Don’t Forget a Thing! How to Create the Perfect Family Camping Checklist

Updated on August 11, 2022

Whether you are new to camping or a seasoned camper, there seems to be a neverending quest to find that perfect gear list to seamlessly pack up the car for the next epic camping trip. But 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.

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This list of basic camping gear for family nights outdoors will guide you through customizing your list. With this list, you won’t need to worry about one of the most common camping mistakes: forgetting any of your camping gear at home.

totes packed with camping gear on a picnic table holds everything on the family camping checklist
Labeled totes contain all the family camping must-haves.

Family Camping Packing List

This list is the same list we use when packing for our family camping trips at developed campgrounds, where we have our car at or near the campsite. Glamping or backpacking? Adapt this list for almost any other camping style.

We don’t always use high-tech camping supplies – we use Ikea kid’s plates repurposed from when the kids were young and silverware from my husband’s first apartment – but we do upgrade and replace them with space-saving camping gear. If you are making a family camping packing list for your first camping trip, consider using any items you already have at home. 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 at night.

Camping Gear for Sleeping

The most essential camping equipment to pack is the tent, so do spend some time looking for the right tent for your needs. We adore our Kelty tents but also love tents from The North Face, Core Equipment, and Eureka! too.

Related: The Easiest Tents To Set Up By Yourself: 6 Best Instant Tent Picks for 2022

Essential Camping Gear

  • duct tape
  • tarp for a backup ground cover or shade
  • paracord to tie up tarps, hang clothes to dry, etc.
  • tent repair kit for unexpected tears in the tent
  • a flashlight or headlamp for after dark

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. Assuming you have food to stay cold during your trip, you’ll need to have a good cooler for the trip.

Tableware

  • disposable or reusable plates for serving outdoor meals
  • eating utensils (forks, spoons, and knives), which can also be disposable or reusable
  • cups or Nalgene bottles
  • tablecloth to make wiping down picnic tables easy (use tablecloth clips to help keep it in place)
  • zip-top bags for storing any leftovers
  • aluminum foil 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 
  • bring salt & pepper for simple seasoning
  • biodegradable soap and a sponge 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 you are sure you won’t need.

  • nesting pots & pans
  • roasting sticks (collapsible ones are easiest to store in a tote)
  • cooking utensils, including tongs, a spatula, and a wooden spoon
  • paring knife
  • can opener
  • a portable campfire grate, in case there isn’t one at the campsite

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
  • extra mugs for hot chocolate when camping with kids
kids relaxing at the campground
Don’t forget to put items for some downtime at the campground on your family camping checklist.

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

Things to Pack in the “Outdoor Fun” Tote

We really do have this tote labeled “outdoor fun”! This tote is one of our family camping must-haves and includes things to do at the campground for both kids and adults. Fill this tote with anything the family can grab for something to do when they are bored at the campsite. These are excellent for playing outdoor games together or getting a little break from the outdoors.

This list changes depending on the weather, campground amenities, and planned activities during a family camping trip.

Campfire Essentials

Nothing is better than ending the day by pulling a camping chair up to the fire. Keep these items on your list, so you’re sure to have what you need for an epic campfire.

Outdoor Play & Games

Family Camping Must-Haves for Chillin’ at the Campground

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

Household Items

  • hand sanitizer 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 for cleaning spills and washing dishes
  • toilet paper, because restrooms are often serviced only once a day and run out

Toiletries

  • 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 to keep the mosquitoes from biting
  • deodorant
  • glasses/contacts
  • medications

Add-Ons for Campgrounds with Showers

  • shampoo & conditioner
  • bar soap or body wash
  • washcloths (we use baby washcloths for camping because they are small and pack well)
  • flip flops, Crocs, or other waterproof shoes for in the shower
  • small bag or caddy to transport everything to the bathhouse

Camping Checklist for Kids

There are a few items to add to the family camping packing list just for the kids. Prepare ahead with giving these as camping-themed gifts for birthdays and holidays!

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

Family Camping Must-Haves – But Only If You’ll Use Them

These items should be part of your family camping essentials only if it’s something you’ll use at the campground. Otherwise, there is no need to pack it all for your trip.

Optional Items for Camping Activities

Your family camping checklist depends on the campground amenities or other activities planned for 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 if there is a stocked lake or pond nearby 
  • beach or pool bag to carry towels and other gear to the pool or lake
  • swimsuits
  • water shoes for rocky or murky waters
  • binoculars for spotting birds and other wildlife from afar
  • hiking gear (like sturdy hiking shoes, backpack, trekking poles, and something for carrying snacks)
  • water bottles or insulated tumblers for beverages

A Family Camping Packing List for Pets

Dogs love camping as much as we do, and most campgrounds welcome furry friends. If you’re bringing your dog along on the family trip, there are a few items to add to your family camping must-haves:

Family Camping Essentials for Cold Weather

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

  • sleeping bag liners or sheets to add an effective layer of insulation to your sleeping bag
  • extra blankets for around the campfire or on chilly mornings
  • 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

Camping in the summer months doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. A few additional items will keep everyone comfortable while camping in the hot weather.

  • cooling towels
  • electric or battery-operated fan
  • extra water
  • a canopy for shade

Although this list is comprehensive, it’s not exhaustive. Be sure to customize this list of basic camping gear for family trips according to your family’s specific needs. Make sure your list includes everything your family will use, without too many things you “might” need for your trip.


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