Family Camping: 11 MUST HAVE Essentials to Bring Along

Looking to take your family on a camping trip but wondering what gear you need to pack?

Worry not, we’re here to help.

Family camping trips can be a fantastic way to get outside and enjoy the wonders of nature with your loved ones. However, camping with children and other family members requires coming prepared with the right equipment to ensure that your adventures go off without a hitch.

To get you started, we’ve created this ultimate family camping checklist. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most important pieces of gear to bring on your travels. 

That way, you always have what you need in the great outdoors.

1. Family camping tent

blue family camping tent

Any good family camping trip starts with having a good camping tent. However, the type of tent you should bring greatly depends on your family’s adventure style.

For example, if you’re going on a quick family backpacking trip to Shenandoah National Park, a cozy 6 person tent might suffice. However, for longer car camping adventures to Joshua Tree National Park, for example, a spacious 2 room tent might be more appropriate.

The key here is to get a tent that’s slightly larger than your needs since kids tend to take up a disproportionate amount of space when they sleep. Plus, camping with kids often involves packing a lot of gear.

So, having a slightly larger tent than you need will ensure that everyone has enough space at night.

Read More : 10 Ways to Make Tent Camping More Comfortable

2. Camp tarps

tent with white camping tarp

The last thing anyone wants is to get soaked in a rainstorm while at camp. Thankfully, there’s a solution to your needs, a camp tarp.

A quality camp tarp provides invaluable protection from the wind and the rain when you’re not in your tent. So, it’s a must for any camping adventure.

Even if you don’t think it will rain on your trip, it’s still worth packing a trusty tarp. That’s because tarps can also be used to provide a bit of shelter from the sun, which is important if you’re camping in hot environments, like Death Valley National Park.

3. First aid kits

man with first aid kit helping woman

Although we hope you never have to use them, first aid kits are a required item on any family camping trip.

Of course, we’d recommend bringing a first aid kit on any outdoor adventure, whether you’re with your family or not. But, kids are known for their ability to get scrapes and bruises on a regular basis, so having a first aid kit on hand can make a big difference.

Your ideal family camping first aid kit should have plenty of bandaids, antibiotic cream, and the like. If you have kids or family members that have medical conditions, like asthma or severe allergies, you may also want to include one of their spare inhalers or Epi-Pens.

Other good things to pack include contact information for your family physician or pediatrician if you have any concerns during your trip. Contact information for local hospitals and clinics near your campsite is also helpful to have in your first aid kit, just in case.

4. Camping chairs

two kids on their cute camping chairs

Most campgrounds come with a picnic table, but few picnic tables are large enough to accommodate a whole family.

The solution? Camping chairs.

If you’re planning a car camping trip, a set of camping chairs and kids camping chairs are essential pieces of gear. Alternatively, backpackers on more remote adventures might consider lightweight backpacking chairs, instead.

The key here is to ensure that everyone has a place to sit and relax after a long day of adventure. You don’t necessarily need to have a chair for everyone, but having an assortment of seats can make your evening campfires much more enjoyable.

Read More : 10 Popular Campfire Games for Adults

5. Cooking gear

family with complete cooking gear

Cooking up gourmet grub on the trail requires having the right cooking gear for the job. So, packing a quality set of camping cooking gear, which includes pots, pans, and the like, is important.

Furthermore, it’s also worth considering how you plan to cook your meals on your trip.

If you want to cook over an open campfire, a dutch oven might be a more suitable choice. Alternatively, if you want to keep things simple, using pots and pans on a camp stove could be the better option.

6. Mess kits

In addition to your cooking gear, you’ll also need plates, bowls, and cups to eat and drink out of. As a result, an assortment of mess kits is critical on any family camping trip.

Depending on how fussy your kids are over food, you may find that you need a full-fledged mess kit with bowls, plates, spoons, forks, and knives for a car camping trip. However, on backpacking trips, you could try and trim your gear list by opting for a bowl and spork for each person, instead.

Regardless of what type of trip you’re planning, however, having a mess kit for each person is of the utmost importance.

7. Coolers

senior carrying blue camping cooler with family

No one likes spoiled food. So, having a cooler with you on all your adventures is vital if you want to have fresh, tasty food at all times.

Furthermore, as a general rule for family camping trips, it’s best to have one cooler for food and one for drinks.

That’s because the drinks cooler often gets opened and closed dozens of times throughout the day as kids and adults, alike, reach in to grab a juice box or adult beverage.

Therefore, having separate coolers for your food and drink can help ensure that your perishable food items stay as chilled as possible while you camp.

8. Cots or air mattresses

woman relaxing in tent on a cot

Sleeping in a tent doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, with the right sleeping system, your family camping trip can be a cozy and glorious affair.

Depending on your personal camping style, packing either a cot or an air mattress for your trip is essential.

In particular, cots are the ideal choice for people who don’t like to sleep directly on the ground. Alternatively, air mattresses are best for folks that don’t mind sleeping on the ground but that like to have a plush surface to snooze on.

Regardless of which option you choose, prioritizing gear like air mattresses and cots that can help you get a better night’s sleep under the stars is important.

9. Lanterns

It can get dark in camp at night. That means that packing some lanterns to illuminate your campsite is a must if you want to hang out in camp after the sun goes down.

Of course, you’ll also want to ensure that everyone has a headlamp or flashlight on hand, too, for added convenience while doing camp chores. But, it’s hard to beat lanterns when it comes to illuminating large areas of your campsite or your entire tent at night.

Oh, and if you want to add some cozy vibes to your campsite, you might consider supplementing your lanterns with some string lights. Although most string lights aren’t bright enough to illuminate your camping area on their own, they are a nice supplement if you just want a bit of extra light while hanging out at night.

10. Games

camping card games

Keeping everyone entertained while in camp isn’t always easy. So, packing a solid selection of camping games can help liven up your evenings on the trail.

Depending on your family’s personal preferences, you could opt for some portable board games or lawn games for your trip.

Additionally, it’s always worth having a few fun games that don’t require much gear, like charades or card games, at the ready. That way, you can still have fun during your adventures, even if you’re venturing out on a lightweight family backpacking trip.

Read More : 10 Camping Activities for Kids to Keep Them Occupied

11. Walkie Talkies

kid with a blue walkie talkie

Communication on family camping trips can be a challenge, especially when reliable cell service just isn’t an option. That’s why having walkie-talkies in your family camping checklist is crucial.

A quality set of walkie-talkies can make communication on the trail or in the campsite as simple as can be. Plus, outfitting your kids with walkie-talkies while camp can make it easier for them to wander around the campground without you having to worry about their whereabouts.

That way, you can spend more time enjoying your adventures and less time concerned about what your kids are up to during their free time.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.