The Ultimate Guide to Camping with Kids

September 02, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Camping with Kids


Some of us have already tried camping, and some of us haven’t (we’re not judging!). To the inexperienced, planning for a camping trip seems like a daunting task. How much more if it is camping with your kids in tow? You don’t have to be a camping expert to prepare for a successful camping trip. There are many ways to get prepared, and make sure you get all the necessary stuff. All it takes is common sense and good planning.

We will be putting a camping checklist. But before you get to the nitty-gritty details, you have some initial tips especially for the newbie (and even the experienced) campers.


The Ultimate Guide to Camping with Kids

1. Know your camping style. Are you going to be doing car camping, using the RV, or backpacking? Do you prefer the hot or cold season? Prepare according to your preference. If you are camping during the cold season, of course you will be bringing essentials that will make you comfortable and be prepared for that kind of weather.

2. Look for the best campsite suitable for you and your family. Do some research and choose campground with amenities suitable to your family’s needs. Campgrounds can have ball fields, near beaches or rivers, have playgrounds, picnic tables, flushing toilets and hot showers. If this is your first time camping with the family, it is best to choose a more developed campground. Pick a place that is close to home. You can always work your way up to more remote and adventurous locations when the kids get the hang of it. It is a good idea to ask your friends for recommendations as well. Since this is a family affair, involve your kids—ask them what they want to do or expect from the trip.

3. Do a camping trial run at your own backyard. Camping at your own backyard helps you and your kids get a sense of how it is when you are out in the great outdoors. It will help you and your kids to be prepared. Check your gears and see what might be missing. Make time for a trial camping before doing the real thing.

4. Research on activities you can do. Familiarize yourself with the possible activities of the campground you choose—day hikes, swimming, biking, etc. Kids get bored easily so be ready with some ideas when that happens. Developed campgrounds have bulletin boards that map out easy nature trails that you can take. Maybe you can rent a boat or ride bikes?

5. Check out your friends’ or family’s camping gear. So you’re not sure what kind of tent you are having. It’s a good idea to ask your friends or family what sort of tents they have. You might have a back problem and can’t stand lying on the ground. Maybe an air mattress is needed? Ask people who you know to be into camping. Get opinions and recommendations and choose what is best for you and your family.

6. Recycle or reuse your old camping gear. You might be one of those people who have camped before. Chances are, you can still have your old gear—sleeping bags, camp kitchen equipment, mattress, etc. Check if they are still usable as you don’t want to be using faulty or worn out equipment when you are out in the wild. Reusing your old gear saves you money, as long as they are still durable.

7. Involve your kids. Teach your kids camp chores early by involving them. Sure, you can pitch your tent or cook meals faster by yourself but letting them help would be fun. Assign them tasks appropriate for their age. Teach them basic camping chores like setting up a tent, building a campfire, cook a basic meal, or find a level tent site. Younger kids can roll out sleeping bags, gather firewood, or fill up water bottles. Older kids can wash dishes or help with dinner preparation.

8. Anticipate possible challenges. You know your kids better than anyone, even how they respond to situations. Potential problems in a camping trip can be avoided by better planning and troubleshooting. Does your child hate getting up at night to go to the bathroom or is still in potty-training? It maybe a great idea to bring a little travel toilet that you could put outside the tent. Do your kids get bored easily or get fussy? Bring some toys, drawing materials, or books to keep them occupied. One of your kids is a light sleeper. Earplugs would be a good idea for them to sleep soundly and not keep on waking up grumpy.

9. Be flexible. You did all the careful planning and came all prepared but things still didn’t go according to plan. That happens. We can only control what we can. Flexibility with a little sense of humor and patience go a long way in having a great camping experience with kids. If one of your kids doesn’t want to go on a day hike, change course and do something else instead. Its not fun when one of the family members is upset. The lake was closed off to campers due to an unforeseen event. Go biking instead and explore an easy trail. Try to let go of rigid schedules and just enjoy the moment. The best thing to do is make the most of what you have, and create wonderful new experiences.


The Must-Haves

Camping Checklist

  • Tent

Make sure you have the best tent fit for your family if you are planning to camp on a tent. Practice setting up your tent before going on a trip. Have your kids help too so that they will be familiar with it.

  • First Aid Kit

Never leave home without a first aid kit. It is important to be ready for any medical emergencies. Anything can happen during camping. You can get cuts or burns. You can check out our topic on outdoor first aid tips.

  • Rope

A piece of rope has a myriad of uses. You can use it to tie some camping equipment together, hang clothes to dry, use it as a trail maker if you get lost, or even bail someone out of the water if needed.

  • Pocket Knife/Multi-tool Knife

Like the first aid kit, a pocket knife is essential. This tool is easy to pack and comes handy for just about anything. Get yourself a reliable Swiss Army knife. It comes with a small scissor, a corkscrew, and of course, a knife.

  • Tarp

You can use a tarp to shield you against inclement weather, as an additional protective mat, or shield when trying to build a camp fire.

  • Box of Matches/Lighter

Bring a Zippo lighter, the kind that doesn’t easily get blown out. Make sure it is working! A box of matches as backup incase the lighter gets lost or stops working. Better yet, just bring an extra lighter to be safe.

  • Maps

In this age of technology, we have our mobile phones to rely on for GPS. But what if you are in an area where there is no signal? A good old-fashioned map is your way to go. Bring one to be sure.

  • Sleeping Bags

Sometimes, the most essential things can be overlooked. Don’t forget to pack sleeping bags. Include extra blankets as well. You need these to be able to sleep comfortably.

  • Air Mattress/Sleeping Pads

If you are one of those people who have back problems and are uncomfortable sleeping in the ground, you need an air mattress or an additional sleeping pad for extra comfort. You don’t want to wake up sore and miss out on all the fun.

  • Headlamp, Flashlight, or Lantern

Unless you have eyes that can see clearly in the dark, a headlamp, flashlight, or lantern is essential. You don’t want to be roaming around in the dark (scary!) or go bump into trees and hurt yourself in the process. Without these, accidents can happen.

  • Insect spray

Bugs are everywhere, especially during camping trips. You don’t want to be scratching all the time during your trip and be itchy. Come prepared and keep those pesky insects away. You can also take citronella candles or incense sticks.

  • Foldable Chairs

These are heaven-sent! They are relatively light and easy to carry around. Sure, camping is all about roughing it up by sitting on the ground or by a wooden log but if you have one of these, why not? It doesn’t hurt to be comfortable during your camping.

  • Solar-heated Shower Bag

Some campgrounds don’t have bathrooms. Some may have bathrooms but there are too many campers. You have to shower at some point, and this is when this solar-heated shower bag will come in handy.

  • Glow in the Dark Accessories

This is all too familiar—you go out at night to pee or relieve yourself and you trip over one of the pegs of your tent. This is when glow in the dark accessories come in handy. Get some glow in the dark ropes or sticks.

  • Solar Powered Charger

You might have packed a fully charged power bank. But that usually runs out and you are out in the wilderness with no charging stations in sight. Get a solar powered charger for all your charging needs. Surely, the sun always comes out, and you wont be out of power.

  • Bluetooth Speakers

Camping trips are all about fun and games, and of course, music. Bring a portable waterproof Bluetooth speaker to share all the fun. Make sure it is sufficiently charged before your trip.


Personal Items

Personal Items

  • Clothes

Pack clothes that you can afford to get stained or dirty. You and your kids will be spending a lot of time outdoors. Expect kids to get dirty when playing in the dirt or grass. Pack enough clothes for the duration of your trip.

  • Pajamas

Kids need these after a full day of roughing it up and playing. They would want to sleep in clean pajamas after their bath, before going to sleep.

  • Shoes

Wear shoes appropriate for your camping trip. You wont be needing hiking boots if your trip is mostly near the water or beach but aqua shoes/aqua slippers and flipflops instead. Wear hiking boots if you are doing a lot of, what else, hiking!

  • Outerwear

You might be camping during the summer but it can still get cold especially if the spots you picked are near water or at a higher elevation. Pack a jacket or sweater, and some gloves too for ample protection.

  • Toilet Paper/Wet Wipes

Bring your own toilet paper or wet wipes as most campground bathrooms are not equipped with it. You don’t want to be without these should the need arises.

  • Toiletries

Pack your toiletries in smaller bottles that you can easily stow. Make sure you have enough for everyone.

  • Sunscreen

Camping and sunburn (not fun at all!) usually mix but it doesn’t have to be if you come prepared. This is a necessity when outdoors.


The Camp Cooking Essentials

The Camp Cooking Essentials

  • Camping stove

If you really want to rough it up, sure you can build a fire and cook the old-fashioned way. That might take ages. With hungry kids around, that’s not fun. Bring a portable propane or butane stove and make your life easier. Buy enough propane/butane so you don’t run out of it. Factor in how long you are going to be camping.

  • Eating Utensils

Bring a set of plates, forks, spoons, knives, and cups enough for everyone. Make sure they are the non-breakable type, maybe enamel? They are also easy to clean.

  • Cooking Utensils

Include in your kitchen must-haves a frying pan, cast iron skillet, and a pot. Kids love roasting marshmallows in a campfire so don’t forget the roasting sticks as well.

  • Sealed containers

These sealed containers are essential for storing any leftover food. They keep food safe from critters and bugs, so that you can eat them later. You can also prepare food in advance and save them for later.

  • Cooler

Well, you can’t haul your refrigerator and take it with you when camping so a cooler is the next best thing. Fill it with ice to keep all your food and refreshments cold and fresh.

  • Cleaning supplies

Bring some paper towels, trash bags, a wash bin, soap, sponges, and dish rags with you. These are for before and after meal clean ups, or basically keeping your camping area clean. You don’t want to be leaving trash around.


Food and Drinks to Bring

Food and Drinks to Bring

1. Meals
    • Buy meat, fish, chicken, and veggies.
    • Pasta and spaghetti sauce are also easy to cook.
    • Rice or bread.
    • You can marinate meat or chicken beforehand, so they don’t spoil.
    • Chop veggies too in advance to save time.
    • You can cook meals in advance that don’t easily spoil and are easy to warm up. This is for your first day, when everyone is tired and hungry and just want to eat right away.
    2. Snacks
      • Bring chips, crackers, nuts, granola bars, trail mix, jerky, string cheese, crackers, dried fruit, chocolate bars, and gummy bears.
      • Fruits like carrots, grapes, apples, and bananas are a good idea as well.
      • Pack enough snacks not only for the road, but to eat between meals when camping
      3. Spreads
        • Nutella
        • Peanut or almond butter
        • Spreads go well with bread and are very filling. Some spreads have a longer shelf life as well, like peanut butter.
        4. S’mores
          • Pack marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. You can’t forget this. What’s a camping without it?
          5. Water/Drinks
            • Bring enough supply of water to last you and your family for the duration of the trip, especially if you are not near a water source.
            • Use water jugs and reusable bottles.
            • You can also bring some Gatorade and juices for kids.
            • Kids like milk and hot chocolate. Bring powdered ones.
            • If you are bringing an infant, don’t forget the formula.
            • Coffee or tea is essential for adults for their sanity.    


            Fun Things to Do for Kids and Adults

            1. Make sure to pack a few toys for the kids. It will keep them entertained during the trip or when you are cooking.
            2. Pack books as well, especially for kids who enjoy reading. Bedtime stories are more fun when camping, especially ghost stories.
            3. Bring some writing materials. Encourage kids to draw or make art while waiting for you to finish cooking.
            4. Play games together like bingo or twister. You can also organize a scavenger hunt.
            5. Bring toys that adults can also indulge in, like squirt guns, card games, balls, glow sticks, bubbles, and binoculars.


            Introduce your kids early to a camping experience. Only communing with Nature delivers a full-on sensory experience, and it is best enjoyed with family. Camping is one way of letting them see a different world, opening their eyes to different surroundings, and teaching them to appreciate nature.


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