Checklist for Camping with Your Kids

It seems like on every camping adventure, even those where I did not bring my children, I would forget something. This is easy to do and will likely continue to happen unless I get myself organized. In fact, on a recent camping trip my husband and I realized that we had forgotten a lighter or matches, which meant we had to drive outside of the National Park to purchase one of these tools. Thinking about how to organize ourselves for our adventures has led to my developing this checklist for camping. This list includes the items you would bring when camping without children, as well as those items that make camping with your children a much better experience.

Sleeping Quarters and Campsite

A good night’s sleep is important, whether at home or when you are camping. In fact, it is hard to enjoy your time outdoors when you are struggling with fatigue. Also, when you don’t have everything you need when you are camping, it makes everything much harder. Should you not have extra tent stakes, you will have to go searching for something at the campsite that will meet the same need.

Use this checklist to ensure you have everything you need for spending a few nights outdoors and sleeping comfortably. It is important to remember that not all of these items are imperative. Some could be useful for you and your family depending on your preferences.

Tent or Tents

Shelter for shade or rain

Tarp or footprint (underneath tent)

Toilet paper (even if you are camping where there are bathrooms)

Tarp or rainfly above tent

Fire starting material

Sleeping pads or air mattress


Sleeping Bags

Battery operated or electric air pump (should you be using an air mattress)

AA batteries

Camping pillows

AAA batteries

Extra tent stakes

3D batteries

Repair kit for air mattress or sleeping pad

Small shovel

Flashlights, lantern, head lamp

First Aid Kit (with tweezers)

Camping chairs


Sun shower

Deck of playing cards

**the hammock is not imperative though it makes a great activity to keep kids happy. Both my daughter and my son can spend hours in the hammock. And I love that because I know right where they are.

Camp Kitchen

Whether you are a gourmet camp cook or you reheat canned food, there are certain items that are important to have with you to prepare and serve meals. It is important to consider that everyone’s cooking needs are different; for some, a simple backpacking stove is all that is necessary to cook meals. My kids and I did just fine with my backpacking stove for quite some time before we invested in a two burner camping stove. Other households prefer having a two burner stove and a backpacking stove to cook multiple things at the same time. For campers that reheat, there may not be any need to take along spices. The large water jug is particularly helpful when camping where there is no sink. The jug can be used as a sink of sorts to fill up water bottles, wash hands and clean dishes. For some, a folding table is important for food preparation, though for others the table may take up too much space in the car to be worth the trouble. Take a look at this list and choose to pack those items that are important for you and your family.

Camping stove

Water purifier/filter

Propane for camping stove

Large water jug

Pocket Rocket backpacking stove


Small propane canister

Matches or lighter

Cookware set

Water bottles to fill for hikes

Camping dishes

Plastic bags or plastic containers to pack sandwiches and snacks for hiking or other adventures (or to pack leftovers)

Camping utensils

Dish soap

Dutch oven


Coffee pot

Oven Mitts

Folding table

Mixing bowl

Cutting board

Table cloth

Cutting knives

Paper towels

Measuring cup

Coals (for cooking with Dutch oven)

Can opener

Portable sink or bin to use as a place to wash dishes

Assorted spices

Clothing to Pack

While you want to have all that you need to set up camp, it is key that you have the items necessary to keep warm and dry, as well as take advantage of all of the adventure available. This list may vary from trip to trip, though I recommend always bringing your rain gear. Getting wet, and consequently cold, will often lead to feeling uncomfortable.

Rain gear

Good shoes for walking

Fleece Jacket

Comfortable shoes for hanging around the campsite

Depending on weather, possible warm coat

Water shoes if camping near lakes, creeks or rivers

Jeans or other warm pants

Bathing suit if swimming is a possibility

Warm socks



Underwear/long underwear if cold weather

T-shirt, long-sleeve shirt

Bag for dirty clothes

Personal Items

This list includes the items that would be key in most travel situations. While they seem so basic that there is no need to add them to a list, in my experience, sometimes it is the most basic things that we forget.




Feminine products





Shower shoes/flip flops



Bug Repellant



Items Specifically for Camping with Kids

These items are particularly helpful for keeping kids clean and engaged. Between all that the outdoors has to offer and these additional fun items from home, children will have plenty to keep them occupied.

Diapers (if necessary)

Favorite stuffed toy

Hand Wipes

Extra clothing, underwear, shoes and socks

Hand Sanitizer

Pack and play


Child carrier backpack

A few favorite toys

Child size camping chair


Headlight or flashlight for each child


Battery-powered nightlight

Coloring book and crayons

Children’s binoculars

I hope this checklist will help you as you prepare for your upcoming adventures. Remember that this list is a starting point. You can add any items you would like, and remove those that are not necessary for your family. The important thing is to make the list work for you.

Please share what items you feel are imperative when camping with your family. How do you best keep your children engaged?


Ilyssa is a mother of four who is employed full-time as a grant writer and who enjoys writing freelance articles in her spare time. Ilyssa has a great love of adventure and the outdoors, which she hopes she is passing along to her children. Last summer Ilyssa and her family took a five week road trip, camping and exploring most of the western United States. The trip inspired Ilyssa to work towards achieving flexible employment and/or financial freedom, so that she and her family may continue to travel and explore all nature has to offer, and not just for a few weeks out of the year.