long 55 (?) gallon coolers. We found that five blocks of ice (not cubed) fit perfectly across the bottom. Then we put ALL our food in gallon sized ziplock baggies. Its a HUGE space saver! Then we fill our other cooler with drinks. But with the blocks of ice lining the the bottom, it lasts well over a week so you dont ever have to run to the nearest store for more ice every other day 🙂

  7. Loved the idea with the bright string for toddlers. With a two and three year old you can never have to much preparation! Happy camping, thanks for the ideas!!

  8. Anonymous,
    I love the glowstick idea. I hate packing tons but our family needs to bring extra’s. Believe me I have tried less and I always regret it but I have 3 kids under 8 so maybe it will change. Yes, simplicity is wonderful!!! Enjoy!

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  10. The hubby and I have been camping separately before we were married and had children, but we want to try it this summer with two kids (one is six and the other is 15 months). This is a great list and I even found the comments helpful! Thank you!

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  12. One thing I love to have at our site is a homemade handwashing station. Take a gallon jug of water and poke a hole with a golf tee near the bottom. The golf tee stays put until you take it out and then it delivers a small stream of water. Put a bar of soap in a leg from old pantyhose and tie it to the jugs handle. The soap never hits the ground so you can scrub hands through the hose and then have your hands free. The whole thing can be tied to a tree or sit on the edge of a picnic table. You’ll never camp without this again!!

      • I am so glad I found you on pintrest. We are going camping for our first time ever and all these tips from both your list and the comments are soooo helpful. I am looking forward to outdoor family fun. Thanks for the tips

    • I love to camp and am itching to take my 2 & 3 year old! Hard lesson learned- to NOT use any type of foam coolers-critters eat right through them!:) We also freeze and marinate our meats to cook. What you call a hobo iron we call a pudgie pie maker-great for grilled cheese, ham and cheese, pizza sauce and cheese. Then pie filling in bread and bread, instant pies! Oh, I’m can hardly wait to take my kids! Thanks for all your ideas!

  13. Another great tip for little is to tie bells on their shoes so you can hear where they are great for heavily wooded areas

  14. Don’t forget if you want to save on broken eggs, crack and place in an air tight container or jar. Makes for easer packing and no worries. Also we always have fried potatoes and onions with our fish if we catch any. Those are also a good item to cut up before hand just have them soaking in watering what ever container before you leave. We also cook our breakfast meats and freeze them before hand makes for a faster meal in the morning.

    • So glad to hear this post keeps on giving! Thanks for sharing it and linking back to us!

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  16. Great post! Being prepared really gives a major factor for your camping to be successful. Thank you for sharing your views and experiences. Enjoy life more by spending it in the outdoor!

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  23. I hate making a huge deal out of camping….mainly I just hate when we get home and I have to put everything away and clean up so instead of packing tons of stuff I try to keep it simple -more like the old days. Yes sleeping bags, tent and extra clothes to keep the kids warm but who needs a sippy cup? In my opinion it’s the perfect time to let them try drinking from a reg cup and if they spill oh well! I try to get meals prepped before we go and all I pack is a old fashioned coffee pot and a frying pan – you can cook any liquids in the coffee pot -even soup! When we do marshmallows we just find a stick. I imagine your way may be more elegant but we go to get away from all the finer things and to just enjoy the scenery and any peace and quiet or children will allow. I spent 10 days “extreme” camping when I was 7 months pregnant- up in northern Saskatchewan several hours from the nearest town. I will say being pregnant is easier than having two toddlers and I don’t plan on going that far again until they are in the double digits!

  24. We make sure we bring sets of towels that are different colors – each person has a color. I’m planning on having some official “camping towels” and monogramming Initials or numbers on them. Also, if it is a site with a community shower – FLIP FLOPS for the showers. I also will be packing items in a big container that can then be used as a bath tub for the infant the next time we go… wish I had done this the last time we went camping with an infant (holy blow out diaper, bat man!) Comfy beanie style hats to wear while you sleep for if it decides to get wicked cold at night (been there – hat was a life saver!) And if you have the time before hand, made a nature scavenger hunt. List a bunch of things they need to find “squirrels, feather, rock, bird, you get the idea” – this is when an older sibling that has the powers to read really helps.

    • Hi Lori, Thanks for sharing your ideas. I love your tub turned baby bath tub idea. Sounds like you guys have done this a lot. Happy camping! ~mari

  25. Hi Mari:

    Came across this resourceful list while researching camping ideas for kids.

    It’s a very helpul post, and invaluable for inexperienced family campers.

    I find the most trying time can be keeping the young ones occupied while travelling to a camping destination for the first time.

    It can be a bit of a culture shock to be wrenched away from their computer games and experience the outdoors in the real sense, not just in virtual reality.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers, Leon

    • Hi Leon, Glad you stopped by. Yes, our kids love it, no TV and all. 🙂 I think every family should have an outdoor camping experience. ~Mari

      • The camp experience is uniquely positioned to provide all of these developmental needs for children. Consider camp as the perfect partner to family, school, and community youth activities in helping your child learn independence, decision-making, social and emotional skills, character building and values all in an atmosphere of creativity and enrichment under the supervision of positive adult role models.

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  33. I didnt read thru all the comments, so if this is already posted I appologize…Use a black Sharpie (permanent) marker and write your childs name, your campsite number, and a cell phone number on the inside of their forearm. You may need to write over it again after a few days, but it will last thru swimming, bug spray, sunscreen, etc.
    Thanks for sharing all the tips!

  34. I am working on a “task/chore list” for the kids for set up and break camp day… something to keep them occupied and close to camp and learning to help – while we are busy doing our ‘chores’ – any suggestions or ideas for that?

    • Hi Carrie,
      sound like a great idea but no I haven’t seen anything like it. maybe i’ll have time to post something like this. in the meantime i hope you find something. ~mari