Camping with kids can be one of the best ways to spend time as a family. It gets you away from all the noise and busy-ness of your everyday life and into a space that can be so relaxing. You get to turn off the gadgets and have fun hiking, playing games and enjoying outdoor activities. But, without the right gear, it can be a disaster.
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Related Reading: Check out The Ultimate Guide for Family Road Trips
Things You Must Take When Camping With Kids
Our family has been camping a long, long, long time.
When I was growing up, we went camping as a family. It was something my dad was really comfortable with and my mom, being more of a city girl, did not get into it all that much. Well, not until we got a travel trailer. That was just the right speed for her. She could reupholster the cushions, make curtains, cook on a stove and NOT freeze to death at night.
I kinda liked it all … we had this stinky old canvas tent that seriously weighed a ton! And, we got really dirty. I didn’t mind that at all.
Once I got married, my husband and I started tent camping together. And, when we started adding kids to the family, they just joined right in and we had a ton of fun.
You could say I’ve got a good deal of camping experience – like 30 plus years worth of experience.
When you take kids camping, it’s a whole new ball game. They add to the fun, but they add a lot to the work as well. You can make it all easier if you’re prepared.
There are a few things that I just won’t go camping without anymore, and I thought you would love to get started on the right foot. This is not a comprehensive list of everything you need — but your camping trip will be so much better if you have these things.
Camping Checklist and Menu Planner
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1. Comfy Bed
This one is for YOU! It is no fun to sleep on the hard ground … and especially if there are pine cones, rocks, or even dirt clods underneath you. That’s why a good, comfy bed is a MUST. If you don’t get some good sleep, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping up with the kids all day long.
I know for me, it’s gotta be an air mattress. There is a down-side to them, though. I’ve been on several camping trips and discovered holes in my air mattress. NOT FUN, not one bit. And, it just about ruins a trip. I’ve then had to run into town to get one (paying more than I wanted) just to finish out our trip.
Some people really like cots. The nice thing about a cot is that you don’t have to worry about it getting a leak during your camping weekend. They even make doubles.
There is always a use for tarps. You can cover the ground before putting your tent down, put it over your tent if it starts to rain, make a Slip n’ Slide, or use it for shade. You can even give the kids a clean play area by setting their toys on it. Make sure you always camp with at least one tarp.
3. Propane Lantern Pole Thingy and Lantern
You like what I called that? Yeah, I had to look it up to figure out what it’s really called. It’s a propane distribution post. We love ours because we can take a large propane tank and hook both our cooking stove and lantern to it. It also holds the lantern up in the air, so no burnt kid fingers and it gives off more light since it’s up high. It eliminates the need for those tiny propane bottles, too.
4. Two Coolers
Yes, I said TWO Coolers. I do this because if you get just one that is big enough to fit everything you need, then you’ll end up not being able to find things. After you dump in all that ice and it starts to melt, things get lost in the bottom and start to shift around. It can be impossible for the kids to find their own drinks. That’s why we do two coolers.
It’s really helpful to have coolers with wheels, as well. A filled cooler is extremely heavy and very difficult to carry very far. Save your back and get this kind with wheels.
Here’s how I separate things into the 2 coolers:
- Cooler 1 – All drinks (soda, Capri Sun, beer, milk, etc.), chocolate, delicate stuff right inside the lid.
- Cooler 2 – Perishables: lunch meat, condiments, cheese, hot dogs, eggs, bacon, etc.
5. First Aid Kit
You’re best to get a nice little First Aid Kit that just stays in the camping gear. These have just about everything you could possibly need and it’s all in one place. Believe me, there will be scrapes, cuts, and bug bites if you’re camping with kids.
Related Reading: Budget Friendly Summer Activities
You are not going to want to spend your time washing dishes by hand, so be sure to bring along plenty of disposables. You’ll probably find that you have to wash some pots or pans and the kid’s cups, but no need to wash everything. Remember, you’re supposed to be enjoying this trip.
You will be so happy if you get yourself a nice gazebo or shade tent. These are amazing for all kinds of weather. They’ll give you shade in the heat of the day, a dry spot in case it rains, and they’ll protect your things from the dew that WILL settle during the night. It’ll even reduce the number of ashes that land on your things from your late night campfire.
8. Bug Spray
No matter where you’re camping, bring that bug spray. You and your kids will be so happy that you did. And the fewer tears from bug bites, the happier mama will be.
9. Kids Activities
I know you’re thinking that the kids will be able to entertain themselves on this camping trip in the Great Outdoors. But, truth is … if you want to be able to sit down for more than 2.4 seconds, your kids need something to do. We always bring along an extra small tent for the kids to have their own clean play space. All their toys stay in there and they can use the space to read, color, or play. Here are some of our favorite camping trip toys:
- Water with tub toys (use your dishpan or plastic food tote)
- Glow Sticks
- Get a lot of ideas by reading about Travel Activities for Kids
- Kiwi Crate – perfect because it comes with EVERYTHING
You’re going to need several of these. Why? Well, I’ll tell you … because your kids will set them down somewhere and you will not be able to find it at 2 am when they will for sure need to get up and go to the bathroom. Remember those sodas and Capri Suns you let them drink? Headlamps make a great hands-free way to see in the dark for both the kids and grown-ups alike.
Seriously, though, they are really easy to misplace and you’re way better to be safe than sorry.
11. Somewhere For Baby
If you’re taking a baby camping, you definitely need somewhere to sit the little one. You will get tired of holding her and even passing her around isn’t always easy. There are several options available, depending on their age.
12. Big Tote For Washing The Kids
Kids love to play in the water. With a nice big tote, not only will they have something fun to play in (with the bath toys), but you can put some soapy water in it, stand them inside and scrub away. Get those kids clean after a long day of playing in the dirt. No need to crawl into your sleeping bag with dirty feet, just give them a good wash in the tote.
Check out some of my Road Trip Articles for great family adventure tips.
Going camping with your kids is truly a memory-making experience. You will love the slower pace and be spending time outside. It may be a little extra work, but it’s really worth it.
You do need to be prepared, though.
There are some great Camping Hacks, Tips, and Tricks over HERE. Some of these are absolutely brilliant!