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What to Pack for a Family Camping Trip (Printable Checklist Included!)

Updated: Nov 2, 2019

All the essential items to bring on a family car-camping getaway.

Pinterest image for What to Pack for a Family Camping Trip.

Sleeping under the stars, communing with flora and fauna, unplugging the tech and tuning into family... camping is where it's at... with the exception of all the stuff. The packing and shuffling of camp goods can be so overwhelming we try, as much as possible, to camp for a minimum of two nights, so we're not spending half our time dealing with stuff.

However, we've also figured out that a big part of our problem was brining too much stuff, because we never made a solid list of what we actually used on camping trips. So for the sake of our sanity and your's, we've crafted a master packing list. This sucker will ensure you're not stuck saying, "This campout would be way better if we had remembered to pack _____," while also helping you avoid a car that's so overloaded your rearview mirror is useless. Cheers to the fine balance of car-camping-packing.

Tip: Contact the area where you’ll be camping ahead of time to see if there are any specialized items they recommend you bring, or items that are off-limits.

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* Click here for a printable version of this list.

· A tent, or tents.

Interior of an orange tent with the flap opening to the woods and a smoking fire pit.

The size or amount of tents you bring will depend on whether you want to share a tent with the kids. Sometimes we’ll even designate a play tent and sleep tent so little, mud-covered feet don’t trash our sleeping bags.

In addition, it’s ideal to bring tents appropriate for the type of weather you’ll be camping in.

· Rain protection for tent. We’ve forgotten our tarp and rain fly before and it wasn’t pretty. Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, don’t test the weather Gods

· Rubber mallet for tent stakes. If you’re camping on harder ground, a rubber mallet (safer than a hammer) can save your hands.

· Mat. Place this directly outside your tent to leave soiled shoes.

· Sleeping bags and pillows. Check the weather to ensure you’ll be bringing sufficiently warm bedding.

An orange and white tent next to green and orange sleeping bags on top of a bluff at sunrise.

· Air mattresses. While those thin flimsy pads are fine for backpack camping, you might as well sleep well when car camping. As anyone who has slept on an air mattress knows, they’re not always great, and can sometimes leave you on the ground. It’s worth it to invest in a higher quality air mattress – we’ve have had excellent luck with our Eddie Bauer air mattress. And don’t forget the pump!

· Two sets of clothes for each day. You’ll likely get your day clothes sufficiently soiled on hikes and other excursions, so you’ll want a second set to change into for the evening.

· Pajamas. It’s nice to have enough pajamas to don a new set every other night.

· Bathing suit. If you’ll be near swimable water.

· Warm outerwear.

Man in crimson sweater and beanie standing next to a woman in a green down jacket on the edge of a dock above a clear, turquoise lake.

We often find it preferable to bring too much outerwear, than not enough, as evenings can quickly get chilly when you're living outside.

· Hiking shoes.

· Water shoes. If you’ll be near water.

· Sandals for bathing in public showers.

· Sun hats.

Stack of woven and straw hats on a white loveseat.

· Bug spray.

· Waterproof sunscreen.

· Portable shower. A slice of heaven after a long hike. Make sure to leave the water bag in the sun so it heats up.

· A not-too-nice towel for each family member.