Family Camping Packing Checklist

Family Camping Packing ChecklistHaving just returned from camping with my son’s preschool, our camping packing checklist is fresh on my mind, including all of the things that we forgot to bring! This is my second year in a row of planning my son’s preschool camping trip. I love the planning and organizational aspects of this role, but I hate when I forget items. For posterity’s sake, I have written out our family camping packing checklist as a reference for myself for next year, as well as to help anyone else who is planning a camping trip with their little ones.

You can also download or print the Family Camping Packing List (PDF).

We recommend packing things in plastic bins for ease of carrying in/out of the campsite. If you end up using smaller boxes, think about using a fold up wagon or large rolling chest.

Family Camping - Packing Checklist

The Essentials

  • Tent
  • Air Mattress / Cots / Pack-n-play
  • Bedding (sheets, blankets, pillows) / Sleeping Bags
  • Tarp
  • Cooler
  • Folding Chairs
  • Mallet

The Basics

  • Flashlights & Lanterns
  • Extra Batteries
  • Long Lighter &/or Matches
  • Pocket Knife
  • Duct Tape
  • Propane Tanks
  • Camp Stove
  • Dust Pan & Small Broom
  • Lighter Fluid & Fire starters
  • Charcoal/Wood Chips

Family Camping - Packing Checklist

The Camp Kitchen

  • Paper Towels
  • Baby Wipes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Seasonings
  • Condiments
  • Olive Oil
  • Large frying pan
  • Large Pot
  • Pot Holders
  • Tea Towels 
  • Plates, bowls, cold cups & coffee cups (reusable or disposable)
  • Forks, Spoons, Knives
  • Serving spoons
  • Aluminum roasting pans for heating things up over a grill
  • Spatula
  • Grilling tongs
  • Marshmallow roasting sticks
  • Bottle &/or Can openers (if required)
  • Flexible plastic cutting board
  • Strainer
  • Kettle for coffee/tea
  • Tablecloth (secure with fasteners or duct tape)
  • Biodegradable dishwashing soap, scouring pad and wash basin
  • Grill Grate (Optional)
  • Trash Bags


This is a small bin of basic medical items. We keep this bin in our car at all times since we regular hike and are out exploring in nature. For those of you in earthquake prone areas, this is also useful as part of earthquake preparedness.

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunburn Cream
  • First Aid Kit
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Advil
  • Tums
  • Allergy Medications (Benadryl)
  • Cortisone Cream
  • Insect Repellent

Family Camping - Packing ChecklistEntertainment

This container is essentially one for the kids to spur them on during those moments of “I’m bored”. For adults, you can also add in books or bluetooth speakers for relaxation.

  • Bubbles
  • Glow Sticks
  • Kite
  • Magnifying glass
  • Bug catching set
  • Binoculars
  • Sports Equipment (Soccer ball and net, baseball bat/glove, badminton, frisbee)
  • Craft Supplies (tape, glue, pot paints and cheap paint brushes)
  • Scooters/Bikes

To Glamp It Up

There is nothing better than adding a little class to your camping trip. This is something I have been slowly learning while watching the pro’s. It adds such a nice touch, especially after a long day loading in and setting up camp.

  • Hammock
  • Fairy Lights (Solar)
  • Duvet for the bed
  • Folding Table with Table Cloth
  • Magazines
  • Wine with Fruit & Cheese plate
  • French Press for Coffee

Family Camping - Packing ChecklistPersonal Items

Just as it says, personal items. All of your clothes, toiletries, daily items used when getting dressed and ready – even if all you do while camping is wash your face and brush your teeth, having access to everything is good for moral!

  • Toiletries (We love face wipes and on the go toothbrushes)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Washcloth
  • Hand Soap
  • Bandana
  • Hair Clips
  • Lotion
  • Prescription Medications
  • Flip Flops
  • Hiking Boots
  • Change of Clothes
  • Swim Wear
  • Beach Towel (if required)
  • Hoodie/Sweatshirt
  • Socks

The last major category not listed above is food! Plan your meals in advance and freeze everything you can. Pack your cooler carefully, starting at the bottom with items you will use/need last and working your way up to the top.  A useful tip is to freeze your water bottles in advance (for summer camping) to help keep the cooler cold and provide yourself with cold drinking water as it melts.

For more tips on heading out on your first camping trip with kids, check out our post Tips on Camping with Kids.

Anything we forgot? What are your must have items for camping with a family?

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9 Responses to “Family Camping Packing Checklist”

  1. Random Musings Says:

    Wow, I don’t take that much anywhere! My essentials – tent, sleeping bag, pillow, tooth brush and paste, baby wipes and clean underwear. Mind you we camp in the middle of no where not on a site and are usually only there for 1 night
    Popping by on the A to Z Road Trip
    Random Musings recently posted…When The Story Writes Itself!My Profile


    • kkowen Says:

      Do you go with kids? Somehow the addition of kids multiplies your supply list exponentially 😉 but I’ve never been a good backpack camper! I need my comforts!


  2. Lisa Says:

    We don’t use charcoal or wood chips but fire wood is a must. We also carefully plan our frozen food/ice/cooler situation carefully. Space, melted ice, and did not kept cold is no bueno. One idea is to freeze water bottles ahead of time to keep food cold. I use Avon skin so soft bug and sunscreen. Bring tweezers in your first aid kit for splinters in kids. We also packed whistles and taught our kids to whistle if they were separated from us. We also bring hats and I use my iPod to sleep through noisy camp neighbors.


    • kkowen Says:

      Good idea on the tweezers! We actually needed some last weekend!
      And earplugs or iPod is great as neighbors are always noisy!

      It seems that at most CA camping sites tea wood fires are not allowed. We haven’t been able to use wood for years!


  3. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler Says:

    I’d probably never think of bringing duct tape while heading out on a camping trip. Good suggestion though! I also like your “entertainment” list! We’re not going camping this summer, but my daughter is going to an overnight girl scout camp, and even though we do have a list of things she needs to bring, I might give her some bubbles too 🙂 For the down time. I hope they’ll allow it.
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler recently posted…Clam Chowder from Scratch: An Ode to Vacation RentalsMy Profile


    • kkowen Says:

      The kids really LOVED glow sticks of the will allow those. We bought the tubes of 15 for a dollar at Target. They were a hit!


  4. Kristen Mason Says:

    Thanks a lot for the packing checklist! This is my first camping and I want to be prepared about it. I don’t want to miss anything to pack and take with us.


  5. Lisa Says:

    We always pack a French press for our coffee 🙂


  6. Agness of eTramping Says:

    Amazing list! I’m saving your post for my next camping! A detailed and useful list, Karilyn!
    Agness of eTramping recently posted…5 Beautiful Road Trips Around IrelandMy Profile


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