Camping with kids checklist tips and essentials

The Ultimate Camping With Kids Checklist & Tips

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A camping checklist is the best way to avoid forgetting these camping essentials! Going camping can be a wonderful family adventure, however, it can also be a bit of a nightmare. The latter usually happens thanks to one thing – you forgot to pack something important for the camping trip.

There are some must bring essentials when camping with kids that can mean the difference between having an amazing vacation, or ending up with an unanticipated emergency.

This camping with kids checklist will help you get organised before you go.

Camping with kids checklist - essentials for family camping

Whether you’ve camped before, or if it’s your first time, don’t leave for your camping trip without these essentials for camping trips:

Basic Camping Checklist

  • Tent
  • Water
  • First Aid kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Food
  • Cooking and dining equipment
  • Sleeping bags and pillows
  • Air mattresses
  • Tarp
  • Rope
  • Pocket knife
  • Firestarter
  • Flashlight, headlamp or lantern
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Portable solar charger

Family Camping Essentials

Having a camping packing list is useful whether it is your first camping trip or a subsequent adventure. With so many things to remember, it helps to have a basic checklist.

Now that we’ve got the list of basic camping supplies, let’s take a closer look at each of the items to see why they are important and what the best options are for your ultimate family camping trip.

Tent 

Forgetting your tent when tent camping would send you back home in a hurry! Having a tent with you on your camping trip is essential because it keeps you safe from unexpected weather conditions. Especially if you are camping during the extremes – either hot or cold!

You neither want to risk getting hypothermia or waking to early morning sunburn without proper shelter.

You also want to make sure you have a tent that is big enough to suit the size of your family, with a little extra room to spare if you are going for more than one night.

Whichever tent you decide to get make sure that you bring all the necessary accessories for it as well:

  • Stakes
  • Tent poles
  • Ropes
  • Hammer (for securing pegs)
  • A waterproof tarp for under the tent
  • And any other must-have tent accessories you need to get it set up!

Tip: Bring extra tarpaulins and rope just in case – for extra protection from wet weather, to cover tent damage or to use as ground cover in community areas.

Sleeping Essentials

When camping, a sleeping bag is essential. It may seem like an adventure to sleep on a bed of leaves and moss until you break out in an allergic reaction or wake up to multiple insect bites. Ick!

During the night the temperatures drop significantly, depending on the time of year and the location you are camping.

Also, insects are most active at night.

To avoid having a sleepless night, make sure to bring your sleeping bags and sleeping accessories with you on your camping trip, to help make sleep easier.

  • Sleeping bags – Choose sleeping bags that are suited to the weather conditions of your camping trip so you aren’t cold overnight.
  • PillowsCamping pillows are a compact alternative if you want to save space.
  • Air mattress & pump – If you plan to use an air mattress, make sure you bring a manual air pump or have one that is battery-operated. You don’t want to get caught out without electricity to pump your bed!

Tip: For when you are packing extra light, sleeping pads are a good alternative to air mattresses or camp beds. They require minimal inflation and give just enough protection from hard or rough surfaces.

Water Essentials

When camping, always keep water purification tablets and a filter on hand if you are freedom camping away from water facilities. This will help with safety in case you need to get water from a nearby stream.

Also, always carry at least a full days supply of water in a large container or Camelbak. Or enough for your entire trip if you know it won’t be readily available nearby.

The last thing anyone wants is to be left without a fresh supply of water. And keep in mind that drinking water direct from a lake or pond can cause illness due to bacteria.

  • Water bottles – One for each family member such as these handy filter water bottles.
  • Water jug with pump – Having a water container with a pump makes it easy for refilling bottles and for the kids to use without requiring assistance
  • Purification tablets – Handy to have just in case!
Kayaking near campsite with kids

Camping Safety Checklist Items

These items are essential for ensuring a safe camping experience, so that you and your family are prepared for emergencies, challenges and the unexpected.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a very important must bring essential in case of emergency situations.

When it comes to camping and hiking, there might be an unexpected injury that requires bandaging- like scrapes, cuts, and blisters. Especially when kids are involved!

You will also need to consider treating insect bites too.

If these injuries are left untreated they can easily become infected.

Your first aid kit should include:

  • Bandages
  • Plasters
  • Gauze
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive
  • Emergency whistle
  • Anti-bacterial soap
  • CPR mouth barrier
  • Antiseptic cream

Multi-Tool

The ultimate multipurpose tool is the pocket knife, which can be used to dice bait, trim a rope, open a tightly sealed package, slice sausage or cheese, cut fishing line, tighten a screw, sharpen a stick, and so on.

Without a multi-tool pocket knife, these tasks can be difficult and you don’t want to break a tooth trying to chew something you could easily cut.

Bring at least one multipurpose pocket knife tool. Better still, bring two in case one breaks or goes missing. And keep it out of reach of small children.

Fire Starter

Having a fire starter is essential to starting a warm campfire, and of course, without a campfire, you’re hardly going to get the full camping experience, are you?

A fire starter can include waterproof matches, a lighter, a flint and steel, or a magnesium fire starter.

It’s best to have two fire starters in case one of them fails.

Bring fire kindling with you in a waterproof container, like strips of newspaper and dry bark. The fire kindling will come in handy if you struggle to find dry kindling in the outdoors.

Flashlight, Headlamp, Or Lantern

A battery-powered light is an essential camping with kids checklist item you must have, as a campfire can only help so much.

During the night when you’re in your tent and you need to find something, or if you need to make a bathroom (bush potty) trip, having a flashlight, headlamp, or lantern is invaluable.

This is even more essential when camping with kids who may find the deep dark of the wilderness frightening.

Tip: Check out these cool camping hacks with kids for some ideas on how you can light up your campsite at night to help them feel more at ease.

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is a necessary essential that every camper must have.

Ending up having to use leaves and bark for the latrine is a poor substitute that lacks both hygiene and comfort.

Even if you are camping at a site with toilet facilities, it helps to be prepared in case they forget to stock the loo paper.

If you are concerned regarding leaving a trace, purchase biodegradable toilet paper for an environmentally friendly option. 

Wet wipes are another useful item to pack when camping with kids… or anytime really! Wet wipes have so many cleaning uses!

Insect Repellant

There is nothing more annoying than attempting to enjoy your time in nature when nature won’t stop biting!

Don’t forget the insect spray!

When camping with kids, make sure you bring a kid-friendly version that won’t irritate their skin. You can also get them mosquito repellant bracelets as an alternative.

Tip: Spray the entrance of your tent and a light mist over your clothing and packs to help keep the bugs at a distance.

Camping with kids by water

Sunscreen

If you are camping in winter, you might be able to get away without the 50+ sunscreen but in most cases, this is indeed an essential tool in your camp supplies!

As we say here in Australia, SLIP, SLOP, SLAP!

Yes, I realise how ridiculous that now sounds. Here’s the full version for those of you who didn’t grow up with the Aussie slogan:

Slip on a shirt, Slop on the sunscreen, Slap on a hat!

This means don’t forget the hat, sunnies and shelter too!

Portable Charger

Having a device to charge phones is important if you are camping anywhere away from town and facilities. And especially when camping with kids.

It is reassuring to know you can easily reach help if needed and having the means to charge your phone is essential!

Solar power banks can be slow to recharge but it means they stay charged longer without needing electricity. We use this a portable charger similar to this one when we travel.

Other Safety Gear

The other safety gear you take camping will depend on your planned activities. If you are planning to go swimming, make sure you have swimming vests for kids and reef shoes if it is likely rocky.

For kayaking and water sports, life jackets are a must.

A fire guard may be essential if you have toddlers, to prevent them touching the campfire.

Camping with kids checklist

Essential Campsite Gear Packing List

These items aren’t essential but they will help improve your comfort. Especially if you are camping for a few days and want to make yourself at home during that time.

Setting up a campsite with tables, chairs and a living space will help you feel like you are at your home away from home.

And camping with kids means being as comfortable as you can be.

  • Folding camp tables – Bring one to use as a dining table and another to set up your camp kitchen for easy cooking and meal prep.
  • Camp chairs – Bring enough fold-out camping chairs for each family member.
  • Clothesline – You can use a length of rope or cord between trees, or have a travel clothesline to hang wet gear and kitchen towels.
  • Bucket – Useful for cleaning items, carrying items or even as a potty if you need a quick solution.
  • Swimming or fishing gear – If you are camping near water
  • Kid’s sun shelter/beach tent – A beach shelter is a great way to set up a kids zone at your campsite with a few toys and activities while keeping them sheltered from the sun in a beach tent.
  • Backpack – If you plan on going on hikes, a sturdy backpack is perfect for carrying water, snacks, first aid kit, charger and phone.
  • Fold up gazebo – Setting up a gazebo next to your tent is a great way to create more shelter and provide you with a covered area for cooking, cleaning, or relaxing out of the sun or rain.
  • Dustpan and brush – Bring a dustpan and brush to keep the floor of your tent tidy and for easy cleanups.
  • Axe – For chopping wood or to use the blunt end for hammering in tent pegs.
  • Camping toilet – If you aren’t staying anywhere near toilet facilities
  • Camping shower – A hanging portable shower in case you neither have showers nearby or can’t stand the thought of bathing in the nearby watering holes.
Camping with kids checklist tips and essentials

What To Wear When Camping

Bring clothes with you that are comfortable and suitable for the current weather conditions.

Layering is the best option for warming up or cooling down throughout the day, with clothes that can easily layer together. T-shirts, long sleeve shirts, jackets, shorts, pants, etc.

If it is cooler, don’t forget your winter gear with beanies, gloves, scarves and thermals too.

Bring at least 2 pairs of shoes – sneakers and some flip flops and enough socks to give you spares.

And of course, enough underwear for the duration of your trip.

Camping Toiletries & Personal Care Items

Aside from packing comfortable clothes, underwear, shoes and plenty of layers to suit the weather, you also need to pack personal hygiene items for your trip.

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Baby wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Antibacterial foaming hand soap
  • Lip balm
  • Towels
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush and hair ties

Are you located in Australia? Check out Amazon Australia or get your camping essentials from Caravan RV Camping.

Essential Camping Cooking Equipment

When you head off camping, it’s almost a rite of passage to forget something, no matter how seasoned you are. Whether it be the bug spray, your favourite camp frying pan or the spare pare of flip flops you meant to bring.

This is what makes having a checklist so helpful for camping trips. Especially when it comes to remembering all the different cooking equipment you want to bring for your camp kitchen.

Camping Cooking Basic Checklist:

  • Camp stove
  • Gas bottle
  • Portable BBQ
  • Frying pan
  • Saucepan
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Knives
  • Forks
  • Spoons
  • Tongs
  • Sharp knife
  • Tea towels
  • Paper towelling
  • Spatula
  • Esky or cooler
  • Cups
  • Garbage bags or pop up trash can
  • Plastic tub with lid – for storing food and keeping it protected from wild animals
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Dish cleaning brush or scourer
  • Heavy-duty aluminium foil – Perfect for making foil packet camping meals

Knowing what else you want to bring will depend on the food you are bringing on your camping trip. It helps to do a camping meal plan before you leave so you know if there are any other special tools you want to bring.

And of course, don’t forget your food!

These no-cook camping meals are great if you want to make your trip easier, and spend less time in the camp kitchen!

Check out our road trips meal planning tips for meal ideas that would also be great for camping.

Road Trip Meal Planner

Check out our road trip meal planning tips, meal ideas & grab the free printable meal plan and food list.

Taking Kids Camping

When camping with kids, it can take a little more planning than just packing the car and heading off. There are plenty of great family camping hacks to help though!

Getting kids out into nature is a wonderful experience for them, especially if they typically prefer to spend their time indoors with tech.

It can be the perfect way to bond as a family and appreciate the simple moments life has to offer. But in saying that, you want to be sure they are adequately entertained during your trip too.

Don’t forget the fun stuff – board games, cards, football, Frisbee, and kid-friendly snacks. Or make your own travel activity kit.

Plus the marshmallows and toasting forks, of course!

Camping With Kids Checklist

  • Sleeping bag and pillows
  • Comfortable clothes to suit the climate
  • Sneakers and flip flops
  • Hat
  • Activities for entertainment
  • Water bottle
  • Toiletries
Camping with a toddler

Taking a Baby Camping

Camping with babies means bringing enough nappies, baby food, formula if needed and any other baby safety gear you might need to suit the weather and sleeping arrangements.

Ensure you have a suitable travel crib and enough room in your tent for this to fit comfortably. This one is great for camping because it has insect protection too.

This also doubles as a useful place to set your baby up for playtime at the campsite too.

If your baby is on formula, you will need to have facilities suited to camping for sterilising and cleaning your bottles as well.

Camping With a Baby Checklist:

Camping Games For Families

These games and activities are perfect to take camping and keep the kids entertained between adventuring and exploring:

Packing Tips For Camping

Packing your personal belongings and clothing into packing cubes to keep them compact. You can give each family member a different colour packing cube to make it easy to know which belongs to who.

For kitchen and essential camping gear, place smaller items inside larger items where possible, to save space in your vehicle. Always start by packing the largest items in first and fitting the smaller items around them.

Leave any unnecessary bulky items at home.


This camping with kids checklist will help you pack the essentials for your family camping trip and hopefully not forget anything important!

If you’re not quite sure you are ready to brave the full camping experience, you can always start with glamping instead. Or hire a campervan to give yourself a few of the extra luxuries until you’re ready to try tent camping!