Whether you are planning your very first camping trip or are a seasoned overnight camper and outdoors person, packing for a camping trip can be overwhelming. How much gear do you need? What gear do you need? You don’t want to overpack and lug tons of equipment around, but you also don’t want to under-pack and be unprepared for the outdoors. Taking the time to research the area you plan to camp at and making a thorough list of everything you need (and everything you think you might need) will ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible. Luckily, we are here to help you make that list and help you pack for your family camping trip. So grab your weekend bag It’s time to pack!
A tent is likely already on the top of your list. If you are “front country camping” (meaning, you will drive right to your campsite instead of hiking into the backcountry to get to your site), you can go big for your family tent. A tent with standing space and separate rooms is a great option for camping with the whole family. Bringing a tarp or two is also a great idea for setting up both over and under your site. One can provide shade, while the other can serve the dual purpose of smoothing out the ground and protecting the bottom and sides of your tent from damp morning dew and rain.
Sleeping bags are a must. You could bring blankets and pillows from home and throw them in your tent, but traditional linens will absorb all of the dampness and odors of your camping trip and become dirty. Sleeping bags are typically made with materials that are less absorbent and much easier to clean once you get home. Plus, isn’t curling up in your personal cocoon of a sleeping bag part of the fun of camping?
Of course, you will need food and plenty of it when you’re camping with the whole family. Bring plenty of ready-to-eat, shelf-stable healthy snacks like granola, dried fruit, and nuts. If the campsite allows you to build a fire, bring fun foods like hotdogs and marshmallows to roast over an open flame. If you cannot make a fire, make sure to bring your own camp stove to cook hot meals on. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water. Or save the space and the plastic and bring a backcountry water filter if your site is near a freshwater stream or river.
Make sure a first aid kit is on your list. If you are unsure about how to pack a first aid kit appropriate for your area, ask a park ranger or other outdoors professional what they recommend. Don’t forget to bring plenty of lanterns and flashlights for late-night bathroom trips.
The right clothing and shoes are essential. Bring layers, as you will be exposed to the elements all day, likely for multiple days. Even if it is a nice balmy warm summer day while the sun is shining, the temperature will drop once the sun goes down. Make sure the kids stay warm and pack hoodies even for summer trips. Packable down coats are ideal for camping during cooler months.
Make sure everyone has good outdoor shoes for hiking and adventuring. Sweat-wicking active shirts are great for long warm hiking adventures.
Extra clothing and shoes are also a great idea. Bring a pair of sandals in addition to your hiking boots for lounging around the campsite. Bring extra clothing, especially for the little ones, to change into after a sweaty hike or a splashy adventure in the river. Merino wool socks are the best option for outdoor adventures, even in the warmer months.
Toiletries are not on the essentials list, but you’ll probably want them! Bring wet wipes, deodorant, and biodegradable, eco-friendly soap. For extra comfort, we highly recommend bringing an air mattress or two. A packable, self-inflating air mattress can ensure that you get a good night’s sleep, no matter the terrain you’ve set your tent up on. To help keep the inside of your tent clean, we recommend bringing a doormat to set in front of the entrance to your tent. It will also give your campsite a sweet homey feel.
Of course, depending on the weather and the climate, this list may change. (Don’t forget bug spray and sunscreen!) We hope that this list will serve as a solid starting point to answering the question of how to pack for a family camping trip. Happy camping!