Essential Camping with Kids Checklist


Writing this post makes me happy for two reasons, 1.) I got to make another list! 2.) we’re going camping again! Andrew and I grew up camping and spending tons of time outdoors and it’s important to us that we give our kids the same kind of opportunities to unwind, unplug, and recharge in nature. Beautiful things happens when you have no agenda but to make a fire and collect wild flowers. Camping is a great way to get out of the house and connect in other ways as a family, and it’s something we are really eager to do more of throughout the years! Andrew has a dream to get an airstream and fix her up so we can take extended trips around the states to the beautiful parks and forests around the country. It’s a far off dream, but maybe one day. For now, we’ve got a nice tent and all our camping gear down to a T so we can pick up and go whenever. We went camping last year in Colorado and the most spectacular time and on our way back home we vowed to carve out more time to camp and connect under the trees and stars. When we got home from our last trip a few weeks ago I made a long list of everything we took and things I wished we would have brought, plus a few easy meals that we made fireside. Camping means hot dogs and s’mores, but it can also mean smoked trout and one pot pasta. I don’t consider eating a good meal glamping, but you can call it that if you want to. There are a few other items I’ve included on this list that you may consider non-essential, but because we have little ones they helped us out quite a bit. Here’s my list, and feel free to add more suggestions in the comments below if you see that I’ve left an essential item off!


Essential Camping with Kids Checklist


  • Tent: we love our Kodiak canvas tent so much
  • Sleeping bags: one per person
  • Floor mats: Gathre makes wonderful ones that we spread out outside of our tend and in the grass
  • Pillows: one per person
  • Multi-tool: buy one with a hammer and knife combo
  • Dog leash: get an extended one with a stake
  • Child carrier: if you plan on hiking or have really young ones
  • Folding chairs: one per person is nice
  • Cot (optional but nice): our old Army cot folds up and makes a nice couch or bed
  • Lightweight blanket: option other than wool is great to have if you need a light coverup
  • Wool blanket: in case of a cold evening
  • Lantern: you’ll use this every night
  • Single propane burner: if you don’t want to light a fire but need heat
  • Water bottles: for hiking
  • Bungee cords: for who knows but as soon as you forget them you’ll need ’em
  • Cooler(s): we have a Yeti that is magical keeps everything super cold
  • Flashlight: head lamps work too
  • Backpack: if you take any day trips or hikes
  • Dog kennel: for your pup to feel safe
  • Umbrella: pray you don’t need this
  • Cloth laundry bag: we have a hanging cloth one that works well to put dirty clothes in

Food + Drink:

  • Drinking water jugs: bring more than you think you’ll need
  • Spices: spices like sea salt, pepper, Old Bay, chilies, dried herbs, make meals so much better
  • Coffee grounds: a camping must and the best way to start the day
  • Condiments: ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, BBQ sauce
  • Adult bevs: wine, wine coolers (remember Zima?), beer, more wine
  • Kid bevs: lemonade, dried milk, apple juice
  • Canned goods: salsa, smoked trout, baked beans, tuna, pasta sauce, mandarin oranges, etc.
  • Dried noodles: for one pot pasta suppers
  • Nut butter: for grilled PB&J’s
  • Cured protein: Jerky, salami, dried salmon, and other preserved meats
  • Bread or bagels: for smile fireside meals
  • S’mores fixin’s: mallows, graham crackers, chocolate (I use Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups)
  • Jam or preserves: for morning toast
  • Non-perishable snack items: granola, energy bars, crackers, chips, dried chickpeas, fruit leather
  • Coconut oil or spray: for everything from personal care to cooking
  • Dog food: keep in a sealed container because raccoons

Utensils + Tools:

  • Picnic basket: to store our food, along with canned goods and spices
  • Tablecloth: this makes our site feel a little more like home
  • Jute string: we use this for our clothesline and other odds and ends that need tied
  • Clothes pins: to seal bags and pin up wet clothing
  • Cutting board: a big wood one is the perfect kitchen camping essential
  • Scissors: sharp gardening shears are nice to have on hand
  • Matches: bring more than you think you’ll need
  • Tongs: the longer the better
  • Foil: heavy duty kind works well over grates
  • Duct tape: for all your MacGyver tendencies
  • Several cloth drying towels: for drying dishes and washing hands
  • Wooden stirring spoon: nice to have on hand when making a meal
  • Sharp knife: for meal prep
  • Enamelware pots and pans: all of my enamelware has been thrifted
  • Enamelware dining set: we have a great set from Lil Bellies
  • Can opener: never forgetting this again
  • Natural bristle scrubber: I use ones made of palm fiber and they clean up well
  • Citronella candles: to keep the skeeters away at night
  • Cloth bags: to store things and keep items together
  • Pot holder: another item I’ll never forget
  • French press: camp coffee is my fav
  • Small washing basin: you’ll want to use this to wash your dishes as it acts like a small sink
  • Trash bags: have one for trash, one for glass, and one for recyclables
  • Dry ice: much better than a melty mess
  • Firewood: you can almost always buy this on site, so bring cash
  • Firestarter: this is a good option to have packed if you are not a pyro like my husband
  • Dog water and food bowls: don’t forget Angus boy!
  • Large clear storage containers: this is what we use to store all of our gear and tools in

Clothing + Footwear: 

  • T’s or shirts (moisture-wicking): one + an extra per person, per day
  • Shorts or pants (moisture-wicking): one + an extra per person, per day
  • PJ’s: one per person
  • Swimsuits: one per person
  • Sweater or lightweight jacket: one or two per person, depending on your climate
  • Socks: one wool pair per person
  • Water shoes: one good pair per person
  • Toe covered shoes: one pair per person if you plan on doing a lot of hiking or walking
  • Rain coats or ponchos: one per person and pray you don’t need them
  • Life jackets: we also bring swimmers if there’s going to be water nearby
  • Hats: ball caps and sun hats are always nice to have when the sun is beating down

Personal Items:

  • Dr. Bronner’s soap: we use this for shampoo, body wash, and anything else that needs cleaning because it’s biodegradable and has dozens of uses
  • Sunscreen: I like packing both the spray and the lotion by Honest Co. and California Baby
  • Bug spray: we use this homemade kind 
  • First Aid Kit:
    • various bandaids
    • owie spray
    • tape
    • gauze
    • Arnica
    • chapstick
  • Toilet paper: some sites don’t have this!
  • Basic toiletries: hair brush, tooth brush, contact solution, toothpaste, etc.
  • Medications or vitamins: if you happen to take them
  • Sun glasses: for obvious reasons
  • Quick dry towels: turkish or linen towels are a nice option

Activities + Other:

  • Notebook and pens: just in case you get inspired and want to journal
  • Books: I love reading outdoors and when we camp I bring several along
  • Walkie talkies: Stella got a set for her birthday and the kids have fun playing with them
  • Coloring books and crayons: I like bringing my adult coloring book to color with Stella
  • Flower press: we took this last year on our week long trip and has so much fun preserving flowers we found
  • Card games: camping wouldn’t be camping without card games
  • Paddle ball set or bocce: outdoor games that are small enough to travel with are great
  • Gathering basket: take several alone so you and babes can gather treasures around the site
  • Magnifying glass: the kids love using theirs to see bugs up close
  • Board games: we always take Scrabble + Shoots and Ladders
  • Binoculars: get your inner gramps on and watch some birdies
  • Tennis balls: for the pup and to toss in the water
  • Soccer ball: we like to kick the ball around at sunset with a cup of wine in hand
  • Cell phone charger: keep it plugged in the car so you don’t lose track of it
  • Bluetooth speaker: we always have music playing when we camp and it’s lots of fun

Simple Fireside Meal Ideas:

  • Smoked Trout Toast: grill bread on the fire, top with smoked trout, capers, and greens
  • One Pot Pasta: cook noodles over the fire and when almost done, drain and finish cooking in jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • Grilled PB&J’s: make grilled cheese but all banana and honey to take it to the next level
  • Walking Tacos: grill up taco meat and add it to small bags of Doritos along with cheese and salsa
  • Gourmet Hot Dogs: take along a nice pack of sausages or hot dogs and bring along all the fixin’s like sour kraut, chili, ketchup, relish, mustard, pickled peppers, and anything else you like on your dogs
  • Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: wrap washed sweet potatoes in foil to cook over the fire, when done add toppings like salsa or chili
  • Quesadillas: these are easy to make on the skillet and an easy crowd pleaser
  • Spicy Tomato Eggs (Shakshuka): add one can of stewed tomatoes to a skillet with oil or butter and cook with garlic and hot sauce for 30 minutes and add eggs sunny side up – cook until eggs set and dip crusty bread in for a yummy breakfast or supper


You can also read more about our past camping adventures here! 








  • Allison - Where did you find your Leaf/Flower Press? I’d love to start doing that with my daughter! What a great idea!ReplyCancel

  • Reagan - Where are those adorable cards for stretching from?! Love them.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Ah, lists and camping and camping lists! You are speaking my love language. Thank you for compiling this. I will be using this list in the near future 🙂 I have a few other suggestions for camping with littles. We have an ENO lounger chair (from REI) that you can hang from any old tree. My husband and I each got one years ago for camping happy hours … now with kids, they are the perfect “swings” for little ones. It’s endless entertainment for ours while we set up camp and they’re even better if you can find a creek to hang them over. Also wellies for the kids for cold mornings, rocky creek wading and muddy campsites. We used to bring our regular bed pillows but quickly realized they were too big, and secretly I stressed about ruining my good cases. I’ve found that a good solution is to use outdoor throw pillows (like the $10 kind you find at home depot) wrapped with an old flannel pillow case works great! Perfect size for sleeping bags and you can come home to a clean pillow. Also, at the end of the camping trip I have my kiddos toss their dirty clothes into their pillow case to haul home … the cases go directly to the laundry room and they are already sorted for me to wash/dry.ReplyCancel

  • Carissa - I like to bring aloe and anti-itch cream, in case I forget to put sunscreen on throughout the day and if the bug spray fails. Pain reliever because my family is pron to migraines and an extension cord.ReplyCancel

  • Catalina lyliston - This is a great list! We go camping often but I always end up making a list every time and it’s easy to forget things that way. One thing we always bring is our Eno hammock as it’s great entertainment for the kids and the grownups too!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - Those are cute cards for kids! What are they? ThanksReplyCancel

  • Julie - Camping with kids is one of my favorite things to do! You might enjoy the tips I shared last year:

    Have a great time!ReplyCancel

  • Victoria - I adore this post, my little one is only 6 months and we can’t wait to take him camping here in the Canadian rockies!! I will definitely put this list into action when it comes time to set ourselves up with all the gear – thanks so much! Your blog is simply the best, I really appreciate all that you put into it.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - I would add a small broom for brushing sand/dirt out of the tent, a “doormat” (car mat works for this) for tent entrance when taking shoes off, a thermarest (I might be a lightweight but I can’t sleep on hard ground anymore!), a couple of Mason jars for leftovers, napkins, and campfire pie iron. But this is a great list! Love the looks of that tent!ReplyCancel

  • A - I find this list super helpful and I don’t even have children! My husband and I just returned from an 8 week trip in our VW van. We went to TX, NM, CO, WY, and MT in search of national parks and monuments. Attempting to process it all, but a wonderful trip. We just returned on Thursday and I miss it already.
    You highlighted some things we found very helpful, but I’ll also list our top items: YETI (bought mine new on Craigslist), Pendleton blanket for chilly nights (Craigslist), Kelty privacy tent (REI) and solar shower (Amazon) for sites without showers (becomes an issue after multiple days), Luci solar lights for reading and campsite safety (Amazon).
    We also loved bagel/English muffin pizzas (just place in foil wrapped grates on dying fire or in cast iron pan with foil cover). Yum.ReplyCancel

  • Joy Swanson - Great list, thanks! Where do you like to camp in MO? We are in St Louis and have found a lot of the camp grounds a bit too RV/TV heavy with not enough like-minded tent/unplugged folks.ReplyCancel

  • Juliana - I was wondering if you could describe your experience with camping with your pup! We have a 3 month old border collie and we have been dying to go camping but since he sleeps in a crate we didn’t know how this would work! Do you put your pup’s crate in the tent??ReplyCancel

  • Kate - Please can you add me to the distribution list for the blog – I can’t find it anywhere!ReplyCancel

  • Erica Gilbert - Great post! In my opinion hand sanitizers are another essential item that should be in your child’s bag when he or she heads out for a camping trip. Alcohol-free sanitizers are a good option, since they are not abrasive on your child’s tender skin and work longer because they don’t evaporate as quickly. When looking for hand sanitizers, check for foam-based formulae that stay on the skin even after drying up and provide a protective layer to the skin for prolonged defense.ReplyCancel

  • sally mae - Do you guys have the simple kodiak tent, or the cabin version? I’m dreaming of summer over here and getting camping trips booked! 😉ReplyCancel

  • Derek Dewitt - My wife and I are thinking about taking the kids camping this weekend, so thanks for sharing this checklist. I like that you include a pair of wool socks for each person. This would be perfect in case it rains for sure.ReplyCancel

  • suzanne - Where did you get those activity cards? I’d love to take them on vacation with us for our little ones.ReplyCancel

  • Show & Tell | The Ing’s of Late Summer » Homesong - […] Dreaming: about enjoying the rest of summer. I know that’s not fancy or even really dream-like, but I just want to savor the rest of this season as slowly as possible before school starts and our schedules fill up a bit more after Labor Day. We have a camping trip coming up that was supposed to be in Yosemite, but given the sad and horrendous California fires, we may be needing and wanting to change that up. No concrete plans as of now, but we are starting to gather up supplies and that feels good. You can read all about our camping essentials here, my friends. […]ReplyCancel

  • CAMPING – mrs johns - […] Homesong – Essential Camping with Kids Checklist […]ReplyCancel

  • Stacie - This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this
    one. A must read post!ReplyCancel

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