My family didn’t camp; my mom always said her idea of camping was a hotel without a hot tub, ha! I did get to go camping with friends and cousins a few times but I never got to really see how much went into prepping and packing for a camping trip. My husband grew up camping, and now he works in the RV industry and is able to borrow RVs. The first year we had Simon we decided to go for it, and ended up camping twelve times that year! I learned that when you’re camping with a baby you don’t want to forget anything, so a packing list is essential!
I started making packing lists on Google drive and it makes it so easy to just pull it up before a trip, modify it for that particular trip, print it out and then I check things off as I pack! We are in a unique situation in that we use a different camper every time so I can’t just leave the non-perishable essentials in the camper. I have a corner of the garage with a shelving unit and some totes where I keep a bunch of stuff to make packing easier.
As we used my packing list twelve times that first year, I ended up whittlng it down as we found some things unnecessary. Camping with two kiddos this year has made us realize we need to add some things! I can see the list ever evolving over the years. But starting with a comprehensive list has made camping so much more enjoyable!
I’ll link to a document on Google Drive at the end that you can download and modify to fit your needs, but here’s the rundown with some more specific recommendations!
Your campsite will typically have a picnic table so you don’t need table and chairs to eat at, but we like to bring comfortable chairs for sitting around the campfire, and a folding table to set up outside as a cooking/serving station.
– Folding chairs: zero gravity chairs are so darn comfortable! My in-laws have them and I loooove them. We just bring our beach chairs though. 🙂
– Folding table: we got one of these as a wedding gift and between camping, garage sales, having company, and working on projects, it gets a lot of use!
– Kids chairs: right now we just throw in the kiddie table and chairs we got from Costco.
– Booster seat and/or clip on seat: we didn’t own a high chair until this year, just always used booster seats and our clip on seat, and these are great for camping too. We never had one of these camping high chairs but based on the high reviews on Amazon I would say it’s a great idea if you’re going to be camping a lot!
– RV patio mat: these things are amazing, they are made of polypropylene, water can flow through them and they are perfect for putting under the awning of your RV.
Being active while camping with little ones in tow means stroller walks and bike rides for us. I know lots of people like hiking with one of those backpack carriers but we aren’t that into hiking (would rather bike – bonus points if it’s to a restaurant, haha!) but we always bring our regular baby carrier along and use it occasionally.
– Single or double stroller
– Bikes: I have an an electric assist bike which means it multiplies my efforts and makes it possible for me to pull the trailer and keep up with my husband who is a much better biker than I am!
– Bike trailer: we went with the more affordable InStep bike trailer the first year and it was OK, but we’ve since upgraded to a more expensive, but totally worth it Burley bike trailer.
– Toddler bike seat: even though our bike trailer fits two kiddos, Simon loves being up in the bike seat that attaches behind my seat. Leaves more room in the trailer for anything we want to bring on our bike ride too!
– Baby carrier: we didn’t do a ton of babywearing so I preferred a more structured carrier over the wraps and slings that had more of a learning curve. We started with the basic cheap BabyBjorn but eventually upgraded to the BabyBjorn One and I absolutely love it.
Simon was 5-9 months old that first summer we went camping, and most of the time he slept with me in the big bed and Kyle got relegated to the couch. We weren’t co-sleepers at home but it just worked the best for us when we camped so that I could easily nurse Simon throughout the night. He would nap in his pack n’ play, sometimes outside the camper with a blanket draped over top to keep out the light (until he started standing up in his pack ‘n play and taking the blanket down!). Now with two kiddos (that are very accustomed to dark, quiet sleeping conditions) we bring a pack ‘n play and a toddler blow up bed. Betsy gets the “master bedroom” to herself, we take the mattress out and put her pack n’ play up on the bed, that way we can make it dark and quiet for her. Simon sleeps in his toddler blow up bed on the dinette, and me and Kyle get the couch bed with an extra mattress (from the master bed) put on top. The point is, you can do what works best for your family, organizing the sleeping arrangements the way that makes the most sense for your kiddos.
– Pack ‘n play: camping (and babies) can be dirty so I always use sheets on my pack n’ play.
– Toddler blow up bed: we use this whenever we travel, whether it’s camping or hotels, I got it from walmart.com for $35 last year but can’t find it for that cheap right now. A crib mattress sheet fits the inner mattress. We bought an electric pump to get this thing blown up a lot faster!
Sometimes we brought a sleeping bag for Kyle but for the most part we just brought old sheets that we set aside for camping (and tie dyed!!), our regular blankets (Kyle and I each sleep with our own twin size quilt at home so we never fight over the covers, haha!) and our regular pillows. I also pack a little zipper bag with stuff I want at the side of my bed – my phone charger, ear plugs, an eye mask, chapstick and hand lotion.
– Sound machine: we use these at home and bringing them along makes a big difference in our sleep!
– Audio monitor: we put the kiddos to bed and then hang out by the campfire so we bring the audio monitor along to keep an ear on the situation inside the camper.
We camp near Lake Michigan quite a bit, and when we don’t, we’re often at campgrounds with little beaches. I don’t bring as much as I do for a normal beach day; we already have enough stuff crammed into the camper but I bring some basics like a beach bag, beach towels, beach toys (that then double as campground toys!) and we’ll use my picnic quilt on the beach.
– Boppy pillow: I always found it easier to nurse with a Boppy pillow so you better believe I hauled that thing with me when we went camping!
– Toys: this has varied with each age, when Simon was little I just grabbed a little basket of toys and he would play with them in the camper, in his pack n’ play, and outside the camper on a blanket. As he has gotten older I only bring outside toys, plus some books for inside the camper. Once the kiddos were mobile, one of their favorite things to do is ride around the campground on trikes and bikes!
– Diapers, wipes and burp rags!
– Baby meds: I have a little medicine/first aid kid, but like to have this as a separate item on the list so that I double check and make sure I have some baby or children’s ibuprofen or anything else I might need.
– Blankets: a few for laying baby on for diaper changes, tucking baby into the stroller to be cozy on a walk, etc…
– Clothing: I always bring warm sleepers, we keep the air on in the camper at night so it is comfortable for us, but sometimes chilly for baby. It’s also usually chilly in the morning and evening outside. I bring a set of PJ’s for every single night because they will wear them for a few hours in the morning around the campsite and usually get filthy in them. I also pack twice as many outfits as days we are camping, and sometimes even throw an extra outfit or two in on top of that, kids get dirty while camping! This last trip I brought the kids rainboots and they were so great on the last morning when the kids wore their PJ’s and boots and played with the spigot at the campsite while we packed up.
– Swim clothing: swim shorts, swim shirt, swim diapers, sun hat, sunglasses…
I keep a caddy mostly packed and ready to go in the garage and just run through my list when I’m packing and grab anything I am missing from the house. Of course this list would be different for you depending on what toiletries you use and whether or not you plan on “doing” your hair or makeup. I find we take a LOT of pictures when we’re camping so most days I’ll spend at least a few minutes doing my hair and putting a little makeup on. Maybe that will change as the kids get older and we are more active when we camp, but so far with little ones we take it slow and are never in much of a rush to get anywhere!
This is definitely one of the highlights of our camping trips, my husband is a great cook and enjoys outdoor cooking and we all love to eat! One of my favorite things to do when we’re camping near my hometown in Michigan, is to invite people over for dinner!
– Basics: paper plates, paper towels, plastic cutlery and solo cups. These are all things we buy at Costco now, and we use the paper plates on a regular basis at home too!
– Coffee cups: I like the feel of a real coffee cup vs. disposable so we pack a few of our regular coffee cups.
– Kitchen utensils: knife, cutting board, spatula, serving spoons.
– Electric skillet: this thing is amazing and Kyle uses it all the time at home too. He has mastered the one skillet meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll have to do a whole other blog post sometime with his “recipes”!
– Coffee maker: we have a vintage percolator that we bring camping with us!
– Dish soap/washcloth/kitchen towels: I keep a little thing of dish soap and some old rags and towels with the camping stuff in the garage.
– Zip lock bags: because leftovers happen and there isn’t room in the RV fridge for a bunch of tupperware.
– Pudgie pie makers: these are just fun and you can do a million things in them from savory to sweet; we will definitely use them more as the kids get older and cooking on the campfire becomes more fun.
– Marshmallow sticks: for the quintessential camping treat – s’mores. 🙂
– Food: this changes each time, someday I’ll do a blog post about some of our favorite camping meals.
We try to stick to our normal schedule as much as possible and since our kids go to bed early we usually have a couple hours around the campfire and picnic table before we go to bed, and we have some down time during naps, so we bring along some games! Some favorites are Bananagrams, Spot It! and card games. We also brought a camping themed “mystery” puzzle once that was a lot of fun! We got this camping journal for my in-laws and it is so fun having each family member write down some highlights of the trip while we sit around the campfire.
There are also some odds and ends we like to bring.
– String lights/lantern: we hang some fun color changing lights from the awning and like to have a lantern on hand for late night walks to the bathroom (and we use our rechargeable lantern at home when the power goes out).
– Pop-up trash can/trash bags
– Camera: I bring my professional camera along, these memories with the kids are so fun to capture! Usually with just my 35mm lens and I always keep it in my camera bag in the RV when I’m not using it.
– Bluetooth speaker: for playing some tunes at the campsite! And occasionally for some extra loud white noise during nap time.
– Broom/dustpan, lysol wipes
– Power strip/extension cord
I hope this is helpful and here is the Camping Packing List for your viewing/downloading/editing pleasure!