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But wouldn’t it be nice if you could get the fun of camping without the stress of packing?
That’s why we’re here to help. We want to simplify your life, which is exactly why we created this FREE camping checklist. It has everything you’ll need for a great camping trip, plus a few things that will make it extra fun!
So whether you’re headed out for a weekend of beach camping, or you are camping in the National Parks, this list is sure to be something that you’ll break out EVERY TIME YOU CAMP! Trust me – we camp A LOT with our kids and I keep a laminated copy of this list next to our gear so I don’t forget something important! (Because, let’s face it – with the number of times that parents are interrupted, it’s kind of a miracle that we remember to bring ANYTHING camping).
Best Gear for Family Camping
Now before we dive into our camping checklist, I want to share with you some of the essentials that we take with us when we camp. We are big believers that having good gear will make your family experience in the outdoors EVEN EASIER! I know that it’s tempting to make do with what you have or just buy something cheap from a big box store, but it almost always backfires on us.
Over the years, we’ve cycled through lots of camping gear in our family. Some of it has been amazing and some of it has been absolute junk. Here is the family camping gear that we use over and over again and has been repeatedly put to the test by our kids, that hopefully makes your family camping trip easier.
Best sleeping bags for camping
If you’re planning on taking a family camping trip, my biggest piece of advice is to invest in good sleeping bags for your kids. The fastest way to make a camping trip miserable is with cold kids who can’t sleep. When all of our kids are toddlers, we invest in good sleeping bags for them. Because getting your kids to sleep while camping is hard enough without having to worry about a poor quality sleeping bag.
Guess what? Because of the investment that we made to buy our kids the best sleeping bags we could, our kids have never been cold at night while camping. Not even when we’ve woken up to a fresh layer of snow outside and my husband and I are shivering in our sleeping bags (yes, our kids have nicer sleeping bags than we do).
If you want to know what to look for in a good sleeping bag for kids, make sure to check out our article on the Top Kids Sleeping Bags.
We also really in love with these sleeping pads. The shape is a bit different, but they are really comfortable and roll up smaller than a water bottle.
Best Stoves for Camping
Although it seems nostalgic and Instagram perfect, cooking your meal over an open fire isn’t usually vary practical. For that reason, we ALWAYS take a stove with us when we go camping. When we are backpacking, we like to keep things super lightweight, so we take this tiny pocket stove with us.
When we are going camping just for a night or two or only have easy one pot meals, this stove is my go-to. I love that it’s compact with only one burner, yet it still cooks incredibly well. We’ve had it for over 15 years and never had a single problem with it.
If we’re going for more than a couple of days, I always take this trusty propane stove. It’s a true workhorse, and with it’s double burners, I can bust out a massive stack of pancakes in no time, and then end off the day with a fancy camping dinner! Of course, don’t forget a cast iron griddle since it can make pancakes in about half the time of a frying pan.
Best Camping Cookware
To keep all our camping cookware organized, the secret to my success is always storing it TOGETHER. I store everything in a plastic file tote (I love the smaller size compared to most large plastic totes), and then when it’s time to go camping, I just grab it and GO. I’d much rather spend my time putting together amazing camping meals than worrying about packing the can opener (our favorites are here, here, here, here, and here) .
The real truth behind what we take camping, is incredibly inexpensive. All our dishes, cooking utensils, cups, knives, and cutting boards come from either Walmart or the Dollar Store. The truth is that we regularly lose something when we go camping, or my kids end up digging in the dirt with it so I don’t really want to eat on it again. We save tons of money on camping items at the Dollar Store and Walmart so that we can spend money where it really counts.
By saving money in some areas, it’s allowed us to feel great about spending more in other areas. We absolutely LOVE this pot with it’s folding handle and lid that clamps on (PS – the cheap bowls from Walmart stack wonderfully inside of here). It’s also wonderful for backpacking since it’s lightweight and compact.
A good frying pan is also worth investing in. Our old one bit the dust last year, so I’m planning on getting this frying pan with a folding handle. It really caught my eye since it’s so nonstick that you don’t need butter or cooking oil to coat it (which I often forget).
Another area that we splurge a bit on is in our silverware. I know it’s quirky and weird, but we bought some sporks a few years ago, and have never looked back. The kids are so obsessed with them, and as a mom, I love that I don’t have to rummage through all our cooking materials to find a fork, knife, and spoon, since it’s all in one.
I also keep my camp kitchen box stocked with a few spice essentials. I’ve found that having a few of my go-to spices on hand in portable containers always seems to be a lifesaver on camping trips.
Other Camping Gear we LOVE
When you’re camping it seems like there is a lot of RANDOM gear that you end up bringing with you. I have my go-to’s that come with us EVERY TIME! No joke. If you really want to make your camping trip more comfortable, I highly recommend looking into these pieces of camping gear for families.
We have a set of microfiber bath towels that we take on all our camping trips, so that everyone has their own, and take them EVERYWHERE with us (they were one of the few items that made the cut to take on our family gap year). They fold up smaller than a water bottle, and when they get water logged, you can just wring the water out of them. They work incredibly well and I can’t say enough good things about them. We use them at the lake and river, but also when we’re just out for a hike and someone gets the urge to jump into the water (or accidently falls in).
We got this rechargable lantern for camping a few years ago, and it’s so much better than any lantern we’ve ever owned. It’s incredibly bright (which is surprising since it’s also pretty small), can stay charged for close to a week, AND it has USB ports so we can charge our phones and GoPro at night. My favorite feature is that if it runs out of power, you can crank it to generate more, or just hook it up to a solar panel.
Our kids are so obsessed with our headlamps, that if I would let them they would probably use them 365 days a year. Headlamps are great for camping because they’re perfect for late night trips to the bathroom (because holding a flashlight in the bathroom is just disgusting), and the battery life is really impressive as well so we aren’t constantly changing the batteries. I also love that they come in lots of colors so everyone can have their own designated color, so no one fights over them.
We got this roll up table when we were first married, and it has gone with us on practically every car camping trip that we’ve ever taken. This table is amazing and we can set it up in about 45 seconds. Sometimes we use it for our dining table, other nights it’s the hot spot for a late night game of cards, and other times we just put it outside of the tent for the kids to put their water bottles and hats on. A roll up table is an awesome piece of camping gear that every family should have.
Usually, we don’t realize we should be wearing insect repellant when camping until it’s too late and our arms and legs are covered in bug bites. Typically that’s because I avoid insect repellant because it smells so horrible. Then we discovered Herbal Armor. It seriously works SO WELL, and the smell is actually quite pleasant. We like it so much that we just keep a bottle in the car for whenever we need it during the summer.
Free Camping Checklist Printable
Are you ready for your free camping checklist? Of course you are! We just couldn’t resist sharing our favorite pieces of camping gear with your first, because we are big believers that good gear makes being in the outdoors as a family SO MUCH EASIER!
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Need more camping help? Check out our other camping posts:
If you’ve got a camping lover in the family and want to get them something extra special, we are currently loving this list of camping gifts for your favorite outdoorsman or woman!