Family Camping Checklist


Packing up for a camping trip can be stressful. Often times my family will have the goal of leaving our house by 8 am only to find ourselves pulling out of the driveway around lunch time.

Our late departures are usually due to not being packed ahead of time, forgetting and remembering camping items, and questioning what to bring.

Only once we fully embraced our camping check lists did we find ourselves leaving on time and with a bit more peace of mind.

About This Camping Checklist

We have organized this checklist to be easy to read, show the importance of each item, where to buy it and any other info that we can provide.

Importance Ranking: After each item you will see a number which indicates the level of importance for that item. Importance was calculated based on average state park camping during the peak camping months of June-August. So if you are camping in a more secluded area or during Fall, Winter or Spring, adjust our importance rankings accordingly.

Purchase: After many items you will see a link of our recommendation of where to buy the said item. These links will take you to the store that sells said item, we do make a small commission off many of the items purchased through these links. This helps us run Beyond The Tent and your purchases are greatly appreciated. These recommendations are from where we have purchased our gear and we truly recommend these suppliers.

Reviews: After many of the items you will also find reviews of those items that we have done here on Beyond The Tent. This link may take you to an individual review of a specific product of to a list of reviews.

Many of the items you see will not have reviews. This is because of one of two reasons. First, the item might be too small and basic to merit a review. Second, we may not have gotten around to writing up the review yet (I’ve got a lot of writing to do!).

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and we make a small amount off each purchase made through these links (this is how we keep the website running!).

The Complete Family Camping Checklist


Shelter is your most important gear for any camping trip. Investing in a high quality tent is the single most important investment investment in camping. A high quality tent will be durable, easy to set up and take down, weather proof and able to withstand high winds.

  • Tent – 10
    • Coleman Sundome – The Coleman Sundome is one of the most popular tents in the world, and for good reason. The Sundome is a well built tent at an affordable price. This is the perfect tent for anyone new to camping who isn’t ready to spend a fortune. The 4 person Coleman Sundome sells for $67.38.
    • Kelty Trail Ridge 6 – The Trail Ridge 6 is the perfect family camping tent for a family looking for a bit higher quality tent. It is durable and not too heavy, only 14 lbs. Kelty Trail Ridge 6 Review
    • Big Agnes Blacktail 2 – The Blacktail 2 is perfect for 1 – 2 people looking for a durable and well built tent that is light weight (5 lbs) and won’t break the bank. We use ours on canoe and hiking trips and love it. Big Agnes Blacktail 2 Review.
Our Big Agnes Blacktail 2 on Deer Lake
Our Big Agnes Blacktail 2 on Deer Lake in the BWCA.
  • Tent Repair Kit – 9
    • Coleman Tent Repair Kit – Don’t wait until you need a tent repair kit to buy one or it will be too late. Always keep a repair kit packed right next to your tent.
  • Tent Footprint – 9
    • 8′ x 10′ Tarp – A tarp will help keep your tent floor dry and protect it from getting tears and holes in the bottom due to sharp sticks and/or rocks.
  • Extra Stakes – 5
    • I usually don’t bring extra stakes with me on my trips, but I do keep a container of them in my garage and regularly replace any bent or lost stakes. Purchase: 9″ Camping Tent Stakes
  • Stake Hammer – 6
    • A stake hammer can be handy, but only if you are car camping. If weight is a concern, this is one of the first things to skip. Purchase: Coleman Stake Hammer
  • Tent Fan – 7
  • Dust Pan/Brush – 2
  • Tent Rug – 2
    • Camco Leisure Mat – If we are out car camping with the family and can afford the extra space, I love brining a rug. I drop it just outside the tent and ideally within a screened in shelter.


Proper sleeping gear is essential to an enjoyable camping trip. If you are cold, uncomfortable or hot while sleeping, you will be tired and find your camping trip going sour rather quick.

  • Sleeping Bag – 10
  • Sleeping Pad – 8
    • Klymit Insulated Sleeping Pad – Klymit sleeping pads are ultra light weight, take up no more room than a can of pop and are still incredibly comfortable. Klymit pads are bit more for lightweight campers than family campers.
    • Big Agnes Insulated Sleeping Pad – What is super cool about Big Agnes’ sleeping pads is that they fit perfectly into a built in pocket in their sleeping bags. These are perfect for family campers.
  • Pillow – 7
    • Nemo Camping Pillow – If you have the room, packing your normal pillow works great, but camping pillows are comfy, light weight and take up little room.
  • Sleeping Cot – 9
    • Kamp Rite Tent Cot – If you have the room for a cot, cots can be incredibly comfortable and and super fun! The Kamp Rite tent cot is one of personal favorites. Beyond The Tent’s review coming soon!
  • Air Mattress – 5
    • Coleman Quickbed – An air mattress is different from a sleeping pad in that they are much bigger and heavier. If you have the room though, they are definitely comfy!
  • Extra Blankets -2
  • Ear Plugs – 2


We recommend purchasing your family camping clothing from either Cabela’s or REI as both have a wide selection of camp clothing for men, women and kids as well as a wide range of sizes. Here is a post we did last fall about some of our favorite camping clothing.

  • Long Pants – 10
  • T-Shirts – 10
    • Ibex W2 Sport T – My absolute FAVORITE camping shirt! Made from weightless wool, the Ibex W2 is amazing. It is soft, breathable, durable and weighs in at 5.73 ounces.
  • Sweat Shirt – 10
  • Long Sleeve Shirt – 10
    • Ibex Long Sleeve W2 – Again, this is my favorite camping shirt (only long sleeve) as it is, soft, durable, breathable and incredibly light weight at only 7.24 ounces.
  • Socks – 10
  • Undies – 10+ 🙂
  • Hat – 9
  • Thermal Underwear – 8
  • Hiking Boots – 8
  • Shorts – 8
  • Rain Jacket – 7
  • Bandana – 6
  • Water Shoes / Sandles – 6
    • Keen Sandles – We use Keens for literally all of our camping, canoeing and paddle boarding trips. They are perfect to wear into the water, on a beach, around a campsite and more since they allow your foot to breath, dry quickly and yet still have a hard durable sole and toe.
  • Bathing Suit – 5
  • Beach Towel – 4
  • Dirty Clothes Bag – 3


Without the right gear, camping can become rather miserable rather quick. Here is our essential gear with recommendations.

Kelly The BWCA Model


Personally I try to go rather minimal on personal items while camping. I never bring deodorant and try to go minimal on soaps as well.

  • Toiletries – 10
  • Water Bottle – 10
  • Sunscreen – 10
  • Glasses – 9
  • Soap/Shampoo – 3
    • Wilderness Wash – This concentrated soap is biodegradable and perfect for shampoo, dishes, hands, pets and even laundry detergent, I use it all the time.


  • First Aid Kit – 10
  • Emergency Water Filter – 10
    • Life Straw Water Filter – While a Katadyn or Vapor bottle will fulfill all of your clean water needs, placing a Lifestraw in your emergency kit is definitely a great idea.
  • Bug Sting Ointment – 9
  • Aloe Lotion – 8


Yeti and Coleman Xtreme

  • Cookware – 10
    • GSI Dualist Cooking and Dish Set – The GSI Pinnacle Dualist is the perfect pan and dish set for any camping trip where weight and space are a concern. They also offer different sets for larger groups and different styles of camping hereRead my full review of the GSI cookset here
  • Utensils – 10
  • Cups/Bowels – 10
  • Coffee Pot – IR: 9
  • Camp Kitchen – 8
    • Grub Hub – The Grub Hub is a family / car campers dream. It packs neatly in the back of any size vehicle and holds all of you food, dishes and kitchen needs. When out camping it unfolds into an incredibly versatile camping kitchen. Review Coming Soon.
  • Portable Grill – 8
  • Fuel – 8
  • Charcoal – 8
  • Water Jug – 7
  • Trash Bags – 6
  • Table Cloth – 5
  • Aluminum Foil – 5
  • Cooking Oil – 5
  • Dutch Oven – 5
  • Paper Towels – 4
  • Dish Soap – 4
  • Skewers – 4
  • Pie Irons – 4
  • Zip Lock Baggies – 4



We didn’t feel the need to give our fun items a IR (Importance Ranking).

Luxury / Optional

We did not feel that giving our luxury camping items an IR ranking was necessary.

Ultimate Family Camping Checklist


  1. Your list of camping gear to pack is great. Many of the items I wouldn’t have thought of but make so much sense. I am all for having all of the equipment but making it as compact as possible. We have an RV but we camp with tent campers and it is interesting how the ‘must have’ items list differs from camper to camper. Everyone should have your list.

    • Thanks for the comment Bonnie. We used to do a lot of trailer camping with the family but have found as the kids get older they are actually having more fun doing more rugged camping. Go figure!

  2. Thank you that was a great blog about camping and now a can tell my family how to prepare for a wonderful camping trip for the summer!!!!!!

    • Well hopefully you are somewhere warmer than here in Minnesota! We’re probably getting out on our last family camping trip for the season this weekend. Then onto Winter Camping!

  3. Tent camping = real camping. RV camping = not camping, RVing. If you are not sleeping in a tent or in just a sleeping bag, then you are not camping.

  4. Great list! Eno hammock is a great idea and something I am always so happy to relax in after a hike! Another camping MUST have that I take everywhere now is Organic Brushing Rinse! It beats toothpaste by a mile because 1) you don’t need water, and 2) spitting it out on the ground wouldn’t be toxic, but actually cleans the ground and feeds the plants. It’s a biodegradable liquid you swish with, no water needed, and can beneficially soak right into mother nature! It’s saved my mouth so many times during backpacking and camping trips! BONUS: it has 1% Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide in it so you can use it to clean your cooking stuff or tools, etc.
    Check it out:

  5. One of the best camping checklist for trailer or car-camping. As an additional consideration,portable toilet is a perfect addition. The exact type would depend upon whether you are car-camping or have to carry it(some weigh 4lbs,others a lot more , but it’s a good item to have.

  6. It is always a good idea to use a checklist when planning your next trip. Without one you will inevitably miss something and it is usually something that is important. We have all done this at one time or another


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here