A Printable Checklist for Camping with Kids • Wanderlust with Kids (2024)

Having a checklist for camping with kids is a great way to help you stay organized and ensure that nothing important is forgotten in the rush of packing and heading out camping.

Camping can be a fun family adventure, but it won’t be fun to arrive at the campsite only to discover something was left at home!

There are some essentials for camping with kids that everyone needs! Over the past few years, we’ve camped quite a few times and each time we realized there was SOMETHING that we had forgot to pack.

So we created a camping checklist and taped it to the inside of the camping tote. Bingo! No more excuses for forgetting to pack the essentials for camping!

Now we are fairly basic, car camping type of family, so what we’ve included in the checklist for camping with kids are the essentials for tent camping, with a few extra things you might want to pack.

>>If you are new to camping with kids, read some of these tips before you go!

This checklist for camping with kids will help you stay organized and ensure that nothing is left behind, so you will enjoy the adventure of camping with the family!

Basic Essentials for Camping with Kids

Tent

This is the obvious one, but don’t forget to bring tent pegs and check to make sure everything is in the tent bag BEFORE you go!

First Aid Kit

While you don’t want to think of potential accidents happening, it’s always best to be prepared…just in case! And if you’re travelling with kids, it’s definitely a good idea to have a first aid kit! Bandaids, gauze, scissors, antiseptic cream, medical tape (or if you’re Canadian, hockey tape works well too!).

While it’s included in our first aid kit checklist, I want to really stress that Benadryl is a good thing to bring along! You never know how your kids will react to certain things (bug bites even!) and having Benadryl (or some other allergy relief) will give you some peace of mind and your kids a bit of comfort if they do react to anything.

Sleeping Bags (and pillow)

Even if you are camping in the summer, a sleeping bag is a good idea! You may or may not need it, but depending on where you are camping, it can get chilly at night.

Pillows aren’t necessary – you can always roll up clothes and sleep on those but if you’re like me, a pillow is definitely worth bringing!

Tarp

Bring a tarp! Whether you use it over your tent in case it rains, or set it up over an eating area, tarps can provide a bit of shade or shelter from the rain.

Rope

Rope is a necessity too. Whether you’re tying up a tarp over the tent or hanging a clothesline, rope will always come in handy.

Lantern/Flashlight

You’ll need a lantern as soon as the sun begins to go down. A campfire is great, but it doesn’t provide the light you need if you’re needing to find something after dark, walk the kids to the tent or take that washroom break before bed. My guys also love having their own flashlights in addition to our lantern.

Food

While this is another obvious one, what’s not so obvious is what kind of food to bring. And every family will have different ideas!

Some people like to pre-cook meals at home, others prefer to bring things they can cook over the fire or on a campstove, while others prefer to bring cold food and have picnic style meals. We tend to go with simple things we can cook on the stove or easy, no-cook dinners.

If you’re camping for a few days, keep in mind how long food will last in your cooler too.

Clothes

You’ll want to pack comfortable clothes and not your best clothes as they WILL get dirty.

Think of dressing in layers, and bring a warm sweater for evenings, as evenings may get cool.

Socks, long sleeves and long pants are a good idea to keep bug bites minimal or if you will be hiking in an area with ticks.

Toilet Paper

Even if you are camping somewhere with toilet facilities, believe me, you might want to bring your own!

Some washroom facilities are vault type toilets and aren’t always fully stocked with toilet paper.

**Be sure not to just toss the TP in the bush though – camp responsibly and don’t leave a trace (pack it in a zip loc bag or your regular garbage bag).

Water

This may not seem like an essential, but drinkable water isn’t readily available everywhere.

Depending where you are camping, you may want to bring along water purification tablets or a filter.

We bring this big water jug and it lasts us a few days.

Many campgrounds in Canada will have water refill taps, or you can also find public taps in many towns.

Fire Starter

Chances are you will want a campfire if you are camping!

I’m adding this to the list, because honestly, the first time we camped, I was thinking so much about the OTHER things, that I didn’t think to pack the proper fire starting equipment! (Yes, you can laugh at me, but I had other things on my mind when trying to camp for the first time with twin toddlers!)

So if you’re like me and need to add that to the list, go right ahead! Don’t forget matches, lighter or however you will light the fire. You’ll also need dry paper or newspaper and kindling to get the fire started. You can buy premade fire starter blocks (or DIY your own) to help get that fire started!

Firewood

And of course, if you are planning to have a fire, you will need firewood!

Check with the campsite first to see if you are allowed to bring in firewood from outside. Many areas restrict the firewood to wood from the area (you can usually pick up firewood close to the campsite if you choose not to buy it at the campsite).

Camp Chairs

Camp chairs probably aren’t an essential item to put on a checklist for camping with kids but you will need somewhere to sit!

Whether it’s to sit by the campfire at night or just relax by the campsite during the day, camp chairs are a great thing to bring camping. You can find specific kids size camping chairs too!

Dish Bucket

While I say bucket, others may call it a bin or dishpan. However you choose to call it, you’ll want something that you can rinse dishes in.

*Side note: don’t dump your dish water at the campsite! Make sure to carry it to the grey water disposal, usually by the shower/washroom facilities. Although it’s not a small bucket, it packs well and you can always pack other things in it!

Kid Friendly Dishes

While we don’t bring a full set of dishes, we DO carry a plastic kid-friendly bowl and plates (IKEA has a GREAT set). We all use them, even mom!

Garbage Bag

Any bag will work to collect garbage, just make sure to keep it inside the car overnight, or hang from a tree if you are camping in the backcountry! Garbage attracts animals and you don’t want them coming to your campsite!

Toiletries

Pack minimal toiletries, as you will be camping!

Tooth brush and toothpaste, soap, and maybe shampoo – although the scent of shampoo and soap will attract bugs! But I can’t go more than a day or two without washing my hair, so shampoo comes with us!

If you aren’t using shower facilities at the campground, a quick rinse in the lake also does the trick, but don’t use soap or shampoo to wash in the lake – only in designated shower facilities!

Extra “Nice to have” Things When Camping with Kids


Air Mattress

This year we have upgraded and will now tent camp with an air mattress!

Although it’s one more thing to pack, I think it will make camping MUCH more comfortable! The kids don’t seem to mind sleeping on the ground, but as I get older I notice it more! I’m looking forward to trying out our new air mattress!

Camp Stove

It isn’t necessary to bring a camp stove – you can cook some food over the fire or even just bring no-cook meals but a camp stove certainly makes cooking meals a bit easier!

It’s also a necessity to heat water for coffee in the morning. =)

Citronella Candles/Bug Repellent

We aren’t fans of traditional insect repellent BUT you will probably need some sort of bug repellent while camping.

Whether you DIY your own like we do, or use pre-made repellent, make sure you get a kid-friendly version! There are also bracelets for kids, or we also find adding a handful of sage to the campfire works well!

Cooking Pot

If you’re planning on cooking on a campstove, you will need pots or pans!

You can find specific camping sets and the nice thing with these is that they fit inside each other and store really well!

We also bring a small fry pan for those quick breakfasts or to sauté things for dinner.

Coffee Maker

Maybe I should have added this to the basic essentials section above!

While there are some people who don’t NEED coffee in the morning, I am NOT one of those people.

A French press or aeropress works well when camping.

Other options are a pour over, or “cowboy” coffee which seems to be very similar to Bosnian or Turkish coffee. =)

Dining Tent

A dining tent isn’t necessary – we camped for a few years without one – but they are nice to have! Especially on those rainy days, or days when the bugs are bad, it’s nice to be able to sit inside in relative comfort.

Hammock

We LOVE our travel hammock. It’s easy to set up, dries fast and packs small. We travel with it ALL the time, but it’s especially nice to have while camping!

Dustpan and Broom

We have this awesome mini broom and dustpan set that is great for brushing dirt off shoes, or from the floor of the tent.

Beach Things

If you’re camping near a lake or beach, you might want to bring some beach gear and sand toys.

Read more | What to Pack for a Day at the Beach with Kids

Camping Shower

This is on my wish list!

While most campsites will have shower facilities, you may end up camping somewhere without them (or when they are closed due to covid) and a shower would be nice!

Dish Soap / Dish Cloth

You’ll want to rinse and wash your dishes (don’t laugh, but I didn’t think to bring dish soap the first time we camped!).

As we mentioned above, be responsible and don’t throw your grey water out at the campsite! It’s bad for the environment but also attracts animals!

Dish towel

Again, I didn’t think of packing a dish towel the first time we camped and we had to air dry our dishes!

Activities for Kids

Yes, you’re camping but you might want to bring some small activities for kids, especially if you are camping with young kids.

We bring small toys (cars, trains, diggers, shovel – my boys will dig and play in the dirt anywhere!), a ball to kick around, books to read, and colouring paper with crayons. This keeps the kids occupied and having fun while you are making meals, setting up the campsite or even just passing time while you rest at the campsite during the day!

Read more | Tips for Camping with Young Kids

A Few Extras Things to Bring When Camping with Kids


Backpack

If you are planning on doing any hiking while you are camping, be sure to bring a small backpack or daypack for the little things like snacks, water, camera and binoculars.

Camera

Mom always travels with her camera but the boys also love to take their cameras! They have a small kids camera that is perfect for their size hands and is pretty durable!

Binoculars

Whether you are hiking or just exploring around the campsite, binoculars are great for kids. The boys have these ones and they are perfect for our adventures.

Cards

Card games are a great way to pass some time around the campsite!

Fishing Poles

My boys LOVE to fish, so the fishing poles come with us. If parents are fishing as well, make sure you also have a fishing license.

Now that you’ve got all the essential things for camping with kids, download the checklist for camping with kids below and you’re ready to go camping! Have a great time and make some fantastic memories!

Pro Tip: Keep a copy of the camping checklist with your camping gear (we keep ours in a clear tote, taped to the top so we can see it). Add something to it as you think of it or run out of it, and before camping the next time, take a quick glance at your list and you will be ready to go!

>>Download the checklist for camping with kids here<<

A Printable Checklist for Camping with Kids • Wanderlust with Kids (1)

If there’s anything else you can think of that we should have on the camping checklist for kids, let us know in the comments below!

A Printable Checklist for Camping with Kids • Wanderlust with Kids (2)

Erin Martin

Erin Martin is the founder and sole writer for Wanderlust with Kids. Together with her twin boys, they have travelled to over 20 countries and five provinces within Canada. Erin is responsible for planning and facilitating all of her family's travel itineraries and adventures, whether locally or internationally. An explorer at heart, Erin aims to make any travel adventure kid-friendly and shares all her favourite family-friendly things to do, both in Canada and abroad.

A Printable Checklist for Camping with Kids • Wanderlust with Kids (2024)

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