How To Pack For Camping With Littles

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, or not, camping is a super underrated family experience! It may be a lot of work to get out the door, but once you’re at your campsite, there’s nothing to do but enjoy one another and the mountain air. The round-the-clock fresh air is good for everyone and is loaded with life lessons for the kids! Think yours are too young? Maybe so, but if you’re prepared, you can camp with children as young as a few months old. Might sound crazy! But once you try it and see how fun it can be, you’ll be one happy camper! 

The best way to get organized for a would-be intimidating trip like camping, is to split everything up into categories. And as you load up the car, you can even load up a plastic bin in the trunk for each category. Try something like Food, Clothes, Kid Specific, and General Gear. This list is tested and true, straight from my packing list from a recent successful and memorable backpacking trip with our 14-month-old and 2-year-old.


This is one of those areas where you can really set yourself up for success. Come up with a list of your family’s favorite foods that you can make ahead of time, and easily reheat over the fire. There are SO many creative and delicious recipes - check out Pinterest if you need ideas. On our last trip, we made burger patties, wrapped them in foil, and packed burger toppings and buns separately. Same with taco meat to make walking tacos with individual-size frito bags. I also prepped some breakfast burritos and wrapped them in fire-ready foil for a seriously yummy hot breakfast! Paired with freshly percolated coffee- it doesn’t get better than that! PB&J sandwiches pack great for lunches along with your kid’s favorite snacks - think trail mix, apples, bananas, hippies, crackers, granola bars, fig bars, pouches - whatever they like! Don’t forget a water bottle for each camper and a 2.5 gallon water jug to set out on the picnic table/back of the car. Pro tip: poke a hole in the top to get the water to stream out smoothly when the spout is open. 


Depending on what region you’re camping in, layers are probably your best friend. Always check your weather and pack accordingly but especially if you’re camping near your car, you can’t go wrong with packing for a range of temperatures. In summer, we like to start in shorts and short-sleeves, hiking socks, hiking boots, and sunglasses. Then as the sun sets and things start to cool down we layer up with hiking pants, a vest, flannel, or jacket, a fresh pair of socks, and a hat. Of course, if there’s rain, you’ll want a rain jacket. You’ll want to pack PJs, leggings, and fresh underwear, too. But don’t be afraid to re-wear your layers throughout your camping trip. As far as toiletries go - keep it basic. Toothbrush, toothpaste (use the water from the water jug, deodorant, facewash wipes, contacts/contact solution, and glasses. 


Good news- I actually think this is the easiest category to think through! Kids thrive in the great outdoors, so entertainment pressure is off! There’s no need to pack the playroom! Pack plenty of your essentials like diapers and wipes. A bug catcher and a magnifying glass can make day-time exploring extra fun. And please, do not forget little one’s favorite stuffy/lovey items! You may be getting a little less sleep than normal, and these guys plus a charged-up portable sound machine can really help! For daytime adventures, you’ll need a carrier based on your little one’s age. Maybe a soft carrier, or a structured backpack carrier, or something like the Trail Magik carrier for older toddlers. 

General Gear

If you’ve never camped before, it can take some time to gather all the gear. Hopefully this list helps you narrow down the wants and needs! Bug spray/patches and sunscreen are a must. A bear bag or can to put your food and trash in at night (this is important). A tent big enough for your family - you can rent these at REI if you don’t own one. We always put a little doormat outside of our tent to make it a little homey. A tarp and rope are helpful to cover the picnic area in case of rain. A note on sleeping bags - hubs and I like to zip ours together so we can snuggle. Our littles have sleeping bags made for their size (another option). This is key to keeping them warm. If you have a little one that is cold at night, you might be tempted to dress them in more layers, but less is more inside a high-quality sleeping bag. Pillows and inflatable sleeping pads add comfort - I recommend a sleeping pad that has a sleeve for the pad so you don’t roll off of it. A pack-n-play inside the tent for really little ones. A picnic blanket as a home base for young kiddos, crazy creek chairs for older kiddos and the grown-ups. Flashlights/headlamps for everyone, and a red lamp lantern to maintain your night vision without blinding everyone else. Firewood, fire starter, and a working lighter (please test before you leave) will make your life so much easier. And a hammock and a percolator will make you one happy camper!


Check all these off and you’re ready for an amazing family adventure! Are you ready to go?!