A Camping Checklist for the Family

Are you heading out for your first camping trip with the family? Here’s a useful checklist to have on hand before you head out into the woods. Being prepared in advance will mean that you and yours can relax and enjoy your time outside. This list covers what you need to feel safe, happy, and healthy in the great outdoors. 

Ultimate Camping Checklist

1. Shelter— You will need enough shelter for everyone in the family. This includes:

  • Tent
  • Tarp

Make sure you have a tent that fits your whole family or else a number of tents that can cover everyone. Pro tip? Practice putting up your tent before you head out to your campsite. Many a camper has arrived at their site on a rainy day and been stuck figuring out how to put their tent together in a downpour! Have a tarp on hand for each tent as well to serve as a protective barrier between the tent and the ground. 

2. Sleeping Supplies – Everyone will need their own sleeping supplies to ensure a warm and comfortable night. Sleeping items you’ll need include:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Camping pillows (small pillows that stuff into small spaces)
  • Foam or inflatable camping pad 
  • Warm hats
  • Bug shelter
  • Lanterns

Make sure you confirm the temperature rating for every bag. Winter demands bags that are rated for freezing or subzero temperatures, so look for 25 degrees and lower. If it’s summer, you’ll want bags rated for higher temps, such as 45 degrees. Sleeping during the summer in a winter bag can be very stuffy and uncomfortable. However, in some geographic areas like the mountains, do be prepared for large temperature swings.

Check the weather where you’ll be camping and make sure you have the right gear to stay comfortable and safe at night! Also, bring along a foam rest or inflatable camping pad for each person. Nothing but a sleeping bag between you and the ground makes for a cold, hard, restless night! Winter camping should involve warm hats at night, as well, so you don’t lose too much body heat through your head. 

3. Cooking Supplies– You will also need supplies for cooking, including:

  • Camp stove
  • Fuel for the stove and firestarters
  • Matches and a lighter
  • Canned or packable food
  • Coffee
  • Water
  • Water bottle
  • Camping set of plates and utensils
  • Mugs
  • Water filters
  • Swiss army knife
  • bear-resistant food storage options

Make sure you have a camp stove and its appropriate fuel. Camp stoves come in freestanding versions and versions that resemble a wider stovetop. Choose the one that works for you. As with your tent, practice with your stove before you are out and about! You don’t want to get stuck with no way to cook because you don’t know how to light your stove! Also, bring along some fresh water for cooking and cleaning. Packing water filters is also a good idea if you are going to be away from a potable water supply for longer than a few hours. If you are going into the backcountry, make sure you pack more food than you will need for the trip, in case there is an emergency, and you need a backup supply.

Need some good camping food ideas? Consider bringing along the following:

  • Canned foods (beans, meat, fruit)
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Jerky
  • Hot Dogs
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Crackers
  • Dried Salami
  • Pancake Mix
  • Instant Coffee

Anything you pack should be able to stay fresh and safe without refrigeration. If you do bring items that require refrigeration for an overnight trip, just pack a cooler with ice— the food should keep just fine for a short trip. 

4. Backcountry and Hiking Supplies – If you are planning on going into the backcountry or taking the kids on a long hike, make sure you have some of the following options:

  • Frame backpack
  • Maps
  • Lighter day packs for hiking
  • Compass
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Extra wool socks
  • Warm layers
  • Waterproof layers
  • Layers for hot days (shorts, t-shirts, swimsuit, etc)
  • Hat
  • Water filters
  • CamelPaks or Nalgenes for toting water
  • Camp furniture (packable seats and tables)
  • Can opener
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Medical kit
  • Extra bandaids
  • Headlamps
  • Firestarter
  • Trash bags
  • Powerbank
  • Hatchet
  • Bear spray
  • Batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletry kit
  • Compass

The last item on that list is extra important. Remember, one of the first and most crucial rules of the backcountry is to “leave no trace.” You want to make sure you pack out all your trash and leave no sign of your visit behind! Also, make sure to bring any personal items you and the kids might need, including hygiene products. If the baby is coming along, don’t forget the diapers and wipes, but make sure to pack everything out with you. 

Finally, make sure everyone has plenty of sunscreen if you are hiking in the summer months. A bad sunburn won’t make roughing it in the outdoors any easier for anyone!

5. Entertainment Options: Finally, you’ll want to consider bringing along some ways to keep you and the kids entertained. While the outdoors can be great entertainment itself, the kids might need a few distractions. Options you can consider packing along include:

  • Travel versions of board games
  • Binoculars
  • Football
  • Smores supplies (chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers)
  • Books
  • Paper and pencil

Of course, one of the best forms of entertainment during overnight camping is a good old-fashioned ghost story by the fire. So, make sure to pack your imagination and some fun, scary stories for the kids!

Camping is a wonderful way to enhance your bond as a family and get some healthy outdoor activity at the same time. If this is going to be your first adventure in the outdoors, this checklist is a great place to start in preparing your family. It can help ensure that you guys have a great time and that you stay healthy and happy for the duration of your trip. What do you like to bring along on your camping adventures? Chime in below!

Stay safe and make sure to tell someone exactly where you are going and don’t stray to far from there.

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