We just returned from our annual backcountry camping trip, so I thought it was time I shared my complete packing list for camping with kids. A lot of friends and family are surprised that we can enjoy our time camping with 3 kids in tow, but it really is one of our favourite traditions. As I've said in previous posts about Camping with Kids (found here & here), preparation is key to your enjoyment. There is nothing worse than forgetting a vital piece of equipment that means you're left wet, or uncomfortable, or hungry. In an effort to make sure this doesn't happen to any family, I'm sharing my Complete Family Camping List.
Going camping the first time can feel a bit overwhelming due to the sheer amount of gear required. Don't forget you can save your budget by borrowing equipment from friends and family, buying gently used gear from neighbourhood buy and sells, or renting from places like Mountain Equipment Co-op. We registered for camping gear from MEC for our wedding, and have been using it for the last 7 years. It’s amazing to think how many memories these gifts have given our little family.
I really hope this list makes you feel a little more prepared for camping with a young family, but remember nothing is perfect. You will be bug bitten, covered in grime and smelling less than peachy, but seeing the look on your little one's face when they catch their first crayfish, bite into a perfect s'more, go skinny dipping in a warm lake, or drift off to sleep in your arms watching the sun set, makes it all so worth it. There will probably be tears (for everyone), but trips like this build resiliency and help connect our kids to nature and the environment. For all of those who would prefer to glamp it up in a hotel or cottage instead, have fun! Whatever you do with your littles, know you're doing an awesome job.
Canoe, Paddles & Lifejackets (Can be rented at most parks and marinas)
Collapsable Wagon (Great for hauling kids or gear to walk in sites, or over simple flat portages)
2 Large Packs (waterproof dry pacs are ideal) for gear, clothes, toiletries & bedding
Cooler (pre-freeze water bottles to save ice pack space in the cooler, and have cold clean drinking water)
1 King size fitted bed sheet (Or appropriate for your size mattress)
3 Sleeping Bags (Since we sleep with the kids all together, we typically lay out a sheet on the sleeping pad and then use the sleeping bags on top as blankets)
2 Large Tarps (for rain shelter, covering gear at night etc)
2 Ropes (for tying tarp up to create a rain shelter, hanging food, towing a canoe, clothesline etc)
2 Bungee Cords (for attaching stuff to packs or keeping gear closed etc.)
Lightweight Fold Up Chair for each person
Booster Seat (lobster style is ideal for attaching to picnic tables)
Headlamps/Flashlights (*Always check batteries and pack extra. Headlamps and handsfree options are ideal when you have to help small children. Lantern style are also handy)
Sippy Cups/Bottles for little ones
Cutlery set for each person
Lightweight Cutting Board (not a flimsy one)
Flipper, Tongs, Mixing/Serving Spoon, Bottle Opener
Sharp Knife x2 (I wrap them in the dish cloth and tea towel with an elastic around them and put them in a bag together before packing into the gear bag)
Camping Stove with Gas Canisters (Even if you love to cook over the fire it's important to pack a stove in the case of rain, or a sudden fire ban)
Ove Gloves (or oven mitts)
Lake Safe Dish Soap
Dish Cloth & Drying Cloth
Tin Foil (for using on grill when cooking veggies etc)
Paper Towels (In a large ziploc bag to avoid getting ruined from water)
Ziploc baggies (a few large and small, very useful for keeping things dry if it's a wet trip, putting your map into, or putting leftovers away etc)
2 Green garbage bags + a few smaller Kitchen catcher garbage bags for collecting garbage around site and covering things to keep dry if needed.
Matches/Lighters (Packed in a ziplock bag to keep dry. I typically pack an emergency lighter and matches in our 1st Aid Kit too)
Pelican Case for valuables e.g. cell phones, car keys, permits, wallets
Eco-friendly shampoo & body wash
Toilet Paper (2 rolls, in separate large ziploc bags to avoid water damage + backup)
Portable Fold Up Potty (much easier than trekking to the outhouse in the dark)
Baby Wipes (for easy hand and face wipes etc)
Swim towels (We take 2 regular and 2 travel towels)
2 Baby Face Cloths
1st Aid Kit *Stay tuned for a Complete Family First Aid Kit Post Coming Soon!
Baby Carrier (eg. mesh water sling, favourite regular use carrier *consider what carrier would be ideal if you need to rock/walk your little one to sleep in it.)
Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Water Toys (Boats, Pails & Shovels)
Rainy Day Activities *Check out some great ideas in Part 2 of Camping with Kids
2 Bathing Suits & UV Shirts (or full piece UV suits)
2 Long Sleeve Shirts
Rain Coat & Pants (or full piece rain suit)
Wet Shoes (eg. Keens)
Dry Shoes (eg. Running Shoes)
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my Family Camping Grocery List & Meal Plan.
This post is not sponsored but I have linked some of our absolute favourite pieces of gear in case you're looking for some. *Please note that we backcountry camp for about 3 days eg. portage and paddle in site with no running water, no flush toilets, no electricity etc. If you're planning a less rugged trip, feel free to scale back and omit some of these items or pack in any bags or bins you have. You will need to add some items if you're planning a longer or more rugged trip.