Don’t Forget a Thing! The Essential Family Camping Checklist

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Whether you are new to camping or a seasoned camper, we are always looking for that perfect gear list to seamlessly pack up our car for the next epic camping trip. Because every family is different, a family camping checklist can take time to make. What you need, what you use, and what isn’t really important enough to take up valuable space in the car. This family camping checklist will guide you through customizing your list – and you won’t make the mistake of forgetting any of those essential items on your next adventure.

totes packed with camping gear on a picnic table holds everything on the family camping checklist

Family Camping Packing List

This list is precisely what we pack on our camping trips. It’s made for camping at developed campgrounds where you have your car parked at or near your site but can be adapted for other types of camping.

We don’t always use high-tech gear – our plates are the Ikea plates repurposed from when the kids were young, and our silverware is from my husband’s first apartment. If you are new to camping and building your first family camping packing list, use items you already have at home where you can. After a few trips, you’ll know where you want to invest in solid gear.

And because we live and camp in bear country, we pack nearly everything in totes so that it’s easier to load everything up in the bear lockers or the car during the night.

Camping Gear for Sleeping

The Camp Kitchen Packing List

We make a separate list for food since our camping meals change for each trip. We keep salt and pepper packed in our camp kitchen tote, so we also have that on the list.

Related Reading: 11 Strategies that Make Packing a Car for Camping Easy and Efficient


  • disposable or reusable plates for serving outdoor meals
  • forks / spoons / knives, which can also be disposable or reusable
  • cups or Nalgene bottles
  • table cloth + clips to make wiping spills easy (the clips help hold the table cloth down in winds)
  • zip-top bags for storing any leftovers
  • aluminum foil that can be used for cooking over the campfire
  • we bring Koozies to keep drinks a little colder in the summer, but it’s also a way for everyone to know which drink is theirs 
  • salt & pepper
  • pack biodegradable dish soap when there is a chance you don’t have a sink available for washing dishes
  • dish towels
  • a multifunction bottle opener that works for both wine and beer
  • at least one trash bag per day of your trip
  • a propane stove for cooking camping meals, even if it’s just a backup plan
  • the camp stove connector is separate on our list to double check it’s packed with the stove

Cookware and Kitchen Utensils

The easiest option is to buy inexpensive versions of these essential camp kitchen items to store in your camp kitchen tote. Make more space by taking things out that you are sure you won’t need.

  • nesting pots & pans
  • roasting sticks (collapsible ones are easiest to store in a tote)
  • tongs
  • spatula
  • wooden spoon
  • paring knife
  • can opener

Camp Coffee Essentials

Early morning coffee at the campground can be the best part of the day and is essential to our family camping checklist! Make sure you have everything you need to make your favorite camp coffee! Tea drinkers can swap these for items required to make their favorite teas.

  • coffee cups, insulated if camping in colder weather
  • coffee pot (percolator, French press, or pour over work best)
  • measuring scoop
kids relaxing at the campground
Don’t forget to put items for some downtime at the campground on your family camping checklist.

Things to Pack in the “Outdoor Fun” Tote

We really do have this tote labeled “outdoor fun”! This is essential on the camping checklist for kids, but adults can also have fun at the campground with these. This is the tote where anyone can grab something to do when they are bored at the campsite, want to play some outdoor games together, or even need a little break from the outdoors.

Related Reading: Tips and Resources for Choosing the Best Campground and Campsites

This list changes for the weather, campground amenities, and our planned activities during our camping trip.

Campfire Essentials

  • firewood (but it’s best to buy at or near the campground, if possible)
  • fire starters
  • matches or lighter

Outdoor Play & Games

  • baseball gloves & balls or frisbees
  • slackline
  • deck of cards and travel games to entertain during downtime

Family Camping Packing List for Chillin’ at the Campground

  • a Bluetooth speaker for background music at the campsite
  • hammock and straps (just make sure that the campground allows things to be tied to trees, or pick up one of these for your hammock)
  • comfy camp chairs for sitting around the campfire
  • books / magazines
  • charging cords and portable chargers/power banks for phones and e-readers
  • a canopy to block sun or rain
  • string lights to hang up around the campsite

Household Items

  • hand sanitizer and/or hand soap (many campground restrooms don’t have – or quickly run out of – hand soap)
  • disinfecting wipes like WetOnes that can be used on hands too
  • good paper towels can be used for everything from cleaning spills to washing dishes
  • toilet paper, because restrooms are often serviced only once a day and run out


  • baby wipes for quick clean ups when showers are not available
  • unscented lotions for face and body
  • tissues (travel packs hold up better than those packed in cardboard boxes)
  • toothbrushes & toothpaste
  • lip balm
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray/lotion
  • deodorant
  • glasses/contacts
  • medications

Add-Ons for Campgrounds with Showers

  • shampoo & conditioner
  • bar soap or body wash
  • wash clothes (we use baby wash clothes for camping!)
  • flip flops, Crocs, or other waterproof shoes for in the shower
  • small bag or caddy to transport everything to the bath house

Camping Checklist for Kids

There are a few items to add to the family camping packing list just for the kids.

  • activities (coloring books, markers/crayons, cards, or board games)
  • extra socks
  • comfort items like blankets, stuffed animals, or favorite books for bedtime

Optional Items for a Family Camping Checklist

Optional Items for Camping Activities

Your family camping checklist depends on the campground amenities, or other activities are planned during your camping trip. Pack swim gear for campgrounds with access to water and fishing gear if there is a lake. A backpack, good shoes, and water bottles are essential for hikes on nearby trails.

  • fishing poles (and gear) if there is a stocked lake or pond nearby 
  • beach towels
  • swimsuits
  • water shoes for rocky or mucky waters
  • binoculars for spotting birds and other wildlife from afar
  • hiking gear (like sturdy shoes, backpack, trekking poles, and something for carrying snacks)

A Family Camping Checklist for Pets

  • food and water bowls
  • bed, blankets, or even a sleeping bag – especially if you are camping with your dog in cold weather
  • leash
  • waste disposal bags
  • longer tie-out to give your dog some room to roam around the campsite
  • favorite dog toys

Family Camping Packing List for Cold Weather

Stay cozy warm with a few additional items when camping in the cold. Check the high and low temps in the forecast – the days might be sunny and warm, but nighttime temps may be drastically different.

Related Reading: 15 Practical Tips for Cold Weather Camping to Keep You Cozy Warm

  • sleeping bag liners or sheets to add an effective layer of insulation to your sleeping bag
  • electric or propane heater to heat the tent before bed
  • hand and toe warmers
  • hats, gloves, and wool socks to keep warm from head to toe

Summer Camping Essentials

  • cooling towels
  • electric or battery operated fan
  • extra water

You Might Also Like: How to Keep Cool While Camping: 21 Essential Tips for Camping in the Heat of the Summer

What are the must-have items on your family camping packing list? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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