Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Camping Packing Checklist

One of the things I’ve learned from camping that applies to other areas of life is that the better prepared and organized you are, the easier it is to relax and enjoy yourself. Extra batteries are always good, and knowing where they are is even better.

There are plenty of camping checklists on the Internet. But this is what we bring when we go camping. (And thanks to my friends over at for asking.)

Family Camping Checklist
For 2 adults, 3 kids, a station wagon and a seltzer maker.

Important Things
I.D./reservation info/directions/$ (wallet)
Cel phone/charger

Tarps and rope
Sleeping pads (we use foam mattresses from IKEA)
Sleeping bags (kids)
Sheets & blankets (grownups)
Bear spray (pepper spray) – I keep this in the tent, figuring most bears would come when we’re asleep looking for food, not when we’re awake banging around

Light & Fire
Lanterns (battery-operated)
Batteries (+extras)
Matches and bic lighters AND a stove lighter (the long kind)
Firestarters or newspaper
Hatchet to cut wood into kindling
Pocket knife
Tiki torches, cans and fluid
Solar lights

1st Aid
Bug spray – the health food store kind for regular nights
Bug spray – the poisonous kind for mosquito swarms
Sun screen
1st Aid Kit – bandaids, aspirin, calamine lotion, tweezers, antibiotic cream, things like that - anything more serious and we’re going to town
Prescription meds (bring extra)
Sun glasses

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss
Hair brush & hair bands
Feminine hygiene products - tampons & pads
Toilet paper
Towels (will double as beach towels)

(Pack plenty of extras if you have room. Once things get wet it can be hard to dry them out.)
Warm clothes (sweaters, jackets, long johns) – even in the summer
Warm hats, extra socks
Hats with sun visors (baseball caps)
Bathing suits and solid foam floaties (a lot of places don’t allow inflatable floaties)
Extra shirts, pants, shorts, dresses (my daughter is a dress person), underpants and socks. The best socks for camping are tube socks. They go up high and keep the ticks away!
Rain Jackets – We always forget these and have to wear garbage bags (!), but you should remember your rain jackets

An extra card table – we have a cheap, plastic one that comes apart
Camp stove with extra propane tanks (they sell the tanks at many campgrounds)
Campfire grill – a big, round one to fit over the fire pit (they often sell these at campgrounds)
Camp chairs – we only have 3 – we improvise with coolers or logs
1 medium pot, 1 skillet, 2 lids
Tea kettle – most people don’t bring this but we like our tea
1 large mixing/salad bowl
knife & cutting board
Spatula, wooden spoon, tongs
Can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew
Potato peeler
pot holders & dish towels
Plates, bowls, silverware, paper plates
Mugs and cups
Something to make a pot of tea in – we use a large Tupperware thing that Chinese soup came in
Seltzer maker! What can I say. We need seltzer.
Plastic tub for washing dishes
Scrubby sponge
Biodegradable dish soap
Paper towels
Garbage bags
Ziploc bags – large and sandwich size
Rope – about 3/4” thick
Tin foil
Coolers (see Packing the Coolers)
Water – pack two jugs of water and refill them at campground as needed. Nearly all campgrounds have potable water.

*Plan for every meal and bring just the food that you need. Freeze everything possible and pack it carefully in the coolers, with the things that get used first on top.

That said, don’t forget these, or you will be sad:

Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Coffee & maker (we use the low-tech Mellita filter system)
Tea bags
Condiments, like hot sauce
Marshmallows, Graham crackers and Hershey bars (S’mores)

For the Kids
Glow sticks
Stuffed animals
Cards, games (we like Mousetrap), toys, a ball, badminton or horse shoes, Frisbee, beach toys, bubbles
Crafting supplies - paint & brushes to paint rocks, embroidery thread for friendship bracelets, etc.
Pens, paper, scissors, tape
Hammock & extra rope

For the Growunups
Musical instruments (guitar, ukelele, bongos!) and song books

Nice to Have But Not Critical
A broom – nice to have to sweep out the tent, especially someplace beachy
Dutch oven – fun for a big group
Pie iron(s) – kids love them
Bandanas – come in handy
Bikes, scooters, roller blades & helmets
Bird guide
Star Map

Spare tire, jack, lug wrench
Hide-a-key (you will thank me for this some day)


Don’t Bring
Your own wood. Most campgrounds don’t allow it. Bite the bullet and buy campground wood.

And …

Don’t Forget
To tell someone where you are going.

Have a great camping trip. Wish I were going, too!


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  3. Your checklist is a perfect summary for all the necessary items to bring when camping. Kudos and thank you for this!

  4. Thanks for the super list! I can't find my Red Notebook (aka Camping Bible) which has all of my camping lists in it, so this is very helpful. One thing I would add to your list is a cot. If my cot gets left (somehow) at home, I will be sleeping in the car. My bones are too old to sleep on the ground! :)

    Thanks again for the list! I'm also ordering your camping recipe book! Thanks for writing it!

  5. This is awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to create it!!

  6. Our family of 6 kids and 11 grandkids tent camp at least twice a year. (NOT ENOUGH!) I found this list to be very comprehensive and fun! thank you! I am making copies to share, along with our personal items that we pack every year. ((we gave our children each their own dutch oven and have them prepare a meal from it.)

    1. Thanks MK! Love the idea of giving the kids their own dutch ovens. Maggie

  7. Great, add tablecloths, and aprons...indispensable for me!

  8. Thanks Maggie. I'm going to use this for our cross-country trip.

  9. Thanks, I misplaced my pre camping check list!!!