Camping with Kids: Tips, Checklist, and How to Make it Fun!

camping with kids packing tips checklist

Camping with little ones can be an adventure, but it requires extra planning. This guide will help you navigate your first camping trip with kids, from choosing the right gear to keeping everyone entertained.

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Why Choose Camping?

  • Affordable way to travel: Camping allows families to explore new places without breaking the bank.
  • Bonding experience: Gather around the campfire, roast marshmallows, and create lasting memories together.
  • Connects kids with nature: Trade screentime for fresh air and exploration.

Getting Started

  • Borrow or buy secondhand gear: Look at Facebook Marketplace, dollar stores, or rental services to save money.
  • Choose your comfort level:
    • Glamping: Enjoy all the amenities.
    • Tent camping: A classic adventure for families.
    • RV or camper: Spacious and comfortable option.
    • Yurts or cabins: Combine comfort with the outdoors.
    • State/National parks: Immerse yourselves in nature (with varying amenities).
    • Backcountry camping: Experienced campers only.

Preparing for the Trip

  • Do a trial run at home: Pitch your tent in the backyard to see how your kids adjust.
  • Camp with friends: Share the load and create a more fun atmosphere for the kids.
  • Plan activities for the kids: Pack games, toys, and books to keep them occupied.

Food Prep is Key!

  • Plan meals ahead of time: Pre-cook some food to save time and hassle.
  • Keep meals simple: Focus on easy-to-prepare options like hot dogs or walking tacos.
  • Pack grab-and-go snacks: Cut up fruits and veggies beforehand for easy access.

Staying Organized

  • Make a checklist: Divide it into categories like “kitchen” and “sleeping” for easy packing.
  • Prepare a staging area: Store all your camping gear in one place, ready for your next trip.
  • Pack clothes for everyone: Don’t forget swimsuits and comfortable shoes!

Sample Camping Checklist

Kitchen

  • camp stove
  • campfire grate
  • frying pan
  • portable coffee maker (we used a percolator and put it right over the campfire)
  • storage bin for food
  • plates
  • bowls
  • cups & mugs
  • silverware
  • paper towel
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • cooking utensils (spatula, tongs, mixing spoon)
  • water jug with dispenser
  • pudgie pie makers
  • insulated stainless steel water bottles
  • small bins for washing dishes
  • a dishwashing sponge with soap in the handle
  • dishcloths
  • washcloths
  • aluminum foil
  • Tupperware for leftovers
  • fire pit roasting sticks (marshmallows!)
  • garbage bags
  • large clothespins for clamping garbage bag to the table
  • cooler
  • frozen water jug to use as an ice pack, then drinking water when it melts

Sleeping

Around the Campsite

  • mat for shoes in front of tent
  • camp chairs
  • kids camp chairs
  • lanterns
  • flashlights
  • headlamps
  • clothesline
  • clothespins
  • insect repellant & citronella candle
  • extension cord
  • stacking drawer organizer

Clothing

When packing clothes, I packed one outfit per day for my kids plus one extra t-shirt and pair of shorts since kids tend to get dirty, spill, and have accidents.

For the adults, we just kind of mixed and matched athleisure type clothes.

Make sure whatever you pack you’re ok with getting dirty. Everything will smell like campfire smoke by the end of your trip, too!

  • t-shirts
  • long sleeve shirts
  • sweatshirts
  • raincoat
  • athletic shorts
  • pants
  • socks
  • warm camp socks
  • flip flops (for the showers/beaches)
  • tennis shoes or hiking boots for walks/hikes
  • underwear/bras
  • water shoes
  • Tevas / waterproof walking sandals
  • swimsuits
  • hats
  • sunglasses
  • hats & gloves if you’re camping in cold weather
  • jacket if you’re camping in cold weather

Health and Hygiene

  • bandages
  • Benadryl
  • pain reliever
  • infant/child pain reliever
  • thermometer
  • prescription medication
  • alcohol wipes
  • travel size body wash
  • travel size shampoo
  • travel size conditioner
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • face wash
  • moisturizer
  • washcloth
  • makeup remover
  • makeup (I didn’t end up using much if any, but it’s nice to have some concealer or tinted moisturizer if you want to freshen up for any reason)
  • brush & comb
  • ponytail holders
  • sunscreen
  • glasses & contacts
  • bug spray
  • aloe
  • hand sanitizer
  • travel toilet paper (just in case!)
  • lip balm with SPF
  • bath and beach towels

Fun Extras

  • glow sticks
  • bug kit
  • cards
  • games
  • construction vehicle toys
  • shovels and buckets for the mud
  • bubbles and bubble machine
  • books

Embrace the Unexpected

Camping with kids won’t always be smooth sailing. Be prepared for meltdowns and forgotten items. But with a little planning and a positive attitude, you can create a memorable and enjoyable family adventure.

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