Home » Camping essentials – what to pack when camping with kids

Camping essentials – what to pack when camping with kids

Camping love it or hate it – it is almost a rite of passage for most families with kids. Camping is often a cheap option for a holiday in the UK, there are plenty of locations to choose from and the kids will get plenty of that all important fresh air. One of the things you will need to consider when camping with kids is the sheer amount of stuff you will need – it is colossal!

So, whether you are a seasoned pro at camping or it’s your first time camping with family, here is a huge camping essentials packing list for what to take with you on a camping trip with kids.

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How to pack for camping with kids

Storage containers are best for keeping things organised. Plastic boxes with lids as well as zipped bags work best.

Packing cubes help to keep clothes free from dirt and mostly in an organised state.

Camping Essentials – Tips for camping with kids

If you are just getting started camping,  buy your gear at the end of the season for the best deals. Start with just the camping essentials for going away with kids and build up as you start camping more. We’ve been a few times since having all three boys, but we decided to take the leap and buy all our own gear last summer. I think we’ll buy more each year now as we get to grips with what we need, and what added extras can make things easier.

Kids around a table on a campsite

When booking your campsites think about the location for bathrooms, distance to any amenities, distance to playground, choose one that suits your family’s needs for camping. 

Book your campsite early in the season and whenever they open bookings, if possible, for the best options. 

Research things to do in the local area. Are there child-friendly activities nearby or are you close to any beaches or parks.

Sleeping in a tent

Sleeping under canvas is exciting but let’s face it, it can be freezing and quite hard work. You’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to keep you all happy and comfortable.

Camping Essentials Checklist for Camping with Kids

Tent 

Depending on the size of your family will determine the size of the tent you’ll need.  Go for something that is easy to set up and has enough space to comfortably sleep and sit inside. Some tents have compartments in so you’ll get a little extra privacy.  We have a 7 man air tent which is massive but brilliant as there is LOADS of space inside including various compartments.

a big tent on a camp site

Air Mattress 

Air mattresses give you that little extra bit of comfort and warmth as you are not sleeping against the cold ground. Don’t forget your foot pump though. You can also roll out floor mats underneath your mattresses too.

Sleeping Bags 

In our opinion you can’t go wrong with a thick sleeping bag, especially in the UK where the temperatures drop considerably at night time. Do your research first and read the reviews, there is no worse feeling that waking up freezing your pants off in a tent. I would also advice taking a few extra blankets.

Camping Pillow 

Pillows just give you that extra it of comfort, there are lots of camping pillows to choose from or just bring a few from home.

Dustpan and brush 

So important for sweeping out dirt, grass and any little creepy crawlies that may have snuck inside your tent.

Foldable Table

You might think you could do without this, but it’s so useful. The first time we went and didn’t have one I was basically making packed lunches on the floor and it drove me mad. Plus it’s easier for kids to eat at a table than off their laps.

Camping with kids with two boys on a deflated air mattress

Camp Kitchen 

Camp Stove

The quickest way to make a cuppa or heat up some baked beans is on a camping stove, make sure you bring enough little propane canisters for your trip. And if you want to be able to cook more than one thing at once, you need something like this Campingaz Kitchen 2-CV!

Cool Box

The perfect solution for keeping your food (and wine) chilled is a cool box. If you’re planning on having an electric hook up pitch, then why not push the boat out with an electric cool box or even a mini camping fridge.

BBQ 

A disposable barbecue or even a fire bowl are great for some alfresco cooking in the evenings. Make sure to bring the charcoal or wood and also some firelighters and matches.

Storage box

Keep all of your other food in a lidded storage box.

Camping with kids essential packing list pin

Equipment

One saucepan with a lid and a frying pan should be good enough to keep you going. You’ll also need plates, bowls and cups and cutlery too. Then there is the all important bottle opener, tongs, wooden spoon, a chopping board  and camping kettle. Water bottles are also essential.

Washing up

Bring a washing up bowl (collapsible ones are great), a scrubbing brush and sponge and some washing up liquid.

Other camping essentials

For cooking tin foil is useful and don’t forget the black sacks for your rubbish!

Camping Equipment

Here are a few more camping essentials that can make camping with kids more enjoyable and stress-free.

kids sitting on camping chairs on a campsite in the sunshine

Camping Chairs

Trust me, having some foldable camping chairs makes so much difference. Nobody wants to sit on the floor!

Duct Tape

Just in case, you never know when duct tape might come in handy.

Lantern 

Great for using inside the tent in the evenings, and definitely better to use a lantern than rely on your phone torch. I say this from experience, after we forgot one last year!

Headlights 

These are so important for those dark late night trips to the loo and also for cooking outdoors in the dark. Plus which kids don’t like head torches!

First Aid Kit 

Keep things like plasters, tweezers, Calpol and a tick remover kit in your camping first aid kit.

Mallet & spare tent stakes

Bring a rubber mallet to secure the tent stakes and it always useful to have a few spares.

Power banks

Even if you’re off-grid you may still want to be able to charge you phone or even have a little screen time in the evenings so a power bank is one of those absolute camping essentials.

Electric Hook Up

If you have an electric hook up, make sure you have all the right connectors and plugs to go with it.

Kids sitting around a table on a campsite

Clothing to take when camping with kids

Pack for all weather conditions, being in the UK you can never quite tell what to expect. Use clothing if possible that dries quickly and moisture-wicking. Here are a few essentials.

  • Jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Jumpers/sweat shirts
  • Trainers
  • Slippers for inside the tent
  • Hats. A baseball cap and a beanie hat are both good ideas.
  • Swimwear
  • Onesies
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • T-shirts, trackie bottoms and shorts
  • Wellies

Hygiene 

Keep all of your toiletries together, most camping sites have showers and toilets that guests can use but you will need to bring your essentials with you.

  • Towels
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, brush and flannels
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • Baby Wipes 
A man cooking a barbecue on a campsite

Camping Food Essentials

I must admit camping seems to make you ravenous for some reason, it must be all that fresh air! Plus food cooked outdoors always tends to taste amazing. Try and plan meals ahead of time so you only buy the ingredients that you will need. Here are a few items to take:

  • Coffee / Tea
  • Salt, pepper and spices
  • Sugar
  • Marshmallows and skewers
  • UHT milk
  • Food such as pasta, tinned beans, noodles. If you are bringing meat freeze it first so it can defrost in your cool box.
  • Snacks such as cereal bars, bread sticks, crisps and raisins.
  • Drinks
  • And obviously lots of wine!

Fun stuff to take when camping with kids

Yes the kids will be out in nature’s playground but sometimes they do need a little bit of extra stimulation too. Here are a few things that will keep the kids happy whilst camping.

  • A teddy bear – Most kids want to bring a sleeping companion along on their trip – just limit them to one.
  • Camera 
  • Cards and games – Depending on their ages games such as Uno or a few travel sized games like Jenga can help to keep them entertained.
  • Bubbles
  • Glow Sticks
  • Books or magazines – These could also include colouring books with pencils
  • Frisbee or football
  • Bikes – just make sure they’re allowed on the campsite. Some say no.
  • iPad or tablet – we all like to think we can do without it, but let’s face it, we can’t!
Three boys watching ipads on campbeds in a tent

This list may look pretty overwhelming for new campers. Cramming all of this into the boot of a car can be like playing car Jenga so think about also investing in a roof box for extra storage. Or do what we did after our first proper trip and get a VW van! Once you have all of your camping gear (which you will accumulate over time) you will be able to enjoy it all for many years and hopefully give you all everlasting memories.

Good luck and Happy Camping!

three boys camping in onesies

How did I do?

Did you enjoy this post? Hang around and read some more such as:

Best Campsites for Families in the UK.

12 of the Best Glamping Sites In the UK

5 Top Travel Essentials For Twins

Five Ways A Holiday Is Never The Same After Kids

Packing List For Babies And Toddlers

10 Top UK Family Holidays Ideal For Young Children

Travel Review of Trevornick Campsite, Cornwall

If you still want more, head to my Travel Section. And if you fancy reading my usual kind of stuff, head over to my Mum Life section. You’ll find all things parenting with a tongue-in-cheek twist. 

If you like a bit of social media madness, pop over to my Facebook page where you’ll be able to have a laugh at what ridiculousness goes on in my house with three very small boys on a daily basis. Warning – there is often sarcasm, and usually swearing. There are also great travel reviews and some AWESOME giveaways. Feel free to join my Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee – Shits and Giggles Parenting Group too, where everyone shares their hilarious stories.

If you like what you see, how about you check me out on Pinterest,  Instagram and Twitter too.

And if you want to work with me, feel free to give me a shout here or at helen@twinstantrumsandcoldcoffee.com and I’ll get back to you.

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