| |

Family Camping Essentials: The ultimate packing checklist

This post contains affiliate links from which I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting me and my family.

Looking to embark on a camping adventure with the whole family? Well, there’s no better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with a family camping trip! But before you hit the road, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need on your Camping Packing List for Families. I have it all whether you’re car camping, RV camping, or a complete camping newbie!

the family camping packing list guide picture family in hammock

Why Camping is Important for Families?

Why are we even attempting camping, you might ask? Is it really important for families? Well, let me tell you, the answer is a resounding YES! Camping is the ultimate family adventure that allows you to create memories that will last a lifetime. From roasting marshmallows by the fire to stargazing under the clear night sky, camping provides endless opportunities for the whole family to bond and have a great experience together.

In today’s technology-driven world, it’s more important than ever to unplug and disconnect from our devices, and camping provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Whether you’re hiking through the woods, swimming in a nearby lake, or simply lounging in a hammock, there’s something for the entire family to enjoy while breathing in that fresh, crisp air.

Check out my post on what makes camping so fun (especially for families) if you need any more convincing!

family having breakfast at the campsite and showing examples of what to pack for family camping
Good morning from our campsite! Lightweight reusable plastic plates for the win!

Type of camping experience: Car camping, vs backpacking, vs RVing

We are going to be covering car camping and RV camping. I am not a backpacker, so I won’t pretend to be an expert there. There are many wonderful family backpackers who can better guide you, but for me, car camping and RV camping are my jam. 

family camping essentials family in tent laughing

Let’s start with the most Important Items on a Camping Packing List for Families

example of multipurpose cast iron pan for camping
this is actually the lid to our cast iron pot, we just flip it over and it’s a perfect cooking surface!

The Master List for All Camping Types

  1. Meal plan: Having a well thought out meal plan will help you stay organized and make sure you bring all the food you need for your entire camping trip. The exact meal plan will depend on the type of camping you are doing. Make sure you make your grocery list and bring all those ingredients and items needed to cook them. Don’t forget little things like salt, cooking oil ect that you might not think of. These items often get forgotten because we are so used to just having them in our normal kitchen. 
  2. Camp kitchen gear: Essential items like a stove, pots or frying pan, and utensils will ensure you can cook up a storm in the great outdoors. Don’t forget things like a long stirring spoon or tongues if you are planning to cook over the fire. Again, your exact cooking gear will again depend on your type of camping. If you are RV camping you have more packing space and can take more gear. Check out below for specific tips for different kinds of camping. And tinfoil! I don’t know why but we end up using tinfoil ALL THE TIME! It’s perfect for wrapping veggies or fries in to cook near the fire!
  3. Water storage: Bringing enough water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning is crucial, so be sure to have a reliable water storage system or that the campsite you are going to has drinking water. We have a large stainless steel jug (this is the one we use) we fill and bring, we also recently got a Berkey that we are loving and plan to bring with us. Both are great options. 
  4. Coffee or tea gear: What is your plan to make coffee (or tea?)? We use a Chemex pour-over coffee pot and then a kettle that can be used over the fire (like this one). And don’t forget the coffee grounds and anything you put in your coffee! You are welcome!
  5. Fire starting: Matches, lighter, fire starter, and wood. I also love my fire gloves for moving the cooking grate and pots/pans around. I would highly recommend them!
  6. Trash Bags: Carry garbage bags to keep your campsite clean and to pack out any trash.
  7. Personal items: Don’t forget personal items like toiletries, sunscreen, and medications if needed to make sure you stay comfortable and healthy while camping.
  8. This might be obvious but pack clothes! I recommend packing clothes that all mix and match and don’t overpack! Check out my article on how to dress for camping for everything you need to know about what to wear! And check out my favorite kid’s clothing brand for some great camping clothes for kids: Primary!
  9. Extra warm socks: I can’t live without my thick wool socks well camping. Nothing says you are a cool camper like warm wool socks paired with sandals in the morning!
  10. Water gear: if your campground is near water (river, lake, or ocean) and you’re camping in the warmer months, don’t forget your bathing suit and sun protection (hat, SPF clothes, or sunscreen). 
  11. Bug spray: bug spray is so important, but also candles or other insect repellents for around the campsite
  12. First aid kit: A well-stocked first aid kit can help you be prepared for any cuts, scrapes, or other injuries that might happen while camping.
  13. Your own pillows: There is nothing like your own pillow when camping and with RV camping or tent camping you should have enough room to pack it!
  14. Sleep things for the kiddos! You need their sleep space to feel a little like home so they are able to settle in faster. Also, a battery-powered sound machine is important if you use white noise at home. You don’t want their first night without it to be on your trip.
  15. Hiking gear: many campgrounds have hiking trails starting at the campground or nearby so bring your hiking gear! Backpack, hiking shoes, and water bottles ect. Check out my article on hiking gear for kids if you want more details.
  16. Simple activities: Bringing along simple activities like a deck of cards or a book can help you relax and unwind in the great outdoors. Also, think of some easy activities for young kids. Check out my article on camping activities for families and camping activities for toddlers coming soon!
  17. Outdoor games: Packing outdoor games like frisbees or football can keep the whole family entertained and active during downtime.
  18. Extra gear: Think about bringing more things to make this adventure even more fun for the family: scooters or bikes.
  19. Camp hammock. We LOVE our camp hammock, we eat in it, play in it, and read in it. It doubles as a kid’s swing. We have the large size by Eno so we can all fit in! We use this one along with the atlas straps (here is a package deal)
  20. Flashlights and lanterns with extra batteries
  21. Toilet paper! The last thing you want is to get to your campsite and realize you don’t have any. You’re welcome…
example of what to bring for kids to sleep on when camping
Always bring your kid’s favorite stuffed animal or blankets. That way their new space feels safe and familiar to them.

RV Camping Packing List for Families:

You have lots of space to pack in an RV! I find it’s helpful to organize and pack everything away in the drawers and cabinets before we hit the road. Then load any outside gear in the center hallway. That way when we get there we can easily set up camp!

glass wine glass by campfire, important add to the camping packing list for families
I can’t help myself, can’t use a plastic cup, gotta have the glass
  1. Know your RV trailer length. Campsites have length restrictions so you need to know how many ft trailer you have (and check that it works before you book your site)
  2. Bedding: Sheets, blankets, and pillows for the RV bed(s).
  3. Extra blankets: Oftentimes it can get cold at night, and while camping you are less protected. Bring extra blankets so you are able to get a good night’s sleep! 
  4. Kitchen gear for in the RV: Most RVs have a stove top of sorts and you can use normal kitchen gear with it. Some RVs also have propane grills you can hook up to the outside so you can cook outside. Bring standard grill gear for that.
  5. Utensils for cooking over the fire: cast iron pots, and long-handled utensils so you can cook safely (otherwise your hands are in the fire). We use a cast iron pot that has a lid that can be flipped over and used like a frying pan. So it’s a two-in-one situation. 
  6. Plates, utensils, and cups: paper is always an option if you want to conserve water and time. I also use reusable plastic plates, cups, and bowls. I do bring ceramic mugs and glass wine glasses and just know there is a high chance they will break (it just happens while camping), but I can’t make myself drink coffee or wine out of plastic, it’s not the same!
  7. Outdoor Gear: Chairs, tables (we like a small folding table for cooking), and Screen tents for around the picnic table. You should have plenty of space for all of these things in the RV. I do recommend a screen tent, some locations are buggy! We usually put the screen tent over our picnic table. 
  8. RV Accessories: Leveling blocks, hoses, and electrical adapters.
  9. Safety Equipment: Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, and carbon monoxide detector (most RV’s have these already, so this is more to double check that your RV does)
  10. Maintenance Tools: Basic tools for any minor repairs or adjustments to the RV.
  11. Extra Batteries: Keep spare batteries for flashlights, lanterns, and other electronic devices.
add a hammock to your camping packing list for families, a family enjoying a hammock while camping
we live in our hammock when camping…we even have breakfast in it some mornings!

Car Camping Packing List for Families:

Depending on the type of car you have you might be more pressed for space. By the time you load in a cooler and tent, things can get squishy. So, think about minimizing and packing as lightly as possible. 

  1. Tent: A tent with stakes, poles, and guylines (that one was probably obvious, but you certainly don’t want to forget it
  2. Sleeping Gear: Sleeping bags, sleeping pads or air mattresses, and pillows.
  3. Extra blankets: Oftentimes it can get cold at night, and while camping you are less protected. Also, if you are using an air mattress or pad to sleep on, make sure to put a blanket or sleeping bag between you and the mattress or pad. This makes a huge difference! 
  4. Campsite Kitchen: Camp stove, fuel, cookware, utensils, 
  5. Cooler for food storage. You will want to pick a cooler that can keep food cool for a few days at least. 
  6. Utensils for cooking over the fire: cast iron pots, and long-handled utensils so you can cook safely. We use a cast iron pot that has a lid that can be flipped over and used like a frying pan. So it’s a two-in-one situation. 
  7. Food and Drinks: Non-perishable food items, snacks, and plenty of water.
  8. Lighting: Flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps for visibility during the night.
  9. Camping Chairs and table: Lightweight chairs. Most campsites have a picnic table, but if it does not a foldable table will be helpful
  10. Outdoor Gear: Hammock, and any other outdoor recreational equipment that might fit like bikes or scooters for the kids.
relaxing in a hammock with a sunset view, hammock is an important item to add to the camping packing list for families
sandal tan and hammock swing! Kids must have been sleeping or I wouldn’t have been able to snap this pic!

Adjust your list depending on the weather and time of year

It’s important to check the weather forecast and adjust your camping packing list for families list accordingly. If the days are going to be rainy, you will want extra rain gear so you can still enjoy your camping time. I will say rainy day camping is a little more fun in an RV (just my personal opinion). Also, be aware of the time of year. If mornings or nights are colder you will need extra cold-weather gear. 

Extra Gear for Various Weather Conditions:

  1. Cooler temperatures: Warm sleeping bags, insulated sleeping pads, thermal blankets, hand warmers, thermos for hot drinks, and cold-weather clothing including hats, gloves, and thermal layers.
  2. Hot Weather: Lightweight and breathable clothing, wide-brimmed hats or sun hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, a portable fan, and a shade canopy or tarp to create shelter from the sun.
  3. Rainy days: Waterproof or water-resistant tent, rainfly or tarp for extra coverage, waterproof clothing (jackets, pants, boots), waterproof storage bags or dry bags for keeping your belongings dry, and extra towels or microfiber cloths for drying off.

Remember to check the weather forecast before your camping trip and adjust your packing list accordingly. It’s better to be prepared for different weather scenarios to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.

everything is a toy when camping with kids, two kids playing with sticks on a camping trip
We don’t worry about packing many toys, sticks (and empty cans), make the best toys.

For my Camping Newbies

Camping newbies, embarking on your first outdoor adventure, remember that the key to success lies in simply going out and trying it! Even if your first camping experience isn’t perfect, each time you go, you’ll gain valuable knowledge and skills to make the next one even better. Don’t worry if things don’t go exactly as planned—learning and adapting is part of the fun! You are brave and taking great strides for your family’s enjoyment and connection with nature. Go you! I’m here to assist you in making this camping adventure a resounding success. Happy camping!!!

Still not sure how to do all this nature time with your family?

Let’s take a pause then: for some families, all this nature time and outdoor time can feel overwhelming. Usually, for us parents. I have lots of info on getting outside and making that time successful! Check out my article on learning to love nature time here, and on how to start family hiking here. Don’t worry my friends, I got your back! Now on to the best camping gifts for kids!

camp grill helps make an easy meal while camping with family
Nachos are an easy meal with our propane camp grill! Hooks right up to the camper. (you can also spy the water jug in the background if you are curious)

Think about where you will be going when making a camping packing list for families

Make sure you check out what the campsite has to offer. State parks and national parks often provide picnic tables and fire pits with grills, making it easier to cook and be outside. 

If you’re planning an RV adventure, it’s important to check if the campsite offers hookups for water, electricity, and sewage disposal (or at least a dump station nearby). Some RV’s do have solar panels so electricity isn’t as important. And most do have generators, but campgrounds often have rules about when you can use them and many standard RVs go through their batteries very quickly. So, if you are new to RV life starting out with a campsite that does have hookups will make your life easier. OR just go assuming your RV is a tent. That mindset also works. 

fire gloves and charcoal shown with a mother and son on a camping trip
Hug break in between the charcoal and fire gloves!

Packing for Camping Tips for Kids:

If you’ve joined the fam here you will not be surprised by this tip, but my top tip for camping with kids is:

Involve them in the whole process…and that starts with the packing!

Show them the list (or talk it through with them) and do at least some of the packing together! Find ways that even younger kids can help (like packing their own clothes or counting out how many pairs of undies they need). Older kids can be shown the list and involved even more! 

This not only helps teach them responsibility but also allows them to feel a sense of ownership over the trip. Additionally, have them think about and choose the activities they would like to do while camping. When children have a say in selecting the activities, they become more invested and excited, making them more likely to actively participate and enjoy the chosen activities once they’re at the campsite.

example of ceramic mugs to add to your packing list for families
Cheers my friends and happy camping!

That’s a wrap on my camping packing list for families

Are you ready to go?? Have any more questions? Just write a comment and I’ll get right back to you!

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *