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10 Essentials to Pack When Camping with Kids

The most wonderful thing about camping with kids is that you can leave the screens behind and have a super enjoyable experience in nature. The bad thing about camping with kids is that you get away from all the things that make your life easy. 

But, if you plan properly and pack wisely, chances are you'll be camping like a champ - even if it's your first time. To make it even easier, here's the Ultimate Family Camping Packing List to start you off:

Ultimate Family Camping Trip Packing List

1. Tent

The tent you’ll call home for the trip should be spacious, comfortable, built with durable materials, and offer reasonable protection against the wind and rain.

Keep in mind the following factors when choosing one for yourself:

  • Tents are built to host a specific number of people, pick one that suits your family
  • Ask for one that’s rigid and constructed with durable materials
  • Transportation. Go for one that can be carried in an oversized bag
  • Setup. Choose a tent that’s easy to set up with no previous experience.

And the last thing: bring a spare towel or doormat to set out in front of the tent doors so you can leave your muddy boots outside.

2. Sleeping Bags

These are a must, obviously, so make sure that the sleeping bags you have are ready to go.

When shopping, you'll find they are rated in seasons:

  • 4 season: the most effective protection from cold, perfect for winter camping
  • 3 season: perfect for camping during spring and fall
  • 2 season: designed for colder summer nights
  • 1 season: for warm summer nights where minimum warming effect is required.

In addition to the seasons, pay attention to:

  • Size. always pick one that’s slightly larger, just in case
  • Type (mummy, semi-rectangular, rectangular)
  • Temperature range (typical sleeping bags are designed for temperatures as low as -4 °F (-20 °C)
  • Amount of insulation (for example, a quality adult sleeping bag has about 4.5lbs of Coletherm insulation)
  • Design. Sleeping bags come in many colors, prints, and designs, so you can get something fun for the kids.

3. Blankets

This is a big deal, especially for children. It’s a good idea to choose both lightweight, water-resistant and warm blankets made for different outdoor conditions.

SIDENOTE: you can also bring the blankets they use at home to make them as comfortable as possible. 

4. Headlamps

These are inexpensive but are really important for every person on the trip - including your kids! 

In many cases, the run time is indicated on the packaging, so try to choose a product with reasonable performance (although taking some spare batteries is also be a good idea if you’re going for the first time!).

5. Antibacterial and Baby Wipes

Oh, yes, you’re going to need a ton of these. If you’re going camping with children, chances are good that you’ll have to use them many many times.

They’re great for cleaning hands, feet, legs, face, and objects you need to protect from dirt, so pack at least a few family-sized packs for the trip.

SIDENOTE: Ensure you dispose of your wipes correctly, usually by packing them out of your camping site. Most wipes are not flushable, so follow Leave No Trace and bring home what you brought out!!!

6. Entertainment Items

No, these are not tablets and smartphones. A camping trip is a unique chance to have active outdoor fun!

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Soccer ball
  • Binoculars
  • Telescope
  • Coloring books
  • Crafts
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Glowing rings and sticks
  • Water bottles to play bowling
  • Chalk to decorate the camping site.

Taking a walk in nature to observe animals or playing a nature-themed scavenger hunt are also great ideas for entertainment.

7. Waterproof Bags

You’ll need these to store things like smartphones, chargers, wallets, and keys. With kids running around asking to play, things can get a little bit messy, so storing everything in one place makes it easier to find it quickly.

8. Clothing Items

  • Clothes: it’s up to you, really, but taking one change of clothes for two days is a common practice (t-shirts, shorts etc.) Avoid denim and cotton as those materials do not dry fast, and can become heavy and damp easily.
  • Jackets: these are essential for camping - even during the summertime - as nights can get cold
  • Socks/underwear: be sure to have a few changes for each family member.
  • Pajamas. Each child may like to have their PJs on the trip as another home comfort!

9. Air Mattress

Air mattress keeps you from laying on the ground, so you’ll feel warmer during the night. Here are some of the most important considerations for choosing the right one for your family:

  • The higher off the ground the mattress is, the warmer you’ll feel on it, especially during the night
  • Automatic inflation with a special the air valve saves time and effort
  • The best air mattresses are made to be puncture-resistant thanks to elements like a laminate finish
  • Choose one that comes with a carry bag, it’ll make the transportation much easier.

SIDENOTE: For a quick solution, try the HEX 2.0 Power Lounger.

10. First Aid Kit

This is an obvious consideration, even if you’re going camping for a day. The first aid kit should cover the basic necessities:

  • Antiseptic and alcohol pads
  • Anti-inflammation medication such as ibuprofen
  • Eye drops
  • Bandages
  • Sterile pads
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Electrolyte tablets
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Medical tape (waterproof)
  • Gauze.

 Don’t forget to pack it in a waterproof bag - you don’t want water to ruin items like bandages!

A Couple of Extras

Water. Lots of it. You’ll never know how much water you’ll need, but one thing is for sure: more than you expect.

A good solid camping chair. That wood log may get old after the first couple of hours. 

Author’s bio. Daniela McVicker is a psychologist and family counselor. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor to Essay Guard. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.