The Essential Camping Checklist for Families (2023)

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 02/24/22 •  30 min read

So, you need an essential camping checklist for families?

Let’s talk NEED v.s. WANT.

Camping, in its purest form, is “getting away from it all.” In other words, you’re reserving time and space to leave behind the distractions that consume your time and energy with superfluous, meaningless activities …

… to reconnect with family and the natural world around us.

Just Luke, me, and Tenaya Lake, Yosemite. A perfect day.

As such, it’s important to remember that the more you take with you, the more there is to be responsible for and maintain – the less time you (and the family) will have to spend engaging with each other.

So, when you’re composing your ultimate family camping checklist, consider carefully what you pack and ask yourself,

“Do I really need this?”

Still, going camping should be an enjoyable experience. It’s okay to blend the necessities with a few modern comforts and conveniences. Just keep family time front and center!

In the following post, we have taken over 40 years of family camping experience as well as the input from many others to derive a comprehensive list, from the essentials to (just a few) nice-to-have-comforts to get you packing for your next family camping trip.

QUICK LINKS
  1. The Essential Camping Checklist for Families
  2. Planning and Preparation Camping Essentials
  3. Campsite Essentials
  4. Camp Lighting Essentials
  5. Camp Kitchen Essentials
  6. Maintenance and Cleaning Essentials
  7. Pet Gear Essentials
  8. Personal Carry Essentials
  9. Toiletry and Hygiene Essentials
  10. Navigating Essentials
  11. First Aid and Sun/Bug Protection Essentials
  12. Electronic Essentials
  13. Camping Clothing Essentials
  14. Cold Weather Camping Essentials
  15. Hot Weather Camping Essentials
  16. Rainy Weather Camping Essentials
  17. Conveniences and Comforts when Camping
  18. What Are the 5 Most Important Things to Bring When You Go Camping?
  19. What Should You Not Bring When Camping?
  20. What Should You Not Keep In a Tent?
  21. What Are Things You Should Not Do While Camping?
  22. Wrapping up Camping Checklist for Families

The Essential Camping Checklist for Families

The word “essential” has as many unique definitions as there are opinions in the world; so, you are at liberty to add and detract from our list as you see fit.

However, when car camping, I find the following list to be ideal for my family whether we are camping overnight or for a week at a time.

Planning and Preparation Camping Essentials

At the top of a camping checklist for families should be some prerequisite considerations: your camping budget, where you are planning on camping, the weather at that location, and how many people will be camping with you.

If you are camping with kids, there may be additional things to consider such as safety and entertainment.

Also, consider what type of camping you will be doing.

This guide is specifically for those tent camping in an improved campground, such as in a state or national park, where their car will be parked nearby (a.k.a. car camping).

Car camping in Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

As you begin planning for your next camping trip, begin with the following considerations and preparations:

1. Camping Budget

A few months in advance, take the time to estimate the cost of:

I also recommend establishing a “camping fund” in which you can set aside a certain amount each month to spend on camping trips.

2. Camping Reservations

Be sure to reserve your campsite via the park website or over the phone. Additionally, it’s best to have a printout of your reservation info to present at the entrance gate.

3. Campground Amenities and Provisions

Check out the park website and scope the scene: Is there a water spigot, electrical outlet, nearby wash houses, dumpsters, etc.?

Campsite amenities like a fire ring, picnic table, and shade mean less packing for you!

4. Weather and Climate Preparations

Prepare for rain, wind, heat, or cold. Know before you go.

Certainly, everyone will be grumpy if you don’t … at you!

5. Trail Terrain Preparations

Topographical park maps (both state and national) can be acquired online in advance.

Study them and be aware of what the hiking trails are going to throw at you. It makes the difference between shorts and pants, trail shoes and hiking boots, ability and more ability!

6. Number of Campers on the Trip

The number of campers weighs heavily on food preparations and gear. Make sure everyone has what they need.

7. Packing or Storage Containers

Stay organized!

Clear plastic containers make some of the best camping gear storage bins. And make it easy to separate categories of items and see what’s inside without playing the all-too-frustrating Guessing Game.

Stock up on a few and begin to consider how you are going to organize your gear and supplies.

Oh, and make sure they all fit in the car!

Campsite Essentials

The first section on our essential camping list has to. do with creating a comfortable campsite that provides shelter and comfort for sleeping as well as creating a space for lounging and communing.

1. Tent

When camping with kids, your family camping packing list should include a tent (or tents) that is large enough to house everyone in your party as well as frequently used camping gear (clothing, toiletries (nothing scented), and personal gear).

Best Cost-to-Quality Family Tent
MOON LENCE Pop Up Tent Family Camping Tent
$139.99 $129.99
  • 6 ft. L x 6 ft. W x 5.8 ft. H (6-Person model)
  • 11.2 lbs.
  • Application: 3-season (not intended for sub-freezing temperatures)
  • 63D 190T 1000mm polyurethane fabric with B3 Mesh Vents and Windows
  • Resilient Fiber Glass Poles
  • Mesh gear pockets and e-port
  • Rain fly, guy ropes, pegs, and carry bag included
  • Lifetime Warranty
Pros:
  • Fully-assembled, quick pop-up deployment
  • Low price with a generous warranty
  • About 4 lbs. lighter than others its size
  • Well ventilated
  • Spacious enough for a queen-size camping mattress
Cons:
  • You'll want to size up: if you have 4 people, get the 6-person model
  • Does not include a floor tarp or tent footprint ... and it needs one.
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02/27/2024 08:30 am GMT

While a conventional dome tent will do for virtually all 3-season camping scenarios, you can more great options in our post on Best Instant Tents.

2. Tent Footprint or Tarp

Usually, only high-end, ultralight backpacking tents come equipped with a footprint for the tent.

Footprints and camping tarps add an extra layer of material between the tent and the ground providing added protection against abrasion and potential rips and tears from rocks or sticks (which can become seriously problematic in an unexpected downpour, not to mention shorten the life of your tent.)

3. Rainfly or Camping Tarp

While most tents come with a rainfly included, it’s important to check the packaging before setting out on your next family camping trip.

If your tent’s not equipped with one, you can pick up an inexpensive camping tarp to substitute.

Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp - 10 x 12 Feet
$28.49
  • Multi-purpose outdoor tarp is great for covering items or placement under a camping tent
  • Waterproof design made of durable rip-stop fabric with polyethylene lamination on both sides
  • Rugged rust-resistant grommets along the outer edge for securely tying down the tarp
  • Reinforced corners and edges for long-lasting strength
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 11.3 feet
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03/01/2024 08:31 pm GMT

However, a rainfly is not just good for keeping out unwanted moisture; they also hold in heat in cold weather and provide privacy while changing clothes inside the tent.

4. Mallet or Hammer

Driving in those tent stakes with a bare hand can be a literal pain without a good mallet or hammer.

Hikemax Lightweight Aluminum Camping Hammer
$14.99
  • HIGH CARBON STEEL - Forged high-carbon steel head & hook for strength, durability and rust prevention.
  • ANODIZED ALUMINUM - High-quality anodized aluminum handle with multicolor and ultralight design.
  • DIGGING TOOL - The hammer head with electroplated coating features a 40mm rear spade for focused digging.
  • TENT STAKE PULLER - The hook also can be used as tent stake puller, solid and multifunctional.
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03/01/2024 08:49 pm GMT

In a primitive pinch, you can use a large rock . . . just watch your fingers!

5. Sleeping Bag

Many hard-core campers will ditch the tent; but, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that will forego the sleeping bag. It is the quintessential camping gear!

However, not all bags are created equal and typically, what you pay for is what you get!

For those beginning to build their camping gear arsenal, Kelty, infamous among campers and backpackers, offers two great packages that provide both the sleeping bag and pad for a hard-to-beat price.

Best Mummy Bag and Pad Combo
Best Rectangular Bag and Pad Combo
Description:

Bag Features and Specs:

  • 30°F lower limit (Probably 40°F comfort limit)
  • 5.56 lbs. (total bag and pad)
  • Fits heights up to 6'
  • CloudLoft Synthetic Fill (34.6 oz. fill weight)
  • Mummy style (shoulder girth 62", hip girth 52.8", feet girth 39.4")
  • Stuff sack size: 11" x 19"
  • Lifetime Guarantee

Pad Features and Spes:

  • 75" x 22" x 1"
  • Self-inflating
  • Fits into provided duffel with a sleeping bag
Description:

Bag Features and Specs:

  • 40°F lower limit (Probably 50°F comfort limit)
  • 5.6 lbs. (total bag and pad)
  • Fits heights up to 6'
  • CloudLoft Synthetic Fill (34.6 oz. fill weight)
  • Rectangular style (shoulder girth 68.5", hip girth 68.5", feet girth 68.5")
  • Stuff sack size: 11" x 19"
  • Lifetime Guarantee

Pad Features and Spes:

  • 72" x 20.5" x 1"
  • Self-inflating
  • Fits into provided duffel with a sleeping bag
Best Mummy Bag and Pad Combo
Description:

Bag Features and Specs:

  • 30°F lower limit (Probably 40°F comfort limit)
  • 5.56 lbs. (total bag and pad)
  • Fits heights up to 6'
  • CloudLoft Synthetic Fill (34.6 oz. fill weight)
  • Mummy style (shoulder girth 62", hip girth 52.8", feet girth 39.4")
  • Stuff sack size: 11" x 19"
  • Lifetime Guarantee

Pad Features and Spes:

  • 75" x 22" x 1"
  • Self-inflating
  • Fits into provided duffel with a sleeping bag
Best Rectangular Bag and Pad Combo
Description:

Bag Features and Specs:

  • 40°F lower limit (Probably 50°F comfort limit)
  • 5.6 lbs. (total bag and pad)
  • Fits heights up to 6'
  • CloudLoft Synthetic Fill (34.6 oz. fill weight)
  • Rectangular style (shoulder girth 68.5", hip girth 68.5", feet girth 68.5")
  • Stuff sack size: 11" x 19"
  • Lifetime Guarantee

Pad Features and Spes:

  • 72" x 20.5" x 1"
  • Self-inflating
  • Fits into provided duffel with a sleeping bag

Additionally, sleeping bags are rated by the temperature at which they are designed to keep you warm. If your sleeping bag says its lower limit is 40 degrees, don’t go camping when the nights are 25 degrees … you’ll be awake all night rubbing your toes back to life.

6. Camping Pillow

Okay, I’ll admit: this is not essential; but, have you ever slept on the ground without head support?

It’s a recipe for some serious grumps the next day.

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow
$26.95 $19.75
  • 100% Polyester
  • Versatile: for the tent, hammock, car, or airplane
  • Comfortable: cushioned memory foam wrapped in a soft, micro-suede cover provides supportive rest for your head and neck
  • Packable: Lightweight and portable, easily compresses down into its waterproof stuff sack. The small size expands to 12 x 16 (9 oz in weight) & the medium 14 x 18 (11 oz in weight) for ultimate support and comfort
  • Easy Clean: machine washable and dryer friendly thanks to its removable pillow cover. You can even throw the whole pillow in the washer with the pillow case cover on cool temp gentle cycle and low temp dryer for about 5 to 10 minutes.
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03/01/2024 09:03 pm GMT

Sure, you could roll up your jacket or fleece; but, we prefer a good compressible memory foam camping pillow.

7. Camping Mat/Mattress or Sleeping Pads

Speaking of preventing the morning grumps, while small children can sleep on the bare earth and wake up feeling like superheroes, we larger humans prefer to fight off the effects of gravity pulling our bones into the ground.

You could lug that leviathan queen-sized air mattress from home …

… or save space and frustration with a self-inflating camping pad.

Here are two great options at two different price points:

Best Budget Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Best of the Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Description:
  • 73.2" L x 22" W X 1.5" T
  • Weighs 2 lbs. 12 oz.
  • R-Value 4.7
  • Open-cell foam construction
  • Self- Inflate/Deflate valve
  • Stuff sack included
  • 1-Year Warranty
Description:
  • 77"L x 25"W x 3"T (Large Size)
  • Weighs 4 lbs. 3 oz. (Large Size)
  • R-Value 6.0
  • Open-cell foam construction
  • 2 one-way valves (for inflation and deflation)
  • Lifetime Warranty
Best Budget Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Description:
  • 73.2" L x 22" W X 1.5" T
  • Weighs 2 lbs. 12 oz.
  • R-Value 4.7
  • Open-cell foam construction
  • Self- Inflate/Deflate valve
  • Stuff sack included
  • 1-Year Warranty
Best of the Best Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Description:
  • 77"L x 25"W x 3"T (Large Size)
  • Weighs 4 lbs. 3 oz. (Large Size)
  • R-Value 6.0
  • Open-cell foam construction
  • 2 one-way valves (for inflation and deflation)
  • Lifetime Warranty

8. Camping Chairs

Another grump-defeating essential.

Yes, most campsites indeed provide picnic tables to pop a squat and you troubadours out there think you’re tough enough to end a long day of hiking by resting your caboose on a lumpy rock; but seriously, having a comfortable camp chair to rest and relax in at the end of the day makes chillaxin’ even better!

Our personal favorite is the Kickback Rocker from GCI Outdoor.

Best Compact, Lightweight Rocker
GCI KickBack Rocker Chair
$59.99
Pros:
  • Folds down compact
  • Only 10.6 lbs.
  • Drink holder and phone pocket
  • Lower seating position allows for a more relaxed sitting experience
  • Shoulder carrying strap attached directly to chair frame
Cons:
  • No mesh for ventilation
  • Lower seating position makes getting up a bit more of an effort
  • No carrying case ... for simplicity. It really doesn't need one in our opinion.
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However, if you need more options, we’ve curated a generous smattering of great camping chairs in our post Best Camping Chairs.

Get everyone a good camping chair. You’ll (and they’ll) love yourself for it.

Camp Lighting Essentials

1. Flashlights or Headlamps

If you don’t like stubbed toes in the woods in the dark, get one. Um … a flashlight, not a stubbed toe.

We recommend an LED headlamp with an integrated red light as well as SOS and strobe setting. The red light preserves your night vision when stargazing and is less blinding when you need to find something in the tent at O’ Dark-Thirty and the SOS and strobe have emergency applications.

Best One-for-All Headlamp
Black Diamond Cosmo 350 Headlamp
  • 350 Lumen (Max) white LED with integrated red LED
  • High (350 L), medium (175 L), and low (6 L) settings with strobe function
  • Average run-time: 3 hrs. (High) and 200 hrs. (Low)
  • IPX8 water resistant to 1.1 meters for 30 minutes
  • Powered by 3 x AAA
  • Integrated battery meter and lockout feature
  • 2.8 oz.
  • 3-Year Warranty
Pros:
  • Alkaline batteries can be swapped out with rechargeable lithium-ion battery (sold separately)
  • The compact and lightweight design is comfortable to wear, even for small children
  • Able to handle rain or being submerged
  • The lockout feature prevents accidental activation when packed
  • Integrated red LED is great for preserving night vision
Cons:
  • Not rechargeable; but, depending on your camping scenario, that may be preferable!
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We’ve rounded up some of the best camping flashlights around to light your way at night.

2. Lantern (with batteries or fuel)

Flashlights and headlamps are great for individuals; however, it’s nice to have a large well-lit area in the campsite for when the family comes together.

Choices abound … However, here are a few of our favorites to get you started:

Camp Kitchen Essentials

There are definitely some essentials when it comes to preparing meals for your entire family. Having an efficient camp kitchen with everything at the ready takes the camping experience to a whole new level!

1. Portable, Foldable Table

This is definitely a necessity if your campsite does not have a picnic table. Still, having extra table top space for your camp kitchen never hurts.

Lifetime Camping Folding Table
$70.95
  • Constructed of powder-coated steel and high-density polyethylene plastic
  • 48" x 24" molded tabletop – Seating Capacity: 4
  • Folds in half for easy storage and transport
  • Adjustable Height Settings (22", 24", 29" and 36")
  • Convenient carry handle
  • Table weight: 19 lbs.
  • Tested to hold 200 lbs. evenly distributed
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03/01/2024 03:55 pm GMT

2. Ice Chest with Ice or Ice Packs

The need for an ice chest is contingent on your meal planning. If you plan on cooking with fresh ingredients (i.e. eggs, meats, cheeses, raw veggies, etc.) you’ll need one (or more) large enough to store everything that has to be refrigerated.

RTIC Hard Cooler, 45 qt, White, Ice Chest with Heavy Duty Rubber Latches, 3 Inch Insulated Walls
$229.99
  • Keeps Ice up to 10 Days, Like a portable freezer
  • Integrated Locking System, Bear Resistant
  • Easy-Flow Drain Spouts, Lets the water out, keeps ice in
  • Molded Tie Down Slots and Heavy Duty Rope Handles
  • Heavy Duty Rubber T-Latches for smooth trouble-free closure
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03/02/2024 01:09 am GMT

Helpful Tip: To simplify your packing list as well as cooking and clean-up responsibilities, consider packing dehydrated meal options, cured meats, and soup mixes.

3. Camp Stove with Fuel

Nothing beats the aroma of fresh coffee and bacon filling the morning air of a campsite. If this alone is not enough to consider a camp stove essential, then consider these other reasons:

First, a camp stove allows you to cook your own food, which is a much healthier alternative to processed foods or expensive restaurant meals while camping.

Best Classic Camping Stove
Coleman Cascade Classic Camp Stove
  • 21" x 13" x 3.6"
  • 11 lbs. 14.4 oz.
  • Portable, compact design makes this stove easy to move and carry
  • 2 adjustable burners with improved knob rotation offer precise temperature and simmer control
  • Rotary ignition means quick, matchless lighting
  • 20,000 total BTUs of cooking power (10,000 per burner)
  • 2 wind guards help shield the burners and flame
  • Removable chrome-plated grate and aluminized steel cooktop for quick cleanup
  • 3-Year Warranty
Pros:
  • The simple, dependable design has been a camping mainstay for decades
  • Removable, easy-to-clean components
  • The compact "briefcase" design is great for storing and transporting
  • Side guards keep the flame hot and steady on windy days
  • Fits a 12" and a 10" pan simultaneously
Cons:
  • Requires practice to cook without scorching food; but, this is the case with virtually all camp stoves
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You can also save money by cooking your own food rather than buying pricey prepackaged meals or leaving the campgrounds to go to a restaurant in town.

Second, a camp stove allows you to heat water for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. This is especially nice in the morning when you need a warm drink to start your day off right.

Third, a camp stove can be used to heat up food that has been pre-packaged or frozen.

Oh, and don’t forget the stove fuel!

4. Lighter and/or Waterproof Matches

A good lighter is the most dependable option here; however, waterproof matches are good in a pinch. It doesn’t hurt to have a backup!

5. Firewood

As a rule, it is best to purchase your firewood from the park or campground headquarters.

Bringing your own firewood from home transports invasive species of insects and tree-killing diseases that would have otherwise remained contained.

Check with the park’s website or headquarters about open fires and firewood policy before heading out.

6. Firestarter

For you seasoned pyromaniacs out there, this may not be a necessity. However, if you are inexperienced in gathering tinder and kindling to start a fire from scratch, save yourself from some frustration by grabbing a box of good firestarters.

Melt Candle Company Fire Starter - Pack of 160
  • SAFE TO USE - Not a fan of lighter fluid or electric torch? Made of wax and sawdust, this safe, natural fire starters are completely odorless and don’t emit any off-putting smell.
  • BURN WHEN WET - Tumbleweed grill starter pack is weather-resistant and can burn for about 10 minutes even in damp conditions.
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Then, you can try your hand at some bush fire craft and know that you have a dependable backup while you’re learning! The ability to bushcraft a fire from scratch is not only something to take pride in, but earns you some serious bragging rights!

7. Spice Container(s)

True, not critically essential; but, no one likes plain eggs.

Except for that guy. But who invited him?

Just include the basics: salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder and you can turn any bland dish into camping cuisine.

8. Camp Cookware

Once upon a time, I camped with a friend who cooked our eggs and bacon directly on a flat rock next to the open campfire. I was impressed until I had to scrape my rock-flavored egg off and chew ash-coated bacon. Yech.

Best Large Camping Cookware Set
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Base Camper Cookset
  • Includes a 3L pot with lid, a 5L pot with lid, a 9 in. frypan, a cutting board, a folding pot gripper, and a stuff sack
  • Durable finish that protects the aluminum core from abrasion and oxidation
  • Teflon® Classic nonstick cooking surface on the pots and frypan
  • BPA-free nylon lids are lightweight and feature integrated strainers; flip-up tabs on tops of lids make for easy lid removal
  • Included cutting board is rugged enough to handle slicing and dicing by serious campground chefs
  • 5-liter pot features silicone-coated bail handles for a secure grasp while cooking up large meals
  • Folding pot gripper locks to and removes easily from exterior bracket on the 3-liter pot and the frypan
  • Lifetime Warranty
Pros:
  • Nests together for compact storage
  • Cutting board nests between pots to reduce clatter during transport
  • Gripper design prevents scratching of interior surface
  • Non-stick Teflon coating makes cooking and cleanup so easy
  • Large size makes cooking for a large group easier
Cons:
  • Cooking utensils sold separately
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A dependable set of camping cookware ensures that your food tastes … well, like food and those silicone lids cover your food from pesky insects or that gross something that just fell out of the tree.

9. Coffee Percolator

Sure, you could choke down that instant stuff; but, why?

There is absolutely, positively nothing better than a steamin’ fresh cup o’ joe while you’re fryin’ up eggs and bacon for the crew. Trust me!

GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel 6-Cup Percolator
  • Corrosion-resistant Glacier stainless steel body stands up to abuse with marine-grade 18/8 stainless steel componentry and welds
  • Silicone handle stays cool to the touch for easy pouring
  • Hinge prevents the lid from going missing
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10. Bottle and Can Opener

Canned food is one of the most convenient foods to take when camping: no refrigeration needed, often ready to eat after a bit of warming up, and inexpensive.

And nothing beats an ice-cold long neck or cream soda after a long day of hiking. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if you forgot the bottle and can opener?

11. Cooking Utensils

Remember Rock-Egg Guy? He would also stir his soup with a stick.

Neanderthal.

A good set of cooking utensils eliminates much of the hassle of food prep when camping and is worth bringing along.

GSI Outdoors nForm Crossover Kitchen Kit
  • Includes Pivot tongs, Pivot spoon, Pivot spatula, scraper, scrubby pad, cutting board, spicer, soap bottle, oil bottle, camp towel and a storage tote
  • Tools feature reinforced handles that won't flop around and fold compact for storage
  • Spoon doubles as a ladle and measuring cup
  • Spatula features tapered edges and a serrated cutting edge to make frying, flipping and serving simple
  • Waterproof spice holder features 4 compartments and is easy to refill
  • Use the included scraper to get your nonstick pots and pans clean; flexible rubber end helps serve up the last bits of food; hard plastic end scrapes stubborn food
  • All components of the GSI Crossover Kitchen kit fit in the lightweight tote so you can stay organized; tote features separate wet and dry compartments
  • Kit nests with GSI nForm Crossover System cooksets (sold separately)
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A portable outdoor cooking utensil set with a case is perfect for keeping kitchen utensils organized and convenient. Get ya one!

12. Cutting Board

Please don’t be one of those campers that cut their food directly on the site’s picnic table.

One: Nasty for you!

Two: Nasty for the campers that have the site after you!

Don’t worry, we have a solution for you!

For example, the portable outdoor cooking utensil set with a case we mentioned above includes a good-sized cutting board for camping.

13. Camping or Bush Knife

It is impossible to overstate the importance of including a good knife in a camping checklist for families!

From bush crafting, gear repair, first aid administration to food preparation, a durable sharp blade is the quintessential camper’s companion!

Check out our post on the Best Camping Knives if you’re in the market for a solid dependable camping knife!

14. Eating Utensils, Plates, and Bowls

Even Rock-Egg Guy ate his food out of a bowl with a spoon. An example we should all live by.

Best Family Camping Table Set
GSI Outdoors Infinity 4 Person Deluxe Nesting Table Set
$74.95
  • Four 9-inch plates, four 6-inch bowls (with lids), four 17-ounce mugs (with Sip-it Lids), and four 12-ounce drinking glasses
  • Bowls feature a sealable lid for leftovers and include a mesh sack for easy carrying and storage
  • Unique mugs include insulated EVA sleeves and Sip-It Lids to keep beverages hot and prevent spills
  • Configurable, color-coded, 4-person system is modular and packs efficiently
  • Made of 100% recyclable polypropylene, this BPA-Free dining set does not only have a small ecological footprint, but will also not hold any odors or impart any tastes on tomorrow's dinner
  • Lifetime Warranty
Pros:
  • Entire set nests and stacks for compact storage
  • BPA-free material does not absorb food tastes or smells
  • Cleans easily
  • Bowl lids keep leftovers fresh longer - less waste!
  • Color-coded set means you can determine which child used their drinking cup to dig in the dirt
Cons:
  • Spoons, forks, and knives not included
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02/27/2024 02:30 pm GMT

Double-check to ensure that the camping dining set you purchase has enough tableware and utensils for every camper in the group.

15. Five-Gallon Water Tank (filled)

Even parks and campgrounds have their occasional utility problems. Having your own supply of potable water in the rare event that the public water source is turned off can save a camping trip.

Reliance Reliance Aqua Stack Water Container - 5 gal. | REI Co-op
  • Designed to lock in so you can confidently stack up to 3 high, even when filled
  • Interlocking ridges improve security and stability when stacking
  • Hideaway spigot with standard 70 mm assembly
  • Premium vent
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Or, take two: one for emergencies and one to set on the site’s picnic table for easy access to drinking water and hydration pack refills!

Maintenance and Cleaning Essentials

One of the great things about camping is that it is a very low-maintenance activity, but there are a few things to remember and keep in mind that will make the trip easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Paper Towels and/or Moist Hand-Wipes

Paper towels and moist hand-wipes can be used to clean your hands and face, and to clean up any food or dirt from cookware, dishes, or gear.

And those moist wipes are great for … you know … when you gotta go number 2.

Better than a pinecone.

2. Biodegradable Dish Soap

National and State Parks not only provide us with beautiful places to escape to, but they also protect delicate ecosystems and biomes.

Therefore, selecting a biodegradable dish soap ensures that the “harmless” act of washing your dishes doesn’t further harm the environment when the soap leeches down into the soil.

CONCENTRATED CAMPSUDS Environmentally Friendly Outdoor Soap
$17.72
  • ALL-PURPOSE: used for hands, face, dishes, and clothes or for cleaning your camping gear. Excellent as travel hiking soap, camping shampoo, camping dish soap, dishwashing liquid soap, and camping laundry soap with minimal water use
  • SOAP OF CHOICE: for campers, trekkers, and outdoor adventurers. It's the first all-purpose outdoor cleaning and has been trusted by campers for over 50 years.
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03/02/2024 08:17 am GMT

3. Collapsible Bucket(s) and Sponge

Everyone’s least favorite part of camping is cleaning up after a meal. It is amazing how much a simple camping bucket can transform a time-consuming, arduous task into something much more tolerable.

SOL Flat Pack Collapsible Sink - 8 Liters
  • 8-liter capacity is ideal for cleaning or hauling supplies
  • Feet on each corner of the base keep it sturdy on unstable ground
  • Empty dirty water with the tight-close drain in the bottom of the basin
  • Carry dirty dishes or supplies with the easy-carry side handles
  • Lightweight, flexible panels
  • When the day is done, the sturdy thermoplastic rubber (TPR) collapses flat to store until the next adventure
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Whether transporting dishes to and from the camp water spigot, using it as a kitchen sink, or for storing and organizing cleaned cookware and tableware, it’s a must-have!

4. Trash bags

It’s true, the majority of established campgrounds have a dumpster within walking distance; but, precious few have a trashcan at every campsite.

Hanging a trash bag in a tree within reach is not only convenient, but it also prevents loose trash from blowing away ensuring that your campsite, the campgrounds, and the surrounding park doesn’t suffer from accumulated litter.

5. Small Broom and Dustpan

Where there’s the pitter-patter of little feet, there will be dirt … everywhere.

MR.SIGA Mini Dustpan and Brush Set
$14.99 $12.99
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03/01/2024 03:55 pm GMT

Get the grit out of your tent before bedding down for the night with a quick sweep!

6. Tent Repair Tape

So, you spotted a little tear in the side of the tent when setting up camp. Who cares?

And then the unexpected rainstorm and the clouds of insects rush in.

You get the picture.

Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Tape
  • Aggressive adhesive sticks to almost any surface and can be used for a variety of flexible, long lasting repairs
  • Instantly seals leaking seams, tears and pinholes; stops rips from spreading and acts as an abrasion-resistant shield on high-wear areas
  • Clear version has a nongloss finish that's nearly invisible; colored versions use the actual fabrics found in popular tents, packs and outdoor gear
  • 3 x 20 in. (50cm x 7.5cm) strip of tape
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Oh, and duct tape works fine in a pinch.

7. Duct Tape

Is there anything it can’t fix?

No, no there isn’t.

8. 550 Paracord

Paracord’s innumerable applications are as varied and numerous as a good knife. Any camping checklist for families would be remiss without it.

Here are a few uses:

Pet Gear Essentials

While the pet gear you bring depends upon your specific type of pet and if the park or campground allows pets, here are some basic suggestions for the average family mascot.

Want to know what types of dogs make the best hiking pals? We’ve done all the research for you on the top breeds of hiking dogs here.

Personal Carry Essentials

When camping with family, and especially with young children, it’s important to ensure that each member is equipped for protection from exposure and potential separation from the group.

We recommend that each person carry the following items on their person anytime they leave the campsite for walks, hikes, rides, or just exploring the campgrounds.

1. Backpack or Hydration Pack

Everyone in the group able to carry their own backpack should have one. This is not only for organizing personal belongings; but, also for carrying water and food when heading out for a day on the trail.

We recommend a hydration day pack that incorporates a water reservoir. These hold 2-3 liters of water making them much more dependable than a typical water bottle, ensuring everyone hydrates properly.

Best Beginners Hiking Pack
TETON Sports Oasis 18L Hydration Pack
$47.96
  • Lightweight and comfortable at 2 lbs. empty
  • 18 liters of space for snacks, gear, and clothing
  • Compressions straps keeps cargo balanced when hiking
  • Included 2-Liter hydration reservoir with kink-free sip tube and push-lock cushioned bite valve and large 2-inch opening for ice and easy cleaning
  • Adjustable shoulder and chest straps with waist belt for men, women, and youth that adjusts to fit all frames comfortably
  • 600D Polyurethane ripstop is water resistant with integrated raincover in case you're caught in a downpour
  • Lifetime Warranty
Pros:
  • Equipped like a daypack twice the price from top-shelf manufacturers
  • Just the right size for day outings
  • The built-in reservoir means you can carry and access more water on the trail without a separate water bottle
  • Low price point means every family member can have one
  • Backed by a Lifetime Guarantee from a solid company
Cons:
  • The reservoir may be difficult for little kids to fill and seal without help
  • The reservoir can affect the taste of the water. Recommend replacing with an Osprey reservoir eventually
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02/27/2024 03:02 pm GMT

When being active outdoors, the average adult requires a minimum of 2 cups of water per hour and children a minimum of 1-2 cups. Never underestimate the body’s need for hydration.

Young children are especially vulnerable to heat exhaustion and dehydration as they are less likely to drink as much as they should without reminders.

Most importantly, always take more than enough water with you, even for hikes less than an hour.

While the Teton Oasis is a great one-size-fits-most for adults, smaller children will need something more appropriate for their size and age.

Check out our post on Best Kid’s Hydration Packs or Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids if you need a buyer’s guide.

2. Hat and Sunglasses

A good full-brimmed hat and pair of adequate sunglasses are not just for comfort. Above all, they protect you from overexposure to UV radiation and heat, helping your body fight the effects of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

3. Safety Whistle on a Lanyard

When exploring the great outdoors, everyone in your group needs to have a safety whistle. If anyone gets lost or separated from the group, the sound of the whistle can travel vast distances and guide the group to them or them to the group.

JULBEAR 6PCS Safety Survival Whistles
$8.99
  • Includes 6 safety whistles with adjustable reflective lanyard
  • Made of ABS plastic, which is lightweight, waterproof and durable. With double-tube design, each plastic whistle can emit high and low frequency sounds.
  • Reflective design has high visibility through light irradiation in the dark and designed with a clip that can be fixed on the belt or life jacket
  • Designed to be bright orange and visible increasing the chances of being found in an emergency
  • Easily emit high-pitched sounds and be heard from far distance
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03/02/2024 08:32 am GMT

Teach young children how and when to use the whistle. A game of hide-and-seek in your yard is a great way to teach the concept; however, afterward, emphasize to them that the whistle is for emergencies only going forward.

4. Personal Identification

Personal identification helps other campers and hikers reunite a separated family member with the family.

While those over 16 can carry their driver’s license, younger kids need something effortless to carry, such as personalized military-style dog tags.

ARMYU Customized Military ID Dog Tags
$9.99
  • USA Made Authentic Military Dog Tags Customized Embossed/Engraved
  • 2 Matte Tags Included
  • 2 chains - One Long 24 inch chain and One short 4.5 inch chain
  • Choose any silencer colors you want.
  • The available characters are: Capital letters A – Z, Numbers 0 – 9 Characters: ( ) " $ + @ ! * & - / , ' . ? % : < =
  • 5 Lines per tag. Characters per line include spaces. Any words or combinations can be printed.
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02/27/2024 12:09 am GMT

Be sure the I.D. includes:

Toiletry and Hygiene Essentials

Did you know that in the 1800s, it was not uncommon for public bathhouses out west to provide community toothbrushes that hung from the ceiling on strings?

Yep. Flat nasty.

While many established State and National Parks provide clean public showers and bathrooms, you’ll need to bring your own toothbrush along (and other hygienic essentials) as the community toothbrush fad has long since phased out (Thank God!)

1. Toilet paper

Yes, the park service and camp hosts strive to keep the restrooms well-stocked; but sometimes, they get busy.

Take a roll with you.

2. Toothbrush with Toothpaste

Camp-breath can wreak havoc on family relationships and the romance between husband and wife.

Save your marriage. Brush your teeth.

3. Soap or Bodywash

Hair. Pits. Other Bits. Wash ’em or sleep outside the tent.

Seriously, just because we’re camping doesn’t mean you don’t bathe. Your camping list MUST include soap.

4. Deodorant

If I need to explain this, the problem runs deeper than we can remedy here.

5. Feminine Hygiene Products

Approved my wife. ‘Nough said.

Kula Wilderness Potty Kit
  • ULTIMATE leave no trace wilderness/travel/everything potty kit
  • Antimicrobial, waterproof hygiene bag with interior snap pocket
  • Personal Urination Funnel
  • Ultralight trowel
  • Compact Nalgene soap container
  • Kula Cloth
  • Weighs 5.1 oz. with dimensions 6" x 9" stowed
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6. Camping Bath Towel

Do yourself a favor: leave the plush luxury towels at home. After a camping trip, they won’t be fit to wash the car.

Use these towels instead.

4Monster Micro Fiber Camping Towels
$24.99 $9.99
  • Made of Quick-Drying Microfiber
  • Includes EVA travel case to keep it clean in between uses
  • High quality microfiber towel provides soft and smooth feeling on your skin,suede and comfortable feel after each use.
  • Absorbent. lightweight, and quick-drying
  • Machine Washable
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02/27/2024 12:19 am GMT

Above all, camping towels are made of microfiber, are super-absorbent, and dry quickly. Get some now and thank me later.

When it comes to navigating the front country trails of most state and national parks, anything more than basic map-reading skills is hardly necessary.

Still, learning to use a compass in tandem with a topographical map is a skill that can open your family up to the possibility of venturing further and experiencing more in the future.

Park Map and Compass

All state and national parks provide topographical maps of the parklands and trails. Ensure that everyone in the group capable of reading a map and using a compass has one when leaving the campsite or hitting the trails.

Suunto A-10 Compass
  • High-grade steel needle with jewel bearing
  • Balanced for northern hemisphere
  • Fixed declination correction scale
  • Liquid-filled capsule for stable operation
  • Detachable snap-lock lanyard
  • Made in Finland
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For those that can’t, when they are of age, take the time to teach them. Not only are these skills a rite of passage, but they can also be a lifesaver in an emergency.

First Aid and Sun/Bug Protection Essentials

When camping, it’s important to be prepared for the bumps, scrapes, sun exposure, bug bites, and possible gear failure that often happen when camping with kids.

It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings and know how to respond to emergencies.

1. First Aid Kit

We recommend a large First Aid Kit to keep at the campsite and smaller personal First Aid Kits to keep in everyone’s pack.

The HART Extended First-Aid Kit provides both in one package! Nice.

HART Outdoor Extended First-Aid Kit
  • Roomy pockets with hook-and-loop closures make it easy to put back unused items, restock used items and add new items to customize the kit
  • Includes a wallet-size Day Trip first aid kit for short side trips away from camp
  • Easy-to-read manual written by wilderness medicine physician Dr. William W. Forgey
  • Adhesive bandages include 6 butterfly closures, six 3 x 3/4 in. strips, eight 3 x 1 in. strips, 6 fingertip bandages and 6 knuckle bandages
  • Gauze items: 4.1 yd. x 2 in. and 4.1 yd. x 3 in. rolls, five 2 x 2 in. and five 3 x 3 in. pads and three 4 x 4 in. sponges, two 3 x 2 in. and two 4 x 3 in. non-adherent pads and two 9 x 5 in. BD Combine pads
  • Wound cleansing supplies include 6 antiseptic towelettes, 6 antibiotic ointments, 6 iodine wipes, 2 antimicrobial hand wipes, 2 non-latex gloves and a resealable waste bag
  • Topical relief includes 4 sting relief wipes, first aid/burn cream, hydrocortisone cream and aloe vera gel
  • Medications include antacids, aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, allergy relief, electrolytes, antidiarrheal and 2 pill vials with labels
  • Also includes three 4 x 3 in. moleskins, 10 yd. x 1 in. tape, scissors, forceps, 5 yd. x 2 in. elastic bandage, 2 safety pins, irrigation syringe, accident records and pencil


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2. Prescription Medications

This one is easily forgotten when traveling or packing for a camping trip. Make sure those meds are packed with First Aid!

3. Bug Repellant and/or Bug Shield

Mosquitos can suck all the fun out of a camping trip. So can any other pesky insect for that matter.

Select a safe, organic, deet-free insect repellant, apply generously, and laugh defiantly at those vicious fun-suckers!

For the campsite, some centrally located citronella candles or torch canisters are another great defense against the evil insect hordes.

3. Itch and Burn Relief Cream

Whether someone accidentally stepped into a patch of waist-high poison oak to go number one or grabbed the wrong end of a marshmallow roasting stick, a full tube or Itch and Burn Relief Cream is probably the most frequently used camping First-Aid.

Even if just for pesky bug bites, you’ll need it.

4. Sunscreen and After-Sun Aloe

Sunburns are equally fun-sucking.

When leaving the shady solace of your campsite for any kind of excursion, be sure the whole family gets a good smattering of sunblock … even if it’s overcast.

Be sure to pack a small bottle or can in your pack to reapply each hour or so.

5. Lip Balm

Even if you’re not a frequent lip balm user, having a tube in the First Aid Kit is always a good idea.

Better to have it and not need it …

Electronic Essentials

I neither Amish nor an extreme technophile – I suppose I’m somewhere in between.

Either way, technology is welcome in my campsite in so far as it enhances the experience or has a practical application, like a satellite communicator in places devoid of cell towers.

Whatever e-devices you take along, make sure you have the means to keep ’em juiced up!

1. Extra Batteries

Take an inventory of the type of batteries the flashlights and electronics on your list require. Pack a few extras for each.

2. Cell Phone or Satellite Communicator with Chargers

Cell phones are considered an emergency device, especially when hiking the trails. However, they’re only as reliable as the signal they receive.

A Satellite Communicator turns your normal smartphone into a satellite phone via bluetooth connection Now, you can receive service anywhere on earth … towers or no towers.

Best Budget Satellite Communicator
ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
  • Over 200 hrs. of battery life, provides reliable access to 2-way messaging, check-ins, weather forecasts, location sharing, and SOS alerting everywhere on earth
  • Connects to your device via Bluetooth to extend your messaging coverage
  • When cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is unavailable, messages are transmitted over the Iridium® satellite network for seamless coverage with no gaps (subscription required).
  • Location Share+ lets you share your location and bread crumb trail
  • Send SOS alerts via the app or the SOS button on the device with 24/7 emergency response monitoring
  • Check in via the built-in button (or app) to let others know you're OK
  • Send your GPS coordinates in any message
  • Device has MIL-STD 810G shock resistance and IP68 dust and water resistance (submersion to 4.9 ft. for 30 min.)
  • Includes a lanyard, carabiner, 20 in. USB cable, Quick Start guide and 2-year manufacturer's warranty
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3. Powerbank

It’s inconceivable not to take a bunch of pictures on camping trips with your family; however, this can drain a phone battery very quickly.

A compact power bank ensures that your camera phone, digital camera, or any other electronic devices you need has all the juice they need … especially on longer trips.

We’ve put compiled an epic round up of the Best Portable Powerbanks for Camping and Backpacking to make things easier.

Camping Clothing Essentials

Cold Weather Camping Essentials

When camping in cold weather, it’s important to have the proper essentials. By being prepared, you can enjoy your camping trip despite the cold weather.

1. Cold Weather Clothing and Layers

To prevent having to change clothes as the day warms up, take clothing that can be worn in layers and then can be stripped off the cold morning gives way to a warmer afternoon.

Put the layers back on as the cool of the evening sets in.

Repeat.

2. Sleeping Bag Liners

If the forecast calls for weather that falls below your bag’s lower limit, a sleeping bag liner can significantly increase its ability to keep you warm.

Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Sleeping Bag Liner
  • Thermolite® insulation is a hollow-core fiber that provides extraordinary warmth for its weight and remains extremely breathable
  • It's very comfortable, more compact and warmer for its weight than fleece liners
  • Adds up to 14°F (8°C) of warmth to a sleeping bag, or can be used on its own as the ideal warm-weather bag
  • Thin drawcord with tiny cord-lock around the hood
  • Very light and compact
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3. Portable Camping Heater

An indoor-safe portable propane camping heater can be just the thing to take the chill out of the tent in the mornings and before going to bed …

or even to enjoy at your feet while sitting around the campsite with the fam.

Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater | REI Co-op
  • Heater connects directly to a 1 lb. cylinder (sold separately in stores) for up to 6 hrs. of heat
  • To light the unit, simply rotate the single control knob to 'Pilot' and push—the integrated Piezo sparking mechanism takes care of the rest
  • Oxygen depletion sensor and accidental tip-over safety shutoff let you enjoy comfortable heat in enclosed spaces without worry
  • High and low heat settings; swivel regulator; fold-down handle
  • Operates up to a maximum elevation of 7,000 ft.
  • Does not include a high-limit safety shutoff
  • Note: The use of unauthorized accessories/attachments with this heater are expressly prohibited and may cause serious injury
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WARNING: NEVER leave a propane heater running while you sleep in a tent! This can lead to carbon monoxide build-up which can be lethal!

4. Hand Warmers

Nothing worse than trying to complete tasks around the campsite with frigid fingers.

Stuff a pair of hand warmers in your gloves to toast your digits back to life.

5. Extra Blanket(s) or Heated Blanket

Extra Blankets on top or under your sleeping bag will insulate you from the cold.

But make it a rechargeable heated blanket and you’ll be roastier and toastier than last night’s mallows!

Eddie Bauer Rechargeable Heated Electric Throw Blanket
$89.88 $73.95
  • Polyester & Nylon
  • INCLUDES: (1) Portable battery powered electric throw with 5 heat settings
  • MATERIALS: 100% Polyester Face; 100% Nylon Back
  • FEATURES: Three settings with 2-4hr heat. Water resistant nylon outer reverses to a treated weather smart fleece with kangaroo pocket. Built-in USB port.
  • CARE INSTRUCTIONS: Conveniently machine washable. Tumble dry on lowest setting. Remove battery before washing.
  • DIMENSIONS: 40" x 50"
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03/01/2024 11:56 am GMT

Hot Weather Camping Essentials

When the weather heats up, there are a few essentials you’ll want to bring camping with you to make sure your trip is enjoyable for the entire family.

1. Warm Weather Clothing

While shorts and t-shirts are the best warm-weather clothing, sometimes you’ll want UV protection on your arms and legs. And for younger ones, pants protect their knees and legs better from bumps and scrapes.

2. Swimsuit

Besides the obvious of swimming in pools, lakes, oceans, or rivers, swimsuits are the best clothing option when it’s unbearably hot and everyone needs to cool off. The material dries fast and is breathable.

3. Portable Camping Fan

Sometimes the difference between the a sweltering in a tent on a warm, still night and being comfortable is just a matter of getting the air moving.

RovTop 12" Rechargeable Indoor/Outdoor Floor Fan
  • Charges in 2.5-3 hours and runs 4.5 to 18 hours depending on speed
  • 360° adjustable head moves air at 3,500 CFM
  • Variable speed controls with LED battery life indicator
  • Integrated LED lights help to illuminate a dark tent at night
  • Rugged ABS body is built for rugged outdoor use
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4. Shade Canopy

On a hot summer day, your tent, although shaded inside can turn into a nylon pizza oven. And campground trees are not always in the ideal location for casting shade where you need it.

Finding a shade shelter that folds down compact enough to save precious packing space in your car is tough. That’s why we recommend The EzyFast Ultra Backpack Canopy.

It’s got a compact price, too!

EzyFast Ultra Compact Backpack Canopy
$89.98
  • Measures 7'6'' x 7'6'' at the base with 6' x 6' fabric top and center ceiling height is 6'7'' providing 36 sq ft of shade coverage
  • Designed for about 2 to 4 people to sit under
  • 3 stage telescoping legs with extra adjustable heights that can accommodate uneven ground
  • Frame system deploys easily by one person
  • UPF 50+ Rated Fabric, 190T heat insulating silver backed fabric material blocks 99% of sun's harmful UV rays.
  • Luxury-made Backpack Carry Case with two padded shoulder straps – only 27" x 8" x 8" in the backpack
  • Includes assembled frame, backpack, fabric top with 28" long sunblock back wall, and bonus 4 weight bags with 4 stakes to secure the canopy
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03/01/2024 02:06 pm GMT

For more shade shelter ideas, check out our post on Best Tents and Gear for Beach Camping.

Rainy Weather Camping Essentials

Conveniences and Comforts when Camping

Camping conveniences and comforts vary greatly with each individual; but, there are some commonalities.

We’ve listed a few here to consider. Just remember: less is more!

Product Image / Primary ButtonProduct Name / Description
Best Camping Bluetooth Speaker
    • Small but powerful speaker produces loud, clear sound with shockingly deep bass
    • Secure it to your backpack, beach cooler, or handlebars with the included strap
    • Durable materials, including a rubberized silicone exterior,resists drops, dents, cracks, and scratches
    • IP67 waterproof, dustproof, and protected from extreme temperatures, liquids, and other substances.
    • Powerful lithium-ion battery provides up to 6 hours of music and charge anytime via the included Micro-USB cable.
    • Integrated microphone allows you to take phone calls directly from the speaker, while a multi-function button gives you access to your phone’s voice assistant (Siri or Google Assistant).
Best Camping Hammock
    • Supremely comfortable, breathable and fast-drying FreeWave™ fabric with exceptional softness and packability
    • Extended 9.5 ft. hammock body weighs only 16 oz. and creates more room to stretch out, lay flat and relax
    • Time-tested, triple-stitched seam construction creates unmatched durability and protection against ripping or tearing
    • Refreshed hardware includes a custom side-release buckle and larger cordlock for easy setup and pack-up every time
    • Integrated stuff sack compresses the hammock to a travel-ready size and now offers a bonus internal stash pocket to store a phone or drink
    • Specially designed carabiners included
    • Straps and suspension system not included
    • Compatible with all ENO hammock straps, stands, bug nets, rain tarps and insulation systems (not included)
Best Roasting Stick Set
Best Camping Fire Pit and Grill
    • Produces 80% less smoke than most fire pits, better airflow, and hotter flames
    • After your fire is out, the trailblazer collapses and packs away quickly and easily into its zippered ballistic nylon carrying bag (included)
    • Aluminum and stainless-steel construction for years of corrosion-free use
    • Compact design opens to 12 x 12 in. (11 in. high) when fully assembled
    • Burns your choice of wood, charcoal or wax logs
    • Includes a stainless-steel grilling grate
    • Leave No Trace heat shield (included) lets you have a fire on nearly any surface without damaging the ground underneath
    • Great for camping and the backyard alike
Best Camping Rug
    • The Original – This mat started the sand-free revolution and remains the ultimate sand-free beach blanket
    • Patented System – High-density weave allows sand, dirt, and dust to fall through the fabric without coming back up.
    • Made to ensure ultra – durability, quick drying time, and resistance to water, and UV damage.
    • Heavy Duty D Rings – double-reinforced heavy-duty corner D Rings, perfect for staking down in extreme conditions.
    • Numerous Size Options – Comes in 2 colors and 4 size options: SMALL (for 3 persons), MEDIUM (for 6 persons), LARGE (for 10 persons) and XLARGE (for 14 persons).
Best Camping Bluetooth Speaker
  • Small but powerful speaker produces loud, clear sound with shockingly deep bass
  • Secure it to your backpack, beach cooler, or handlebars with the included strap
  • Durable materials, including a rubberized silicone exterior,resists drops, dents, cracks, and scratches
  • IP67 waterproof, dustproof, and protected from extreme temperatures, liquids, and other substances.
  • Powerful lithium-ion battery provides up to 6 hours of music and charge anytime via the included Micro-USB cable.
  • Integrated microphone allows you to take phone calls directly from the speaker, while a multi-function button gives you access to your phone’s voice assistant (Siri or Google Assistant).
Best Camping Hammock
  • Supremely comfortable, breathable and fast-drying FreeWave™ fabric with exceptional softness and packability
  • Extended 9.5 ft. hammock body weighs only 16 oz. and creates more room to stretch out, lay flat and relax
  • Time-tested, triple-stitched seam construction creates unmatched durability and protection against ripping or tearing
  • Refreshed hardware includes a custom side-release buckle and larger cordlock for easy setup and pack-up every time
  • Integrated stuff sack compresses the hammock to a travel-ready size and now offers a bonus internal stash pocket to store a phone or drink
  • Specially designed carabiners included
  • Straps and suspension system not included
  • Compatible with all ENO hammock straps, stands, bug nets, rain tarps and insulation systems (not included)
Best Roasting Stick Set
  • Food grade stainless steel will not rust or corrode
  • Telescoping shaft extends to 32" to keep a safe distance from the campfire
  • Retract to 12" and store in a carry bag (Included)
  • 8 roasters included
Best Camping Fire Pit and Grill
  • Produces 80% less smoke than most fire pits, better airflow, and hotter flames
  • After your fire is out, the trailblazer collapses and packs away quickly and easily into its zippered ballistic nylon carrying bag (included)
  • Aluminum and stainless-steel construction for years of corrosion-free use
  • Compact design opens to 12 x 12 in. (11 in. high) when fully assembled
  • Burns your choice of wood, charcoal or wax logs
  • Includes a stainless-steel grilling grate
  • Leave No Trace heat shield (included) lets you have a fire on nearly any surface without damaging the ground underneath
  • Great for camping and the backyard alike
Best Camping Rug
  • The Original – This mat started the sand-free revolution and remains the ultimate sand-free beach blanket
  • Patented System – High-density weave allows sand, dirt, and dust to fall through the fabric without coming back up.
  • Made to ensure ultra – durability, quick drying time, and resistance to water, and UV damage.
  • Heavy Duty D Rings – double-reinforced heavy-duty corner D Rings, perfect for staking down in extreme conditions.
  • Numerous Size Options – Comes in 2 colors and 4 size options: SMALL (for 3 persons), MEDIUM (for 6 persons), LARGE (for 10 persons) and XLARGE (for 14 persons).

Also, don’t forget to pack things to fill in down time or just in case a sudden mischievous raincloud traps everyone inside the tent:

What Are the 5 Most Important Things to Bring When You Go Camping?

If you’re looking for the bare-basic bones that no camping trip could happen without, here they are. This is “roughing it” at its roughest (just short of survival training, that is).

1. Tent or Tarpaulin

Some die-hard camping friends of mine say that a tent is not a necessity; however, they don’t have children. They have no clue what it’s like to be awakened by a child screaming in the middle of the night because a bug crawled across their face.

A basic dome tent is all you need to provide shelter, shade, and a barrier against nighttime creepy crawlies.

Get a tent. Keep out the critters.

We’ve put together a line up of some of the best tents for family camping in our post Best Instant Tents and even more great ideas in Best Tents for Beach Camping!

2. Sleeping Bag

If you want a basic sleeping bag that fits the bill for most weather conditions, try the Coleman All-Weather Multi-Layer Sleeping Bag.

Coleman All-Weather Multi-Layer Sleeping Bag, Blue
  • 3 easily removable layers attach at 3 simple connection points
  • Sleep comfortably in temperatures from 0°F to 60°F
  • For campers up to 5 ft. 11 in.
  • Coletherm® hollow polyester insulation for better heat retention with less weight
  • Full-length Thermolock™ draft tube along the zipper keeps body heat from escaping
  • Easier packing with fasteners that lock bag in place as you roll
  • No-snag zipper for frustration-free zipping and unzipping every time
  • Machine washable for easy cleaning
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It’ll keep you warm down to 0 degrees (with some numbing of the toes) and the layers can be removed for warmer weather.

If you are raising a family of über-tall sasquatches (like me) and need sleeping bags for campers over 6 feet, check out our popular post on Best Big and Tall Sleeping Bags and Best Camping Gear for Families.

3. Backpack

At some point, you’re going to leave your campsite to hike and explore. You need a way to transport food, water, and any gear you’ll need for your time away from basecamp.

Settling on a favorite brand, size, and style of hiking pack or backpacking pack is something that requires research and experience; however, to get started, get a good one-size-fits-most hydration day pack, like the Teton Sports Oasis.

Best Beginners Hiking Pack
TETON Sports Oasis 18L Hydration Pack
$47.96
  • Lightweight and comfortable at 2 lbs. empty
  • 18 liters of space for snacks, gear, and clothing
  • Compressions straps keeps cargo balanced when hiking
  • Included 2-Liter hydration reservoir with kink-free sip tube and push-lock cushioned bite valve and large 2-inch opening for ice and easy cleaning
  • Adjustable shoulder and chest straps with waist belt for men, women, and youth that adjusts to fit all frames comfortably
  • 600D Polyurethane ripstop is water resistant with integrated raincover in case you're caught in a downpour
  • Lifetime Warranty
Pros:
  • Equipped like a daypack twice the price from top-shelf manufacturers
  • Just the right size for day outings
  • The built-in reservoir means you can carry and access more water on the trail without a separate water bottle
  • Low price point means every family member can have one
  • Backed by a Lifetime Guarantee from a solid company
Cons:
  • The reservoir may be difficult for little kids to fill and seal without help
  • The reservoir can affect the taste of the water. Recommend replacing with an Osprey reservoir eventually
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02/27/2024 03:02 pm GMT

If you have younger children who are developed enough to carry their own packs, check out our post on The Best Kids’ Hydration Packs for some great ideas!

4. Food

It is possible to prepare nutritious, satisfying camping meals without a stove, cookware, and even eating utensils.

It just requires more creativity and, sometimes, a more flexible palette.

If you’re still building your camping gear arsenal and have yet to assemble your “camp kitchen,” no worries. You camp light without a stove or a cooler by packing no-cook, no-chill alternatives such as:

Countless campers share their simple meal ideas online. You’re a quick Google away from endless great ideas!

5. Water

If you’re car camping, odds are a potable water spigot will be within reach of your campsite. If not, pick up some two-gallon water jugs from a grocery store on the way. Remember, you’ll need at minimum 1 gallon of water per person per day!

A 2 to-3-liter hydration pack is best to keep water convenient and fresh.

If there is not a safe water source nearby, you’ll need a portable water filter to refill.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System w/ Hydration Pack Adapter
$45.99
  • Lightweight, Easy To Use Portable Water Filter Removes Harmful Bacteria, Protozoa, Cysts, Sediment, And 100% Of Microplastics
  • 0.1 Micron Absolute Inline Filter Fits In The Palm Of Your Hand And Weighs Just 2 Ounces
  • Built-In And Removable Flip Top Sports Cap; Spray Water Straight Into Mouth Or Bottle From Included Pouch; Also Fits Standard Water Bottles With 28 Mm Threads
  • Includes Two Reusable 32-Oz, Bpa-Free Collapsible Pouches That Roll Up Tightly For Easy Packing, Drinking Straw, One Set Of Sawyer Inline Hydration Pack Adapters For Filter, And Mesh Storage Bag
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02/27/2024 11:23 am GMT

What Should You Not Bring When Camping?

Do you NEED it to camp in relative comfort? Seriously consider that question and, if you don’t, save yourself the hassle and leave it behind.

If you don’t need it, don’t put it on your priority list.

But we’re camping, not surviving. Once you have your camping essentials packed, find room for a few modern conveniences. Just keep things simple.

Remember: When composing a family camping packing list, LESS IS MORE!

What Should You Not Keep In a Tent?

Regardless of whether you are camping in bear country or a raccoon’s neighborhood, never keep these items in your tent:

What Are Things You Should Not Do While Camping?

Wrapping up Camping Checklist for Families

Camping is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, but it requires thoughtful planning. It’s important to come prepared so you can make the most of your time away from home. 

That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate family camping packing list. With these items, you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way on your next family car camping trip. From tents and sleeping bags to cooking supplies and first-aid kits, we’ve got you covered.

So what are you waiting for? Get packing!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!