Camping With Kids: The Ultimate Checklist
Who doesn’t love camping?! (Well, from what I hear, loads of people haha). Although it’s not for everyone, with most of us sticking to the UK this year, loads of folk have wisely decided to get to grips with the great British outdoors and go camping with kids under a bit of good old canvas this summer.
Personally, I bloody love it. Yes, it’s infinitely better when it’s dry and sunny, but even when it’s a bit soggy I’m still a fan. There’s something so magical about going to bed essentially outside, and hearing all the rustling and wind while you’re all snug in your sleeping bag. I also love the mornings, sat around in the fresh air with cups of tea and walking straight out into beautiful nature. The best bit of all though, is how excited the kids get and how much they love it – a tent is basically one big guaranteed glee factory, and I love the look on their faces every time I tell them we’re heading off camping.
As with any trip away with kids, my nerdy thoughts turn to organising/lists, cos let’s face it, who doesn’t love a bloody good list? With lots of people trying camping for the first time, or at least the first time in a long while, I thought it’d be helpful to post my imaginatively titled ‘Camping With Kids’ list on here incase it helps anyone else on their own camping adventures!
Our family’s been camping a lot over the years, so it’s a list I’ve regularly added to and updated over time – every camping or festival trip throws up a few new useful items to add on– so this one has been a work in progress over about 10 years!
I can safely say that there’s not been one camping trip where I’ve taken absolutely everything on this list – it’s very much an ‘everything you could ever possibly need’ version, just so I know nothing will be forgotten.… Just pick and choose what’s right for you and your family, the size of your car, and the length and specific needs of each particular trip. The list also assumes you’re camping under canvas and not in a campervan or similar… so for campervan trips not all of these things are needed…
So, here it is… my ultimate ‘camping with kids’ checklist designed to make this little adventure as easy and enjoyable as possible!
– WALLET, KEYS, MOBILE PHONE & CHARGER
I just charge my phone in the car on day trips out when we’re camping but if you’re not planning on using the car much then you might want to bring a portable phone charger.
– CAMERA, CAMERA BAG & SPARE BATTERIES
– BABY BACK CARRIER
If you’ve got infants then a baby back carrier is a great replacement for a pushchair when you’re camping.
We put a cheap coir doormat in the tent entrance. Really helps to not transfer lots of mud/grass/crap into the tent.
– CAMPING CHAIRS
One for each member of the family
– CAMPING TABLE
Not essential but folding camping tables really are ace and make everything so much easier – you kind of don’t realise how useful they are until you have one.
– SHELVING UNITS
Again, not essential and they’re fairly bulky and not cheap, however, they’re brilliant. Great to get everything up off the floor to create spaces and retain a modicum of organisation. We have a couple of ones like this and tend to use one for food and one for clothing.
Take a few if you can – mega useful for wrapping round you/the kids at night when you’re sat outside, as extra bedding / picnic blankets, additional padding under the mattress etc
– DAY BAG
A good spacious rucksack or similar to lug stuff around during the day. Ideally lots of compartments.
– BIN BAGS
Bring a whole roll. Hands down one of the most useful and versatile camping items. Ideally some black refuse sacks and also a roll of smaller plastic bags / pedal bin bags. They come in useful for SO many things…. Makeshift ‘rugs’ for the tent floor if everyone’s a bit muddy, blackout blinds for tent windows if the sun’s too bright, dirty washing bags, rubbish bags (obvs), emergency waterproofing material, ‘socks’ if an unexpected hole in a welly etc etc.
– GAFFER/DUCT TAPE
Millions of uses
– ANTIBACTERIAL SURFACE WIPES
– EMERGENCY TOILET
Night-time trips to the toilet are never much fun, but with kids they’re even less fun. Ideally have some kind of makeshift ‘toilet’ in the tent that can be used in emergencies – grim but a godsend when you’re with kids – a potty, a bucket with a lid, or I just discovered these fantastic ‘Boginabag‘ contraptions! For night-time leave-the-tent toilet visits, make sure you leave wellies and warm large coats/dressing gowns right next to the tent door so they’re easily found & thrown over pyjamas – no need to be ferreting around the tent finding clothing etc in the dead of night.
We just use those cheap stripy beach ones, great to ‘contain’ the kids and give you all some privacy and an area that’s ‘yours’
As many as you can fit in. Useful to have a mixture of head-torches, hand-held torches and larger lanterns to light the tent at night-time
– SWISS ARMY KNIFE
– ALARM CLOCK
So you can see the time without using up your phone battery
Ideally microfibre ones, if not then as thin & lightweight as poss
– TRAVEL CLOTHES LINE & A FEW PEGS
– DUSTPAN & BRUSH
– NOTEPAD & PEN
– MINI SEWING KIT
– PICNIC BLANKET
Ideally with a waterproof backing
– MUSIC SPEAKERS
We have one of these which is ace as it doesn’t require any wires or bluetooth, you just plonk your phone on top of it
– LARGE SOFT FLEXIBLE BUCKET WITH HANDLES
Tubtrugs are a branded make but you can get similar things all over the place cheap as chips. They have a myriad of uses. A bath/washbasin, to carry crap to/from the car, toy basket for the tent and wash clothes in it.
– TENT (WITH MALLET AND PEGS)
As big as possible. More room means more storage, more space, more knowing where things are, more relaxing for everyone. Personally I love Vango ones – they are spacious but sooo easy to put up.
– SLEEPING BAGS / DUVETS
Which you take is down to personal preference and how much space you have.
– SELF-INFLATING MATS
These are the nuts. Forget foam roll-mats (may as well be sleeping on paper) or airbeds (HELLO deflation, sweaty plastic & crap pumps), these are what you want. Slightly more expensive but you literally just open a valve and they inflate themselves, they insulate well and they’re super comfy. Different widths are available but I’d go for a 5mm or 7mm for a good balance of comfort and weight/size. 10mm is amazing if you have a bad back but they’re very heavy and harder to roll back up.
– TRAVEL COT
Babies and toddlers can obviously easily just sleep with you on your mat on the floor (if you’ve not been drinking), but bring a travel cot if you feel yours will be safer and happier contained in one.
As far as adults are concerned, obviously you don’t need me to tell you what to wear! Just bring whatever clothes you like, with loads of spares and make sure you include waterproofs, wellies, a hat, sunglasses and warm clothing for night-time.
For camping with kids I’d advise bringing the following… Night-time camping is always cold even if the daytime is hot and prepare for everything from tropical heat to snowstorms – good old British weather can fling the whole range at you within a day. Make sure you dress them in lots of layers so you can add/remove throughout the day as needed.
– PYJAMAS / ALL-IN-ONE SLEEPSUITS
Loads more than you think you need! Layer up inside wellies, pop on with pyjamas at night-time and ideally have some nice thick ones too.
– ALTERNATIVE SHOES TO WELLIES
Either sturdy boots like walking boots can be good if the ground is drier, as well as waterproof shoes like Crocs
Soft, stretchy and comfy rather than denim etc
Both short and long sleeved
– JUMPERS / FLEECES
– WATERPROOF COAT / CAGOUL
All-in-one waterproof suits are great for younger kids – we have a Togz one for Huey
– WATERPROOF DUNGAREES / TROUSERS
If the weather is hotter and the all-in-one is too much, we have these ace waterproof dungarees for Huey so he can still get muddy but wear a T-shirt to keep cool
– WOOLLY/WARM HAT
– LITTLE RUCKSACK
They can carry their own drink and snacks in this as well as a couple of favourite toys
TOILETRIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
– SUNCREAM & AFTERSUN
– TOOTHBRUSHES & TOOTHPASTE
– WET WIPES
You CANNOT HAVE ENOUGH WIPES I REPEAT *NEVER ENOUGH WIPES* and make sure you carry a pack in your day bag too. Most/all campsites will have showers but let’s face it, many of us tend to embrace the crusty vibe a bit more while we’re camping, so a naked wet wipe session is a reasonable makeshift ‘shower’. If you bring a plastic tub (listed above) you can of course also have a strip wash with ‘proper water’ WOW LUXURY. If you don’t want to use disposable wipes then reusable Cheeky Wipes are absolutely brilliant.
– DRY SHAMPOO
– SOAP & FLANNEL
– HAIRBRUSH/COMB & HAIRBANDS/GRIPS
– TOILET ROLL
Campsite toilets do sometimes run out. You might also need some if your makeshift emergency ‘tent toilet’ is needed. Individually wrapped packs of tissues are also great for day bags and won’t get soggy if your bag gets wet.
– HAND SANITISER
– NAPPIES, NAPPY CREAM & NAPPY SACKS
– TAMPAX / SANITARY PRODUCTS
– SHOWER BAG
– MEDICAL KIT
Insect repellent, paracetamol & ibuprofen (both adult and kid versions), antihistamine tablets/cream (adult & kid versions), tweezers, antiseptic cream/spray, plasters & bandages, pocket tissues, Sudafed, burn ointment, Immodium, rehydration sachets
You’ll probably have plenty of day trips to amuse and entertain the nippers, but when you’re camping with kids it’s well worth bringing a few choice lightweight items of your own to keep them occupied in the tent, at the campsite, in bad weather etc.
– FAVOURITE TEDDY
– SOME LIGHTWEIGHT BOOKS
– OUTDOOR TOYS
Frisbee, pois, velcro bats and ball, boules, inflatable balls
– INDOOR GAMES
Personal low-space-consuming favourites are Uno, Pass the Bomb (both adult and kids versions) and kids’ activity books, playing cards, paper & pencils/crayons, and cheapo art/craft supplies
– DRESSING UP CLOTHES
Kids love to play with them but they are also amazing for keeping them visible after dark. Just make sure kids don’t bite them as the neon liquid can leak out into little mouths! I speak from alarming experience of a young Joe with day-glo lips.
– BALLOONS & BUBBLES
– DISPOSABLE CAMERAS
Kids love to play with these and the photos are a great memento for them afterwards too
– FACE PAINT
– TATTOO TRANSFERS
How much food and cooking equipment you bring depends entirely on your own personal preferences – some people want to make all 3 meals themselves, others eat out for lunch and dinner and just bring stuff for breakfast. There’s no point me listing all the food you could possibly bring but I’m going to share a few simple essentials & favourites that work well for us.
– CAMPING STOVE WITH FUEL (REMEMBER LIGHTERS/MATCHES)
Even if you’re not cooking food, a hot cup of tea/coffee goes a long way in the morning. You can buy simple ones really cheaply.
– COOLBOX & ICEPACKS
– CAN OPENER & CORKSCREW
– THERMOS FLASK
– PLASTIC/MELAMINE CUTLERY, PLATES, CUPS/MUGS, BOWLS
– CLINGFILM & KITCHEN ROLL
– WASHING UP BOWL, BRUSH/SPONGE & WASHING UP LIQUID
– PLASTIC FOOD BAGS / ZIPLOCS
To carry food/snacks, ideally ziplocked ones or similar so contents don’t spill out in rucksacks
– TEABAGS / COFFEE / INSTANT HOT-CHOCOLATE
Either fresh (if you have a super-duper coolbox) or condensed / powdered / UHT
– BOTTLED WATER
– MILK FOR BABIES
If you have a baby with you still needing milk, then obviously either the old boobies will do the trick (which I’m pretty sure you’d definitely be bringing with you), or alternatively for bottle feeding mamas, the ready-sterilised disposable bottles and ready-made milks are ideal for camping as a short-term solution.
– HEALTHY SNACKS
Obviously you don’t want the kids eating rubbish for days on end and you want to keep their energy up and moods calm, so have a range of healthy snacks on hand eg bananas, oranges, satsumas, apples, rice cakes, cereal bars, houmous, avocado, breadsticks, tomatoes, boxes of raisins/dried fruit, cheese, nuts
– ‘TREAT’ SNACKS
Because who wants to eat healthy stuff all the time? Chocolate, crisps, marshmallows (toasted over the camping fire – ACE). Brioches are a brill camping food – great for breakfast and snacks, and they feel like a treat for the kids.
– BREAD, BUTTER, MARMITE / JAM / PEANUT BUTTER
Great for breakfast and lunches – banana and peanut butter sandwiches are an all-day winner
– MULTI VARIETY PACKS OF CEREAL
These can be eaten dry as a snack, or if kids want to make their own breakfast, they can pour a bit of milk into the inner plastic bag containing the cereal, and eat it straight from the box!
– FOOD FOR MEALS
If you’re wanting to make meals then the following are easy and convenient for cooking on a camping stove: instant soup, noodles and couscous; baked beans; tinned soups or stews; bacon; halloumi; meat and/or veg kebabs in flatbreads with salad; sardines/tinned mackerel with pasta or in a pitta bread with avocado; eggs – scrambled, poached or omelettes; macaroni cheese or pasta with pesto and feta; burgers or hot dogs & salad; fish cooked in foil with salad or ready-cooked rice; burritos or fajitas… Here are loads of great campfire recipes – just plan your meals in advance and only take what you need.
– FRUIT JUICE
The individual little cartons with straws are brill for camping and lunchboxes
Whatever tickles your fancy. If you’re a wine fan, boxes are infinitely better than bottles for camping.
Phew! So there it is. My mammoth, cover-all-angles camping-with-kids checklist. Is there anything you’d add to this? I’m always up for new suggestions to make camping with kids easier!
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FREE PDF: DOWNLOADABLE FESTIVALS WITH KIDS ULTIMATE CHECKLIST
If you enjoy camping with kids and fancy taking them to a festival at some point, here’s a checklist just for festivals, as well as a condensed, easy-to-tick-off, printer-friendly version of this list too!
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