Camping Packing List and Gear Recommendations for Families

by: Jessica Nugent and LiLing Pang



If you are camping for the first time, here is a basic packing list of items you will need.   Of course you could pack the world.  But these are really all that you need to be comfortable as family during your first trip.  If you have never camped before and just want to try it out, rent gear.  Search the web for camping gear rentals.  I would suggest REI, since they have many locations.



Must Haves:

  • Tent, Stakes & Guylines
  • Ground sheet  (to protect your tent from getting too dirty)
  • Sleeping bags for everyone
  • Sleeping pads (This is not a luxury item.  This will protect you from heat loss.  Never sleep directly on the ground)

Review of the Kelty Sleep Eazy Air Mattress

Review of the Kelty Supernova (Single/Double) Sleeping Bag

Review of the Big Agnes Little Red Sleeping Bag for Kids


Food and Cooking:

Must Haves:

  • Cooler and ice
  • Camp stove and fuel- cooking over the campfire is wonderful but can be unpredictable.  Always have a back up plan for hungry kids. Good standbys: packaged pasta and PB&J
  • Camp pots and pans
  • Kettle
  • Utensils for cooking and eating
  • Plates, serving dishes, cups
  • Knife and swiss army knife
  • A really good fire lighter and starters
  • Grill brush and BBQ utensils
  • Basin for washing dishes, detergent, scouring pad, gloves
  • Food – Here is a sample camping menu of yummy by easy camping meals
  • S’more ingredients (marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers) – yes a must have if you’re camping with kids.
  • Water – don’t assume there is water or drinking water.  Call ahead and ask.
  • Water bottles
  • Kitchen towels
  • Aluminum foil - love the non-stick kind
  • *Ziplocs, of assorted sizes.  Ziplocs are my best travel friend!

*Place smaller food items in ziploc so they do not get waterlogged in your cooler.  For example, cheese, butter and sour cream go into a large expandable bottom iploc.  I can tell you from experience; waterlogged sour cream is yucky.

Nice to haves:

  • Cutting board
  • Fire proof mitts
  • Basic seasonings kit – salt, pepper, oil, cinnamon, sugar
  • Large griddle pan if you’re making pancakes
  • Coffee mugs
  • Dish towel
  • Table cloth
  • Axe for firewood
  • Firewood (although most campgrounds will sell some)
  • Marshmallow roasters


Other camping gear

Must Haves:

  • Camp chairs
  • Lamp
  • Flash lights

Nice to Haves:

  • Rope
  • Hammock
  • Bikes and helments


Personal Items

  • Insect repellent
  • Sun screen
  • Clothes (make sure you have layers for different temperatures)
  • Towel
  • Shoes for hiking or getting wet
  • Toiletries


First aid kit (think scrapes, bruises, fevers)

Essential items:

  • Fever medication (Tylenol or Motrin)
  • Thermometer
  • Antibacterial/Antibiotic first aid cream
  • Bandages and band aids
  • Hydrocortizon cream and itch relief cream

More on first travel aid kits:
15 Essential Items to Pack for Baby's Travel First Aid Kit

Just for Baby/Toddler:

  • peapod tent/travel crib
  • Child size sleeping bag or winter bunting which can serve as a sleeping bag
  • warm hat with strap
  • mittens
  • Preferred containment system (playpen, booster with seat buckle, etc.)
  • stroller, bumbo or foldable seat to be strapped into
  • playpen or play tent if you have a crawler
  • kid safe mosquito repellent
  • diapers – always bring extras in case baby has the runs
  • wipes
  • bottle or sippy cup
  • pre-measured formula
  • baby food
  • thermos to keep water warm if needed
  • lovies and other soothing items for bedtime

For Hiking with Kids:

  • If you’re carrying your child for long distances, I recommend investing a good frame child carrier backpack
  • If you’re doing some light hiking and will carry your child occasionally, a light weight child carrier would be sufficient

 Relate: Comparison and review of child carriers

Camping near lake, river, or beach:

  • A few sand toys
  • Swim suits
  • Extra towels
  • Inflatable floaties

If you have never camped before and just want to try it out, rent gear.  Search the web for camping gear rentals.  I would suggest REI, since they have many locations.


Do you have a question about camping with kids that our savvy parents can help answer? 

Ask us your questions





Jessica Nugent (aka fani*fam) is the mom of a a one year old boy and loves outdoor adventures.  They are known for braving the outdoors any season of the year.  LiLing Pang (TravelPangs) is co-founder and contributing author on Trekaroo - - a reviews website dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids.

Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA

updated: May 02 2013 by LiLing Pang

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