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The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist (with Printable PDF)

Going camping? We’ve put together this family camping checklist to help make packing for your next trip even easier!

Keep in mind this camping checklist is comprehensive – you likely won’t need every item on our list. Instead, we encourage you to use our checklist to figure out which camping gear your family needs and which you can do without. Download our printable PDF for your convenience!

A family of four fishing by a pitched tent at sunset

Our Simple Family Camping Gear Checklist

Let’s start with our simple (yet complete) family camping checklist.

  • CampShelter
    • Tent
    • Rainfly
    • Footprint
    • Vestibule
    • Stakes
  • Sleep System
    • Sleeping Bags
    • Sleeping Pads (/Air Mattresses)
    • Camp Pillow
  • Cooking Supplies
    • Matches or Lighter
    • Camp Stove (& Fuel)
    • Pots & Pans
    • Cooking/Eating Utensils
    • Plates/Bowls & Cups/Mugs
    • Kitchen Knife
    • Cutting Board
    • Camping Sink
    • Sponges and Dish Towel
    • Biodegradable Soap
    • Trash Bags
    • Cooler
  • Camp Clothing
    • Short Sleeve Shirt
    • Long Sleeve Shirt
    • Sweater or Fleece
    • Rain Jacket
    • Long Pants
    • Shorts
    • Underwear
    • Extra Socks
    • Hiking Boots &/or Camp Shoes
    • Sleepwear
  • Odds & Ends
    • First-Aid KitWater BottlesPocket Knife Axe or Hatchet (for cutting firewood)Bug SpraySunscreen
    • Personal Hygiene Products
    • Headlamps &/or Flashlights
    • Camp Lanterns
    • Camping Chairs
    • Books, Games, Etc

Now, let’s break down each of our five family tent camping gear categories in more detail.


Camp Shelters

A camp shelter is the most important piece of gear for any family camping checklist. For most families, this means having a quality tent to sleep in!

Tents

A high-quality tent is the single best investment you can make in camping. Now, about sizes – those capacity ratings on tents? They tend to be a bit snug. My advice? Go a size up for that extra elbow room. And don’t forget to pick a tent that suits the weather.

Here’s my breakdown of favorites:

Tent Accessories

  • Rainfly and Footprint: These are lifesavers for keeping your tent dry.
  • Vestibule: Perfect for storing those muddy hiking boots and gear, giving you a sheltered outdoor space.
  • Stakes: Crucial for securing your tent, especially when the rain starts pouring.
  • Tarps: If you’re expecting rain, throw in an extra tarp or two – one under the tent and another over it, just to be extra safe.
  • Tent repair kit: can be a real trip-saver if your tent rips

Additional Reading: How to Set up a Tent in 6 Easy Steps and Best family tents

The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist (with Printable PDF) 1

Sleep Systems

The second most important category in our family camping checklist is the sleep system.

Sleeping Bags

Perhaps the most important feature to consider when selecting a sleeping bag is temperature rating. Our advice is to select a bag rated for temperatures roughly 15° colder than the coldest you expect. It’s definitely better to be too warm than too cold while camping!

Personally, I’m a big fan of REI’s sleeping bags:

Additional Reading: A guide to choosing a sleeping bag

Sleeping Pads

A sleeping pad isn’t a strict necessity, but we can assure you that you’ll never regret adding one to your family camping checklist!

  • The NEMO Switchback is an excellent budget sleeping pad while the slightly more expensive REI Camp Bed Inflatable is better for those that prefer an air pad over a foam pad.
  • Another option for family campers is the Exped MegaMat Duo 10, a wildly comfortable inflatable two-person sleeping pad that’s really more like an air mattress.

Additional Reading: guide to choosing a sleeping pad for more tips.

Camp Pillow

When starting out, I recommend just grabbing some pillows from around the house to mark this one off your family camping checklist. But, once you get more serious about camping, investing in a camp pillow is definitely worth it (especially if you ever get into backpacking).

The Cocoon Sleeping Bag Head Pillow is my favorite!

sleeping bag liner

Cooking Supplies

Your camp kitchen can be quite simple or quite complex depending on what camping meals your family likes to cook. In addition to your food items, you’ll want to consider water storage and how you’ll cook your meals.

Water Storage

Many developed campgrounds, such as state parks, have drinkable water. Plan ahead for those that don’t. Water treatment, like a water filter or water purifier, works well if a water source is nearby.

Remember to pack not just the water your camping group will need for drinking, but also enough for any cooking, cleaning, and bathing you plan to do.

Camp Stove

A standard two-burner propane camp stove is the best option for most family campers.

There are a huge variety of models available, so we put together a guide to choosing the best camping stove with more info.

Just as important as your camp stove is fuel (propane or butane). Don’t forget this at home or you’ll be eating dinner cold!

Additional Reading:Complete Camping Food List, Camp Kitchen Checklist, the best way to make camp coffee, and 13 Easy Camping Meals Anyone Can Make

The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist (with Printable PDF) 2

Camp Clothing

Outdoor clothing excels in durability, being lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying, which is crucial for camping. The type and amount of clothing depend on the trip’s length and weather conditions.

  • Durability and Comfort: Outdoor clothing is designed for durability and comfort in various conditions.
  • Extra Clothing: Pack at least one extra set per person and separate sleepwear, even for short trips.
  • Long Trips: For extended camping, consider a set for each day or wear the same for several days.
  • Weather-Appropriate: Tailor your clothing to the forecast, e.g., rain jackets for wet weather, swimsuits, and sun hats for summer.
  • Winter Camping: Layer clothing for flexibility in cold conditions.
  • Footwear: Essential to have sturdy hiking boots or a durable pair of shoes for camp use.

Camping Odds and Ends

There’s a ton of family camping gear that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories above.

  • First-Aid Kit – Make a DIY camping first-aid kit or buy a pre-made one like the HART Outdoor Multi-Day First-Aid Kit.
  • Water Bottles – Mugs or cups work well for drinking, but water bottles are really where it’s at for camping, especially if you go on a hike!
  • Lanterns – Don’t forget a camping lantern to help illuminate your campsite at night! I actually reviewed the top 8 rechargeable lanterns to help you make a decision easier.
  • Headlamp or Flashlight – A couple of flashlights and/or headlamps (enough for everyone in your family) is important to pack.
  • Pocket Knife – A pocket knife or multi-tool has countless uses – don’t forget to add this to your camping pack list.
  • Axe or Hatchet – If you plan to have a campfire, a solid ax or hatchet is a must for chopping wood.
  • Bug Spray – We hate mosquitos! Keep them at bay with bug spray or check out the Thermacell (one of my favorite camping gadgets).
  • Sunscreen – If you’re camping in summer, don’t forget plenty of sunscreen for everyone in the family.
  • Personal Hygiene – Stay clean with a camping hygiene kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and any other hygiene items you can’t live without!
  • Camping Chair – Kick back around the campfire with a camping chair. My kids and I personally like the REI Flexlite Air Camp Chair (they also work well for backpacking).
  • Camping Table – A camp table is helpful to have at a campsite without a picnic table. Even with a picnic table, a camp table gives you a separate place to cook and eat. The Mountain Summit Gear Heavy-Duty Roll-Top is one of the best available.
  • Books, Games, Activities – If you have lots of kids like us, don’t forget to bring plenty of camping activities to keep everyone occupied!

Remember, that not every family needs all this gear. For example, you can usually do without a camping table if you’re at a campsite with a picnic table.

Just use our family camping list to review all the options and make sure you have the essentials to cover your family’s camping needs.

Best Camping Pillow

Final Thoughts

Everyone’s family camping packing list will be slightly different. In fact, we encourage you to make your own. Use our complete gear list to start and take notes on what you don’t actually need and what you wish you had on each camping trip.

Before long, you’ll have your very own family camping checklist that’s perfectly tailored for you and your family! Let us know if we missed any must-have family camping gear that you never hit the campground without!

Nick Richardson

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Awesome list of camping gear and very in-depth. It seems like a lot of gear that's needed, but over time anyone can fill that list. Always better to have more than you need than not enough of it.

CJ

Friday 17th of July 2020

What a fantastic list! I saved that camping fan to buy later because it gets really hot around here, even after dark.

Saundra

Monday 5th of August 2019

Love the list, I have started creating one for our family and these are great adds!! Have you taken anything to spray or sprinkle around your tent or overall pad area to keep the ants and other ground insects away?

Jojo

Tuesday 15th of May 2018

One thing I always bring when camping is a broom and dust pan to sweep out the tent and sweep off the outside. Another is a rake to clean up the campsite. Thanks for your list it is wonderful.

Ryanc

Wednesday 16th of May 2018

Great ideas! I usually have a small broom and dustpan packed when car camping but I never thought of an actual rake for the campsite. Great idea.

Dan

Saturday 28th of April 2018

Love the list, it is super helpful! Have to poke fun at the "Cups/Bowels" point...which should I bring? Prefer not to leave my bowels at home when I travel...well, maybe I do, LOL! Kidding aside, great information here