- The best fun your kids will ever have…Go camping
- Camping activities for kids: Fun things to do while camping with kids
- Kids’ camping gear: What to take when camping with kids
- 5 best hiking boots for kids
Warmer weather means camping season. Taking kids camping is wonderful for nurturing their sense of adventure and love of nature. However, it can also be quite a challenge. Knowing what to take when camping with children will spare you any unpleasant surprises and potential chaos. When you are prepared, everyone can focus on enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors.
What do kids need for camping?
The camping essentials for kids tend to be larger in number than for adults. To make sure you’re prepared, we’ve compiled a camping with kids checklist.
Healthcare and hygiene
These camping supplies for kids will help keep everyone clean, happy, and healthy.
- A handwashing station: This can consist of waterless hand wipes, sanitizer, or soap and water. Use an empty liquid detergent bottle or a container with spigot filled with water.
- Be ready to wipe: Toilet paper, baby wipes, flushable wipes, diapers, swim diapers, extra underwear, and petroleum jelly will keep bottoms happy.
- Travel toiletries: Soap, shampoo, medications, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloths, and a hairbrush to scrub all the other body parts.
- First Aid: Being far from a pharmacy and your medicine cabinet, you’ll want to be prepared for boo-boos. Bandages, pain relievers/fever reducers, a doctor prescribed antihistamine, a thermometer, and an ice pack are all sensible supplies.
- Mosquito repellent: Thermacell, citronella, or topical repellents are all good options.
- Sunscreen: Use sun shirts and hats or creams and sprays to protect against UV rays.
Babies may be the smallest campers joining your crew, but they somehow need the most equipment. Consider these baby camping accessories:
- Portable play yard: Allows baby to nap or play independently; you can add a bug net.
- Portable high chair: Set baby up for meal time or seated play time.
- Feeding essentials: Bottles, breast pump (see power inverter below), or formula accessories.
- Baby tub: Hard or inflatable tubs for soak or splash sessions.
- Hiking backpack: Don’t let little legs interfere with hiking adventures.
- Standing fold up chair: Baby can play and have some independence.
- Baby hat and sun shirt: Baby’s sensitive skin isn’t ready for sunscreen yet.
- Baby monitor: A sleeping baby doesn’t have to mean the night’s over for you.
The right kids’ camping clothes and footwear could make the difference between bliss and utter misery. Temperatures can fluctuate wildly between peak daylight and dead of night, so pack layers.
A good rule to remember is you can always take layers off, but you can’t put on what you don’t have. It’s also important to stay dry to prevent infection and hypothermia. We advise keeping a change of clothes handy. These are our recommendations for boys’ and girls’ camping gear:
- Long underwear: A thin layer under the clothes provides insulation in cold weather.
- Knitted cap: With 40%-45% of your body heat escaping through your head, cap it in.
- Moisture-wicking shirt: Sweat and water dry quickly on this material.
- Sweatshirt: To make it last more than one season, consider going up a size or two on this youth camping gear.
- Coat: It’s often colder at night than you expect.
- Boots: Bring hiking boots for rough terrain and rubber boots for streams and mud.
- Socks: They’re small. Pack extra.
- Waterproof shoes: Protect feet from sharp rocks with shoes that won’t hold moisture.
- Hot weather apparel: Bathing suits and neck cooling scarves will help kids stay cool.
Your camping cookware kit should have all the important items to keep you reliably fed and happy. Here are our must haves:
- Mountain pie irons: Grill sandwiches over the fire. Between pizza toppings and pie fillings, kids will have trouble picking their favorite ingredients.
- Roasting sticks: Cook hot dogs and marshmallows to perfection over the flames.
- Snack traps: Keep finger food accessible to little hands but not to the ants roaming around.
- Grill and griddle: Electric, kerosene, and campfire cooking has come a long way. Pack your preferred option along with the necessary pots, pans, and utensils.
- Cooler: Keep perishables temperature-safe in a well-insulated cooler with reusable ice packs.
- Collapsible wash basin: Use as a sink to wash dishes and utensils.
- Reusable water bottles: Choose a water bottle with a built-in carabiner or add your own to hook onto backpacks or other equipment. Keep track of each kid’s bottle by labeling it with a permanent marker.
- Water purifier: Filters or purifying tabs are a good way to prevent illness while camping.
Whatever your itinerary, it’s likely that you’ll have some downtime during your camping trip. This unscheduled segment is ideal for games or imaginary play. Here are some camping toys for preschoolers and school-age kids you’ll want to have on hand:
- Outdoor games: Cornhole, Ladders, Kadima, and Kan Jam make for family fun times.
- Cards: Go Fish and Crazy 8s for toddlers and a deck of playing cards for school-age kids can’t go amiss.
- Books: Even if children’s books aren’t first on your little one’s list of things to engage with, with enough downtime, they become quite appealing.
- Flashlight, glowstick, or lantern: For exploring, a night light, and flashlight tag.
- Bug catcher: For observing critters.
- Net and fishing pole: For catching frogs, fish, and snails.
- Magnifying glass: For taking a closer look at nature (and fire-starting, with supervision).
- Kids camping gear toys: A pretend grill or wooden demonstration knife can keep kids occupied and safe while you use the real thing.
Camping doesn’t have to mean roughing it. There are plenty of camping gadgets for kids to add to your trip.
- Fan: Hang this battery-operated LED fan in the tent to keep kids cool and the lights on once the sun goes down.
- Outdoor movie projector: Mirror your phone or device onto a portable screen for movie night.
- Walkie-talkies: Play whisper down the lane or keep in contact across the campsite.
- Pocket microscope: You may not have cell service on your phone, but you’ll be seeing cells when you zoom in with an easy-to-use handheld microscope.
Many of the above items can be used in fun camping activities for kids.
The best camping gear for kids is versatile, lightweight, and easy to carry.
- Life vest: Keep safe during water activities.
- Water: Kids can carry their own water with a bladder that fits into a slim backpack. The extra pockets are just the right size for snacks and small treasures.
- Wagon: A wagon or bike trailer is extremely useful for transporting all the things you need for camping, including the kids! Throw all of your fishing gear or picnic supplies in, and the heavy lifting is done for you.
- Kayak: Choose a kid’s size kayak if your child is old enough or pair up with him or her in an adult size vessel, but always remember the life vest.
Alternatively, you can purchase an outdoor explorer kit which has most of the exploration items and play essentials packaged together.
Creature comforts checklist
Sitting around the campfire means talking, laughing, and making memories. When it comes to bedtime, your best hope for a good night’s sleep is to have accommodations that are as comfortable as possible. Try these items for making your camping trip cozier:
- Kids sleeping bag: A zippered sack keeps warmth in or adjusts to comfort level and lines the ground.
- Sleeping pad or air mattress: Padding keeps kids off the hard ground for a more restful sleep. To keep children from rolling off the bed, try a boat-shaped toddler air mattress.
- Hammock: Bring a portable hammock for naptime wherever you end up.
- Fold up chairs: Little kids love chairs just their size.
- Tent: Even if kids aren’t ready to sleep in their own tent at night, a kid-size tent might be one of the most versatile items of children’s camping equipment. It allows kids to seek shade and quiet during the day and is excellent for nap time or playtime. If your kids aren’t ready for their own tents, a family-sized version will do the job.
We’ve gone over the camping stuff for kids, but don’t forget the other essential things you need for camping to go smoothly.
- Air compressor: A rechargeable air compressor is useful for all of your inflatables, including air mattresses and bike tires.
- Fuel: Bring a camping coffee pot to brew your coffee of your choice to fuel your body and propane, kerosene, or butane for cooking.
- Matches or fire starter kit: Keep matches dry in an airtight container.
- Folding table with seating: A sturdy table is ideal for congregating, meal prep, and dining.
- Backpack: Bring a bag to carry supplies while keeping your hands free.
- Dry bag: A waterproof bag will keep valuables dry in inclement weather or during water activities.
- Car adapter power inverter: To power electronics or small appliances
- Extra batteries: Keep those flashlights and other electronics charged.
- Camp shower bag: Rinse off with sun-heated water using this hanging bag.
- Trash bags: Take your waste with you. To make it easier, you can set trash bags in a pop-up trash can.
- Paracord: Tie down tents or equipment, hang laundry, start a fire, fish, or tow a kayak with a multipurpose rope.
With so many fun things to take when camping, you’ll need to consolidate and pack smart. Here are a few suggestions:
- Compression bags: Kids love to help remove the air from these sealed bags with one-way valves. Remove the air from clothing and sleeping bags to maximize your space while packing. One bag per person keeps clothes separated.
- Hitch cargo carrier: This rack is made for transporting bulky items that can endure rough weather during travel, like your cooler, stroller, tent, or chairs. You can use covers or tarps to keep items dry. Use bungies or straps to carefully secure items. A double hitch attachment allows room for a bike rack, too.
You’d be surprised how productive it can be to make a camping list for kids. Children will enthusiastically do their share of the packing. This doesn’t mean any of it will match or be accounted for during the trip, though. Happy camping!