What You Need When Camping With Kids

What You Need When Camping With Kids

Although camping season is just about over, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead and be prepared, especially if you’re in the PNW where the weather is iffy at any point in time. We didn’t get a chance to camp a whole lot this year for obvious reasons, but we did do a couple of camp trips at Goose Lake and another in a yurt at the beach

Both of those trips usually end up in overpacking stuff that we may need but don’t really end up using. So for our second trip, we ended up buying a hardshell rooftop cargo carrier to put on our Subaru Outback since we filled the back to the brim and then some the first time. Let me tell you, this made all of the difference in the world, even if it was a big chunk of change to drop on another item that’s going to take up space in the garage.

Now my kids are 2 and 5 so obviously these items aren’t going to be for older kids or even babies. So take that into consideration. These are items I use for these age groups.

What You Need When Camping With Kids

The essentials:

  1. Cargo Rooftop Carrier – It will make your life easier and take up less space in the car (depending on what you have). Although our Outback is roomy, the kids take up most of the backseat with their 2 car seats. We went with a Thule carrier, but there are obviously less expensive models. Just know though, that they will hinder your gas mileage.
  2. Bigger Tent – We grabbed ours at Costco and we were able to fit 2 full/queen-sized air mattresses in it with walking room in the middle of the 2 mattresses and at the foot near the door.
  3. Air mattresses – We do have hiking air pads, but when we normal camp, we usually bring along our big air mattresses we picked up from Costco. 
  4. A first-aid kit if you don’t already have one, because I guarantee if your kids are anything like mine, one is always getting a booboo somewhere. Heck, even my husband needed one a time or two in the woods.
  5. Sleeping bags – It was honestly much easier for us to bring sleeping bags for tent camping since it gets chilly up by the mountain rather than blankets. Just make sure you check the degree rating so they stay nice and warm. Our oldest uses a Kelty bag, and our 2-year-old used our oldest daughter’s sleeping bag that she never used but outgrew that was from REI. It may have been the Kindercone 30.
  6. Pillows – I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep without one so to me it’s a necessity. Kids, on the other hand, don’t really mind, but I was able to squeeze these toddler-sized pillows into their sleeping bags perfectly so they’re more likely to sleep because we all know camping can rock their senses since it’s a new environment.
  7. Lanterns – my kids don’t do well with the headlamps because they put pressure against the forehead with the hard plastic so they dig holding a lantern for those nighttime trips to the bathroom.
  8. No bathrooms? no problem – Grab a Female Urinal if you have girls. I used this thing and it was great. Now I don’t have to worry about me or the kids getting any pee on our feet or on our clothes!
  9. Kids camp chairs – Obviously, they need a cool chair to go along on their fun adventure! My kids love their mini-sized chairs like mommy and daddy. They were loving being able to stick their own cups in them.
  10. Stainless Steel Cups – I suggest this because it helps keep beverages cold so you’re not constantly in and out of the cooler and melting your ice that keeps your food cold and fresh.
  11. Monkey Mat or similar – If the kids are not fond of dirt, get one of these that they can play on.
  12. And obviously you will need the essentials to cook with, food, cooler, ice, warm clothes, etc.

Fun stuff to keep them busy:

  1. Marshmellow roasting sticks – you can find a good stick or you can pick up some reusable ones as we did. Very handy to have, especially if the sticks are not up to par.
  2. Kids Camp Gear Play Set – My kids love theirs. They feel like they’re really helping out while camping!
  3. Coloring Books/Crayons – Since electronics don’t work in the woods, we like to bring coloring books and crayons or even blank paper so they can draw whatever comes from their imagination.
  4. Outdoor Scavenger Hunt – Our kids love spotting things and marking them off, so I am sure yours would love it too. Plus, it’s a good way to keep them busy and active while camping.
  5. Fishing Poles – This was the highlight of our first camping trip. Our oldest just loved catching fish, you can read that post above if you haven’t already.
  6. Glow Sticks – Cause who doesn’t love glow sticks when you’re in the dark!?
  7. Camping Memory Game – Because it’s camping theme which is fun while you’re in the setting.
  8. Corn Hole Bean Bag Toss – We love this game, even while camping since it gives us something to do!
  9. Bubble Wands – You can usually pick these up at Target or Walmart for like $1.

I will probably add to the list as more come to mind, so bear with me, it could get longer.


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