Family Camping Checklist

I’m thinking about our annual Spring family camping trip in the California desert. Love the trip, hate packing for it. Packing for the family is a big chore.

Ready for dinnerHere’s my camping checklist. This is a car camping list, not a backpacking list, which you probably would have figured out by the time you got to “carpet remnant for tent entrance”. Still, I can fit everything in a smallish VW station wagon with two giant carseats in back, so it’s really not all that much stuff, either. You certainly don’t need an SUV.

If you don’t have a camping checklist, try this one as a base. As you find yourself making additions and subtractions, write them down to make the list your own!

SLEEP + SHELTER

  • tent
  • air mattress
  • sheets for air mattress
  • manual or battery-powered pump
  • sleeping bags for everyone
  • pillowcases (stuff them with sweatshirts/towels to make pillows)
  • carpet remnant for tent entrance
  • lantern
  • flashlights
  • headlamps for little kids (or for everyone, if you prefer. Little kids under 5 need headlamps because they don’t get the concept of pointing the beam where they want to go, also they tend to drop flashlights and lose them)

EAT

  • tablecloth
  • Tuffo Mat
  • camp table (don’t need if there are picnic tables)
  • camp chairs
  • firewood
  • kindling
  • newspaper
  • camp stove
  • propane bottles
  • tea strainer/tea
  • coffee press/coffee
  • dishwashing bucket
  • Dr. Bronner’s soap (not peppermint – stings eyes when used as face wash)
  • sponge
  • scrub brush
  • Klean Kanteens, one for each person.
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • scissors
  • corkscrew
  • can opener
  • bottle opener
  • matches and lighter
  • ice chest w/ice (if you are bringing perishable food)
  • trash bag
  • large water cooler
  • saucepan
  • frying pan
  • dutch oven
  • plates
  • bowls
  • forks
  • spoons
  • knives
  • mugs
  • aluminum foil
  • roll of paper towels
  • vegetable peeler

PERSONAL CARE

  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • nail clipper
  • nail file
  • washcloths (one per person)
  • towels (one per person)
  • shampoo (or can use Dr. Bronner’s soap)
  • conditioner (for long hair)
  • moisturizer (body and face)
  • sunscreen (body and face)
  • lip balm
  • sun hats for everyone
  • sunglasses
  • diapers (for kids who still need them, or for bedwetters. You do NOT want to experience a peed-in sleeping bag. Better safe than sorry)
  • wet wipes
  • deodorant
  • hairbrush/comb
  • ibuprofen
  • first aid kit
  • any necessary medications or vitamins
  • portable potty for little kids
  • toilet paper
  • tweezers
  • tampons/pads/menstrual cup, etc.

CLOTHING

  • underwear, one pair per person per day
  • socks, one pair per person per day (ideally Smartwool, as they do not get stinky or feel damp)
  • jeans
  • sweatpants (can be used as pajamas)
  • sweatshirt (ditto)
  • black or dark-colored wool sweater
  • shorts
  • T-shirts
  • fleece vest
  • fleece hat
  • warm coat
  • hiking/walking shoes
  • Crocs (for going in the water, beach, pool, wearing in campsite showers, slipping on to go pee in the middle of the night, etc.)
  • bathing suit
  • swim/sun shirt
  • swim goggles
  • Swim Cushions for beginning swimmers

MISCELLANEOUS

  • baby carrier
  • screwdriver
  • pliers
  • camera
  • camera charger
  • journal
  • maps and guidebooks
  • pens
  • Swiss Army knife
  • clothesline (for hanging towels, bathing suits, washcloths, rinsed out clothing)
  • prefold cloth diapers (used for drying dishes, cleaning up random spills and wet spots, padding, endlessly useful to have 5-10 of these along)
  • guitar and pick
  • games, books and toys for kids. My favorite is a big bucket of Legos.
  • iPod for car stereo
  • cell phone
  • cell phone car charger
  • laptop
  • laptop power supply
  • batteries
  • duct tape
  • daypacks for carrying lunches, water, camera, maps, etc.

FOOD

This depends on the facilities available, personal taste, etc. I don’t really like to cook a lot when I’m camping. Some people are really into it, I am not, unless I am camping with a group to share the labor. When camping with kids, if I spend time and effort cooking over a campstove and they don’t eat it, it’s a GIANT PAIN. With my camping pantry staples below, they can just grab what they want and not waste food or create a pile of dishes that need to be washed. After all, the whole point is to have fun and relax, not chore like I do at home.

  • apples
  • avocados
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • cheese
  • salami
  • chocolate
  • oranges
  • hot dogs
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • bread
  • nuts
  • crackers
  • Clif bars
  • marshmallows (for toasting over the campfire)
  • Nutella
  • graham crackers
  • fruit leather
  • dried fruit (dried cranberries, raisins, etc.)
  • trail mix
  • carrots and/or celery
  • salt
  • sugar
  • hot chocolate packets
  • canned baked beans
  • canned corn (mix beans and corn together in a pot and heat. delish!)
  • TetraPaks of milk – dairy, almond, soy, rice, hemp, etc.

What did I forget?

147 thoughts on “Family Camping Checklist

    • This is a car camping list, not backpacking. No water filter required…I wouldn’t attempt backpacking and filtering river water when camping with small children. We did just camp at some hot springs where the water was very salty…safe to drink but kind of icky. I brought drinking water from home in a collapsible container. :-)

    • When are you leaving for Yellow Stone and have you been there before? From experience…pack warm! We went for a week in July and were so cold at night we took the 2 hr trek to a Walmart so we could buy long underware and hats! Our first night we were up at 5am waiting for the showers to open so we could take a long HOT shower! LOL!! Have fun!

    • You are right about the firewood, excellent point. This only applies in places where firewood is not available locally, and it’s cold enough to need it.

      • It’s better to buy firewood where you’re camping than haul it from home. Moving firewood = spreading tree diseases, like the Ash Borer that is killing off huge trees.

      • For firewood, one can always pack used pallet wood. Almost all pallets have been heat treated to get rid of bugs, and are made from hard wood (oak, etc) that will burn longer and hotter,

        • Pallets may have been treated to get rid of bugs, but they’re often treated with all sorts of chemicals that you probably wouldn’t want to inhale when it starts to burn and smoke. Just a thought. :)

        • Pallets aren’t made from hardwood. They are made from Doug Fir, Hemlock, and the like and would cost a fortune if they were made from hardwoods. Heat treated pallet wood actually burns extremely fast and you would need a ton of it to sustain a weekend of campfires. I know all of this for a fact because I work for a pallet company.

          • Also not only do Pallets burn super fast, they tend to send off sparks. so if you’re camping with kids it may cause some burns.

    • If camping in Yellowstone make sure you think of how to separate your food from your campsite (bear food container, hang it in trees, etc). Also, don’t sleep in any clothes that you have been near food in. You don’t want to smell like food in bear country.

      • Also, cooking away from your sleeping place is advisable whwn in bear country especially. Hanging your food away from your sleeping area is what I’d say as well. I will add to get yourself a bear-proof hang bag loned with a scent impermeable liner. You can get them at any backcountry store or online in many places.

  1. Wow – sounds like so much stuff when you write it all out like that:) Thanks for the list. My son is 17 months so we’ve been learning how to camp with a baby/toddler and it is so much more work than pre-child!

    • It’s easier than you think when taking children. One thing you can expect is that they will be dirty from the second they leave the tent until you clean them up for the night. As for activities, we went for the first time when our youngest of three was almost two years. I took all kinds of things for him to play with. You have to think small. He colored rocks for the four days we were away. He was so happy. and I think of the people who found those rocks in the years after. They have a great appetite and usually stay close to your site. We have had awesome times camping. At night we would go for walks + let the older 2 go ahead of us and scare us. Then when we got back we all would take turns telling stories of how the day was saved because of the story teller unless they chose someone else to be the rescuer. There are a couple of things left out that we used all the time, write me + I’ll let you know what they are.

  2. This list has some great ideas! Especially the food list. Having a picky 4 yr old, I hate the idea of slaving over the fire to have him turn his nose at it. We are taking our first trek as a family this summer. I can’t wait to pass the traditions of my childhood down to my son! :) Happy Camping!

  3. We have just bought a new and bigger tent for the family and have it currently set up in the backyard for a bit of fun. We can’t wait for the next trip out and I’ll use this list for planning. Thanks :)

  4. Great list, thank you!
    We always bring zip-top baggies of various sizes, since leftovers keep better in those as the cooler ice starts to turn watery.
    Depending on where you’re headed, bug repellents can be key as well.

    • Great addition! I did bring Ziploc baggies on my last trip (and definitely used them in the cooler!), but haven’t gotten them added to the list yet.

      • that’s a great point, the last time I went camping I was the only one who brought a box of ziplocks and I think we used the whole box! Mostly for food storage but they came in handy for a lot of other things too like putting wet washcloths & toothbrushes in them on the way back from the showers so they stayed off the dry stuff. I also found that a stash of grocery bags came in handy for packing up, dirty clothes, shoes etc..

  5. Would hate to camp near anyone who brings an IPod for car sterio! Ever hear of rivers, creeks, coyotes, crickets, crackling fire for sound? Also nail file? I am a mom of 3, & I would never bring a nail file! Haaaa maybe with your high heels ?

    • The iPod is for the drive to the campground, it has music and stories. We don’t listen to much music while actually camping, although sometimes it’s nice to have a little soft music to do yoga, stretch, etc.

      I don’t know why you’re making fun of a nail file. I have short, unpainted nails that are not long, but I often get a torn or rough spot that can catch or snag on things, and so do my little boys. A nail file is very useful, and nothing else really does the job as well. If you leave the snagged nail, you can end up ripping it off and ending up with a sore or bleeding nailbed.

      • I thought the nail file was an excellent idea, for the very reason you stated ~ a snagged nail can get nasty and sore. Very uncomfortable!

        • I agree! Nail file stays in my purse all the time. It’s just annoying to have them snag. I am also a mom an have short unpainted nails, but use it on my son too if he keeps pricking me with a torn nail. Excellent idea. I would also say a BROOM and HAMMER or MALLOT. I allllwwwaaays need those and tend to forget them!

    • Simone- I have such a pet peeve with people like you who are negative and critical when all this woman was doing was taking her time to help other campers. There is enough negativity in this world without you adding to it. How about a thank you to this woman who took her time to share her list? She never claimed it was the perfect list. Moms should be here to support each other. Not knock each other. You should apologize.

      • I agree with Pam. I chuckled at some things on the list, but it’s her list and it’s important to her and that’s what counts. Besides, sharing is caring!

    • As a mom of two I keep a nail file and clippers in my car. Its much easier to just trim or file a torn nail immediately, or trim back a hang nail as soon as it happens.
      For the record I don’t even own heels, let alone wear them and my nails never make it past the tip of my finger because I keep them trimmed. I agree with others that have said its one person’s list not necessarily one for all of us. Add or subtract from it as personally necessary but don’t insult someone for their list.

  6. I agree, a nail file and clippers are always on my list. I ate having to trim up a snagged nail with my pocket knife.

  7. I’d love to know how you organize all of this…I’m totally new to camping but I really want to make it a big part of our family. I would love your tips and tricks for easy toting and use with regards to this! Thanks

    • Depending on your vehicle, you can use clear storage boxes with snap lids for various categories. Kitchen stuff and pots and pans in one (or I use the dishwashing buckets), flashlights, candles, lighters, lanterns, tools in another. However it makes sense to you. That way when you need something, you have an idea of where to look first! Cooler for cold food, large canvas bags for dry goods. We usually have each person bring a soft suitcase or a large duffel bag for their own clothing. Each person also brings a daypack with their books, games, water bottles, etc. I bring a large nylon bag just for towels, and I put everyone’s toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, washcloths) in one zip travel bag, because we all end up going to brush teeth etc. at the same time and it’s much easier to keep it all together rather than have that packed individually in each person’s bag.

      • I camp for 4-5 days ata time and organize a lot like this. I have separate totes for my “kitchen”, non-perishable food, things that go into the tent, and things that stay out of the tent. I also have a cooler and a “freezer.” The “freezer” is just a REALLY good cooler that I pack with ice and open only when I need it! After 5 days I still have ice and my meat is always cold!

      • I have camped for years with 4 children and learned that all my kitchen items, knife, scissors, utensils etc. could be kept in a “Pringles” can. Then I discovered the “Lays” brand plastic container shaped the say way. I have had mine for several years in my camping box and it is still in great shape and was basically free.

      • I got a plastic foot locker at Walmart a
        At back to school time and it is awesome for storing food in. I put things like bread marshmallows, crackers,chips in it and it is great!

    • those are great, I just bought 2 last year and it’s so much nicer not having a sloppy bag laying on the ground, plus they take up no space in the car really since they fold right up

    • Excellent reminder! It’s NOT on my list (I left it out of the tent bag), and I forgot it on our last camping trip. Made getting stakes in and out much more difficult.

  8. Camping tip I learned: For the perishable food cooler; freeze gallon ziplock bags of water (fill 2/3rds full, lay flat & freeze) and place in the bottom of your cooler. The ice stays a lot longer and on day 2, not everything is swimming in melted ice cubes. Also, most campsites have picnic tables but the clips you buy for the table cloth hardly ever fit so we always bring thumbtacks to pin it down, works like a charm.

        • That is a great idea. I think I will purchase a vinyl twin fitted sheet that is used to protect mattresses. That way I can wipe and reuse and not worry about messy kids! Thanks for the tip!

          • ditto the fitted twin mattress-protector sheet. You can turn it inside out, so the plastic part is up, and just wipe it off.

          • On our camping trip last year we tried the twin vinyl mattress protector because I had seen a tip about it. It’s a one trip use only. We tried using Clorox wipes, soapy washcloths and baby wipes and it wouldn’t come clean. It was also too big for the picnic table at our site. Maybe they do work better for others but I don’t think I will try it again. But I will try a regular table cloth and the thumb tacks.

    • Most of the camp sites we stay at have concrete tables so thumb tacks wouldn’t work but to get around that we use the clips for sheets or ironin boards.. .just a strechy string with two clips on the ends….works great and when you pack up your table cloth you can use those to wrap around it so it dont come undone

    • Thumbtacks are a great idea if the tables are made of wood. A lot of sites now (in US) are starting to have tables made of cement. The same problem exists-the clips don’t fit but my genius husband used ratchet straps instead. They hold the cloth down and aren’t in the way at all. I would also recommend using a cloth table cloth/sheet that is just for camping. That way if it gets stained or gets burn marks it doesn’t matter. The plastic ones are hard to clean completely and can end up covered in mold the next time you pull it out (happened to my mother-in-law)

    • Hi Laura! Well, on our last camping trip I just brought a pack of cards and then a little book of card games. The kids played War, Go Fish, Old Maid, and Crazy Eights. I played Solitaire and Gin Rummy with my oldest, and with other adults I love to play Gin Rummy and Hearts.

      SO many fun card game possibilities, and it’s tiny, easy to pack a deck, accommodates 1-however many players of all skill levels. Now I just need some sort of card holding device for my youngest, who has trouble fanning out his cards and keeping others from seeing them.

      We also have a backgammon board that I sometimes bring, and I love to play Othello/Reversi, but it’s challenging to find space and keep all the pieces together for that. Board games tend to be big and unwieldy, but if you have a favorite, by all means bring it.

      • I’ve used an egg carton, flipped upside-down, for holding cards for the little ones (got the idea on pinterest). This week, we are going on our first tenting trip without my parents’ RV nearby. We’re only braving one night so we can get used to it! Thanks for your great list… I’m hoping I won’t forget anything!

      • Card holder for kids– cut a round plastic lid in half. Line up the cut edges, top side together and staple both sides together along cut edge. Slip cards between halves and it keeps em together easily. Thanks pintrest!

      • Best camping games ever:

        Yahtzee
        Uno
        Ladder Golf
        Horseshoes
        Croquet
        Cribbage
        2 decks of cards and a book of Hoyle

        • A scavenger hunt is always fun. We make up a list for everynight bring a sack of some kind to put things in and break up in to teams….when we are done the added fun to to try and put things back where they came from.

    • I always include googly eyes and glue in my camping items. We all get bags and go on a nature hunt. Back at camp we use our treasures am have fun making creatures with eyes. Always a big hit with the kids. Make sure you have lots of eyes.

  9. What an awesome list! No kids yet for us, but I’ve often pondered how I’m going to make it work when there’s more than just the two of us. Thanks for posting, very helpful!
    I would have to say that I would add bush pie irons, or a basket you can hold over the fire to grill food with – you can cook everything from fish to toast!

  10. Your list and ideas are great, thank you so much for taking the time. We’re taking our first camping trip with our kids 6 & 7. Our youngest has autism, so we are nervous, but I think it will be great. Thanks for the ideas, especially the food items.

    • A friend of mine who goes camping often and also has a son who has autism told me to take safety pins with us when we go and saftey pin the door zipper at night. She was worreid about him getting up at night and wandering off. You can pin two zippers together or directly to the tent. Works great for toddlers as well as we found out!

      • Also for ppl who have kids with autism that may wander at night, try pinnin a couple of bells to the zipper to warn you.

      • Those little luggage locks also work well to keep zips together – I used to lock my tent from the inside with one when I travelled Europe solo. I figured it would keep any drunks stumbling back to their tents out of mine.

      • I had already planned out bringing bells, but the zipper idea is great too. We’re staying in a tipi so no zippers, but I got it planned out.

  11. We always go camping where there is a lake front with a sandy area for play, so sand/water toys are always on our list. Also fishing poles frequently make the cut. And now that our son is old enough, if we have room, we bring his bike along too.

    • Oh yes indeed, I always take the kids’ bikes too. Campgrounds are great places to ride around, they ride around nonstop when we’re in camp and just love it. Don’t forget helmets!

  12. This is a great list, however I urge you to use the Swim Cushions with extreme caution. They are not an approved safety flotation device and much like water wings they do not help a truly distressed swimmer. As a lifeguard and swim instructor for over ten years I urge parents to stick with coast guard approved lifejackets for non swimmers or beginning swimmers.

    • Charyse, you can’t learn to swim in a life jacket. That would be a great idea if parents were planning on just putting their kids in the water and then taking off and not closely supervising them, but hopefully there aren’t too many parents like that. The Schlori Swim Cushions work great because they support your child in the water in a natural swimming position, so that they can practice swimming while still keeping their head above water. I’m not such a fan of armbands, since it’s almost impossible to make real swimming strokes with them on.

      Now if you’re going to be boating or hanging around water where there’s a chance that a child could fall in and not be reached for some time, then of course life jackets are the ideal option. But not for a supervised swimming session with a parent or caregiver within arm’s distance, which I think is the usual case on most family camping trips.

  13. long handled tongs, spatula, a thin rope and cloths pins to make a cloths line for beach towels and suits. maybe extra batteries. Oven mitts and spices. I also save large pop bottles weeks before we go and pre-fill with water or koolaid and freeze solid and use that to keep our food cold in the cooler. Then daily I take out one frozen bottle in the morning and we have cold water/drinks through the whole day.

    • I would be weary while drinking out of a frozen plastic bottle. The chemicals from the bottle are leached into the liquid when frozen and heated; BPA is a huge concern that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  14. Great list. I go camping all summer long. For the babies still in carriers use a fitted bug net for the stroller or car carrier. This is the number one on my list because of west nile. Also everyone should carry tissue. You never know where you will end up. And cover pots and pans in foil so you don’t have to wash them. Just throw away the foil.

  15. To help keep our food cold I freeze water in 2 liter bottles. Put them inyour cooler and it will keep your food cold and you can drink the water as it melts. Great list! I have 4 sons, we go camping a lot and I cannot improve on your list. Nice work and thanks!

  16. Great list! We take our 4 kids (ages 4-10) car camping throughout the summer on a piece of remote property we own on the Olympic Pennisula. Our oldest is a cardiac patient and has high functioning Aspergers, but he’s been camping with us since he was 2–so anything is possible.

    Other than a toilet (plumbed with rain water), we have no “facilities”, so we pack a solar shower–you can fill it up and leave outside in the sun, or bungee cord it to the top of your roof rack if you drive around all day. It’s great for rinsing kids off as needed. I pack “dry” shampoo for myself–works like a charm to get an extra day or two if needed.

    As others have mentioned, we also freeze some of our drinking water (or gatorade or lemonade) to keep our coolers colder longer.

    Here are a few extra things we pack:

    heavy duty garbage bags (“contractors bags” sold at Home Depot)–good for garbage since they don’t rip as easily
    box wine (less recyclables to deal with)
    stainless steel wine goblets
    French press
    “ove-glove” –perfect for campfire cooking!
    small bit of bleach for sanitizing dishes
    mosquito spray
    binoculars & bird book
    magnetic chess set

    If we are going with another family or two (and since we are remote), we’ll sometimes pack the laptop or ipad, a projector, a 10×10′ piece of tyvek to hang, and a spare car battery and appropriate cords to do an outdoor movie.

    we make the egg carton/wax/dryer lint fire starters (thanks Pinterest) to use for fire starters and everything we’d need for s’mores.

    for food, I try to grill as much as possible to minimize pot washing. So I’ll usually pre-marinate one meal ready to go for the first night and something else that is frozen before the trip–that works well as “ice” and ends up being the meal for day 2. So, a Hawaiian chicken and flank steak for example work great. Pesto is also super easy as a kid-friendly low dish meal. Couscous is also fabulous since all you have to do is boil water!

    When the kids were little, we’d pack a pack-n-play (the circular easy to set up pop up kind) since it was perfect for naps, a nighttime crib, and could keep a wanderer contained when needed.

    Our first aid kit is stocked with various drug staples (liquid, chewable, and adult): tylenol, benadryl, claritin, & ibuprofen since inevitably someone has allergies, growing pains, or a headache. We also pack a little baking soda (for bee stings).

    Finally, if it’s hot, we’ll pack the ice cream ball and a quart of pre-measured icecream making ingredients, plus rock salt and extra ice.

    One last item is the game “Spot It”–it’s a fun card game for all ages and even the 3 yr olds can play.

    Since it rains so much out here, our gear wouldn’t be complete without a few blue tarps and bungee cords and fleece clothes and smartwool socks!

    Have Fun!!

    • Thanks for your additions! We love “Spot It!”, box wine, stainless steel wine goblets and Smartwool socks too! And yep, flank steak, pesto and couscous! I’m realizing thanks to my fabulous commenters how many of our camping items are still NOT on my list. Will do a revision soon. Also, it seems like a list of camping recipes would be helpful?

      • “When the kids were little, we’d pack a pack-n-play”

        When we had toddlers we took a separate tent for toys (a small dome tent) and it was just for critical toys and naps and kept the toys in one place and gave the kids a fairly clean area to be in.

      • We make a menu of what we’ll be eating while camping that way we have everything we need. Check out the KOA website for campfire recipes. They have some really good ones on there that require little prep and ingredients

    • Would also suggest bibs for younger children, when bringing limited amounts of clothing meal times could be quite interesting! Thanks Suzanne for all your awesome tips!

    • You can buy bags called compression sacks, and other bags called dry sacks from most if not all outdoor supply stores.

      Compression sacks are a nylon bag with a drawstring top, as well as a harness structure with pull straps. Fill the bag, pull the drawstring, align the harnes and pull the straps each in turn crushing the contents slowly and evenly. If you use these bags for clothing, roll the clothes up before putting them in the bag – they come out unwrinkled and readyto wear. With car camping these kinds of bags can make a whole lot of things fit into a small space. Only use compression sacks with compressible items like clothing, tent, tarps, bedding like sleeping bags etc.

      For dry sacks use them like a compression sack, but when filled with about 1/3 empty, push the air out as you roll the top down and snap the two ends. These bsgs keep things dry, so they are excellent for certain food items, matches, first aid kits, camp stove, electronics, etc. Bedding, clothing and other crushable items will stay dry in these bags too, but they will be their normal bulk.

      Backpackers (like me) use these kinds of bags to fill their packs with as much as they need without it being as bulky.

  17. I am getting excited to camp. Now is our best time of year, so I think I’ll book a trip now! The boys slept outside last weekend so our tent is all set to go. I love that I can start with your list. We keep a camping box in storage with key supplies and it doubles as an emergency box during the year (like when the power goes out, etc. we can just grab the camp lights).

  18. Thank you everyone! I’ve got nothing to add! Very comprehensive and think we’ll need to invest in a roof rack for our first family camping venture into the British summertime, (probably howling gales and floods if anything like last year’s summer!)

  19. I see wonderful times ahead for you! Definitely a water filter system for emergencies, bug sprays, and head bug nets. Look in EMS, even KMart, for headbands filled with some sort of pellets that you soak in water overnight and tie on to keep heads cool on excursions. One of my most profound dining experiences was 40 years ago at 10,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada, eating a campfire heated mixture of canned tuna, elbow noodles, and cheese — must say that a mix of lemonade powder and a bit of whiskey helped that along — not, of course, for everyone — but hunger really is the best sauce! In more recent experiences, I have found the zip “pacs” of tuna most helpful, along with packets of light mayo, relish, and mustard from takeout places. Crackers, string cheese, cherries, avocados, oranges/grapefruit. There are also some great soup packs out there (Campbell’s Gourmet bisques — which are on sale because no one’s buying them — sweet potato/tomatillo is particularly good — and other Campbell’s “to go” soup packets.) Don’t forget treats like Japanese horseradish dried peas or Goldfish or peanuts or dried fruits, jars of applesauce.

  20. Another mom of 3 hear and we ALWAYS bring a nail file and clippers with us. A snagged nail happens nearly every time we camp and it gets so irritating.

    We also always bring an iPod for the journey!

    I’d like to suggest you add a Kerchoo to your list! http://www.kerchoo.co My husband and I launched this product to market last year and right after we received our first inventory we went camping. We brought our Cube with us thinking it would just be handy as “kleenex” in the car, because it wouldn’t roll around. But we ended up keeping it on our picnic table and taking it to the camp bathrooms with us. We never had to use the itchy-scratchy TP provided (IF any was provided at all) and our TP never touched the dirty ground/floor. They’re quite awesome!

  21. Great list! Our, now 2 year old, daughter has always been horrible away from home so we haven’t camped since she was born but we got a pop-up this year and are so excited to go!! This list was great for camping with kiddos! :) Thanks for sharing! :)

  22. My husband and I camp all year in our tent. We enjoy it and have consolidated some of our supplies. We like to hike and take walks so we got those Brita water bottles. We took water bottles and these have filters in them so if needed we can refill along the trail. Also they make these tent lights that hang inside the tent so you get a decent amount of light. This has come in handy to play games in the tent if it rains.

  23. We usually freeze half of our water bottles and use only half of the amount of ice. This way there isn’t so much water in the cooler either. They tend to last pretty long too since there a thicker chunk of ice.

  24. Pingback: Camping Checklist | Looking for Camping Gear That's Priced Right?

  25. When I saw this list it reminded me of the lists we were given in Camp Fire Girls! Thank you for that memory.

  26. Wow, great list!! We tent camp all summer in the Rocky Mountains with our 2 children so we also have feet/hand warmers in our tote for those below freezing nights! Apples to Apples is another great camping game since you really only need the cards not the whole box. We also take a “nail kit” complete with file, clippers, & tweezers! When camping & hiking it is inevitable that you will snag a nail or get a splinter. Glow sticks are another staple item in our camping totes~great for night lights in the tent or for the kids (& adults) to wear at night so everyone can be spotted! Thanks for the great list:)

  27. I have a vintage camper and it has an icebox instead of a fridge so we just use a cooler (vintage too, of course!) for food. Before we go, I fill at least 8-10 of my husbands bike bottles with water and freeze them to line the cooler. As they melt, it just becomes drinkable water instead of a mess. Lasts a whole long weekend. I keep meats and dairy closest to the ice bottles on the bottom.

    Thanks for the list. We are going camping today (with a 2 year old) and I was a bit rusty as its the first trip of the year.

  28. We keep all our food & cooking supplies and what ever else will fit in a trunk. Great because keeps animals & bugs out. (except bears). We have old pots & pans we just leave in there all year. One thing I didn’t see on the list was a pitcher or bucket to go get water with for doing dishes. Most campgrounds have water faucets. Trunk works great because we just take it out of truck & place the who thing on the end of the picnic table. It’s like having a cupboard with everything in it. If you camp where there are racoons be sure to place something heavy on top of your cooler. We woke up one morning with racoon foot prints on top of our cooler & also inside of it. They know how to open a cooler.

  29. Pingback: Summer Time is for The Kids - DIY Crafty Projects

  30. If you will be daypacking (day long hikes where you bring some food, water, etc, and return to camp for the night), hen bring bandanas either stuffed into your pocket or tied to your pack or belt loop. These make the best ‘pee rag’, amd if an injury should happen, they can be used as tourniquet’s, or to simply absorb any bleeding or other discharge. Cost a dollar at the dollar store, amd could save your lofe. Using bandanas as pee rags is also fine, sanitary-wise. If it is tied to your pack or elsewhere in the fresh air, any moisture dries and the sun bleaches any bacteria. Also, carry two plastic bags as well. In one have wet wipes and the other shojld be kept empty. If it isn’t peeing you have to do, clean yourself up with the wet wipes, then stow them in the spare bag. If they are biodegradable then just drop them into the fire, outhouse, or flush toilet when back at camp.

    Great list :) and it can be fairly easily modified to accommodate backpackers. If you are going as a group, even just the family, then you can get really well designed amd comfortable baby-backpacks which fit an older baby, as well as at least the babies supplies. Also, when at camp, maybe let the wee one run around commando. They get well aired out after being in the carrier, and not as many diapers need to be carried.

    Happy trails!

  31. Excellent list! For anyone on the east coast be sure NOT to pack firewood unless you are traveling less that 50 miles. There is a pesky little bug (the Emerald Ash Borer) that is killing the ash trees. Transporting firewood is prohibited. Purchasing local firewood has to be added to the budget, just tell yourself “I’m contributing to the local economy”.

  32. I am going camping july 3rd through the 6th at Jellystone park (Yogi’s) in the cape, MA. I am bringing my 2 sons, 1 just turned 3 a few days ago (on the autism spectrum) and the other is 9 months!! Hubby in tow as well. We are going to need a miracle to get through these 3 nights!!

    • Hang in there Leah, my child is now 6 (non verbal, minimal communication, and not potty trained), my oldest is 7 (talks non stop). We are doing our first camping trip since the kids were 14 months old and 1 month old.
      I am very nervous, we will have regression, but I believe that challenging our children to adjust to new situations helps them grow.
      I am always tired, but moms have amazing strength, hang in there. Let me know how your trip goes.

  33. We take bottled water and freeze it days before and put it in our cooler. This way we can still use the water when it thaws and we don’t have as much of a water mess in the cooler.

  34. Here’s my tip: I freeze all of my meats and use them as ice blocks in my cooler. I’ll be doing that this year and adding bottles/bags of ice.

    Great tips, both in the post and in the comments! I’ll have to run out and get some potato chip containers (darn!! ;) )

  35. Great list! I would add if it hasn’t been mentioned yet as I don’t have time to read all the comments. Bug repellant store or homemade. Yes, you can make your own :) Fire starter if it’s damp? For a smores idea, instead of bringing chocolate you can buy digestive cookies with the chocolate on and then just add the marshmallows. Girl Guides version…:) I also bought if you want to invest a screened shelter to go over picnic table in case of crummy weather a place to hang out and if the bugs are bad a temporary relief.

  36. Just returned from a camp trip where our friends used binder clips (those big black ones from the office supplies) for a tablecloth corner-keeper-downer! Brilliant!

  37. You have a portable kid potty chair on your list, but I would add disposable (largest size you can find) diapers & extra plastic grocery bags… we put a large towel down in our tent and place the potty chair on top, open a disposable diaper and place it inside (to make for easy clean up). This comes in handy often during camping trips, but especially for those middle of the night moments! Plastic grocery bags for disposal, of course. :)

  38. This camping trip we will be taking Sage to burn in the fire to keep bugs and mosquitos away.

    The one largest thing I would add (and this is just me) is either battery candles or citronella candles to have lit on the table to generally see when it gets dark.

    Also an emergency radio to alert you of approaching storms or tornadoes.

    Great list! thanks for posting to help us prepare for our first trip with a toddler!

  39. Great list! Did anyone mention roasting sticks? Also, is keeping good in the car overnight good enough for keeping bears away?

    • Roasting sticks, good catch! I think I left those off my list, but I do have them and feel annoyed when I forget them. LOL! And no, keeping food in your car is definitely not OK in Bear Country. Bears will tear your car apart. Secure bear proof canisters, or else hung in a tree. Don’t ask me for details on how to do the latter though…I have only camped around bears in Yosemite, and they provide bearproof lockers.

      I’ve camped with some insanely determined squirrels though (chewed through my tent right next to my head to get to a loaf of bread I stupidly had kept in there overnight – back in my early camping days), as well as fearless marauding raccoons and blue jays.

  40. My tip, use a changing pad mattress for your baby or toddler to sleep on. We did this with four kids and it always worked well. Our changing pad had curved sides so the kids didn’t rolls out easily.

  41. Pingback: Family Camping Tips | A Little Savvy Event Blog

  42. Thanks for this list!!! Its is almost perfect for my first-time camping trip coming up next week… But, one suggestion – how about a mallet or a hammer to pound in the tent stakes? just a thought!

  43. I also bring an eye cover so I can sleep in without sunlight waking me up, or for naptime. Earplugs can also be good if you have husband assist in a.m. or have older kids that don’t need immediate help in the mornings. :) The earplugs did come in handy when we had a campsite underneath Sandhill Crane nesting area…so noisy.

  44. This is such a good list of items to bring. My husband have been thinking about how we are going to continue camping now that we have a little one. I am sure we will use plenty of wet wipes and bandaids too!

  45. Wow such a good list and so many good additional suggestions! I’m going to have to re-read this page and write up a list! We will be tent camping in Australia in late spring but sounds like we’d take the same things. Probably will take a tarp and rope and hang between trees for extra shelter too. Any suggestions for items if taking a young baby?

  46. What a great list, thank you for sharing. Something we have found really useful is to use the doona/comforter bags with zips and handles to keep our clothes in when we camp. Each family member has a bag and for the children it is fabulous – they can see all the items easily and don’t need to pull everything out to find their favourite tshirt! We live in Western Australia and have been tent camping for the past two years during school holidays. Having just purchased a camper trailer (fold out tent style), we will need to fine tune our checklists before our next trip. You’ve given me lots of ideas to add, pringles can for utensils – fantastic! Lots of great suggestions from others added to your post also. Thanks again.

  47. We always bring two tarps one that is for under our tent, this keeps the moister from the ground from seeping through, the other we have used as a divider between our site and another site that didn’t have many trees so we had some privacy, or hung as a make shift sun shade or rain roof. Also bring extra rope you never know when you will need it. We also always bring a hand sweep/broom and dustpan to sweep the sand and diet out of the tents each morning. The wet wipes are a must for all camping trips with or without kids we also bring the cleaning wipes to wipe the table cloth off and other surfaces before we eat. Also make sure to pack “after bite” the little rub on stick for mosquito bites if you have kids. We have a pop up canopy which saved us one Memorial Day weekend when it rained 3 days straight.. If you have electric on site extension cords are good to have otherwise battery op radio and extra batteries or a converter plug for you car..

  48. Great list! Ill be taking my 9 yr old camping this summer, just the 2 of us and I will def be referring back to this list. I really like the idea of not going all out on food! Such a waste of time for just the 2 of us.

  49. I love your list. We used it as a guide for our first camping trip with our kids (6 & 7). We over packed, but had a great time.
    Here’s a pointer, most camp sites are willing to take any extra supplies you may have, but don’t want to tote home. They donate or sell or loan them to other campers. We love doing this when we can.

  50. This is a fabulous post! Wow! it’s so extensive, thorough, and informative. Thank you so much for doing this, it’s truly appreciated.

  51. Love your list! Another item to consider are bungee cords. I use them to hold down the table cloth and are great for so many other things.

  52. Thanks for the list! We always bring fly swatters and I’ve started brings Glow Sticks I get a couple packs of 15 from the dollar store. It’s funny people always say that’s so great for the kids! I really bring them because it makes it easier to find them in the dark.

  53. I think charcoal & fluid should be along. Yes someone mentioned binoculars, nice to nature watch from camp or family out on a tube behind a boat. Great list. As our kids grew they all had small tents of their own.

What do you think? Comments? Questions?