Camping is all about great family fun – sleeping in a tent under the stars and spending quality time together without all the distractions and responsibilities of life in the city.
What can make your camping trip even better than it already is? Making sure you have the right kind of camping gear for your kids!
Our list of 24 essential camping gear and accessories for kids is your check-list to make sure you have everything you need to make your family camping trip a success. We’ve broken it down for you from babies all the way up to teens.
Essential Camping Gear for Babies and Toddlers
Of all the age groups, camping with a baby is probably the most challenging. Babies need a little more care and attention. And then there are toddlers. No longer a baby, but still needing a lot of supervision when you’re camping, is your toddler. She’s always on the move, curious about everything around her.
There are some essentials you’ll want to bring along to make camping with your baby or toddler that mush easier. Good thing there’s camping gear that’s been specifically designed with both in mind.
1. Portable travel bed
If you want your baby to sleep well at night and during his naps, he needs a comfortable and safe place. A portable travel bed should be at the very top of your list. There are many different types of portable camping beds for you to choose from. Most of these infant beds have mesh window panels so they’re not only breathable, they protect your baby from bugs. Look for portable beds that are easy to set up and that include a mattress and fitted sheet.
2. Portable playpen
You don’t want to have to hold your baby during your entire camping trip, moving him from one set of arms to the next. The solution to this is a portable playpen that you can set up anywhere. These are an ideal way of laying baby down when you need a break or have something that needs to be done. You’ll be able to put him into his playpen and know he’s safe as he plays in there, giving you a few minutes to relax without worrying he’s going to get into something he shouldn’t.
Look for a playpen that has a protective sun dome on the top, so you can shield your baby from the sun when there’s no shade to be found.
3. Baby carrier backpack
Investing in a good backpack is essential so you can carry your baby or toddler wherever you go, such as hiking the nearby trails. Choose one that’s lightweight and has a canopy that protects him from sun and rain.
Some baby backpacks come with storage pockets, so you can easily carry some of your baby’s other essentials such as bottles and diapers. Look for a backpack that has padding to protect your back as well as shoulder and hip belts that are padded so you’re comfortable wearing the pack for longer periods of time.
4. Travel highchair
Portable highchairs are a mini version of the one you have at home…and it’s light and easy to pack up with the rest of your camping gear. These travel highchairs can easily and quickly set up to attach to picnic tables and other surfaces, such as onto chairs or directly on the ground. Your baby can eat comfortably with the rest of the family. Or set the highchair up so baby can play with toys on the detachable table.
5. Inflatable pool
In hot weather, an inflatable pool is a great way to cool down your baby or toddler. Just fill with cool water, add a few favorite bath toys…and your baby will be happy and cooled down in no time.
6. Wearable baby blanket
Days can be hot and sunny, but when you’re camping, nights can be chilly and damp. A blanket sleeper that your baby can wear is a great way to keep him warm at night. Some of these sleeper blankets have mesh air vents to help control the temperature.
Another benefit of these wearable blankets is that they’re a safer alternative than piling your baby up underneath blankets to keep warm.
7. Clothing checklist for babies and toddlers
You’ll of course have clothing on your list of essentials. Make a list well ahead of time so you don’t forget anything. Pack accordingly for the number of days you’ll be away but remember, babies and toddlers are messy! Pack extra if you have room so you don’t have to start hand washing little shirts. Essential clothing for babies and toddlers should include:
- Warm pajamas
- Long and short sleeved pants
- Long and short sleeved shirts
- Swim suits
- Sun hats
- Jackets and sweaters
- Booties for babies not yet walking
- Warm hats
8. Potty Training
Potty training doesn’t have to be put on hold while you’re camping. If you’re in the middle of potty training at home, bringing along a portable potty is essential. If the potty you’re using at home is easy to pack, go ahead and bring it along. Otherwise there are portable potties you can purchase. Consider letting your toddler use any new potty at home before you leave for your trip, so he gets used to it.
9. White noise
Babies and toddlers may find it difficult to fall asleep in strange surroundings with all the unfamiliar sounds of the campground around them. A battery-operated white noise machine, or an app on your phone, can make naptime and bedtime that much easier for your little one.
If you don’t use white noise at home, introduce it to your child a few nights before you leave on your camping trip. This lets them get used to the white noise and fall asleep to it at home before you leave for your trip.
10. Toys for playtime
Don’t leave home without a few of their favorite toys. Both babies and toddlers have one or two toys that will keep them entertained. Consider buying a couple of new toys that you pull out when you’re at the campsite. New toys are a great way to amuse a fussy baby or toddler.
Essential Camping Gear for Kids
Your camping experience will be that much easier and stress free if you bring along a few essential items for your kids.
11. Sleeping pads
After a day playing in the outdoors, your kids are ready for a good night sleep. Bring along sleeping pads that are well insulated to give them lots of padded protection from the cold. Choose sleeping pads that are easy and quick to inflate and deflate.
12. Sleeping bags
Your kids are going to need warm and cozy sleeping bags to curl up in at night. When you’re camping outside the weather can change in an instant and temperatures can get quite cold at night.
Your best buy is a three-season sleeping bag that will keep them warm in all weather. Down-filled sleeping bags are a good choice. They roll up nice and tightly, so they’re easy to pack in with the rest of your camping gear and are light enough for children to carry around on their own.
13. Kids camping chair
Camp chairs are an essential for any camping trip and bringing along chairs that are kid-sized means there’s always a comfy seat for your kids around the campfire or for sitting on after it’s been raining. These kid camping chairs are lightweight and easy to set up and take down. Look for chairs that have adjustable straps so that your kids can sit upright or recline back in comfort.
14. Backpacks for kids
It’s never too soon for your kids to be packing some of their own gear – clothes, toys and books – let them back their own backpack and carry around their own gear. Invest in good, durable backpacks that are going to last through several camping seasons.
15. Clothing checklist for kids
Let your kids pack some of their own clothes, being sure to supervise and make sure they bring the essentials. While you don’t want to over-pack for kids, you also don’t want to have to start handwashing shirts and socks. Plan accordingly for the number of days you’ll be gone. Items on the checklist should include:
- Clothes for daytime – long and short pants, long and short sleeved shirts
- Shoes – walking/hiking shoes, easy to wear shoes, and water shoes
- Socks – bring extra!
- Jackets – hoodies, sweaters
- Hats – sunhats and warmer hats for cooler weather
- Mitts/gloves – pack as a “might need” item if it gets cool at night
16. Rain gear
Even on the sunniest weekend, with no rain in the forecast…when you’re out in the wilderness, be prepared for it to rain! Unless you want to stay in the tent until the weather clears, rain gear is essential for all members of the family, not just your kids. Pick up some colorful rain suits made from lightweight nylon. Make sure they’re easy for kids to put on and take off themselves.
17. Toys, books, and games
Let each child pack a few toys and one or two books for the trip. Pack a few simple games that your family loves to play, such as Uno. Limit game choices to those that don’t have a lot of parts and pieces. Buy each child a new book that you can surprise them with.
18. Rainy day craft box
Packing a box with craft supplies can turn a boring, rainy day into a fun one. If it’s still raining after you and your kids have stomped around in the raindrops for a while, take the action into the tent until the sun starts to shine again.
Include an assortment of craft items, such as construction paper, stickers, coloring books, and crayons and markers. There’s no limit to what you can add, with one goal in mind – keeping boredom from taking over a rainy day.
19. Kids camping flashlights/headlamps
Walking around the campsite, reading in the tent, or taking a night hike, flashlights and headlamps are a safe way for kids to navigate their way in the dark. Make sure to have one for every kid in the family so there are no arguments about who gets to hold it this time.
20. Safety whistles
A safety whistle is a good way for your kids to alert you when they’re lost or in danger. Attach a whistle to each of your children, clipping them to clothing or to a backpack. Be sure to teach them some rules – the whistle isn’t a toy and shouldn’t be used for fun.
Essential Camping Gear for Teens
There are a few items you can add to your list when camping with teens. For the most part they’ll need all the essentials you bring for yourself – clothing and sleeping bags. Here are some accessories with just teens in mind.
21. Separate tent for teens
If you have teens, they may want to stay up later than you. Getting a separate tent is the ideal way to let them stay up and not keep you awake. It’s also a good way to let them feel a little more independent. For even more independence, make sure they set up their own tent!
22. Sports and bikes
Your teens will be able to go off on their own for a while in the campground. Bring along some sports equipment they can play with on their own or with any new friends they meet – soccer and footballs, frisbees, and badminton. If you have a bike rack on your vehicle, hitch up the bikes and bring them too. Many camping areas have easy bike paths that are safe for your teens to bike along. Don’t forget the bike helmets!
23. Walkie talkies
You want to give your teens time to explore on their own, but you also want to keep them safe and know that you can stay in contact with them. Cell phone coverage can be sketchy in some areas, so consider getting a good set of walkie talkies or two-way radios. That way you can stay connected and know your teens are safe as they experience a little bit of freedom around the campground.
Decide ahead of time if you’re going to allow your teens to bring along any electronic games or the iPad. Also decide, other than staying in contact with you, whether or not you’re going to let them use their phones.
Camping can be a great time to enforce a “no electronic” time for the entire family. Or limit their use to an hour a day – when the hour is up, it’s back to the camping experience!
Make a List and Check it Twice
Make a list, well ahead of your trip, of all the essential camping gear and accessories your children will need on your camping trip. Some of the items on our list are necessary, such as clothing and that portable play pen. Other items are there to make your time in the outdoors a little simpler, so you can focus on spending quality family time together.
So, make your list, check off each item as you pack your gear…and have fun camping!