Family Camping Checklist – What to Bring

Last time I went camping (at Memorial Park, mid-August, glorious time) I decided to make a list of all the items I had with me that were useful and helpful. I would also include the things that I did NOT bring that were sorely missed. This fine endeavor would then provide me with a list of exactly what to pack for the next camping trip, and thereby save me about 5 hours worth of agonizing about what I might have forgotten, and then missing a useful/crucial item once there.

So here’s my list of what I like to have when camping. This is a car camping list, not a backpacking list, which you probably would have figured out by the time you got to “carpet remnant for tent entrance”. Still, I can fit everything in a smallish VW station wagon with two giant carseats, so it’s really not all that much stuff, either. You certainly don’t need an SUV.

SLEEP + SHELTER
tent
air mattress
sheets for air mattress
manual or battery-powered pump
sleeping bags for everyone
pillowcases (stuff them with sweatshirts/towels to make pillows)
carpet remnant for tent entrance
lantern
solar flashlights
headlamps for little kids (or for everyone, if you prefer. Little kids under 5 need headlamps because they don’t get the concept of pointing the beam where they want to go, also they tend to drop flashlights and lose them)

EAT
tablecloth (Tuffo Mat works fine)
camp table (don’t need if there are picnic tables)
camp chairs
firewood
kindling
newspaper
single burner camp stove
propane bottles
tea strainer/tea
coffee press/coffee
dishwashing bucket
Dr. Bronner’s soap (not peppermint, stings eyes when used as face wash)
sponge
scrub brush
Klean Kanteens, one for each person.
sharp knife
cutting board
scissors
corkscrew
can opener
bottle opener
matches and lighter
ice chest w/ice (if you are bringing perishable food)
trash bag
large water cooler
saucepan
frying pan
dutch oven
plates
bowls
forks
spoons
knives
aluminum foil
roll of paper towels

PERSONAL CARE
toothbrushes
toothpaste
nail clipper
nail file
washcloths (one per person)
towels (one per person)
shampoo (or can use Dr. Bronner’s soap)
conditioner (for long hair)
moisturizer (body and face)
sunscreen (body and face)
lip balm
sun hats for everyone
sunglasses
diapers (for kids who still need them, or for bedwetters. You do NOT want to experience a peed-in sleeping bag. Better safe than sorry)
wet wipes
deodorant
hairbrush/comb
ibuprofen
first aid kit
any necessary medications or vitamins
potty for bigger kids (don’t have to leave the tent in the middle of the night)
toilet
paper
tweezers
menstrual supplies

CLOTHING
underwear, one pair per person per day
socks, one pair per person per day (ideally Smartwool, as they do not get stinky or feel damp)
jeans
sweatpants (can be used as pajamas)
sweatshirt (ditto)
black or dark-colored wool sweater
shorts
T-shirts
fleece vest
fleece hat
warm coat
hiking/walking shoes
Crocs (for going in the water, beach, pool, wearing in campsite showers, slipping on to go pee in the middle of the night, etc.)
bathing suit
swim shirts

MISCELLANEOUS
baby/toddler carrier
screwdriver
pliers
camera
journal
maps and guidebooks
pens
Swiss Army knife
clothesline (for hanging towels, bathing suits, washcloths, rinsed out clothing)
prefold cloth diapers (used for drying dishes, cleaning up random spills and wet spots, padding, endlessly useful to have 5-10 of these along)
guitar and pick
games, books and toys for kids. My favorite is a big bucket of Legos.
iPod for car stereo
cell phone
cell phone car charger
laptop
laptop power supply

FOOD
Don’t forget food! This depends on the facilities available, personal taste, etc. I like to bring a cooler with apples, avocados, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, salami, chocolate, oranges, hot dogs, peanut butter, jelly, cans of baked beans, bread, nuts, crackers, Clif bars, and marshmallows (for toasting over the campfire). Then I go to Trader Joe’s and get a whole pile of healthy snacky things. Fruit leather and trail mix and dried cranberries, etc.

I don’t really like to cook a lot when I’m camping. Some people are really into it, I am not, unless I am camping with a group to share the labor. When camping with kids, if I spend time and effort cooking over a campstove and they don’t eat it, it’s a GIANT PAIN. With my camping pantry stand-bys above, they can just grab what they want and not waste food or create a pile of dishes that need to be washed. After all, the whole point is to have fun and relax, not chore like I do at home.

2 thoughts on “Family Camping Checklist – What to Bring

  1. Pingback: Memorial Park Camping | toblerhaus

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