The hardest part of camping with kids is getting them to calm down long enough to help you with packing.
Making sure you are well prepared and have everything you need is especially challenging if this is the first time you are going camping with them.
Here’s where a packing checklist is handy.
I recommend having one general one for everyone and a separate one for each kid. Give each kid their own checklist and have them pack their own stuff.
This will make packing much easier and faster.
If you are not sure what to take with you beyond a tent, sleeping bags and other basic camping gear, here’s a general checklist you can use.
It will not apply equally to everyone so feel free to subtract or add items depending on your particular situation and needs.
Because of their weight, pack these items yourself. If you need to buy some of them, do it well ahead of time.
- Tent, poles and stakes. Don’t forget to include a shade tarp if you have one.
- Extra tarp or ground cover (goes under your tent to protect it from the ground).
- Hammer or axe.
- Entrance mat + dustpan and brush (optional but may be handy when you are camping with kids to keep the inside clean).
Pack everyone’s sleeping gear separately. This will make it much easier to quickly set up everyone’s sleeping space when you arrive at the camping site.
- Sleeping bags or air mattresses, whichever you prefer.
- Sheets & blankets.
- Pillow, if necessary (some air mattresses have a built-in pillow).
- Manual or car-powered air pump if you are carrying air mattresses.
- Repair kit for air mattress.
- Hammock (optional).
- Portable cot if you are going with a toddler.
- Your kid’s favourite snuggle doll – helps them sleep better in a new environment.
Furniture and Essential gear
This includes the basic essential gear you need that’s not the tent or bedding.
- Camp chairs and table.
- Electric camping lantern with extra batteries.
- Flashlights with extra batteries.
- First aid kit with bug protection.
- A multi-tool kit.
- Cord and duct tape.
- Trash and recycling bags.
- Solar power generator.
- DC power adaptor.
Cooking and Food
These items will likely take up the most space in the car.
If it’s a short camping trip, you can reduce your load by carrying cooked food rather than cooking at the campsite. In that case, you have to figure out how to keep the food fresh.
- Drinking water (unless the campsite has potable water)
- Firewood (not always necessary – most campsites will provide firewood). Remember to check whether the site allows fires.
- Stove and enough fuel.
- Matches or lighter.
- Cooking and eating utensils as well as cutlery.
- Cutting board.
- Cooler or car-powered refrigerator.
- Sponge or scrubber for the pots.
- Environmentally-friendly soap.
- At least two dish towels.
- Aluminium foil.
- Extra containers to store food.
- Thermos for hot drinks.
- Can & bottle opener.
- Enough food for everyone (either cooked or uncooked).
- Spices & condiments.
- Skewers and marshmallows.
If you are planning to do any grilling, carry a camp grill and enough charcoal.
Clothing and Personal items
Give everyone a checklist to pack their own items. Double check before leaving to make sure no one has forgotten something important.
- Enough clothing for cool and warm weather (include fast-drying pants, t-shirts and shorts).
- Comfortable and moisture-wicking underwear and socks.
- Sun hat.
- Outdoor boots and shoes.
- Flip flops.
- Extra-warm pyjamas.
- Toilet paper (bio degradable if you are going bush camping).
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste.
- Medication, if there’s someone taking any.
- Towel (a quick-drying type).
Some extras to consider depending on the weather and location include mittens or gloves, sunglasses, rain jackets, warm hat, moisture-wicking vests and swim wear.
Fun and Extras
Kids can easily get bored so make sure you carry enough things to keep them occupied.
- Camping-friendly toys and games. Ideas include water toys, flying disks, kitchen set, soccer ball, storybooks and whatever other non-battery toys that are great for playing away from home.
- Family board games.
- Cameras with extra batteries.
- Maps and guides.