Camping is a great way to get outside with the family and away from the hustle of daily life. This is your time to decompress, so don’t let packing for the excursion stress you out! Whether you’re a greenhorn or a seasoned camper, this TravelingMom Ultimate Family Camping Packing list should get you out the door and to your campsite with ease.
Disclosure: Columbia Sportswear sponsored this post. All information and opinions are our own.
For many, part of the joy of camping is needing very little gear to have fun outdoors. But it’s also nice to have a comfortable and convenient campsite. And, if you have kids, you know that they need some extras by default. As you become a more experienced camper, you may find that part of the fun is trying to elevate your experience by perfecting your packing prowess!
Read more: 7 Essential Tips for Camping Newbies
Ultimate Family Camping Packing List
Most campsites include a picnic table, a place to park your car and a spot to pitch your tent. Many also have shared bathrooms and even running water. If you’re glamping, you’ll have more amenities, but it’s still good to have some essentials packed in your trunk.
Family Camping Packing List – Organizing Pre-trip
After years of trunk Tetris, I have thrown in the towel on freeform packing and switched to a more Type A approach. I love totes for my general supplies and for our kitchen kit. Try to find ones that stack and are sturdy. Even though totes can be a bit expensive, you’ll want them to last, so don’t go the cheap route here!
While you’re packing, use this handy camping checklist to make sure you don’t forget the essentials. Some things, like Pull-Ups, will be easy to grab while out and about, but if you’re really remote, you’ll have to be innovative! (This Traveling Mom forgot diapers while hiking and had to outfit baby with a begrudging dad’s t-shirt for a cloth diaper a la 1950!) This is a comprehensive list, and we don’t expect you to bring along every item — though we can’t all live from a capsule wardrobe or a carry-on sized bag, so we won’t judge if you pack everything, including the kitchen sink!
Family Camping Packing List – Making the Route, Checking it… Often.
Let’s just get this out there. As a seasoned guide and extended remote trip enthusiast, I find organization upfront saves headaches in camp. Get your perfectionist personality on and do a little work in the beginning. Just like I was taught at work while inventorying my fire engine each season, I make a list for our camping supplies. I note with an asterisk which items will need replacing or refurbishment. I throw a Sharpie into our Kitchen Kit, just in case I need to make notes.
If you don’t need a a family camping packing list, you likely have an photographic memory which would give Sheldon Cooper a run for his money. But you should still make sure you implement a system to keep all the necessary items accounted for. It saves a bunch of time in the long run.
DO NOT lend out your camping gear for other uses. If you do, you will be sitting at the base of a beautiful mountain or bankside a babbling brook, ready to start dinner without your can opener. It’s almost certain. Duplicates are an okay luxury here. You don’t need to buy expensive stuff for camping, but it is helpful to buy a different color or pattern, to identify easily your camping gear and differentiate it from your daily household items.
Please note: there will be far more items here than what you need for every situation. You may also find it is lacking for more specialized needs. Use this as a jumping off point to get you thinking in the camping mindset! And you’d probably survive a campout using this list even if it’s not personalized to your family’s exact needs. By all means, print the family camping packing list we’ve made and make it your own!
The Barebones Necessities
- Tent – this one is larger and has a sweet plug-in electric port.
- Tarp or footprint for under the tent (and an extra tarp for super deluge rain days can come in handy!),
- Family first aid kit
- Sleeping bags (rated for your intended use)
- Sleeping pads (foam “eggshell” in a pinch)
- Camp table (if you’re not at a site with a picnic table)
- Camp chairs
- Camp stove (if you’re not at a site with a fire ring OR you prefer versatility)
- Parachute cord (for clothesline and a million other uses)
Family Camping Packing List – Clothes and Gear
- Something for your clothing – if you’re car-camping, a hard-sided suitcase (a smaller, carry-on size) which fits nicely with totes and coolers. Others prefer larger capacity backpacks for more rugged settings. It’s all about what works for you.
- Layers (for everyone, but especially for the kids) – Synthetic or wool against skin (seems to keep everyone warm and wick moisture . We love the Omni Wick line Columbia offers)
- A good hoodie or fleece for on top and lounging around camp
- Raingear – at least a jacket for everyone, but sets with pants are really useful for days when the sky opens up and you still want to have adventures.
- Wool socks – more pairs than days out, especially if you will be doing a lot of hiking or if you’re staying near water.
- Undergarments – just like the socks, you should bring a few to spare.
- Outfits – it’s helpful for younger kids to have an outfit per day of camping; for older kids and adults, you can likely get by with using a few items more than once.
- A dry bag – helpful to keep on-hand for dirty laundry or for hauling wet gear back to the homefront after a fun weekend on the river.
- Good footwear is paramount to having a great experience. Bring rubber boots, warm winter boots, or sandals, respective to your adventure needs. Break in hiking boots or shoes before you put on hard trail miles. Remember, waterproof footwear can give you hot feet if not needed for wet conditions, so choose well. Your feet carry you through your day!
- A warm hat, gaiter, and pair of liner gloves (thin and very practical for dexterity) for each person in the group
- Alternately, if it’s sunny and hot out, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat for the whole gang is appropriate.
Family Camping Packing List – Personal Camping Comfort Gear
- A good headlamp for each person is essential when you are planning your family camping packing.
- A pack for quick hikes and those moments away from your base camp. Fanny packs and lumbar packs are perfect for this use!
- Make sure if the kids have a blanket or stuffed animal that it comes with if they need it to sleep. This is not the time to wean from comfort items.
- Compass and maps – it’s a great reason to know some old school skills and pass them along to your kids. You know all too well how frustrating it is when “GPS signal is lost” is announced on your phone.
- Weather band radio – they make some great ones these days with solar and crank/manual power.
- A larger pack for picnics and toting short-hike items which are too big for a lumbar or fanny pack. This convertible tote is versatile for everyday use or paired with optional shoulder straps for a heavier load
- A daypack for putting on the miles – if hiking is part of your itinerary or if you have heavy items, an actual backpacking daypack with a hydration sleeve and supportive strap system is a must.
- A water bottle for everyone is necessary, and these particular vessels keep water cool and have proven to withstand all the adventures they are subjected to, with ease.
- Sunblock, swim gear, and sun protective garments (if applicable to the season and your activities). Omni-Shield is a sun protection line which offers styles for everyone in your camping party–even the smallest tykes!
Family Camping Packing List – The Camp Kitchen
Family Camping Packing List – The Camp Kitchen
- Camp stove (also listed above, but for obvious reasons, here too)
- Fuel for the stove
- Cooler – find a size for your needs and a fit for your car and go with it!
- Storage bags (we have gallon, quart, and sandwich in our kit)
- Gallon ziplock bag of seasonings, or at least salt and pepper
- Aluminum foil
- Can Opener
- French press or percolator for coffee
- Filters/Ground coffee
- Portable coffee grinder/beans
- One set of utensils for each camper
- One set of cooking tools
- Good, sharp knives; wet stone if applicable
- Mixing spoon/whisk
- Garlic press
- Crab crackers (for those coastal adventures!)
- Marshmallow sticks (unless you whittle your own from branches)
- Matches and lighter(s) in a ziplock bag
- Cutting board (we love the flexible, thin ones)
- Mess kit
- Bonus points for nesting sets which come with dishes AND pots/pans
- If not, plan bowls, plates, and cups for each camper
- Frying Pan / Pots: One of each minimum. Different sizes are useful, if there is room
- Griddle is sometimes fun. Cast iron is great but heavy and requires regular rehab
- Pot holders or oven mitts
- Duct tape
- Bottle opener / corkscrew
- Two nesting wash bins (one for wash, one for rinse)
- Towels (one each flour sack and terry)
- Washclothes and sponges
- Eco-friendly soap (We love Camp Suds.)
- A few trash bags and grocery bags
- Baby wipes – wicked useful, even sans baby
- A roll of paper towels is handy
- EVOO or other cooking oil
I really wouldn’t go camping without either RENTING or owning/borrowing the above-mentioned gear. It’s the bare minimum for a comfortable trip, in my humble opinion. I would say you can make the swap of a tent for a hammock if that’s your preferred method for sleeping out of the elements while in the bush. Otherwise, try to line up these items AND know how to use them! This probably isn’t the time to cook on cast iron for the first time. If you are going to use your camp cook time to experiment, make sure you have another option, just in case it proves to be more temperamental than you expected!
Totally Optional Items to Add to Your Family Camping Packing List
Totally Optional Items for Your Family Camping Packing List
- Screen tent or sun awning
- Parachute hammock for lounging
- Cots (not necessary if you have a great pad!)
- Tablecloth (vinyl or wipe-easy surface, clips)
- Door mat
- All of your dog’s needs
- Solar charging stations
- AM/FM radio or bluetooth speaker for wi-fi capable sites
- Insect repellent
- Glow sticks
- Toilet paper (not all sites have ample supply or any at all)
- Solar Shower
- Firewood (be sure to buy locally or source from a hyper local area to prevent the spread of insects and disease)
- All of the items which make you happy and healthy (personal ditty bag, prescription medications, your iPhone, etc.)
- Small hatchet or axe – there are some impressive packable folding saws on the market
- Extra batteries (for the headlamps, lanterns, radios, etc.)
- Water purifier
- A small broom and dustpan (the kind you can get in the dollar section work great for keeping the tent tidy!)
- A backpack carrier for little ones which is great for hiking AND for around the campsite when you’re cooking so they stay out from under foot
Family Camping Packing List – The Stuff That Makes it Fun
- Camp Games – UNO, dice, cornhole, ladder ball, spike ball, etc.
- Field guides and binoculars
- Notebooks or journals
- Fishing gear
- Activity books
- Scavenger hunts
- Bubbles and chalk
Shop wisely, pack using our sage advice and family camping packing list, and feel free to ask us questions if you get stuck. TravelingMoms have been there, even when there is a campsite in the middle of nowhere. Teaming up with one tough mother — Ma Boyle of Columbia Sportswear was a natural fit.