family camping checklist and gear

Family Camping Checklist and Gear That Makes a Difference

Have you ever wished for a printable family camping checklist? There are lots of camping posts and advice out there, but what about a printable family camping checklist pdf that you can just print out and start packing? Look no further because today I have a list of essential camping gear that we personally use that makes our trips more comfortable along with a customizable printable family camping checklist to help make sure you don’t forget anything!

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What Should I Bring For Camping? 

This is a big question that does not have one specific answer. I will try to cover the basics both in this list and in the printable camping checklist that you will need regardless of where you are camping or what you are using for shelter.   You can also use my camping checklist template to create your own custom checklist. I like storing all of my camping gear in totes because you can label and organize them better.  

Related: What You Need to Know Before Your First Camping Trip

  • Shelter (tent, camper, tarp, etc) 
  • Bedding
  • Tablecloth
  • Hammer
  • Matches or lighter
  • Foil
  • Extension cords
  • Power strip
  • Water container
  • Towels and toiletries
  • Some way to cook.  (we use an electric skillet, and take a grill) 
  • Ice chest for food storage
  • Totes – to put everything in.
  • Broom
  • Wet Wipes/ Disinfectant wipes
  • Clothesline
  • Food
  • Weather appropriate clothing
  • Dishes (paper plates, cups, silverware, + whatever you need to cook) 
  • Dish soap, towels, and dishpan or some way to wash the dishes.  
  • Lawn chairs
  • Firewood
  • Lighter
  • Hammock

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Organizing and Customizing Your Family Camping Checklist PDF

Though I have given you the basic organizational structure for your family camping checklist, you may want to customize it more, which is why I left some blank spaces. I find it easier to organize things into categories. This makes it seem less scattered.

Take into account what you plan to do while you are camping, the weather, and your family. For example, my parents do not take all the same things now, camping as retirees, as they did when my brother and I were little. (There is considerably less swimming gear, for one thing.)

You also need to take into account the hookups (if any) at the location you are staying. If you have a water hook up, for instance, you will not need something to hold water. When we have a water hook up, we take a spare hose with a sprayer to assist in cleaning things (and kids). When we do not have a water hook up, we have a 2.5-gallon jug with a spigot that we use to wash hands outside, and heat for dishwashing water.

Related: Why We Traded Our Tent for a Camper

Camping Gear that We Always Include in Our Family Camping Checklist

Camping gear can get expensive fast.  Some of these things, you don’t necessarily need, but make the trip more comfortable.  Essential camping gear will vary depending on who you ask because everyone camps in a slightly different way. It’s a very personal experience.  These are my favorite personal picks for gear that makes a difference during our camping trips.  

Ozark Trail Canopy

Ozark Trail Canopy

      We purchased this last year and it has been great!  This is one of those things that I wish we had bought sooner.  There are several reasons that I like it. Often at the campgrounds we frequent, the picnic tables are not covered, so this goes over our picnic table outside. 

Having the picnic table covered gives us a dry place in the event of rain. The canopy also helps to keep debris from the trees overhead from falling on our eating space and guarantees us some shade.  It only takes a few minutes to set up and take down with 2 people. It has 2 different height settings. The only negative thing that I can say about it is that my husband, who stands 6 ft 1 in sometimes bangs his head on the frame depending on terrain.  

Igloo Water Cooler

      I will confess that we bring a lot of sodas camping.  Lately, I have also been including Gatorade too, but there is nothing like a cool drink of water.  Who doesn’t need to drink more water in the summer time? We bought one 5+ years ago and it functions just like it did when we got it. We fill it with ice and water and set it on the end of the picnic table with some cups right beside it.  This makes it very convenient to drink more water when it’s cold and readily available.

When the kids were little, they would drink water just because they loved pushing the button. I made them drink what they got out in their cup before pressing the button again.   Sneaky mom trick to get the kids to drink more, eh? 🙂

Ice Chest

      Our ancient ice chest broke this camping trip, so we had to replace it.  Truthfully, it was not doing a very good job of keeping things cold.   Especially if you are tent camping, your ice chest needs to reliably keep things cold because that’s where you will store most of your perishable food.  We have been pleased so far, and it’s been a vast improvement over our old one!  I love the wheels, the cup holders on top, and the drain plug.

Outdoor Patio Mat

     We actually have 2 mats that we use for camping. Both of them make a tremendous difference in how much dirt is tracked in.  The first one we got from Dollar General and it is smaller. The second one is much nicer and bigger which I received as a Christmas present from my parents.  Though they vary in size and quality, the basic idea of having a woven mesh that sand slides right through is the same.

It gives us a clean area right in front of the door to put our flip flops on and to step out on to.  They are both very easy to sweep off with a broom. If things get really dirty, they can easily be sprayed off with a water hose as well. The linked one is huge at 9 ft X 18 ft, but they do come in smaller sizes if this one is above your price range.  


     When you are camping at a campground, night time is very dark – Like “I-have-no-idea- what- I’m- stepping- on” dark.  Lights are very useful! I have seen everything from solar lights, Christmas lights, rope lights, and everything in between.  Don’t forget the extension cord if your lights are not solar or battery powered!  The linked ones are the closest ones that I could find to ours.  We string them up under the canopy that’s over the picnic table. 

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     When we camped in a tent, a fan made things a lot more comfortable.  We just used a plain old box fan. It made some nice white noise and at least kept us a bit cooler at night.  Now that we have a camper, we have a smaller fan. We like the white noise that it makes at night and we can also take it outside and plug it in if the wind shifts the wrong direction and we find ourselves in the smoke of our own campfire. 


     I love relaxing in the hammock.  This is the next hammock that I am thinking of getting.  I have seen these more and more when we have been camping. They go up easily and are designed to not harm the trees. There is something calming about the gentle sway back and forth and the way that it wraps itself around you.   Plus, it’s great entertainment for the kids.

Electric Skillet

      We have tried several ways of cooking while we are camping and we have found an electric skillet to be one of the easiest.  My parents used a camp stove and we do also use a grill (which we will discuss in a minute.) I have also seen other people cook directly over the campfire.  However, and electric skillet has several advantages. It’s non-stick and super easy to clean. You can cook your entire meal in one skillet. When you are done, it’s easy to squirt a bit of soap into it and heat your water for cleaning the dishes.  Mine is a 15-year-old West Bend, but this one from Amazon looks equivalent.  

Flashlight or Lantern

     There will be times that you are out at night that you need a flashlight or a lantern to see by.  We have had many flashlights, but I really liked these that looked both bright and water-resistant. (Which is a plus if you happen to drop it in the lake at night.)

Lanterns will be better for lighting larger areas. Flashlights will be better for lighting a path in front of you. Also remember that if you are in a tent at night and a light is on inside the tent, everyone OUTSIDE the tent can see your shadow. (So if you have the light on inside the tent and you are changing clothes at night, the neighbors can see a shadow show.)

Grill and Accessories

      One of the things I like best about camping is that fact that my husband grills a lot of our suppers when we camp.  We have had a gas grill before, but we found that we like the taste of the food that’s grilled on charcoal better. We have a basic charcoal grill like this one, as well as a set of grilling tools.  Be careful not to go too cheap on these – some of the very cheap ones do not hold up. However, you can overkill the grill too. You also want something that’s not a pain to pick up and load when you leave. 

Water Hose or Water Jug

        A water hose can be very useful, or useless depending on what type of hookups you have.  We bought a splitter for our water hose. When we camp at a place that has a water connection, we use one blue water hose for our drinking water supply that goes to the camper. 

If you have a camper and need a drinking water hose, be sure to get one that’s rated for that use. They are usually blue or white. We use the splitter and attached a regular garden hose with a sprayer to the other end.  It’s incredibly handy for cleaning up things (or kids!)

Mom Tip: When we do not have a water connection and are using a water jug, we put liquid hand soap beside it along with a towel to encourage hand washing.

Bug Zapper

      I could not believe we bought a bug zapper last year.  I thought it was ridiculous. However, after having it for a year, I have to admit that it does seem to reduce the number of mosquitos that hang around our campsite.  There is something satisfying about knowing that you have gotten some of the bloodthirsty little insects before they had a chance to bite. It’s really not a bad way to make sure that you are more comfortable on your camping trip + it does let off a bit of light.  

We tried citronella candles as well, but for us, they did not have much of an effect. If you are looking for a cheap way to repel flies in the daytime, we had some success with filling clear plastic bags with water. We actually re-used the ones that we got ice in and hung them from the corners of the canopy we had over the picnic table.

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Why Our Family Enjoys Camping So Much

You might be wondering what a camping post and a family camping checklist is doing on a blog that is mostly about personal development. Being outdoors and enjoying family time is great for your mental state. There is something restoring about taking a break and not being on a schedule, trying to increase your productivity so you can squeeze every last drop of time out of your day. Our lives get busy fast!

Camping helps me to stop and remember my core values and get my priorities straight. It helps to make me more happy and content with my life. It’s one of the ways that I fill my cup and the pause in our summer. Camping is also a great way to spend quality time both with my husband and with my kids. What does your family like about camping?

The Last Thing You Need to Know About Your Family Camping Checklist PDF and Gear to Make the Trip More Comfortable

Camping is a wonderful way to make memories with your family. It’s an activity that all ages can enjoy together. Each family has their own way of doing things when they camp, but I hope you find this family camping checklist useful. The most important thing about camping is to relax and have fun. Enjoy the little things and simple pleasures. What is your favorite camping gear and what other categories would you like to see on this family camping checklist? Leave me a comment below!

2 thoughts on “Family Camping Checklist and Gear That Makes a Difference”

  1. Hi there,

    I just finished reading your article, I’m thoroughly impressed with the amount of detail and effort you put into it. Your writing style is engaging, and I found myself reading every word with interest. As someone who loves to go camping with my family, I found your article to be extremely helpful and informative. I especially appreciated the comprehensive camping gear list that you provided. It gave me a great idea of what items we might need to bring on our next camping trip and what gear we should invest in for future trips.

    Additionally, I appreciated the tips you provided on how to make camping more enjoyable for families. Your advice on finding the right campsite, setting up camp, and keeping everyone entertained is so spot on. I’ve been on a few camping trips with my family, and I know firsthand how important it is to have a plan in place and make sure everyone is comfortable. Your suggestions for games, activities, and other entertainment options are creative and thoughtful, and I know they’ll come in handy on our next trip.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic article with the world. It’s clear to see that you have a passion for camping and that you enjoy spending time outdoors with your family. Your tips and advice are much appreciated, and I know they’ll help make our next camping trip.

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