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Family Camping Checklist

Posted by Laura Hamilton on

Here’s my family camping checklist for camping with small children. 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 family camping checklist, try this one as a base. I find that having a list to refer to takes a lot of the stress out of it...I don't have to worry if I remembered everything...I just look at my list and then check things off as I load them into the car. 

As you find yourself making additions and subtractions, write them down to make the list your own! I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments.


  • tent, and a tarp to put underneath it
  • air mattress
  • sheets for air mattress
  • manual or battery-powered pump
  • sleeping bags for everyone
  • pillowcases (you can stuff them with sweatshirts/towels to make pillows if you are short of space to bring real 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)
  • travel crib or bassinet (not safe for a baby to sleep on the air mattress with you)


  • tablecloth (in a pinch, a water-resistant playmat can be used, as shown in the above photo)
  • 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 biodegradable liquid soap does double duty as a wash for humans and dishes (not peppermint – stings eyes when used as face wash) and you can toss your wash bucket water in the bushes when you're done without worrying.
  • sponge
  • scrub brush
  • water bottles, one for each person (including a baby bottle if you have a baby who will drink from one!)
  • 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
  • utensils for little ones
  • easy-wipe bibs (cause ain't nobody got time to wash clothes when you're camping, and having your kids wear food-encrusted clothing out in nature is not very safe)
  • mugs or insulated bottles for hot drinks 
  • aluminum foil
  • roll of paper towels
  • vegetable peeler


  • 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)
  • diaper bag (to keep all your diapering stuff together in one place)
  • 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.


  • 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 or flip-flops or Teva's (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


  • baby carrier (don't even think about camping or hiking without one)
  • screwdriver
  • pliers
  • camera
  • camera charger
  • journal
  • maps and guidebooks
  • pens
  • Swiss Army or utility 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, preferably without small pieces that can be lost
  • 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.


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. I cook at most one hot meal a day. For lunch I just lay out a selection of sliced fruit, salami, cheese, crackers, etc. on a plate and let them have at it.

  • 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? Let me know in the comments, please!

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