Family Camping Gear Essentials (Complete Guide & Checklist)

Camping can be tons of fun; however, you have to make sure you are organized. Unless you are an experienced camper, chances are you will forget one or two things. That’s why I have put together this checklist of must have camping gear for families.

So below I’m going to get into everything you might possibly need for a family camping trip.

And I’ve designed this list to be functional whether you’re camping in an RV or in a tent. Of course, depending on whether you’re in an RV or tent, you may not need everything I’ve listed.

But it doesn’t hurt to review and then pack what’s appropriate for the trip you have planned.

camping gear families lg

Picnic kit

When you are out camping, you are going to want to eat outdoors if the weather is nice. Therefore, having a set of picnic and outdoor eating equipment is a good idea. If you have a young family and kids, a simple picnic mat will do.

However, if you have older people with you, or perhaps people with reduced mobility, you will need tables and chairs. You can get collapsible picnic tables and chairs for camping like this awesome set on Amazon. They are easy to transport, and they can be opened out and used as regular tables.

That particular set has well over 600 reviews, and they are almost all 5-star!

Picnics are quite comfortable and great for the whole family. Make sure you get the right size picnic set for your needs. There is no point in getting eight chairs when you only have a family of four.

But aside from the table and chairs, you’ll want a great picnic basket set like this one on Amazon.

It has over 1,000 near-perfect reviews and is basically an insulated cooler, so it’s perfect to keep cold or hot stuff at the right temperature. Perfect for up to 4 people!

Water storage

Water is the single most essential thing when you are participating in outdoor activities. Without it, you risk getting seriously ill, and this can be dangerous, especially if you are hiking in deserts, mountains, or the beach.

Make sure that every family member has a reusable water bottle. Also, ensure your water bottles are not made of plastic since these sometimes have BPA and at the very least can give your water a plastic taste. You can get a metal or glass water bottle. I recommend getting metal water bottles.

This is because glass water bottles tend to be quite thick.

This makes them heavy, and you won’t want to carry them around for too long. Metal bottles are also cheaper and can hold more water. You may even be able to get vacuum-insulated bottles to keep your water refreshingly cool.

Do not embark on a summer adventure without all the water you will need.

This metal water bottle from Iron Flask on Amazon comes in 28 color options and 6 size options and even at the largest size is still a great price!

It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product with over 100,000 reviews, almost 90% of which are 5-star!

Sleeping gear

If you are going to be having an overnight stay, then you will need a way to sleep. Most people will just have a tent and a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are great for younger kids that are smaller.

However, if you are camping with the whole family, the adults may need something more comfortable.

You can get an air mattress or, for older kids, a portable hammock. Air mattresses are better if you are going to be car camping. This is because you can keep it in your car, and there is no need to lug around a massive mattress.

More often than not, air mattresses will be too large for a regular tent. However, if you have one of those massive family tents, you will probably be okay.

If you are going to be sleeping in sleeping bags, there is one really important thing you have to remember. The ground is going to be very cold during the night if you are sleeping on the floor. Therefore, you are going to need something to insulate you from the ground.

The way you can do this is by using a roll mat like this best-seller on Amazon. A roll mat is similar to a yoga mat. However, roll mats are designed for insulation rather than padding and comfort. The roll mat will prevent you from becoming freezing cold during the night.

Do not overlook the importance of a roll mat. It is the ultimate piece of kit you need for camping.

I actually have 2 of these and use them all the time. And when not in use, I just roll them up and put them in my storage shed. But 2 of them easily fit in the back of my car also.


Tents are one of the essentials for any family camping adventure.

If you are going to be wild camping, then you need to get small tents that you will be able to carry. If, however, you are going to be at a campground and want some extra space, you can get a large tent.

Some of the larger tents will be able to fit air mattresses, camping chairs, and other large items. If you are going to be staying at a single campsite for more than a few days, a family tent is best.

If you have young kids that need supervision, then get a large tent.

But for teens and older kids, do yourselves a favor couples, and get them their own tent! That way you won’t be crowded and you can have some quality time once everyone in safely in their tent.

When selecting a tent, make sure it is a good quality one. You don’t want a cheap one. This is because the pricier options will often have better weather resistance and will also be fire-retardant and rip-stop.

If you are planning to have regular camping trips, get a great tent that will last decades. It will be worth the extra cost.

Personally, I love the ones where the poles are built-in and can be put together in a matter of minutes.

Gone are the days of having to lay out 40 poles, match colored ends, and try and force it together, often taking 30 minutes or more; not what you need if it happens to be raining! (been there, done that).

I do often use my RV these days, but if I’m tent camping. my tent of choice is this 90-second setup tent from Gazelle on Amazon. It’s a fantastic tent that literally can be put up in under 2 minutes.

But don’t just take my word for it. Over 500 near-perfect reviews on Amazon tell a similar story.

Sanitary items

Sanitary items and toiletries are one of the most necessary items to pack for use in the camp bathroom and camp kitchen. They are among the family camping essentials. At a minimum, you must pack:

  • cleaning wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • toiletries

You may also need Q-tips and cotton pads for cleaning scratches and other small wounds.

Cooking utensils

Cooking utensils are some of the best camping gear you can pack for family trips. Outdoor cooking is a great way to get some fresh air whilst enjoying great food and quality time. Your campsite may have a store where they sell hot dogs and other food.

However, in my opinion, nothing beats cooking your own food exactly how you want it. Some examples of things you may want to pack include:

  • A portable grill
  • Dutch oven
  • Slow cooker
  • Firewood
  • Camp stove
  • A cast iron pan

Now if you need cookware and/or camping skillets, I got you covered!

In a recent article, I review all the best options from stand-alone skillets to full cooking sets; all perfect for camping in either a tent or in an RV.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Before you pack your cooking equipment, make sure that you check the rules of the campground. They may not allow open flames if you are in a national or state park. Especially during the summer, when there is a risk of wildfires.

With that in mind, there’s no better portable grill than this portable grill from Traeger on Amazon!

I love my Traeger! And because it uses pellets and has no open flame, you’ll be just fine in using it almost anywhere outside! Traeger quality and flavor but easily stored in a car or RV! It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product with over 700 near-perfect reviews!

If you’re new to Traeger, as I said, I love mine, and you can read my comprehensive overview in this recent article on one of my other websites.

As well as the actual cooking equipment, you will need a way to eat the food too. So remember to pack enough plates and utensils for the family. I recommend you use plastic plates. When you are at a campsite, you will rarely be sitting comfortably at a table.

You will probably have the food in your lap. You don’t want to drop an expensive, brittle ceramic plate. So use plastic.

Also, make sure you remember the cleaning items on your list. You may need to bring a scouring pad and water tank for washing up if the campsite does not have potable water for you.

You will also need a way to store your food if you aren’t in an RV.

In this recent article on my site, I compare the best portable refrigerators on the market. This is a must-read if you want the best value-for-the-money camping refrigeration system!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

First aid kits

When packing for one of your next outdoor adventures, make it a top priority to have a first aid kit. It is one of the must-haves for any trip away from home. As a bare minimum, you should have a tourniquet, hemostatic dressings, and band-aids. It would also be good to carry Neosporin.

A tourniquet is a small device used to stop bleeding.

Sometimes you will have a cut so deep that a regular band-aid won’t be sufficient. The purpose of a tourniquet is to provide sustained pressure to the area to reduce the amount of blood you bleed.

Tourniquets are carried by the military, police, and paramedics and are usually the first thing used in an emergency.

Hemostatic dressings are designed to help the blood clot. They are one of the best ways to stop bleeding, and they are quite easy to use. They are very pricey for the size, with a single dressing costing about $30.

They are a life-saving piece of kit and part of the right camping gear you should pack. Your anti-septic spray can also save a life. When you get cut by a branch or something, chances are that branch is not clean. It can carry germs that may be deadly.

Sepsis is one of the diseases that can cause death from a simple cut. It is super important to clean a wound as soon as it is safe to do so. Always remember your anti-septic.

Before buying a first aid kit, make sure you are not allergic to any of the things in there. Some people can react to certain sprays and ointments.

You need to be able to treat cuts, burns, bruises, and sprains. A good first aid kit won’t take up much space in your backpack, and it is well worth carrying.

One final thing that should be in your first aid kit is sunscreen and bug spray. Applying these is an easy way to keep your skin safe and irritation free.

A detailed map of the area

When traveling, you cannot rely on signs.

Nor can you rely on your sat-nav and GPS systems, or your phone for that matter. Electronics can fail as if they can’t get a signal, they can’t work. So what you need to pack for your next camping trip are maps of the local area.

If it is your first time visiting a place, you will probably get lost, especially if you are hiking in the wilderness.

You need a color-coded map of the local area. The different colors will tell you about the steepness of the land, indicate footpaths and roads, and improve your experience. You can’t really find old-school black and white maps anymore really.

Speaking of camping areas, is there any better place than Northern California?

I lived out that way for a decade and loved camping my way up and down and even into Oregon too. In a recent article, I list 27 of the absolute BEST places for families to camp in Northern California; whether tent or RV.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Activity-specific equipment

It goes without saying, you need to make sure that you remember what activities you are going to be doing. And then pack your luggage accordingly.

For example, if you are going to be doing water sports, remember the watercraft. You will also need to take a life jacket, appropriate swimwear, and sunglasses. If you are going to be hiking, you will need rucksacks, first aid kits, and portable food.

There is too much variation in the kinds of equipment you will need. But as a general rule, think about the following things.

Firstly, the weather.

You need to wear the right clothing for the weather conditions. If you are going to be hiking in the mountains, you will need winter clothing and maybe even a space heater for the RV. Make sure you have insulated socks, and pack multiple layers. If you are a serious hiker, you may want to consider a down jacket.

These offer the best insulation for size. If, on the other hand, you are going to be visiting a beach that is 100 degrees hot, then you won’t wear thick clothes. Cover up to protect your skin from the sun, but wear loose, thin, breathable clothes.

Think about the location.

If you are in a remote location, you are going to have to pack extra things such as more food, water, and first aid kits. You will also need a map. It may also be a good idea to carry bear spray or flares if that is legal. This is because, in a remote location, you will be far away from help.

Finally, think about whether you will need any protective equipment.

If you are going to do rock climbing and white-water rafting, then you will need a helmet. You will also need gloves and life jackets.

But camping is also about having fun!

So whether you’ve got teens or younger kids, in this recent article, I get into 37 of the best games and activities for kids of all ages to get into, many of which require little to no purchasing of anything!

Just click that link to read it on my site.


Overall, there are many things that you need to pack when you are going camping.

The list is so extensive that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze everything into this article. But as a general rule, you need equipment for eating, water, sleeping, accommodation, cleaning, cooking, first aid, and navigation.

Remember to pack activity-specific equipment too. And then if you plan to hike at all, save yourself from the whining and make sure you’ve got good hiking shoes for your kids.

If you are RV camping, then you can pack more than you think you will need. But if you are wild camping, and will be carrying your own equipment, then you need to keep the weight down.

Got teens?

They camp a little different than younger kids and keeping them entertained can be a chore sometimes! Luckily, in a recent article, I detail a bunch of really great nighttime games designed especially for teenagers that will keep them happy. And let’s face it! If they’re happy, you’re happy!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Image by Brahmsee from Pixabay

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