Is it Possible to Survive (and Enjoy) Camping with Kids?

I grew up camping a lot. It’s what our family did for vacations and we loved it! I remember it being relaxing and so much fun. When we had our first kid, I knew I wanted to take him on camping trips throughout his childhood. Then we had our second and our third kid and you know what I realized? Camping with kids is not relaxing and ‘so much fun’ for the parents. It is a lot of work!

Camping with kids

How to Make Camping with Kids Simple and Enjoyable

This has not stopped us (but almost) from making camping a recurring family adventure, but I have learned a few tricks that have made it easier for us. Here is my list of must haves for an enjoyable experience camping with kids. I hope you will find it helpful and possibly get the encouragement needed to go on that first camping trip with your little ones.

Remember, they are only little for a little while and something about being out in the wilderness, toy free, brings out the kid in them! We strive to live a simple life as a family. Camping is one way to add simplicity to your life when done with the right preparation. It provides for the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the distractions of a busy life and reconnect with what matters.

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15 Items you Must Take when You’re Camping with kids

1. Portable play yard (not a pack-n-play)– This is probably only necessary if you have a really young child. We have used ours for a few years now and it is the perfect place to set a baby or young toddler when setting up your campsite, making dinner, or just a safe place where they can play. We have also used it for a safe place for our toddler to sleep. We have a tent trailer and we set up the play yard on top of one of the beds so our baby can’t fall off.

2. Disposable Dishes– Trust me, you won’t always want to or be able to do dishes. Keep some disposable dishes handy. Parents do enough dishes at home anyway. It is okay to use disposable ones every now and again.

3. Foldable chairs for the adults, the kids, and the baby – These chairs provide a perfect place for sitting around a fire, enjoying a book, or just spending time together. They sell an amazing little chair for a baby or toddler that folds up to. And it has straps and a tray, similar to a high chair, so you can easily have meals and snacks.

4. Table– this does not have to be a table you bring. If you do want to bring your own, this is an excellent one. Otherwise, just plan to be at a spot that provides you with a picnic table. This will come in handy as a place to put things as well as a place to sit and eat.

5. Kids potty– if you have young kids and no bathrooms at your campsite, a little training potty is the perfect addition. It is so much easier than digging a hole in the middle of the night! Bring along coffee filters to place in the potty if your child needs to poop and clean up is a snap!

6. Baby Wipes– If you have young ones, you already know that baby wipes are an essential everywhere you go. Imagine sticky fingers, melted chocolate covered faces, and no running water. The baby wipes will be needed, bring plenty!

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7. Hand Sanitizer– It can become much harder to wash hands when camping and children get into all kinds of things, so pack some hand sanitizer!

8. Tarp– My husband always has a tarp. They are cheap and barely take up any room and we have found them to be so handy. We have used them to cover things in a rainstorm, laid flat to make a less dusty area in front of our campsite, or used as a shade. Simple thing to bring that can be used for so many purposes.

9. Flashlights or Headlamps– We always have numerous flashlights when we are camping. Headlamps are a great option for young kids because they are much less likely to get lost and the light will actually point in the right direction. Have you ever walked behind a child holding a flashlight and not had your own? The light is usually pointing up to the sky or looking out to the trees and not anywhere near where you want to look. Put a headlamp on yourself and your child and it doesn’t matter where the flashlight is pointing.

10. White Noise– This is not just for families with babies. White noise is perfect for families with children of all ages because it covers the restless sleeping noises, other camper noises, and any other distractions that might wake someone up. If one person wakes up, chances are everyone will wake up. A simple app on your phone will do the trick or you can bring along a white noise machine.

11. Standing Lantern– A lantern or light that stands up will get used often. I prefer one with a handle for easy carrying on night time potty runs.

12. Glow Sticks– Once it is dark, glow sticks are great fun for any kid. As an added bonus, put one around your child’s neck and you won’t lose track of them!

13. Foil– This might sound like a silly one, but when it comes to cooking over a campfire with as little mess as possible, foil will be super handy. We also love to make s’mores in foil so the chocolate gets super melty and delicious! Just wrap all the goodies in foil, throw them on the fire for a few minutes, and enjoy!

14. Gamescard games and board games are a great way to end a fun day at your campsite! Need ideas? Here’s a great list of the best games to play with kids! 

15. 2 Plastic tubs with lids– Keep all items that need to be washed, including linens, clothes, etc in one. Basically, the items you will be packing every time. Then use the other tub for all items that you just keep packed, like dishes, games, soap, flashlights, toilet paper, etc. we keep a laminated list of these items and then use an expo marker to circle items that will need to be replaced or added to for the next trip. That way, you always have it ready to go and know what may need to be added for next time.

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Extra things that can be fun to have when camping with kids, but not necessary

1. Pop up Shade– this can be a comfy place for the littles to nap or get out of the hot sun for a while.

2. Hammock– there are all kinds of backpacking hammocks on the market now and can be a great thing to have at a campsite. Great place for an afternoon nap!

3. Roasting Sticks– whether you want an easy dinner with hot dogs or kabobs, or if you want to roast marshmallows, roasting sticks are essential. It can be fun to find the perfect stick, but it might be just as fun and much easier to keep a few roasting sticks on hand. They are inexpensive and easy to store.

If you are tent camping, choose your gear for comfort and durability.

A tent that will protect you from rain and moisture will be very valuable when you need a dry place to spend time during an unexpected rain storm. Wet, soggy kids, rarely make for a fun afternoon. Spend a little extra for the right tent and rain fly.

A mattress pad is really great. You will want to sleep, so if you can, get a mattress pad for yourself. Your kids won’t need one, but grown up bodies do!

This may seem like a long list of items, and of course it doesn’t include every item you will bring. However, each of the items above are relatively inexpensive, can fit in the trunk of a car, and will make a world of difference when camping with kids. So, take a look at each item and decide what would be best for your family and get out and try a camping trip this summer. Our first camping experience with our son was in the front yard! You don’t have to go too far if you are feeling a bit nervous!

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Camping with kids

How to Make Camping with Kids Simple and Enjoyable

Camping with Kids
Camping with kids