What's the most important camping gear for families?

By: Melissa Sandoval

A family camping trip can be an opportunity to create some great memories.
A family camping trip can be an opportunity to create some great memories.

There are certain things you should take on any camping trip: a tent, matches, and flashlights, for example. But what if you're bringing the whole family along? Just like everything else in life, a camping trip gets a lot more complicated when you add children to the mix. It can be a lot more fun, too. But only if you're prepared. Enjoying nature, laughing together, and making fire-toasted s'mores are memories you can all carry with you for a lifetime. Here's a rundown of some must-have gear for outdoor-loving families.

Start with the basics: clothes. Remember that little ones feel the cold more quickly than you do so you'll need to bring multiple layers of clothes for your kids to wear as needed [source: Family Camping Gear]. Bring ponchos for everyone, sunglasses and sunscreen, and insect repellent to keep the tiny critters from spoiling your vacation. And here's a smart way to pack your kids' clothes: pack a day's worth of clothes into a plastic grocery sack, and put a sack of clothes for each day of the trip in your child's suitcase. That way, he or she can just pull out a sack each morning to get dressed, and put the dirty clothes back in the sack at night, so the grubby items don't come in contact with the rest of your child's stuff [source: Family Camping Gear]. Pack an extra sack for each child, in case of wardrobe disasters.


Dinners and ghost stories by the campfire are half the fun of a family camping trip, so make sure you're well-stocked. Bring paper plates, plastic ware, trash bags, dish soap, paper towels, food containers, potholders and tongs. Plan what you will eat, and bring meal-specific items, like skewers for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. And, as any mom knows, plenty of wet-wipes will be needed for messy faces and hands [source: Kid-Friendly Vacations Guide]. Be sure to find out what wildlife lives where you will be camping before you go, and plan accordingly. If there are bears, for example, keep all your food in bear-safe containers. You can buy these at camping supply stores.

Wildlife is only one of the possible dangers for you and your family, so encourage your kids to take part in camping safety. Give each child his or her own flashlight. Not only do kids love to play with them, but they help little ones feel more secure at night. Since they'll be getting lots of use, don't forget to bring extra batteries. Give each child a whistle to wear around his neck, and teach him to blow the whistle to signal for help if he gets separated from the group. Teach small children to stay where they are if they get lost, and wait for an adult [source: Family Camping Gear].

A first aid kit is a necessity -- it's one of those things that may not get used for several outings but then becomes absolutely invaluable with one unfortunate turn of events. Plus, they're sold completely pre-packaged and ready to go at your local drug store [source: Kid-Friendly Family Vacations Guide].

Your family might suffer withdrawal from TV and the Internet on your camping trip, so make sure everyone has fun things to do. Bring a game from family game night at home, and play under the stars. And while this is a family camping trip, you may want to consider bringing a playmate your child's age; it's another mouth to feed, but two kids keep each other occupied much better than boring old grown-ups can [source: Family Camping Gear].

Prepare well for your family camping trip, and have fun making memories together.


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  • Family Camping Gear. "Camping With Kids: Tips for Family Campers." January 2, 2010. (Dec. 8, 2010) http://www.familycampinggear.com/generic23.html
  • Kid-Friendly Family Vacations Guide. "Camping Checklist to Make Your Kid-Friendly Camping Trip Fun." (Dec. 8, 2010) http://www.kid-friendly-family-vacations.com/camping_checklist.html