A group of people huddled over their fire using their family camping checklist

Family Camping Checklist: Essentials for a Fantastic Trip (free printable)

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If you love to go camping but hate the preparations, this family camping checklist is a lifesaver!  I grew up camping in a caravan throughout Ireland and Europe.  It was a fantastic way to grow up and something Frank and I knew we wanted to do with our kids!

In fact we liked it so much, we sold everything, bought an RV and have been traveling full-time for over four years!

Our whole family loves to go camping and why wouldn’t they.  There’s nothing better than being outside breathing in that fresh air, exploring new places and hiking magnificent trails.  We have been lucky enough to visit Yellowstone several times, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and so many other amazing places.

While I love camping and hanging out together as a family with no distractions, I didn’t love packing for our various trips and making sure I packed everything we needed!  Before we went full-time, there was always some essential items that never made it in the car, and so I ended up running out to the store!  This is not a good way to start your relaxing camping trip!

Family Camping Checklist to camp in the outdoors with mountains and a stream going through

The Only Family Camping Checklist You'll Ever Need!

Once I came up with a list of what I needed to bring each time we went camping, life got a LOT easier!  Luckily for you I have already created your family camping checklist, I promise this is going to save you so much time and make life so much easier!

You’re Welcome!

2 page family camping checklist on wood background

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Family Camping Checklist: What's Included?

There is so much involved getting your family packed for a camping trip – making a reservation, packing clothes, making sure you have all your camping essentials, and prepping enough food for the trip. 

Phew – that’s a lot to remember.

You can quickly become stressed and overwhelmed before you even leave for your ‘fun’ camping trip! 

I didn’t want that for me and I don’t want it for you!

In our family camping checklist we have broken down your camping essentials into 3 main areas:  Camping food list, Camping gear ideas and other camping equipment ideas.

Camping Food List: What Exactly Do You Need?

It doesn’t matter whether you are a weekend camper, a seasonal camper or a full time RVer, one of the biggest questions we are asked is “What kind of food do you take camping”. Today I am going to share my camping food list and how a camping meal plan removes the stress from camping.

When you start thinking about what food should you take for 3 days or a week of camping, the first thing you should think about is HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU HAVE?.

We are lucky, we have a 38’ RV with a residential size fridge that can fit a LOT of food.  You may not!   So let’s work through that barrier shall we?

When it comes to deciding the type of food you want to bring with you, think about food that you can incorporate into different recipes so you’re not trying to carry everything with you.

A 3 lb package of turkey mince can be used in 2-3 different recipes, as can pork.  Think about spices that work well together or a spice that incorporates several spices in one.  My go-to spices are always Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and kickin’ chicken!  I had another one that I LOVED called Tuscan Chicken but I can’t find it anywhere anymore!  If you know this seasoning and know where to find it, please share, I miss it.

PRO TIP:  If there’s a blended seasoning mix you love, put it all together in one Tupperware (a tic-tac container works great for this too – this is one of my favorite camping hacks).  

Family Camping Checklist - Spices and Canned Foods

When you are thinking about what kind of food to bring camping, you want to make sure you have the various seasonings and spices your family enjoys.  For example, my family loves spices, so we always have Italian seasoning, seasoning salt and some red pepper seasoning.  For condiments, my daughter loves ranch with everything, so I never leave home without a jar of ranch!  

I like to bring a large can of chicken to make with a salad, tuna sandwiches are the best and black beans and corn go with everything!  Baked beans are a must have so they are a camping food essential for us.

What Is On My Camping Food List For Dairy and Bread?

Again when it comes to your family camping checklist, you want to include family favorites so everyone is going to be happy.  Happy kids = happy mom!

Everyone, including my picky daughter loves eggs so I will bring a couple dozen eggs, including some hard boiled eggs.  Bacon can be cooked ahead of time.  Any kind of cheese works – sliced, cubed, shredded, cream or goat cheese.  I like to cut up some salami and cheese ahead of time so my kids can eat them as snacks when they are hungry. 

If you are bringing hot dogs or burgers, make sure you bring some buns.  English muffins can be toasted by the campfire and cereal works great for early mornings.  Another favorite of ours is breakfast wraps, oh they taste so good.  Oatmeal works well for those cold mornings!

What Meat And Veggies Should You Take On A Camping Trip

This is my favorite part of the whole camping trip lol.  We enjoy eating out, whether it’s at a restaurant or just grilling outdoors, we are foodies.  We marinate as much of our food as we can before camping.  My husband is awesome at coming up with various marinades and the food tastes so good. 

Before leaving on our trip, we always check at our local grocery store for any sales they might be having and that helps us to decide what we are grilling that weekend.  We always have either salmon, ribs or chicken, that way I know my daughter will always have something to eat.  The rest of us love steak, burgers, pulled pork, brats and hot dogs.

Veggies are so good when cooked on the grill so we will bring lots of peppers, mushrooms, onions, corn ears.  On of our favorites is butternut squash cooked with bacon, we cook it at home and heat it up for breakfast with some eggs.  It’s AWESOME!  Another favorite is sweet potatoes cooked with eggs and bacon

My daughter loves all fruits so I always have some grapes for her, cut up apples, bananas, oranges.  Anything that is in season I will bring along.  She loves to eat hers with granola and yoghurt.

A person cooking outside on a campfire using camping essentials

Family Camping Checklist For Snacks & Drinks

I never leave home without bringing snack packets of fishies, veggie fries, dried fruit packets, as well as some popcorn for the campfire.  We also love to roast s’mores in the evening.  We recommend these roasting forks as they keep the kids away from the fire.  

For drinks, I always have coffee and tea on hand, as well as some juice boxes for the kids and some beer and wine for later that night.  We tend to bring a box of wine, so we don’t have to worry about anything breaking!

Camping food list with food sitting on a wooden table

Essential Camping Gear Ideas

Now we’re onto the more stressful part of camping ; the “what should I take on a camping trip portion?”.  As important as your camping food list, if you forget something, it’s not the end of the world, you can always go to the store.  That doesn’t always work if you forget an important camping gear essential!   

Here is our ultimate list of camping essentials that should be included in your family camping checklist.  Don’t forget to sign up for our FREE family camping checklist and save yourself the time and stress!

Shelter

I’m more of a glamper myself, but Frank wants to get the kids out tent camping so that’s something we’re focusing on this year.  We have been doing lots of research on tents for our family, as well as reaching out to avid campers to ask for their suggestions.

Keeping your family comfortable and warm on your camping trip will make or break your camping trip.  Kids that are cold or uncomfortable will let you know this fact EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY!!!  This is where we recommend you invest the money and buy the right tent!

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS:

The Coleman Sundome tent sleeps 4 comfortably and comes at a shockingly low price.  it almost makes me wonder why we haven’t tried tent camping sooner!

If you want something a little bigger, I like this 11 person family tent by Core, mainly because it has a screen room attached, thus giving you more space to spread out.

Tent Repair Kit:  There is nothing worse than finding a tear in your rent and nothing to fix it with.  This repair kit will be a lifesaver – don’t leave home without it.

Tarp:  We have at least two tarps under the RV, they come in handy for so many things, especially in keeping the floor of the tent dry.  

Sleeping Bags:  If I ever go tent camping, my second big purchase will be a sleeping bag that keeps me warm and cozy – I don’t mess around when it comes to sleeping!  This sleeping bag comes highly recommended.

You also want to make sure you have extra stakes, apparently you need a hammer to get those stakes in the ground and don’t forget to bring your favorite pillows from home.

This is a good start to our family camping checklist, let’s keep going.

Other Camping Gear Ideas

Clothing:  Pack clothing that is appropriate for the time of year you are camping.  However remember that it gets cold at night so remember to pack jackets, hats and gloves, maybe some extra blankets for nighttime.  Of course this will depend on how much space you have.

Sleepwear:  Pack the kids favorite sleepwear, again bring extras in case of an emergency.  Pack any favorite blankets, or stuffed animals to remind them of home.

Camping Chairs:  These are our favorite camping chairs, depending on how much storage space you have, these might work better for you.  Don’t forget to bring some camping chairs for the kiddos!

These are all included on our family camping checklist but NEVER EVER forget any of these items:

  • Diapers/nappies (if applicable)
  • Baby wipes (we still use these daily, and my kids are 9 & 10)
  • Basic first aid kit (We had a friend put this together as a gift – best gift ever)
  • Toilet paper – not something you want to forget.
  • Camp towels (one per person)
  • Flashlights/headlamps (one per person + batteries)
  • Fire starting tinder, kindling & firewood for your nightly fire
  • Matches or lighter (I like to have both just in case)
  • Insect repellant (Bring lots!)
  • Dishes – Bring what dishes you need to cook with.  We recommend using melamine dishes because they won’t break.
  • Toiletries (for each member of the family)

Kitchen Camping Essentials

You will be doing some cooking on your family camping trip, so let’s make sure you have the right camping essentials.

Dutch Oven – If you don’t have one of these, you need to get one.  You can cook anything in a dutch oven – breakfast eggs, lasagna, dessert,  This is a must-have camping essential.  Please make sure to get one of these also.

A Campfire Griddle – These are awesome for morning breakfasts where you can cook up some sizzling bacon and sausage.  Of course you can use a grill to do this too.

Metal Tongs – I love having a large and small tongs, they come in handy for so many things.

Propane:  Never run out of propane, we usually buy ours at Sams Club, you can always buy it online if needed.

Some other camping essentials you might want to include on your family camping checklist are:

  • Utensils
  • Trash Bags
  • Kitchen Towel
  • Cooler
  • Zip lock bags

Our Best Camping Organization Ideas

Here are some RV camping tips and ideas that have helped me get ready for get ready for long travel days or if we have a lot of family and friends to meet up with.

I find that if I put in some effort and do some pre-planning, there is so much less to do on the actual camping trip and I am much more relaxed.

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF WAYS YOU CAN DO THIS:

Plan Your Meals In Advance

When you’re trying to pack food to take camping with you, please remember to keep it simple.  Now is probably not the time to think about that 10 ingredient roast you want to test out.  Let’s remember this is a vacation for you too.   

Pick up our FREE meal planner and plan our your meals for however long you will be camping.  Make sure to plan some most of your meals to be cooked on the grill.  This way you get a break from cooking plus food always tastes better on the grill.

Prep Your Food In Advance

Now that you have your meal plan all set out for your camping trip, look at what food can be prepared before you even leave the house!  Cut up veggies, marinate your meats, wrap your potatoes in foil.  

Think about meats that you can make ahead of time and bring along in a zip lock – crockpot pulled pork, marinated chicken, taco meat with the toppings cut up and bagged at home, omelets, ribs, stew, and meat brisket.   These are all amazing ideas but omelets in a bag make me nervous, I have not been brave enough to make those yet!

As you can see there are so many meals you can prepare at home so you have little to do when you get to your campsite.

If you want to wait to start cooking at your campsite, think about what else you can do to cut down your workload when you get out camping – Cheese and veggies cut up, trail mix put together in a zip lock bag.

Family Camping Checklist Meal Prep

Our Top Tent Camping Tips

First Timers: If you have never tried tent camping before, have a test run in the backyard to get everyone excited about your upcoming trip.

Campground Booking:  Plan out your family camping trip well in advance and get that campground booked ASAP.  Certain campgrounds are booked a year in advance and there’s nothing worse than missing your favorite RV campground due to not booking early enough.  

If you are looking for a place to stay close to Yellowstone, this is one of our favorite campgrounds, the camp hosts were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met and the views were stunning!

Laundry Facilities:  Call your campground ahead of time and ask them if they have laundry facilities.  Be specific as to whether they are in working order and how many do they have.  We arrived at a smaller campground, having asked if they have laundry facilities only to find out they had one washer and dryer that were rusted out!  Another campground forgot to tell us their previous washers had been ruined in a hurricane and had not yet been replaced.  Not a happy momma!

Extra Clothes:  Accidents happen so always make sure to throw some extra clothes in a bag in the back of the car.  Not having the right clothes can ruin a family camping trip!

Don’t Overdo It:  Before making any big item purchases like a tent, check with your friends to see if they have one and could you borrow it.  That way you’ll know if you actually like it.

Leave Early In The Day:  Leave earlier in the day if possible.  I can’t tell you how many times we have seen people arriving at a campground trying to set up a tent in the dark!  It did not look like they were having fun!  Too many things can go wrong – traffic, flat tire and weather being the top 3.  Leave yourself with plenty of time to get there.

Fun Camping Ideas

I love camping with my family because most of the time is spent outside exploring the area, hiking, biking, or kayaking.  So the kids never have time to be bored until we arrive back to the campground and then it’s “I’m bored mom”, whine, whine, whine.  

At this stage I am thoroughly exhausted and ready for a glass of wine, I’m guessing you are too.  If my kids have been out exploring all day long having fun, I am okay with them coming home and watching a movie.  That way I know I will get some relax time.

For those of you who want to keep the kids off electronics, here are some ideas to keep them entertained, while you relax.

Here are some fun camping ideas that should keep the kids distracted until bedtime!

  1. Card Games:  These are so easy to fit anywhere and the kids have so much fun with them.  Our current favorite card games are Monopoly card game and Phase 10.  I promise adults will love these too.
  2. Cooking S’mores – What kid doesn’t want to indulge in some s’mores while camping.  We recommend these marshmallow sticks if you want to give it a try
  3. Camping Songs – Get that guitar out and start singing, I guarantee if you do that, you will have some fellow campers joining in.
  4. Glow Stick Necklaces – We always have some of these on hand, let the kids put them on and have fun running around.
  5. Star Gazing – Spread out a blanket and let the kids enjoy some star gazing.  If you’re lucky enough, they may even fall asleep.

I hope our family camping checklist and our recommended camping essentials will help ensure your next camping trip is stress-free and full of family fun!  Don’t forget to sign up above and grab our family camping checklist for yourself.

You might also want to take a look at our top recommendations for RV camping.

Essentials we keep in our RV kitchen.

Our 3 top Glamping RV Must-haves.  

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