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Ultimate Family Camping Packing List

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Forced family isolation (brought on by COVID-19) has put my kids in front of screens much more than I’d like. The digital world can be very alluring but I find that when we get out in the woods and light a fire, they forget all about the world behind the screen. For this reason, I thought I would present you with the ultimate family camping packing list.

our family camping packing list

We are going to go over the critical pieces that make up a family camping gear list. We will talk about the items you need to set up a viable camp and children’s essentials like sleeping pads, survival kits, and camping chairs.

Sleep System

netted hammock for the boys

No camping checklist would be complete without a focus on the necessary sleep systems. A family sleep system is likely to look a bit different than your individual needs. To keep it simple we have presented two options to choose from:

Inflatable Mattress

An inflatable mattress is an awesome option that can sleep the whole family and blows up fast. It offers a pretty good night’s sleep that can provide familiarity to new and younger campers.

Kids tend to want to get close if it’s cold or dark or both. I prefer a nice king-size blanket. It’s more to carry but sleep is important.

Sleep Pads, Bags, and Hammocks

For seasoned or adventurous families, traditional sleep pads and bags might be the better option. If you can set a tent up properly then you will sleep great on a pad with a warm sleeping bag.

Hammock camping with the family is only advisable if they can be set up properly and near one another. Sometimes it can be tough to find the right area for setting hammocks up.


There is nothing that draws the family together and away from screens like the great outdoors. However, you better also have some great indoors to escape the wild or your family will not be happy.

While you might think it exciting to fire up a hot tent, try out some primitive shelter or go all wilderness survival on your family, take my word for it, get a good tent.


son drinking water

Water is always going to be your greatest burden when you are camping. That is because it is so heavy to carry in.  Unless you are car camping there will be the need to either carry or source it from the wild. Not to mention knowing different water purification methods to ensure safe drinking water.

Your family members can all carry something that will help keep them hydrated.

Water Containers

Water Filters and Purification


Family camping is going to require some lighting. Each child should have their own flashlight. I prefer headlamps for my kids so they can see in the dark and have the use of both hands. It makes late-night potty much easier to manage.

Camping Food & Snacks

freeze-dried camping food

Don’t forget to pack some great snacks. You will do your share of camp cooking but having snacks that are ready to eat is a big deal. There are tons of camping snack options that are absolutely delicious, portable, and highly nutritious.

Oh, and if you want to bring some things that are not so nutritious that’s OK, too!

  • Granola
  • Jerky
  • Hand Fruits
  • Meal Bars
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Rice Krispie Treats

Camp Kitchen & Mess Kits

No outdoor adventure is complete without a great meal or two. We used to be relegated to freeze-dried foods. But now it’s common to see people cooking steaks over the open fire and even drinking wine. Life can be good out there in the camping kitchen.

Don’t forget to bring a mess kit for each family member to assure they all can eat your campfire creations.

Kitchen and Eating



Camp Tools

Be sure that you include some tools on your camping packing list. There are some essentials that every campsite should have. While these may not be tools for small hands, you still want to include them.

Camping Packing List: Children’s Essentials

boys starting a fire

When you decide to go camping with kids there are several essentials that you need to have on hand. Any strong camping packing list is going to have personal items as well as camping items. These will give younger kids comfort and older kids space.

From newborn to 14 and older this is our list of camping with children essentials.

0-5 years old

There is a lot that changes in children between 0-5 years old. If you are dealing with children under 2 years old then you basically need to have your entire setup with you for dealing with the needs of a newborn or toddler. This could be bottles, diapers, pacifiers, creams, and lotions.

My kids would fall asleep soundly with a pacifier but without it was a nightmare for the whole family.

Comfort items are essential to small kids. My sons were always full of confidence, even at a young age, when we went camping. But when the sounds of the night would come and the only light was our campfire, things would change.

5-10 years old

This is a fun age bracket where your kids can really start to take ownership of their camping gear. Bring some entertainment for the morning and evening hours. This age range does not want to take in the sights with you!

Camping Tools


  • Card games
  • Boardgames
  • Marshmallows for roasting


This can be an awesome age where they truly begin to share the burden of carrying gear. They also have a pack that is capable of getting things done. They should have everything needed to make a simple camp on their own.

Your 10-14 year old should already have many skills, but you should pull them close when it comes time to set up camp and get everything in its place. Processing firewood and using axes are all things that kids this age can do with supervision.

14-and up

SPACE! That is the key essential for camping with this age range. Be sure they have their own tent they can escape to. This is not just for them!

Don’t Forget About Emergency Preparedness

In all things we do, we must be prepared for any kind of emergency. People get injured and lost in the woods all the time. Injuries using tools people are unfamiliar with can be common, too.

Here are some recommendations for items you should include in your camping packing list for emergency preparedness:

One of the most important safety steps you can heed is to let someone know where your family will be and when they will be back. This can result in getting help quickly if you need it!

Prepare Your Family Further

The camping packing list is essential for a great family camping trip. Don’t forget to consider the personalities and camping gear that will benefit each age range you are bringing along. It’s a good idea to use this as practice for building a family bug out bag.

A quality camping trip can do magical things for a family during these tough times. It can give overworked Dads (and Moms) a look at what truly matters. It can pull children away from video games and anxious spouses can get a change of scenery.

Take the stress out of camping, and come prepared! Camping packing list essentials you need for sleep, shelter, water, food, and other needs by age range.

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root cellar that can be used as a bunker

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