This definitive guide to the items you need to pack when camping with children is your one stop checklist so the camping nightmare doesn’t happen to you. But it’s going to take some pre-planning on your behalf if you are to make it the best ever trip.
*Note: This checklist is more aimed at older kids. For camping with Toddlers view this checklist here.
Tip 1. Get Your Kids Involved
So gather the troops and take a seat. Get out a notepad and pen and start jotting down ideas. Don’t disregard your Children’s suggestions or input. After all, a happy camping trip revolves a lot around happy kids. Kids will have a lot of great ideas and you’re going to want their input to make it enjoyable for the whole family.
Jot down all of the ideas from where to go, what to do, what to take, and anything your kids suggest that you may not necessarily agree with at first. These ideas may become quite useful during those ‘I’m bored…’ moments you just know you are going to get. Kids may also ask to bring a friend. Don’t disregard this idea immediately. For some families, this is a must as it will help keep kids busy for hours. Consider it and tell them that you’ll get back to them on this one.
Take A Tent Worthy Of Sleeping Multiple Youngsters
For the whole family to be comfortable during the trip, a suitable tent is often required. Sadly it is often overlooked and it’s not until its too late that you realize the current tent really doesn’t cut it anymore.
The kids have gotten bigger, the amount of items you bring camping has substantially grown over the years and that trusty ole 4 person tent is no longer family suitable.
As a solution to this, I have listed what I believe to be the best kid friendly tents. These tents are multiple room tents so that the kids have their own enclosed area along with the optional kids play room. Being comfortable while camping is a high priority for many families across the globe.
Kids Air Mattress & Bedding
For the most part our kids will be happy sleeping on a single airbed or even with just a sleeping bag on the ground. But for the younger kids, especially the ones that wiggle around a lot during the night some extra protection is often required.
These kids airbeds have raised contoured edges to prevent the youngsters from rolling off a flat style of a air mattress. As I said, it’s not a big deal for the bigger kids, but toddlers and babies in particular are prone to hurting themselves when they roll out of bed. So these air mattresses are a great solution while camping.
Camping Bunk Beds
An ideal option if you have two or more kids is to take with you camping bunk beds. These beds are designed for kids and are not only appealing to the kids, but also great space savers when you pack extra gear. Provided your tent allows the height inside for a bunk bed.
Packing Camping Equipment For The Kids
Give each child his or her own duffel bag to pack in. Make sure that each one is a different color so that the kids will know which one is theirs. Not only do kids demand their own bag, it also helps in the organization process.
Give older children a list of what to pack and ask them to help younger children pack as well. Be sure that a parent or older sibling check to make sure that all items on the list are in the bags. Things can turn pear shaped when you find out too late that your child has forgotten their toothbrush or underwear!.
What To Pack
Be sure that each packing list includes daytime clothing, sleepwear including shoes and socks if applicable (and extras), swimwear, rain gear (rubber boots, extra socks, rain jacket), shoes for water and hiking, extra long sleeved shirts and extra long pants. White clothing repels mosquitoes naturally as they don’t like the brightness. Don’t forget hats and extra gloves.
To Take Toys Camping, Or Not?
Deciding whether or not you want to bring your kids favorite toys camping when you are meant to be escaping reality will be a case by case judgment. Could you kids really cope a couple days without their toys and if so will you need to be checked into the mental asylum when you return?. Ie; will they drive you nuts!
While toys are a great way to keep your kids entertained, some parents will opt for no toys and to make the most of the great outdoors. Which is completely fine to do if you are prepared to entertain your kids. Take them fishing, walking, read books, play camp games etc. Don’t just bring the kids along and expect them to entertain themselves as I’m sure you know this just does not work.
If you do decide to treat the kids to some toys from home, use a rubberized toy bin that kids can put their toys in. Each child can pitch in to help pack this, but the lid must be able to go on. This will keep them from overfilling the bin. Remind kids that there will be water (if applicable) and/or sand so they will want toys that can be used for these purposes.
Camping & Technology – Is It Possible?
These days kids are practically born with an iPad or tablet of some kind attached to their hands. So detaching them from their technology can be extremely hard. In many cases impossible.
I personally don’t have a problem with my kids bringing their iPads etc camping. But there needs to be rules in place. For our kids they are allowed to play it after the days activities regardless of what it is. After dinner, its technology away and camp fire time.
The problem lays in keeping the devices charged and ready to entertain the kids when you need a break. If you are car camping you generally have access to some sort of power source.
If you are roughing it up, I highly recommend you bring both rechargeable batteries (torches, lanterns etc) and a couple solar panels combined with a battery storage pack many cpap machines are powered by when camping. This way you will always have access to light and power to charge both your phones and the kids iPads etc.
Bring Physically Active Camping Gear Kids Can Use
If at all possible, bring bicycles or scooters so that kids can get around and have some fun and exercise. Don’t forget the helmets and any other safety equipment. This will encourage physical activity and it’s something they already know how to do. So exploring the forest can be a lot more fun for the kids compared to boring walking. Plus you won’t have to hear “My feet hurt” every 10 steps.
If you are going to be camping near water, prepare some water activities you and your kids can undertake. Fishing is a popular camping activity kids and parents alike love to do. So pack some fishing gear if your kids want to take up fishing. Don’t forget some digging materials if you are planning to use live worms.
Another great water activity to do when camping is taking the canoe or kayak out. Not only is this a great way to get away from stress, but it’s actually quite fun for the kids too. Take the rods out and do a spot of fishing as well. To make it an even greater experience, plane to go canoe camping. This is growing in popularity as you can find isolated camping spots via the canoe and set up a tent and away you go.
Fun Things To Bring When Camping With Kids
I have already touched on a few activities you can pre plan to do with your kids. These items below are usually items you have laying around at home and can easily be added into the kids camping checklist. Preparing activities for you and your kids before you go camping will lead to a much more fruitful experience.
Set up a scavenger hunt before you go. This can be done a few ways. Have kids either check items off the list or have kids collect the items and place them in large paper bags. You can tape or staple the list to the outside of a paper bag if you’re going to have them collect items.
For younger children, place pictures of items on the list, for older children, you can write the items down and they can check them off.
Other Items You May Bring For Camping Activities
Paddle ball is another fun game on camping trips. Frisbees, football, basketball, and other balls are always good additions to your camping trip.
- Marshmallow launchers (it’s great to have a few marshmallow launching contests).
- Don’t forget the ice cream maker. It’s great fun to make ice cream when you’re camping.
- Watersports are fun as well. Pool noodles and other fun items for the water are great fun on a camping trip.
- Playing cards such as UNO.
Camping Meals The Kids Will Love
Take the time to make up a menu of dinners while you’re at camp. Then do the prep work while you’re still at home. Adding food items to your camping checklist specifically for kids must not be forgotten. Especially if your kids have some crazy picky food taste buds. Remember cooking while camping is not as easy as using a full blown kitchen, so don’t forget the basic cooking utensils either. Here are a few of our favorite kid camping meal ideas:
Simple Camping Tacos
Pack individual bags of chips for this one. Any type of tortilla chip or corn chip will do. Let each person pick their own favorite. Then, slightly crush the chips and add in cooked ground meat, taco fixings, and some salsa and hand the bag back to the rightful owners. Give them a fork and dine away. Easy camping dinner.
These are another favorite. Place sliced potatoes, carrots and onion on a piece of foil. Make sure the foil is large enough to be folded up over food. Add in a meat patty or a piece of chicken, seasonings and some sauce (ketchup, barbecue sauce etc.). Close and seal the foil well and place these in the coals of the campfire to cook. Carefully open the foil (will have steam so be careful to not burn anyone) and eat from foil making sure not to get any foil in the food.
There are many other easy to prepare meals out there and ask kids to help you decide what to bring. They’ll love it when they can look forward to a special camping meal.
Other Important Items To Bring Camping
- Reservation information
- Equipment to protect you and your kids from mosquitoes and other annoying bugs. I’m not just talking about mosquito spray, but safeguarding your campsite with mosquito repellent equipment.
- A safety plan. This is especially important when camping with kids. Make sure you understand the risks and how to camp safely with kids.
- Any medications including pain relief medicines for headaches, antiseptic creams, first aid kit, rash and bite cream as not doubt the kids will get a mozzy bite or two and a graze or two.
- Kids books for reading at night before bed.
- Water bottles so the kids can carry with them when going on a walk.
- Fabric Softener Sheets (these work as bug repellent, to make the tent smell better and for many other great uses).
- Solar lights (ideal for use in and around the campsite
- Maps, both hardcopy and access to online campsite maps. Download a campsite app onto your smart phone before you head out doors and learn as much as you can about the location you plan to visit.
Literally Write Down What To Bring Camping With Kids
Keeping this list in hand when packing and planning a camping trip with kids will go far to ensure that you and your kids have a great time when you’re camping. Feel free to add to or delete from this list as needed.
But most of all take action. Write down onto a piece of paper anything that has taken your interest and set of a ‘oh yea, I cant forget that’ moment. Otherwise you may end up forgetting it. Write it down it make sure you check it off once it’s inside your car or packed in a suitcase etc.
In my opinion, if you are inexperienced when it comes to camping with kids you can’t be too prepared. Overtime you will narrow down you list of what to bring. But on your first few trips you don’t want to drive for hours on end just to realize you forget the iPad charging cables or underwear for example.