Chronicles of Mom Life
Ultimate Essentials Checklist for Camping with Kids
Updated: Apr 17
Summer is fast approaching and so are some of our favorite family summer activities.
One thing our family loves to do together is go on a camping adventure.
Whether you like to go camping in a tent, a camper, or in a cabin, or you go to national parks or family-friendly campsites, camping can be fun for the entire family.
It’s important to pack everything you could need to make the camping experiences enjoyable for the whole family.
Depending on the ages of your children, the items you need could vary and change each year you go.
If it’s your first camping trip with your children, it could be overwhelming to figure out exactly what you’ll need to survive the great outdoors.
Check out our kids checklist of camping essentials you may need when going camping with your family.
1. Sleeping Bags
This one may seem obvious, but it would be better to pack your child their own bedding than to try to sleep with them. More than one person in one sleeping bag can create too much body heat. Give your children their own space inside their own warm sleeping bags, and dress them appropriately for the weather. You could pack some extra blankets too in case their sleeping bag is not enough to keep them warm at night.
Remember to pack everyone’s favorite pillows. I find it much easier to cover the pillows in zipping pillowcases to keep dirt and bugs from getting inside. When you get home, the pillowcase can be removed and washed easily.
3. Clothing for All Temperatures
The temperature can change drastically while camping. The weather forecast could be 90 degrees during the day and drop down to 30 degrees at night. This may be a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Be sure to pack clean clothes layers. Tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, long-sleeved shirts, pants, sweatshirts, raincoats, and heavy jackets can all be used in one day. It’s important to know the weather ahead of time, but plan for drastic weather changes and rainy days.
4. Bathroom Supplies
Most hotels will have bathroom supplies if you forget them, but that’s not always something you can find easily while camping. The closest store could be miles away or hard to get to. Plan on bringing anything you might need to use in the bathroom, which includes toilet paper. You may be going behind a tree at 1am and it’s not a good idea to grab a leaf to wipe with if you’re not familiar with the plants around you because it could be poison ivy. I like to pack toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, hair ties, shower supplies, toilet paper, towels, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a small garbage bag for used toilet paper and wipes if necessary.
If you are camping without running water, bottled water is a requirement. Water is very important for your body, and you will need it to drink, cook with, and clean with. Do not worry about bringing too much water because you will probably use all of it. I like to have water bottles for drinking out of and larger water jugs to cook and clean with.
6. Blow Up Mattress or Cots
If you are sleeping in a tent for the first time, your child may not sleep well on the ground. Air mattresses, air beds, or a folding camping cot may be a nice option to help them sleep better. Most children can sleep anywhere, but I would rather not take the chance so I can guarantee my children get a good night's sleep.
7. Bug Net
Mosquitoes and black flies can get bad at night in highly wooded areas. It can be hard for adults to swat away the bugs attacking them, but young children may not realize the bugs are biting them. Bug bets come in many different sizes and styles and can help keep your children comfortable. We have a large screened-in tent to put the picnic table in for food to keep the bugs out and a small stretchy big net to wrap around strollers, a portable crib, and a pack n play.
8. Activities for Kids to Do
I find that it’s important to bring activities for our children to do while camping to keep them busy. Some of my favorite items to bring include their bikes and helmets, jump ropes, hula hoops, bubble machines, card games, and board games. There’s are so many more outdoor activities for kids to do too.
9. Cooler with Ice
This is not just for kids, but I wouldn’t want you to forget to pack plenty of ice. Your food will need to stay cold so it can last the entire camping trip. I’ve is a great way to keep food cold when electricity is not available. Just remember to store any food away from where you’re sleeping and locked away so bears and other animals cannot smell it and come looking for it.
10. Kids Favorite Snacks
If you know certain snacks your kids will eat, be sure to pack them. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean your child’s palate will change. They will still want the same food they usually want. Nonperishable snacks are the easiest to pack since you don’t have to rely on ice in a cooler.
11. Sunscreen and Bug Spray
During the day, your children will need sunscreen and at night, they will need bug spray. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent since you will need it often to prevent sunburn and mosquito bites. Wearing hats and staying in screened areas is not the perfect solution. There are all-natural products on the market if you would prefer those as well.
12. S’mores Kit
You can’t go camping without s’mores! Pack the chocolate bars, marshmallows, and Graham crackers so you can make s’mores for the kids. You can pick out sticks to use for your marshmallows or you can buy s’more sticks to bring with you. Whatever you decide, your children will love eating s’mores at the campfire.
13. Folding Kid Chairs
We have a large collection of folding camp chairs, which includes folding chairs for kids too. Since they fold up small, they are easy to pack, and it gives your kids somewhere to sit at your campsite. The folding camping chair is also lightweight, and some kids can carry the chairs themselves.
14. Folding Gate for Babies
If you plan on camping with a baby, you will need a safe play to let them crawl around. Folding baby gates are a safe way to block your child from crawling to the fire or wandering farther than they should. You can even put down blankets so they can roll around on the ground without being on the grass or dirt.
15. Stroller and/or Carrier
Depending on the ages of your children, you may still have kids who want to ride in a stroller or be carried. We have a double stroller that our 2-year-old loves to ride in and our 5-year-old can jump into when her legs get tired walking far distances. Sometimes campsites have trails to walk too if you want to take the family out for some exercise. The stroller or carrier can help you keep your hands free too.
16. Travel Potty Chair
Unless you’re staying in a camper or cottage, you may not have easy access to a bathroom. I would prefer not to have to walk across a large campsite in the middle of the night with a toddler who has to potty. A travel potty gives them the ability to go anywhere, even in the tent or the cabin. The travel potty chairs close tight and prevent smell from getting out until it can be emptied and cleaned. We just keep some toilet paper and baby wipes near the potty.
17. First Aid Kit
Children get hurt, it's all part of growing up. There's a good chance your little kids will get hurt while camping and will need first aid. That's why having a first aid kit handy is a great idea. Be sure to fully stock it with band aids, wraps, triple antibiotic ointment, burn cream, sting cream, pain reliever, antihistamines, and an epi-pen if you have a child with a severe allergy.
18. Portable Highchair
If you are taking a baby or younger toddler camping, a portable high chair is a good option to keep them contained when eating. Picnic tables are not easy for young children to sit at because there is no back, so a high chair can help them sit and eat. You can set it up in your camp kitchen and you know they have a clean surface to eat on.
Camping doesn’t have to be hard or complicated with children.
The best way to go camping is to create a family camping checklist to be sure you have the best camping gear for children.
The first time we went camping was when our daughter was little, and we were not sure how she would do.
Children are usually very flexible and can adjust to what you need them to.
Don’t miss out on the next family camping trip because you have younger kids.
Do you like to go camping with your children?
What are some things you like to bring to make camping easier with kids?
Let us know in the comments below!