Checklist: Essentials for a Family Camping Trip

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

I have to confess something. I never went camping as a kid.

I don’t really know why. We had plenty of parks and recreational activities near where I grew up. And it’s not like there was really a lot else to do in southeast South Dakota in the 90’s.

But I guess my parents just weren’t the “camping” type. That or they didn’t feel like dragging 4 kids out to sleep in the woods. I’m going to guess the latter.

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping
What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

My whole outlook on camping changed after I married into Matt’s family. They, on the other hand, are big campers. And now every summer we try to get up to South Dakota for at least one or two camping trips with the Ishmael clan. So while I can’t say I’m an “expert” camper by any means, my initiation into camping these past 5 years or so has taught me a little bit about what items are most essential!

A successful camping trip is all about preperation. It requires so much stuff, and if it’s your first time camping, there’s a good chance there’s a few things on this list you haven’t thought out. I know I certainly didn’t my first time around.

With the official start of summer finally here, I wanted to share my own checklist of camping essentials every family needs for a successful summer camping trip:

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What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Sleeping Gear:

First things first, you’ll want to plan your sleeping situation. Depending on your style of camping (and no judgement here, whichever end of the spectrum you fall on), how much gear you need will vary widely:

Tent Camping // truly roughing it

Tent camping is the least expensive way to camp as a family and will also give you the most options in terms of where you can camp. The trade off is tent camping is just not that glamorous, and surely not for everyone, though it’s probably not as bad as you think.

We’ve done a few tent camping trips back in our pre-Evelyn days, and here’s what you’ll want to have with you:

  • Tent | Add at least 2 people for whatever’s listed as the capacity of the tent so you’ll have plenty of space for all your belongings. (ie., a 4 person tent is more realistic for 2 people + bags; a 6 person tent for 4 people + bags)
  • Rain Tarp | This is usually included with your tent, but if not make sure you have one to put under your tent. This will keep the bottom of your tent free from water if it rains.
  • Air Mattress & Pump | Optional for some, required by me. ?
  • Sleeping Bags | Spend a little extra and go with one that is rated for cool weather at least to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s nothing worse than freezing your bum off all night due to unexpected chilly nights.
  • Pillows / Extra Blankets & Sheets | Whatever you need to sleep comfortably. Weather will obviously play a factor here.
  • Outdoor Rug | To catch dirt and leaves at the tent entryway.
  • Dust Pan & Brush | To sweep out dirt and leaves that do make it inside.
  • Extension Cord | Handy for blowing up your air mattress or plugging your phone in at night. Basically getting power to inside of your tent.

Camper Camping // upping your glamping game

  • Sleeping Bags | This can be skipped in lieu of extra blankets.
  • Pillows / Extra Blankets & Sheets | Whatever you need to sleep comfortably. Weather will obviously play a factor here.
  • Outdoor Rug | To catch dirt and leaves at the tent entryway.
  • Dust Pan & Brush | To sweep out dirt and leaves that do make it inside.

Cabin Camping // for the not so outdoorsy

Unless the cabin comes equipped with sheets, blankets, and pillows (many don’t), you’ll need to plan for:

  • Sleeping Bags | This can be skipped in lieu of extra blankets.
  • Pillows / Extra Blankets & Sheets | Whatever you need to sleep comfortably. Check with your host site as to what is provided in terms of linens and pillows.
[irp]

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Cooking Gear:

Another big part of a successful camping trip is planning out your food situation. More importantly – how you will cook it! You may not necessarily need everything below, but depending on how serious you want to take your camp kitchen, you may want a variety of these favorite cooking tools:

  • Dutch Oven | We (and by we, I mean Matt’s mom) do a lot of our cooking in a dutch oven.
  • Griddle Pan | You know those campfire pits at every campsite? You probably don’t want to throw your burgers right onto that old rusty grate. But you can use that grate to place your own cookware over the fire! A large griddle pan is great for grilling burgers, hot dogs, veggies, eggs – anything really!
  • Cast Iron Skillet | A cast iron skillet is a great alternative to the griddle pan if you’re just needing something small. It’s also great for cooking up hashes and such.
  • Coal Chimney Starter | If you’ll be cooking with coal, a coal chimney is a must. It gets your coals nice and hot so you can pour them right into the firepit and get to cooking!
  • Coal Briquets
  • Mini Propane Grill | If you want to keep things simple, you can skip the above and opt for a portable propane grill like this one. It definitely takes a lot of the mess out of campfire cooking.
  • Mini Propane Tanks | You don’t want to run out of these. Camping trip = ruined.
  • Grilling Tools | A nice basic set is all you need.
  • Roasting Sticks | Everybody needs these sticks for roasting marshmallows by the fire. A camping trip without s’mores would be blasphemy!
  • Firewood Bundle | If you’re staying at a campground, most will have firewood available for purchase. If not, pick some up at a nearby gas station or even Wal-Mart before you leave.
  • Lighter | Forget trying to build your own fire with flint. This is not Survivor. A simple clicker will suffice.
  • Newspaper | For kindling
  • French Press Coffee Maker | I may be in the woods, but I still need my coffee! A french press makes drinking coffee in the outdoors feel fancy. (just don’t forget you’ll need to boil your water over the stove/fire first!)

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Kitchen Essentials:

  • Large Cooler | Get something nice and big so everything’s not too crowded. Then go check out this awesome article about how to pack the perfect cooler.
  • Grilling Gloves | Unlike a traditional oven mitts, these babies make handling warm cast iron pans or red hot coals so much easier!
  • Cutting Board 
  • Knife Set
  • Can Opener
  • Measuring Spoons | I like these collapsible ones because they save on storage space. And every inch counts when you have this much to pack!
  • Scissors | I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll need them for, but trust me, there’ll be something.
  • Trash Bags
  • Aluminum Foil | Line your cast iron with foil to avoid messy pans, or make foil pack dinners that go right on the fire!
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic Baggies | Great for prepped meals and leftovers alike.
  • Portable Sink | You may not need this depending on your housing situation, but if you’ll be tent camping, having a portable sink will be a real lifesaver when it comes to clean up.
  • Dish Soap
  • Scrub Brush
  • Pre-Made Meal Kits | I can’t stress enough how much prep should go into your meals before you even leave the house. Even simple things like pre-measuring certain ingredients or chopping fruit and veggies will not only save you a ton of space in your cooler, but allow you to enjoy your campfire cooking so much more. Check out these make-ahead campfire recipes for inspiration!
  • Multi-Grill Spice Shaker | No need to pack the whole spice rack. Carry a variety of flavors in one shaker.

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Eating & Drinking:

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Camp Life:

  • Camping Chairs | These are a classic, but don’t forgot cute ones for the kids too!
  • Lantern | For those midnight runs to the bathroom.
  • Flashlights | Even though we always bring our latern, having a few extra mini flashlights as a back up is a good idea.
  • Bath Towels
  • Flip Flops | For those bathhouse showers
  • Small Mirror | The first time I went tent camping without a mirror was the last time I went tent camping without a mirror. Unless you like doing your makeup with a tiny compact mirror, make sure you have one of these.
  • Swiss Army Knife | For all those random things that come up, because there will be something.
  • Bug Spray | We used this DEET-free spray in Mexico and it worked quite well for us. It has a nice smell too, so you won’t feel like a walking chemical bomb.
  • First Aid Kit | Build your own or go with this pre-assembled one.
  • Outdoor Blanket | We have one like this and use it everywhere! It’s great for picnics, the beach, or just laying around on the grass.
  • String Lights | Because you’ve got to get festive and seize the moment!
  • Yard Sign | Always a necessity!

And of course, don’t forget to pack some entertainment!

It really depends on what you enjoy and what your campground has to offer. Bring your normal beach gear if you’ll be getting in the water, some fishing gear if that’s more your thing, hiking shoes to walk the trails, or simply a good book and some games and cards if you’ll be relaxing with the family!

What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

Where will your next camping trip take you?

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What essential gear do you need for a success family camping trip? Get a free camping essentials checklist now! // Plan Camping Trip | What to Pack | Camping Gear | Camping Essentials | Camping with Kids | Glamping Gear | What to Buy for Camping

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