There’s no doubt about it, camping is hard work. Organizing gear, getting a reservation, preparing food for several days ahead, packing the car, and making sure there is enough to do to entertain the whole family—it can overwhelm. But it’s worth it! You’re guaranteed to make lasting family memories, enjoy lots of laughs with the family, and get plenty of outdoor time for the kids.
To help you get out under the stars, we’ve put together some tips for camping with the family and a checklist of what to take.
First, get a camping date on your calendar. Campgrounds can fill up quickly so plan ahead to get a spot. And try to leave early in the day on Friday (or head out during the work week) to avoid commuter traffic and have a better chance of setting up camp before it gets dark.
Invite friends. Camping with kids alone is great. But camping with another family or bringing your kids’ friends along helps keep everyone happy and occupied.
Prepare the gear. Use the camping checklist below to make sure you take what you need, but not much more. Check the tent, stove, matches/lighters, and lanterns beforehand for damage and working condition.
Prepare the food. The checklist doesn’t include food—you’ll have to create that yourself. Here’s a tip: Write down what you plan to eat for each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Then prepare what you can at home—marinate the meats, cut the vegetables, wrap the potatoes in foil. You’ll be thankful once you get to camp.
When you pack the cooler, set out the foods meal by meal, thinking about how you’ll serve each meal so you don’t forget condiments and necessary utensils, can opener, etc.
Family Camping Checklist
- CAMPSITE GEAR
- Tent, poles, stakes
- Tent footprint (ground cover for under your tent)
- Extra tarp or canopy
- Sleeping bag for each camper
- Sleeping pad for each camper
- Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
- Extra blankets
- Headlamps or flashlights (extra batteries)
- Lantern fuel or batteries
- Fuel for stove
- Matches or lighter
- Frying pan
- French press or portable coffee maker
- Roasting sticks for marshmallows, hot dogs
- Food-storage containers, bags
- Trash bags
- Water bottles
- Plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives
- Cups, mugs
- Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
- Cutting board
- Biodegradable soap
- Sponge, dishcloth, dishtowel
- Paper towels
- Extra bin for washing dishes
- Clothes for daytime
- Shoes: hiking/walking shoes, easy-on shoes, water shoes
- Extra layers for warmth
- PERSONAL ITEMS
- Insect repellant
- First-aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Toothbrush, toiletries
- OTHER ITEMS
- Campsite reservation confirmation, phone number
- Maps, area information
- Bikes, toys
- Pet supplies and food