Family Camping Packing Check List (Free Printable)
Camping with kids is a fun family activity in the summer, but the camping packing checklist and preparation are definitely not the best part. What should you take and what do you need?
If you’re camping for the first time or camping infrequently, a checklist is the best way to keep track of the essentials and not forget what you need. Obviously, every family is different and you will want to add or remove items but this family camping packing list includes the most popular items. It’s a good starting point if you’re camping with school-age kids. Depending on where, how long and in what weather you are camping, this list is entirely flexible.
I’ve sorted items in four categories. You can view the full camping packing check list below (scroll down to the bottom) or download it as a printable here.
Camping Food | Kitchen
Food is the soul of a family camping trip. Whether you’re cooking at dinnertime or prepping breakfast in the morning, you need to have everything you need handy. My kitchen packing list includes:
Stoves and Grills
There are so many options to cook food at your campsite, ranging from cooking from a gas-powered stove that you lay on the bear box or the picnic table, to cooking over an open fire in the firepit, or using a barbecue if the campsite features one. You can opt for a super efficient JetBoil Zip, or go old-school and build a fire. It’s all up to you.
The most popular options are:
- Cooktop (make sure you try it at home or bring instructions, in case you don’t know how to connect the fuel or switch it on)
- Fuel (liquid, solid or gas)
- Matches / lighter
I could easily spend a whole afternoon in REI’s camping ailes, checking the latest titanium spork or the most creative folding teapot, but chances are you already have what you need in your kitchen. As you are car camping, you do not need to invest in ultra-light cookware. Regular kitchen cookware that’s not afraid of an outdoors adventure will do the trick.
For a group of 4, I recommend:
- Large pot (1 quart/liter minimum) with lid – either stainless steel (easy to clean) or cast iron (retains the heat well over an open fire)
- Camp cups (tin cups / non breakable cups)
- Frying pan or griddle
- Cutting board (check out small camping cutting boards)
- Camp plates/bowls
- Refillable water bottles
- Cool box
- Kitchen cloths
If you want to make the experience ultra-fun for your group, particularly if you have young kids, some cookware companies specialize in cast iron waffle irons or cast iron popcorn poppers for camping, with long handles to prevent burns. They are awesome around a campfire. Expect a line to use them!
Food is when camping is the best, for a lot of people. If you camped as a kid, what are your favorite food memories? Is it griddle pancakes, s’mores before bedtime, sausages on the fire pit? I know that for my girls, food is always a very important part of the experience and should deserve good planning.
Best Camping Foods
The best camping foods are those that are easy to prepare, lightweight, non-perishable, and that can be stored without refrigeration. I do have a few favorites but some popular options include:
- Trail mix
- Energy bars
- Dried fruit
- Crackers and peanut butter
- Canned goods, like beans, corn, tuna, or peaches
- Rice and pasta dishes
- Instant oatmeal or grits
- Soup or stew in a thermos
- Grilled or canned veggies
- S’mores ingredients
- Spices, herbs, oil, and condiments to add flavor to meals
Food means main meals as well as snacks. That’s why I also add the following:
- A good selection of breakfast foods (here’s a list of camping breakfast ideas)
- Sugar / Cinnamon
- Tea / Coffee / Chocolate
- Pancake mix (store-bought or DIY)
Camping Food Storage and Waste
How to properly store or dispose of food can make your life a lot easier once you are at the campsite. Between juggling day-time activities and day trips, you don’t know want to realize in the dark that you have no way of disposing of your dirty food containers or storing leftovers.
- Ziploc bags
- Garbage bags (with handles)
- Re-usable food containers
- Empty glass jars with lids
Note that it’s always a good idea to plan your meals ahead of time and pack accordingly, taking into consideration any special dietary requirements or restrictions.
Camping | Sleeping
Whether you are camping in a tent or in a camping pod, sleeping in a log cabin or in a bivvy bag under the stars, some must-have camping items fit all situations. This section of the packing list includes everything you need to set up camp and sleep, apart from the tent or roof over your head.
Camping Sleeping Bags and Accessories
- Inflatable mattresses (they come in various thicknesses and heat ratings)
- Sleeping bags or quilts (duvet is much warmer, synthetic fillings are easier to maintain)
- Fleece, cotton or silk liners (simplifies post-camping cleaning)
- Pillows (home pillows or camping pillows)
Sleeping under the stars, is there anything more magical? To find your way to the toilet block at night, or to get organized in your tent, not to mention cooking in the dark, a good selection of camping lights is essential. I’m a head lamp convert, as this frees up two hands to do whatever I need to do. However, to get changed in a tent or to read at night, sometimes an overhead lantern is not only atmospheric but very handy.
Hence why I suggest the following:
- Lantern / night light with hook (USB – or solar rechargeable)
- Head lamps (USB – or solar rechargeable) – one per person
Last but not least, fairy lights. Now, I know these shouldn’t be an essential piece of kit, but to brighten up a tent or make your camping area more cheerful, solar string lights or portable fairy lights are very cool.
Note that quite a few camping lanterns double up as power banks, which can be very convenient.
Camping | Entertainment & Art Supplies
After a full day outside, it’s great to be able to sit down and relax at your campsite, and let the kids unwind. With a bag full of fun activities and art supplies, kids can easily calm down, recharge their energy or get in the mood for more settled activities before bedtime. Sometimes, they’ll enjoy a story read out loud. Or they will opt to play a game or do crafts before a meal.
There are so many activities that work wonderfully well when you’re out camping in nature, and somehow, being outside makes them simpler too. Making a mess when painting or drawing suddenly becomes acceptable, and frees kids of the constraints of home. The one item I would refrain from bringing is any game with small components (Legos and similar) that are likely to get lost, or that you are likely to step on at night in a painful reminder that yes, that’s where that piece was dropped.
- Board games
- Musical instrument (harmonica, guitar,
- Drawing / painting supplies
- Kindle / iPad
- Mini battery-powered projector
- Charger for your electronics
The key to any outdoor adventure is to layer up! As long as you can add or remove layers to adapt to the temperature, you will be fine. Note that in wet / rainy camping spots, cotton is not recommended as it takes longer to dry and could be dangerous. Materials more suited to the great outdoors include merino wool, synthetics, or bamboo.
Quick packing list for clothing:
- Quick dry outfits
- Crocs/Slip-on shoes
- Wool hat
- Hiking boots
- Rain jacket / poncho
- Swim suit
Camping | Toiletries and Pharmacy
- Small bath towel
- Bar soap/shampoo
- Bug / mosquito repellent
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper + Ziploc bag
Camping Gear / Electronics
This section of the camping packing list includes everything that you will need in terms of hardware and outdoor gear.
- Phone and / or Camera
- Power bank (rechargeable)
- Duct tape
- Maps (paper or mapping app)
- Water bottles
- Fishing gear
- Emergency blanket
- Walking sticks
Last but not least, this section of the camping packing list is all about having fun. Whether you’re planning on hiking, swimming or stargazing, you deserve to kick back and relax.
- Glow sticks
- Portable speakers
- Portable radio
- S’mores kit
- Hula hoops
- Song book
- Ghost stories
- Glow frisbee
- Juggling balls
- Camping hammock
- Sky night map
- Bug box
- Drawing kit
- Wildlife guide
- Swim suits
- Sun hats
- Sun glasses
- Lip balm
- Hand cream
More on Family Camping
- Books about Camping for Kids on Look We’re Learning
- Best Camping Gear for Family Campers on Bambini Travel
- Camping Activities for Kids on iGame Mom
- STEM Camping Ideas Printable on Schooling a Monkey
- Camping Word Search Printable on Tales of Education at Home
- Camping Preschool Printables on Living Life and Learning
- Homeschooling + Camping on Adventure Homeschool