10 Things You Absolutely Need When Camping With Small Kids

Camping with small kids is scary especially for first timers. Not knowing what to bring on the trip is even scarier.

There are checklists all over the web but some of those are too exhaustive and unless you plan to hire some kind of monster bus, it’s practically impossible to fit everything in those checklists. (Parabolic solar cooker anyone?)

Since everyone is different, let’s focus on things that are absolutely non-negotiable. The rest can be tailored to your own family’s need.

1. A camping checklist

Yep, you need your OWN checklist. If you need help creating one, have a look here on how to prepare camping check list.

Of course you can get a checklist from the web but again, every family is different so you’ll need your own. Also, make sure you USE your list. Start with things that you absolutely can’t live without. (Remember, it’s family camping not surviving with Bear Grylls so you need to be kind to yourself)

2. A bucket

I keep lots of things organised in buckets. (When I say organised, I mean chuck things in the bucket and they’ll kinda organise themselves). You can use a bucket to wash the dishes, to carry things around, to wash the kids in, and to protect some of your camping gear since a bucket is waterproof and durable.

Tips: If you have more than one kid, please bring more than one bucket and an extra one in case one breaks. This is a must in order to prevent an inevitable fight.

3. Enough change of clothes

This is a no-brainer. The younger the kids, the more change of clothes you need to bring. Small kids are notoriously famous for ‘accidents’ when you least expect it.

Oh and one more tip: doesn’t matter how hot the weather is, make sure you bring at least 1 pair of warm clothing.

4. Waterproof shoes and an extra pair for the kids

People generally will remember bringing extra pair of clothing for kids including socks. But remember, an outfit is not complete without shoes. Chances are, they’ll get their shoes wet even if you only go for a night.

5. Matches

I understand the deep and primal desire to make fire like a champion survivor. But again, expectation probably won’t match reality.

Oh Please don't try this...
Oh Please don’t try this…

Extra tip: If you forget your fire starters, you can always sacrifice some of those Doritos – it’ll make great experiment too.

6. First aid kit and kids Bandaid

You probably won’t need it, but it’s always good to be prepared because after all, injuries can become worse when it’s not treated. Simply go to hardware store and purchase a ‘complete first aid kit’. That way, you won’t even need to worry about what things need to go in there.

7. Lighting

If you’re brave enough to camp in the wilderness with small kids (instead of luxurious cabin or glamping), you will need lighting, and your phone is not a reliable light source especially if it has such a bad battery life like mine. At least bring a torch or two. In fact, I would suggest head lamps for the whole family.

8. A Shovel

Ok, if you’re camping in a cabin or in most campsites with toilet facilities, a shovel may not seem too important. But then a shovel is like a very versatile tool that you can use for other things such as squashing spiders, fixing campfire logs, or if you run out of kids activities, you can always tell them to dig a hole.

Once they finish with the hole, tell them to pee in it like the cat. It’s somehow fun to ‘pee in the hole’. Ask my four-year-old!

Remember to re-fill any hole you dig out though in order to avoid any injury.

9. Good portable fridge/esky

You want great memories from your camping trip, not the memory of going to the ER due to food poisoning. Make sure you keep the food in safe temperatures. Generally, those bags of ice from service stations won’t last a whole day, so be mindful of how much food you bring too.

Just make sure you eat the food that needs to be kept cold first. You can survive on can tuna and bread the next day. P.S. Kids can survive on cereals, long-life milk and chocolates.

Extra tip: Keep the food in the car, not in your tent. This is to avoid the oh-so-unwelcome critters.

10. Patience

I keep the best for last and sorry this is not something that you can buy anywhere. Regardless of how many things you can buy, nothing can “guarantee to keep your kids entertained for the whole trip with a touch of a button” but that thing does not yet exist.

You will need patience because there will be times when your kid decides to cry and you cannot figure out why. (Kids are notorious to cry for just the sake of crying). You will need it when he asks for the 1000th time “Are we there yet?” during the first 20 minutes of the road-trip. You will need it when he asks you to stop for the 3rd time within the first hour of driving because he needs to go to the toilet…again.


Remember, a camping trip with small children is supposed to be fun. You don’t have to be mega-organised. It’s the journey that matters, not destination.



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9 thoughts on “10 Things You Absolutely Need When Camping With Small Kids

  1. I think the food is the hardest decision to make considering how kids will “waste” some of it sometimes. The worst part is that your kid will only like food that is perishable.

    I also recommend storm matches. These matches can light up even when it’s windy and raining. They make perfect fires.

    The bucket is rather important. You can even use it to carry water if necessary. I would say bring more than one bucket even if you have only one kid. You are right about potato chips. They make great fire starters.

    Thanks for the information.

    1. You’re right! Kids will waste lots of food, sometimes up to 90%, and then they won’t sleep well because they didn’t eat enough.

      Mine does like perishables too, but if the trip is only for the weekend or for a night, just pack heaps of fruit and they’ll be happy. Healthy too!

  2. Hahaha:-) traveling with kids is pure survival, and camping even more so! But they seem to love it. I guess the secret is to be relaxed and let them get dirty… Some moms just worry too much about such things.

    A bucket is definitely a good idea, it’s an extremely versatile tool.

    1. Agreed! it took me months before I realise kids are meant to get dirty… and kids are meant to live on air not food. But yeah, outdoor trip is always great with the kids. The other day my kids spend at least half an hour throwing small leaves into some pond to ‘feed the ducks’. (The ducks were not exactly there but it’s irrelevant)

  3. A gat post to review to when I am ready to take my daughter camping. In the past I have always forgotten something when I have gone camping.

    The camping checklist was most useful. As for a bucket, I think I would bring two or even three. The rest of your items are a must, especially patience when you have small kids. Do you have any ideas on activities that can be played in the car while we are on our journey?

    1. Thank you! Well, I’ve done things like buying them several small items, opening them one by one every hour. Or ‘I spy’, or if you time it around their nap time, they would fall asleep at least half the journey. The longest I’ve done with two kids is 5.5 hours straight in the car.

    1. Thanks Matt.

      If you’re going car camping to most powered sites, make sure you check the ‘power’ lead you need. Some sites would need 15 amp lead which generally works with Caravan. In this case, you’ll need portable RCD (converter to convert 15 lead to normal household 10 amp power point). This is great because you can then bring toaster, kettle, and an electric grill/banquet pan as an alternative to small butane stovetop/gas bbq.


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