Camping Essentials for Family
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Top 10 Family Camping Essentials

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Not sure what to bring on your next camping trip?

Are you starting to plan your next camping trip? What are the most valuable family camping essentials that you should bring with you? We would like to share with you our Top 10 camping essentials for families. Everyone knows the basics like tents, sleeping pads or cots, food, and cookware, but what are things that you must bring every time you go out, no matter where you go?


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We have put a list together for you of our Top 10 Family Camping Essentials that you will want to bring with you on your next adventure. This list of items is necessary for any camping trip whether it is tenting, Overlanding or backpacking and also comes in handy for those who enjoy glamping.

Here is a breakdown of our Top 10 Family Camping Essentials For Traveling with your Kids

1. Water

You will want to make sure you have enough water for everyone in the camping party. A rule of thumb is to carry at LEAST 1 GALLON of water per person per day stored in suitable containers. If you are expecting to exert a lot of energy on your trip ( ie hiking, biking, kayaking etc.) you may want to pack more or bring a water purification system and know where local water sources are located.

We love this 5-gallon water jug seen below and use it on all our camping adventures. I am sure you will see it in camp photos of our setups. This water purification system can also be found in our emergency kit that we carry as a backup:

Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Rigid Water ContainerLifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness
Camping Essentials for Family

2. Family Camping Essentials: Food

When packing for a family, one of the most important items on your list should be food. This is kind of a no brainer. However, if you are camping in the middle of the woods, hours from the nearest grocery store and your 2-year-old is crying because you didn’t bring enough snacks it will pretty much be the end of your long planned out trip.

For instance, when it comes to food you will want to pack at least 1.5-2.5 lbs of food per person per day. (Again, you will want to pack more if you are planning on doing any strenuous activity during your trip) Don’t forget to plan out and pack each meal and snack options. A great way to plan your meals is to create a menu for each meal during your trip. Write it down, check and double-check that you packed all the ingredients.

Your meals do not need to be complicated to have a great time. Therefore, simple things like hot dogs, hamburgers, and tacos make perfect camping meals for the whole family. And above all, whatever you do, do not forget the S’ mores.

Check out these pre-made food packets by Mountain House that offers lightweight- easy to store meals:

Mountain House Italian Style Pepper Steak with RiceMountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce Pro-PakMountain House Biscuits & Gravy 6-Pack

3. Extra Clothing

This is one thing you may not think about. If you are trying to camp light you may want to skip this item. However, if you have a child like ours who is like a magnet to water and tends to fall in when she goes anywhere near it, you may want to take our advice.

We always pack at least one extra set of emergency clothes with us per person. You never know what the whether may bring. A sudden downpour, an unintentional dunk in a lake or one slippery river crossing could mean cutting your camping adventure short.

There have been a few times we have been on hikes or trips and had to use a sweater as pants for our kids because they soaked themselves 3 hours from the car. I know we aren’t the only ones.

4. Rain Gear and/or Cold Weather Gear

It is easy to pack a couple of rain ponchos in your bags for an emergency. You never know when bad weather will hit. They are lightweight and affordable. We live in the Phoenix Valley. Summers here can get up to 110-120 degrees. When it gets that hot we like to travel north for our camping excursions. We have learned that because it is hot here day and night does not mean it will be hot at your destination.

On many of our summer adventures, we have left the valley with 112-degree day temps with 90 degree nights to end up with days near 70 and nights down near 40 at our destination, only 3 hours away. Sweaters, gloves, ponchos, and hats still come in handy when camping in the spring, summer, and fall even here in sunny Arizona.

5. First Aid Kit

Even if you disregard the rest of the list, having a stocked first aid kit is really important. You may also want to include but repellent with this kit. You can buy fully stocked kits online and in local stores.

This item is not just about you and your family. Carrying a first aid kit will give you the ability to help other travelers in need. My husband carries one in his daily driver and has had to use it a few times a year on accident victims on his way to work. While enjoying the outdoors and being miles from civilization many things can and will go wrong. Someone can cut themselves while preparing a meal, a hand can get caught while stowing a pop-up camper, fishing hooks…. need I say more.

We carry a kit similar to this one that I found on Amazon. It is a good idea to replace items you have used from your kit as soon as you return home.

2-in-1 First Aid Kit (215Piece) + Bonus 43Piece Mini First Aid Kit -Includes Eyewash, Ice(Cold) Pack, Moleskin Pad, CPR Face Mask & Emergency Blanket for Travel, Home, Office, Car, Workplace

6. Knife

A small knife will come in very handy in almost any situation. We have used knives for cutting fishing line, cutting rope, cooking, even gently removing slivers. You do not need to go overkill with a huge knife. Even a small 3″ knife will come in handy.

7. Flashlight with extra batteries.

Flashlights and or lanterns are a must-have when camping. Did you know you can even purchase windup flashlights to minimize the use of batteries? Flashlights are handy for locating items in your vehicle and night, taking a “walk” in the woods or peaking your head out of the tent to check on a weird nose (only to find out it is a really noisy beetle).

8. Firestarter & or Matches

While living here in Arizona, we have quite a few fire bans over the summer, regardless, we like to bring firestarter (available in blocks, fibers, and pastes) and matches with us for emergencies. We always prepare for the worst. Getting caught in a storm with roads closed or washed out, running out of propane for the cooker, Zombies…. you never know what can happen so be prepared. If there is a local fire ban it could get lifted before you leave camp, and well, S’mores.

9. Shovel

We do tend to camp on backroads and a shovel can be a lifesaver if you get yourself stuck in mud or sand. They are also great for putting dirt on fires (but never forget to also drench them with water) or digging out a fire pit. Shovels are a great companion for your daily and nightly “walks” behind trees and bushes. (Remember to bury your waste at least 6″ down and not near a water source or body of water.)

When packing light we love our foldable military style shovel. It is almost exactly the same as the one pictured below. When you are low on space in your vehicle this is a great tool to carry. With 4 people and 2 dogs in a jeep on every camping expedition, we go on this is a great option for us.

US Military Original Issue E-Tool Entrenching Shovel with ACU OR MultiCam Carrying Case / Pouch

10. Navigation Tools

Items like a Topo Map & Compass can come in handy in emergency situations. Carrying a compass in a pocket or around your neck at all times can save your hide if you find yourself running out of the camp from a bear and get lost, or the main trail has washed out and you can’t drive or hike out the way you came in. These tools can be a lifesaver. It also wouldn’t hurt to have your children wear a whistle necklace to make it easier to locate them if they get lost or wander out of camp.

Kids Safety Whistle – Stylish whistles for kids and adults promote outdoor safety.

That sums up our list of Top 10 Family Camping Essentials. Do you have your own list of camping essentials? We would love to hear what your favorites are by commenting below.

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