What to Pack When Camping With Small Kids

During your pre-kid days, you may have dreamed about introducing your future family to the great outdoors and spending weekends camping over an open campfire. But when little ones are involved, it’s hard to imagine how to get out of the house for a playdate or overnight to Grandma’s let alone 24 hours in the woods.

Camping with kids is fun and rewarding, and the best part is you don’t have to worry about them being too loud and waking up hotel neighbors. Turn it into an adventure by adjusting your expectations and focusing on a fun, frugal evening outdoors in the fresh air. But a successful camping trip starts with your backpack. Here’s your essential packing list tips for camping with small kids.

Do a Test Run

The easiest way to figure out what you really need on a camping trip is to do a test run right in your backyard or nearby campground. Keep a tally of what you ended up forgetting and what you keep stepping back inside for. But it’s just as important to take inventory of what you don’t need. Less is more when it comes to camping and getting your little ones ready for an evening outdoors.

Pack for the Weather

Skip the extra clothes and leave those “just in case” items back at home unless you’re going camping for an extended period of time. Clothes can be reworn while camping, even with a little bit of s’mores smeared across the front of a shirt. Instead, pack with the weather in mind. If nights are cool and days are hot, layer up and remember to bring heavy socks and knit hats at night to keep little toes toasty warm.

family camping smores

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Bring Creature Comforts

Although less is more when it comes to camping, bringing a few creature comforts is key to a successful overnight outdoors with kids. Pack-up ingredients to make s’mores, animal-shaped flashlights for the kids’ tents and fuzzy slippers to recreate some of the creature comforts of home. Bringing a sentimental stuffed animal or toy can also help small kids feeling homesick and uncertain about their adventure in the woods.

Make It Ridiculously Easy

Camping with small children isn’t for the faint at heart, so don’t make it any harder on your family than it needs to be. Sure, you can bring along the fishing poles with dreams of catching dinner together, but you should also pack up some protein bars and ready-to-go meals that can be quickly heated up with the help of a lighter if you can’t get a fire going yourself.

Remember the Essentials

When it comes to camping, things like toothpaste and extra water are just the start of your essentials. A pair of scissors or pocket knife can help open items, cut cords on the tent as needed or help tear through fabric to make a quick strap or rope if necessary. Bring along a first-aid kit, a charged-up device in case of an emergency and share your plans with friends or neighbors so they know when to worry if you decide to become Swiss Family Robinson.