Whether you’re in the mountains, at a campsite, or in your backyard — camping is a simple and truly exciting way to bring your family together and have some fun!
If your summer vacation was cancelled or you’re looking for a fun and socially-distanced family adventure, camping may be just what you need to escape the stress and enjoy some quality-time with nature.
Check out our list of must-have items to pack and helpful tips and hacks to make your trip go more smoothly.
GET IN THE RIGHT MINDSET
First things first. Lower your expectations and allow yourself to have fun! You may not be the hardcore backpacker you used to be, but don’t let that take away from the simple joys of camping with kids. Embrace the crazy moments, simpler agenda, and amazing memories your kids will never forget.
Keep it simple. It’s hard not to pack everything in your home when you’re camping with kids. Remember, camping is enjoying a slow-paced, simpler life. Leave anything that isn’t an absolute necessity at home (or in the car). You’ll be surprised how well your kids thrive with much less than you give them at home. Think food, shelter, bug and sun protection.
If you’re traveling to a campsite, use tablets for the car ride, then leave them in there!
Embrace the dirt. Bring lightweight clothing that you aren’t worried about getting dirty. Pack durable sneakers or water shoes for any hikes that may involve water.
Have FUN! Camping is about getting messy, letting time go by slowly, and staring at the stars with the people you love.
Tent - There are tons of tent buying guides online. We recommend reading up on the best tent for your family. Consider your family size, budget and quality of tent you desire. Here are a few resources to get you started: outdoorfamiliesonline.com, outdoorgearlabs.com, and REI.com.
High chair - Don’t forget a small travel high chair for the little campers. We love the IKEA Antilop because it breaks down easily and is super easy to clean, or the Summer Infant Pop ‘N Sit Portable Infant Booster Seat.
Sleeping - For a more comfortable sleep, bring a pad for under your child’s sleeping bag or blanket. (Yoga mat, air mattress or camping pad) Kids move around in their sleep so you want to keep them on their pad for comfort, but also for insulation depending on the season. Sew straps to the back of sleeping bags to keep it attached to the mat.
Child Carrier - Bring a child carrier for sluggish or tired hikers. Nap time can be a challenge when camping. Kids love the rocking motion a carrier provides. They make for an easy nap space and keep everyone else moving, too! We suggest the Osprey Poco® Premium or Deuter Kid Comfort. Both come with a sunshade, plenty of storage pockets and baby stirrups so little legs don’t fall asleep. Stash a changing pad in there for changes on the side of the trail. If you don’t have a carrier, plan activities or hikes around nap time. Go for a drive in the car and let your kids snooze in the AC.
Light for at Night - Buy kids headlamps or glow sticks. The kids will have a blast having their own light at nighttime. Try these Engergizer LED Headlamps. You can order glow sticks here or find them at your local dollar store. Light up your tent, tree or trunk with these waterproof LED lights from Power Practical.
Easy, breezy outfit - For a fuss-free outfit that’s both lightweight and comfortable, and comes in a variety of sizes, check out our Rompers.
Outdoor Blanket - These fan-favorite blankets are large, wipeable and fold up compactly. Keep one in your car for naptime, picnics, or just lounging outside. Note: some styles may be unavailable or currently out of stock.
Keep baby wipes on hand. They are great for no-rinse baths, wiping off marshmallow covered faces, and cleaning cuts and scrapes.
Bring hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t an option. We like this EO Organic Hand Sanitizer Spray in French Lavender. Smells great and keeps everyone healthy!
Bring a portable bath if going on lengthy trips. RinseKit® Pod holds 1.75 gallons of water and showers down two people. Ideal for showering, washing down equipment or pets.
Sometimes, younger children aren’t comfortable going potty in nature. If you have a training potty, line it with a grocery bag before each use — and VOILA!
Meals - There’s more to make than hot dogs over a campfire, though we love that idea too! Super Healthy Kids created very realistic, healthy meals that are easy. Also, check out Hikeitbaby’s Easy Camp Meals for Kids. She is a mom that does not like to cook (when tiny humans are pulling at her legs), so you know she’ll give super-easy, anyone-can-do-it meal options!
Snacks - Bring plenty of healthy snacks, but some treats too. Your kids will feel their best and laugh their hardest when they have had nutritious meals, but don’t underestimate the power of a special treat!
Desserts - Other than s’mores (don’t worry, we’ll get to that) dessert may be the most fun part of camping. Simple ingredients and a cast iron skillet or dutch oven are all you need to nail these. Try Fresh Off the Grid’s recipes or these from Country Living.
Step up your s’more game - Traditional s’mores are delicious, but why not take it up a notch with delicious, gourmet marshmallow flavors like Strawberries & Cream, Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream and Birthday Cake from Fireside Mallow Co.’s?
SUN & BUG PROTECTION
Bring on the sun—screen! We love sunscreen sticks rather than spray or lotion for easier application and cleaner hands. Our favorites are SunBum’s Original Sunscreen Face Stick and California Baby® Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen Stick. It’s perfect for sensitive skin or children with allergies. Reminder: Children under 6 months should not use sunscreen.
Hats are an effortless way to protect your child from the sun and unwanted critters like ticks. Depending on where you camp: woods, beach or around your home — hikeitbaby.com offers great options for all adventures!
Keep away the bugs — safely. Our favorite, all-natural bug sprays are doTERRA’s TerraShield® Spray and California Baby® Natural Bug Blend™ Bug Repellent Spray. Reminder: Children under 6 months should not use bug repellents.
STAY HYDRATED & SAFE
Freeze water bottles before you go to double as cooler packs and extra cold water supply.
Before you leave, scout your area for free firewood. Facebook Marketplace and Craig’s List are a great source.
Remember Smokey the Bear? We’re never too old to review the basics of fire safety in the woods. Discussing Smokey’s Campfire Rules is a great opportunity to teach your children the many benefits of fire, and how to respect it and the safety of the people and woods around you.