With restrictions and safety measures in place due to COVID-19, this summer’s travel has been a little bit different. One trend I’ve seen make a big comeback among families is camping.
I’m not going to lie, sleeping in a tent in the summer heat did not sound appealing to me in the beginning, but I knew the kids would have a blast. As I started planning the trip – I started getting more excited about the idea too. I still prefer a resort and pool cabanas don’t get me wrong, but I think I’ve been won over by the great outdoors.
Planning a camping trip with kids can be very overwhelming. It’s hard to decipher what you really need and what you could do without. Camping gear can also be pricy, but good quality gear will last you decades. I went into this trip knowing if I bought the gear, camping was going to be a part of our future travels. I also bought things over the span of several months so it wasn’t a huge expense at once.
After crowdsourcing friend’s camping must-haves I went to work building our list and wanted to share it with you. I’ll break it down with camping must-haves, what’s convenient to have but you could do without, and luxury items (more of glamping) if you want to spend the money.
If you’re not up for a tent, many campsites have cabin rentals which feature small kitchens and bathrooms so be sure to check those options out. We have done both this summer and both were great experiences. I brought my own cleaning supplies and did a wipe down of the cabin when we arrived. You also bring your own sheets, etc., so it felt safe and clean. If you are on a campsite in a tent, many grounds have communal bathhouses to shower and use the restroom.
Now, let’s get started with my must-haves for camping. I’ll share my list and links below to the exact items we used. All were bought from Amazon and most were available on Prime.
Tent: we bought a Coleman 8-person tent to have the extra room. Most family blogs I’ve read said if you have a family of 4 – buy a 6 or 8-person tent.
Tent Kit: I feel like this was a must-have as it has a hammer for the tent stakes, extra stakes, a small broom with a dustpan (you’ll be amazed at how much dirt ends up in your tent!) and a small tool to help take out the stakes when you’re packing up.
Tent Tarp: This you lay down on the ground to put your tent on top of. It protects your tent from tears, water, etc. Tip: When you set up your tent, set the tent a little further back on the tarp so it gives you a space to leave your shoes before you step in the tent.
Sleeping bags: These ones are highly rated and not too hot but keep you warm when the temps drop. My tall hubby fit just fine in these as well. You can buy blow-up pillows, but we just brought our own. I’m weird about pillows.
Lanterns: We had four lanterns. Two that we could carry around and hang from trees, two that hooked on the ceiling of our tent / screened tent and doubled as a fan too. We also had these head flashlights that were needed at night to walk and when you needed your hands free.
Stove: We used the Coleman Stove and bought a griddle to top it as well. The griddle made it easy to cook eggs and bacon in the morning. You can also use it to cook over the campfire. Be sure to buy extra propane. We took two for a three-day trip and had some leftover. You can get the carrying case for the stove which makes it easier to transport. I’m all about compact and easy when camping. You can bring paper/plastic plates, cups, utensils to use and be fine, but I’ll share what we had in the next list.
Cooler: We brought two and had to make a few ice runs to keep all our food cold. One of our coolers is an electric refrigerator, but I forgot the electric plugin attachment as it only comes with a car lighter plugin. We had a site with water and electric hook up (which I recommend if you can), and could have plugged that in and saved on ice runs. Highly recommend this cooler and you can use it anytime. Don’t forget to buy the electric plugin with it!
First Aid Kit: This is a must, especially with kids. The one we got has everything you need in case of a minor emergency.
Table Cloth: Get a disposable table cloth for your picnic table. You’ll thank me for this advice.
Here’s a quick look at all the must-haves:
Now onto my “makes your life easier” list:
Camping Shovel: You may not need this but we did. The ground was pretty hard and we had to shovel a bit to get our stakes in. It would have taken a much longer time to set up if we didn’t have this.
Water Jugs. These things were a lifesaver! We filled them up at the basin and then used the water to wash our hands and brush our teeth. It came in handy when washing our pots, pans, and dishes too!
Soap Sheets and Wipes: These soap sheets are magic I tell you! They also made my kids want to wash their hands. Put the sheet in your hands and add water and it suds up. These wipes are perfect for camping too.
Shower Pods: These are handy and a one time use. I got these along with mini loofas and a shower caddy. If you want to save space by not packing towels, these came in handy for our tent and cabin weekends. These are compact and come with a face towel, bath towel, and washcloth.
Battery: Even if you have an electric hook up these batteries come in handy and last a long time. They have an electric outlet, lighter and USB connections. Speaking of batteries, take some extra batteries as you may need them for flashlights, etc.
Tent Fan: If you’re camping in summer and want to sleep without being miserable, I highly suggest a larger fan. This one gave off a lot of cool air and ran on D batteries. It lasted all three nights.
Sleeping Cots: Could you sleep with just a sleeping bag? Yes. Is it comfortable? No. Our tent was on some tree roots and we tried to use small pads under our sleeping bags and it was brutal. Definitely get a quality air mattress or a cot. My husband actually drove back to our house and got these for us to sleep on. The only con is they are bulky and take up a lot of car space. We have a large SUV and could have used a rooftop luggage storage but we shoved it all in. I fit most of this gear in one suitcase and we packed our clothes in backpacks.
Camping Backpacks: I am all about compact items when camping as we have to fit it all in our car or it doesn’t come. These backpacks are great and we fit 3 days worth of clothing and a few stuffed animals in them. They worked great for taking our towels, sunscreen, and water bottles to the pool area too.
Outdoor pantry: This was so helpful! We used this to house our bread and dry food and hung it from the strap on the trees.
Camping Chairs. Sure you could bring your own fold-up chairs, but again that takes up too much space. I found these chairs and they fold into very small zip bags with a handle. They all fit in my suitcase with the other gear. Highly recommend.
You can’t go camping and not have S’mores! We love our marshmallow roasting sticks!
A quick look at makes your life easier items:
Lastly, here is my glamping list to really making tenting easy!
Outdoor Kitchen: This is the one we got and loved it! It has a zipper compartment that held our chips and our dishes and cooking utensils. Totally worth it and folds up small into a nice carrying case. This set up made life easy and made cooking outdoors fun.
Kitchen supplies: We bought reusable dishes and camping pots and pans as we want to use these for the future and they are compact. We took these knives and these cooking utensils that came in very handy.
Spices. Don’t want to bring all your spices? This is perfect. Everything you need in one small bottle.
Collapsable Sink This sink has a cutting board as well and came in useful for washing our cookware and prepping food. I also bought a collapsable trashcan that zips up at night and keeps any animals away.
Screen Tent: We had this and have used it at the beach before and it came in handy for camping. We put it over the picnic table so we could eat without bugs swarming us and our food.
Hammock: My kids would say this is a must-have as they spent most of their time in it. They must be popular too because so many other people had them. They are comfortable and fun!
Recap of my glamping list:
Most of these items were $25 and under with the exception of the larger things. We also store all the small items in two bins in our basement so they don’t take up a lot of space. I know it seems like a lot but just remember you can use these items for years to come and they making camping life so much easier! In the next post, I’ll share some camping hacks!
Here’s to making many more camping memories!
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