Last updated on October 27th, 2020 at 06:26 pm
(Links in this post are affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links. See my disclosure page for more information)
After I wrote my “Camping With Children and Sanity” post a personal friend of mine who is also a reader asked if I would share the master camping list I mentioned. I told her I would and set off to get it only to discover it was not where it should have been, after many days of looking the friend asked me again today :
Do you happen to have a list of camping items you take with you that you would be willing to share with me? Friday is our first camping excursion
Since my list appears to have grown legs and is off camping somewhere I thought the best thing to do was to share a outline of what my master list contains as every family is going to be different than my own and therefore the exact items on their list will differ however the elements will remain the same.
What To Bring When Camping With Children
First and most important I noticed that you said this is your first time camping as a family. If that is so I do not want you going out and buying everything on this list, instead make do with what you have that is similar or beg and borrow off friends, but make sure your family (or at least the majority of your family) actually likes camping before you invest much money into it (if they do most items can be found at Yard Sales and Craigslist).
7 Essential Items For Camping
- A basic tent large enough for your family– Our family has an RV now but we started off with a basic tent much like this one.
- Sleeping bags– You can use blankets in a pinch but sleeping bags like these ones are much easier to pack and generally keep you warmer.
- Sleeping cots– Okay so these are not 100% essential but they do make camping a lot more comfortable. We have a sleeping cot similar to this one for our children’s sleepovers but they also work great for camping, they keep you off the ground and can’t pop like an air mattress can.
- Family sized cooler – We bought a family sized cooler similar to this one years ago and it is still going strong. Make sure to store it in your vehicle at night to avoid attracting wild life.
- Folding camping chairs– Picnic tables are kind of uncomfortable to sit and relax at so I consider folding camping chairs a must.
- Some source of light for night time- An inexpensive flashlight will do if you just want to walk to the washroom and back at night but if you want to light up your tent inexpensively investing in a LED lantern is well worth it.
- A cook stove- I suggest going with the classic Coleman propane camping stove.
Second I know you are tent camping so I am going to gear this list to way back when we were tent campers, but it really applies to all types of campers from tent to luxury RV.
1. Decide what you are going to use for cooking
Campfire? Camp stove? Small portable grill? Knowing what you have to cook on will help you decide what you need to cook with and what you can bring to prepare to eat.
2. How are you going to keep food cold?
Cooler? Dorm fridge that you could run an extension cord to and squeeze in your tent so the animals don’t get in it?
If you are using a cooler make sure that your know where there is ice available close by and bring some cash to purchase it when needed. Also make sure you put it in your vehicle at night so as not to attract animals.
3. Make your menu
With your cooking source and your cooling source in mind you can now make your menu. May I suggest you bring along about 20% more food than you think you will need because camping makes children hungry. They are active and burning calories faster.
You also need to think about packing enough water. I usually buy mine in gallon jugs. Our family of five goes through 2 of these jugs a day.
Oh and don’t forget to add matches for the fire to your list.
4. Decide what items from your kitchen you need to prepare the food on the menu
Watermelon? You need a large knife to cut it. Mac and Cheese? A pot to cook it in. What are you eating off of? For your first time I recommend keeping it easy and go with paper plates, bowls, utensils and napkins.
Also think of how you are going to store your dry goods. If you are tent camping you may want to put them in your car at night. We once left a rubbermaid bin of food outside our tent thinking it would be safe only to discover in the morning that raccoons in our area are smart and can open lids! and the lesson cost us all our food.
5. Something to clean the dishes in
Even if you do use paper plates you still have pots and pans and serving spoons to wash up. Two white $1 basins will do one for washing and one for rinsing and pack along a cloth to wash the dishes with and a towel to dry them with. Don’t forget the dish soap. If you have a small travel bottle that would be great. Pack it in a ziplock bag as it never fails that it will leak.
6. Something to wear
1 full outfit per day per person plus one spare, a swim suit, a sweatshirt for mornings and evenings, a light rain jacket and a pair of very modest PJ’s (because if little ones you are going to be making runs to the bathrooms in the middle of the night and bumping into other parents doing the same thing).
7. Something to sleep in
If you are tent camping (which I believe you are) you need to soften the ground somehow, dollar store air mattress meant for the pool will work in a pinch if you can’t find camping cots to borrow or don’t already own some. Just wrap them up in a flat sheet. Bring a pillow and one more blanket than you would need sleeping indoors (temperatures drop at night). You don’t have to have sleeping bags, they are nice but a quilt folded in half makes a good substitute.
8. Something to sit in
There will probably be a picnic table at the campground and that will be great for meals but for siting around the campfire I suggest packing a few camp chairs if have them. If not even folding chairs that are meant for indoor use will do. Remember since this is your first time camping don’t buy what you can substitute or borrow instead.
9. The Makings for Smores
I probably should have mentioned this up where the menu part is but you have got to do smores or it just will not be camping. Which means you are going to need something to roast those marshmallows on. If you don’t have roasting sticks, this is one item I would pick up as they are very inexpensive and can be found in the camping section of Walmart.
10. Something To Do
Although the campground itself will supply a tonne of fun with playgrounds, a beach perhaps, hiking trails and campfire fun, there is the chance that rain might strike for a few hours, or you need the kids to stick close by while you cook dinner. For these times bring a deck of cards along and print off the instructions for some simple card games if you don’t know the rules already for games like , go fish, crazy eights, and if you have older children games like war.
Coloring books and a small pack of crayons are great as well as, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, activity books, simple crossword puzzles, and jump ropes.
Don’t forget a book for you too, just in case those kiddo’s get involved in something and should give you a few moments to indulge in some “you time”.
11. Protection from the elements
Sunscreen and a hat for everyone to keep the family safe from the sun. Bug spray for the bugs. A flash light for night time with extra batteries. An umbrella for walks to the bathroom in the rain (also works as sun shade at the beach if have a big sports one)
12. Stuff to Keep You Clean
Tooth brushes and tooth paste. A small bottle of shampoo. A small bottle of body wash, towels, a comb, deodorant and whatever else you need to smell nice and look human.
13. Medications and basic first aid items
If you have medications make sure to pack them along. Bring a few band-aids both big and small as well as something to clean a small wound with. A small bottle of Ibuprofen and Benadryl should cover most common camping encounters. I also like packing along the rub on lotion made to numb the pain of bee stings, it has been a life saver a few times on camping trips.
14. A bit of rope and other misc. stuff
We like making a make shift laundry line at the camp ground to dry our swim suits and towels. We also like an extra tarp to cover things should it start raining. A table cloth to put over the wooden picnic table at the campground is also nice, you can get the inexpensive vinyl ones, we also have clips for ours to secure it to the table (camping area in Walmart very inexpensive).
Cash for items you forgot that you can purchase at the camp store or to rent a paddle boat for an hour (so many great memories with the kids of doing this).
Don’t forget tinfoil for cooking and leftover storage, trash bags to dispose of garbage, and gallon sized ziplock bags come in hand as well.
Oh and one last thing bring your camera to capture the memories because there will be memories some that seemed horrible at the time but those ones will be the FUNNIEST ones in a few years time.
Whew! that was a long and detailed list! Readers did I leave anything out?
Check Out My Other Posts On Camping!
- 10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Camping
- 10 Ways To Keep Children Busy While Camping In The Rain
- Camping With Children And Sanity
How To Turn Your Vehicle Into A Camper
Get snail-e-mail in your inbox each week!
Email with the feel of snail mail. A peek into my life, a few deals so good I just have to share, and links to all of Snail Pace Transformations latest posts!