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Must Have Items When Going on a Family Camping Trip

Updated on September 30, 2011

Questions to Ask Before Compiling Your List

So you are going camping with the family. The scenic outdoors. The smell of nature. The smell of hamburgers on the grill. Wait! Who forgot the matches?

Camping can be a lot of fun, and, though the times when we forgot something and had to imporvise make the best stories, most of us want to be well prepared.

I do most of my camping in Washington state so that means weather preparedness. Location is always a good indicator of what you will need to bring. If you are going somewhere cold or rainy it requires more or higher quality gear than a sunny beach.

The next question you should ask yourself is, "What type of camper are you?" Are you one of those people who wants to live off the wild land away from everyone? Or do you prefer to pack an RV with all the comforts of home?

For our purposes we are going to try to aim somewhere in the middle. Obviously if you are at either extreme you can add or subtract from the list.

Camping Essentials

  • Tent (or hammock and tarp with stakes and/or rope)
    I prefer a hammock because the ground can be very uncomfortable. However, the tarp is open at both ends so this is probably not a good choice if you are going somewhere very cold. Although a mattress pad under the sleeping bag will help keep in the heat a little.
  • Small hatchet with hammer end (for pounding in stakes)
  • Extra tarps (for rain)
  • Extra rope
  • Sleeping bag (an air mattress or mattress pad is a nice addition)
  • Matches (in a waterproof container like a zip-lock bag)
    If you are going to be someplace really wet you may want to invest in fire starters.
  • Wood
    Some camp grounds have restrictions about burning the brushwood, other campers may have already scavenged the wood or it could be very wet.
  • Grill (if your campsite does not already have one)
  • Outdoor clothing
    This will vary depending on your location, but it is a good idea to always pack an extra set of clothes and a couple extra pairs of underwear and socks. And a rain poncho is never a bad idea.
  • Camp shoes
    Besides your hiking boots, it is a good idea to have a set of camp shoes for relaxing by the fire. If you have small children you will probably want to pack them three pairs of shoes as one set will invariably always be wet and sitting by the fire.
  • Toiletries
    Depending on were you go this may include quarters for the shower or a portable camp shower. However, the basics are towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant and comb. If you have to hike to the facilities the camp shoes will come in handy. If you are camping at a location without facilities you will also need toilet paper and a trowel. (Remember to buy biodegradable.)
  • Flashlights and batteries
    Someone always needs to take a bathroom break in the middle of the night. Plus if you are like my family you never make the early start you thought you would and end up setting up camp in the dark.

A couple of items that may not be essential but I prefer to have along are:

  • Camp or lawn chairs
    The wooden benches are usually attached to tables and even if they aren't they are difficult to move and not very comfortable
  • Plastic tablecloth
    How many people and other things have been on that table before you?
  • Citronella candle
    I've never liked bug spray, it leaves me feeling sticky and unclean.
  • Sun block (if you are going to a beach)

Pass the S'mores

Food can be a tricky item when camping so I thought I'd tackle it separately. Of course you can always subsist entirely on hot-dogs and s'mores, but depending on the length of your trip you might all come home a little ill. So here are some of my suggestions.

Breakfast options:

  • Pancakes and bacon

    You will need pancake mix, bowl, mixing spoon, spatula, skillet, cooking oil, bacon and syrup

  • Oatmeal

    You will need a small pan for heating water, instant oatmeal and milk

  • Eggs and hash-browns

    You will need eggs, potatoes, knife, peeler, skillet, spatula, cooking oil, ketchup and whatever other condiments your family prefers

Lunch options:

  • Sandwiches with chips and fruit

    The nice thing about sandwiches is that you don't have to hang around the camp site. Stuff them in a backpack and explore your surroundings. You will need bread, lunch meat, cheese, condiments, lettuce, tomato, knife (for cutting the tomato), chips and fruit. Trail-mix also makes a nice addition to this lunch.

  • Salami, cheese and crackers with trail-mix and/or dried fruit
    If you are planning to take a day hike then this is a good option because it requires no utensils except a knife to cut the salami and cheese.

  • Grilled fish and vegetables
    If you are planning to do some fishing, grilled fish is a natural choice. However, make sure there is another option in case your fishing is less than successful. You will need fishing equipment, vegetables, seasoning (I prefer a little salt and lemon pepper), butter and aluminum foil.

Dinner options:

  • Hamburgers and baked beans
    It's a good idea to bring aluminum foil to grill on. You will also need hamburgers, buns, condiments, cheese, lettuce, tomato, spatchula, can opener, stirring spoon and a small camp pan.

  • Hot-dogs and corn on the cob
    You will need hot-dogs, buns, condiments, cheese, corn on the cob, skewers for the hot-dogs (Old coat hangers work great if you burn them in the fire first.) and aluminum foil for wrapping the corn.

  • Baked potatoes and chili
    Potatoes take awhile to cook in fire coals so be sure and start this meal early. You will need potatoes, aluminum foil, chili, can opener, cheese, onions, stirring spoon and a small camp pan.


  • S'mores
    No camping trip would be complete without smores. All you need is chocolate, graham crackers, marshmellows and skewers.

Also, don't forget the paper plates, cups, bowls and plasticwere.

Organize, organize, organize

The real key to a successful camping trip is the organization. Ask yourself the questions I mentioned above. Find out about your campsite before you arrive. This will help you create an accurate check list of camping gear.

Then organize your camping gear. Pack your equipment so that you can get to the flashlights easily in case you arrive after dark. Pack the tent, stakes and hatchet last so they can be unpacked first. Also, double check your children's items. They will undoubtedly have forgotten something and/or packed something they were told not to bring.

Camping is a great way to get away from the stresses of life. I hope you and your family have a great time.


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    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      It is nice when you're not woken up by restless children. Feels much more like a vacation when you actually get to sleep!

    • Sarah Heed profile image

      Sarah Heed 5 years ago

      She squirmed in and out of it in the living room. Usually she can't have blankets on her feet. But, our camping trip went great. We put her in her sleeping bag zipped her up with her head on her pillow pet and she was out like a light all night. I'm glad we invested in a twin air mattress for her too!

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Did she like "camping" in the living room. We did that when the power got nocked out during a storm. My girls loved it.

    • Sarah Heed profile image

      Sarah Heed 5 years ago

      We did a sleeping bag trial run in the living room last night. I can see it how it may pose some issues for her, especially since she doesn't like her feet covered. I'm glad we got a twin air mattress too!

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      My daughters loved the animal sleeping bags that we found in a kid size. Of course when it came time to actually sleep in them it was hard to get them down. :)

    • Sarah Heed profile image

      Sarah Heed 5 years ago

      Our 3 yearold daughter loves camping. Just bought her first real sleeping bag. I'm more excited about this weekend than she is.

    • winbo profile image

      winbo 6 years ago

      interesting.. very good hub.

    • MarkMAllen15 profile image

      MarkMAllen15 6 years ago

      Useful information. This will allow you to fix everything easier and quick.

    • sugarloaf10 profile image

      sugarloaf10 7 years ago from Kentucky USA

      thanks for the great hub! I love the menu ideas - I am always on the hunt for camping menu options!

    • profile image

      Eric Pinola 7 years ago

      WOW-? a Smore? I never thought that someone would ask such a thing. YOU HAVE TO TRY THEM!!! We keep the fire place in our home lit almost all winter, even though we live in Dallas, Texas, because we enjoy smores with the children soooo much.

      Thank you for the lists; I have lived in National Parks all over the USA; but am planning my first "family" camping trip. I realized early on that it will be MUCH different from the epics I would endure though in my youth rock climbing big walls.

      There is a bit of my story above in the link to this post; let me know what you think.

      Eric Pinola

    • profile image

      razor ground force electric go kart 7 years ago

      Yea baby! I am happy after reading this hub. Thanks :)

      I can go camp now!

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      Then I agree, it wouldn't be great as a full-time nutritional option!

    • Joy M profile image

      Joy M 9 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Toasted marshmallow with a piece of chocolate sandwiched between two gram crackers

      You should definitely try it.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I love camping too - but what on earth is a smore?