Must-have kids’ camping gear for summer

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Camping with children is an unforgettable adventure, filled with the joy of discovering nature together. However, you need the right gear to make the experience enjoyable and stress-free. Here’s a quick list of must-have camping gear for children, perfect for families heading out camping in a tent, RV or camper.

Three children are sitting on grass near a small campfire setup. One child writes in a notebook, another holds binoculars, and the third looks on. A tent is pitched in the background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

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Shelter and sleeping gear

When camping with kids, you need a cozy and secure sleeping arrangement. For tent camping, choose a spacious tent that comfortably accommodates everyone.

A tent with a separate area for the kids gives them their space, which can be exciting and fun. For RV camping, make sure the camper or RV offers enough sleeping spots for each family member.

Sleeping bags simplify camping bedding. Choose lightweight sleeping bags for summer camping and well-insulated sleeping bags for kids for camping in other seasons.

Select sleeping bags with fun designs to make bedtime more appealing for younger kids. If you’re tent camping, bring sleeping pads or air mattresses for additional comfort and insulation. And remember, pillows from home can provide a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Two children are lying side by side in blue sleeping bags with colorful patterns, appearing to be asleep.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.
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Cooking and eating gear

Camping meals can be a trip highlight if you have the right gear. A portable stove or grill is a valuable addition to your camping kitchen. Bring lightweight, durable camping cookware that’s easy to clean.

Pack reusable plates, bowls and utensils for each family member. A good food cooler is vital to keeping perishable food fresh. Remember plenty of lightweight and healthy meals, such as your favorite dehydrated camping foods.

Kids burn a lot of energy in outdoor activities. Keeping a variety of snacks on hand can keep them happy and fueled.

Clothing and footwear

Packing the proper clothing can make or break your camping trip. Layering is key.

Start with moisture-wicking base layers to keep the kids dry. Add insulating layers like fleece for warmth, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.

Even in summer, evenings can get chilly. Pack a warm jacket or hoodie for each child.

Sturdy, comfortable shoes or children’s hiking boots are essential for exploring trails and running around the campsite. Pack sandals for warmer days and water activities.

Remember to bring extra socks and underwear. Having a few extra outfits is wise for younger kids, who tend to get dirty quickly.

“We loved the all-in-one-piece rain gear for kids. It always seemed to rain when we planned to go camping, so having a suit that zipped head to toe and tucked into boots meant our kids stayed warm, dry and happy even in the worst weather.”

— Laura Sampson, Little House Big Alaska

Safety gear

Safety is always essential when camping and hiking. However, it’s especially important when camping with children. 

Outdoor safety for kids includes packing a well-stocked first aid kit. Bring bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, pain relievers and any prescription medications your family needs. Also, pack insect repellent and sunscreen to protect against bugs and sunburn.

Each child should have a whistle to use if they get lost. Headlamps or flashlights with extra batteries are a must-have for nighttime visibility, while glow sticks can be a fun and helpful tool for tracking younger kids in the dark.

Entertainment and activities

Three children sitting on the grass near a yellow tent, with one looking through binoculars, another writing in a notebook, and the third sitting between them, surrounded by trees during daytime.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Keeping kids entertained is another key aspect of a successful camping trip. Pack a mix of camping games and activities to suit different times of the day and various ages and interests.

For daytime fun, bring along items like balls, frisbees and kites. If you’re near water, consider packing swim gear and water toys.

Nature is the best playground, so encourage exploration with gear like binoculars, bug catchers and nature journals. Books, coloring supplies and board games can provide quiet entertainment in the evenings or if the weather turns bad.

“Camping with kids is fun, but there is one thing that I take to make it easier. A reliable battery-powered fan is essential for hot nights. It produces a constant sound that makes sleeping next to loud neighbors easier for everyone in the family.”

— Gena Lazcano, Ginger Casa

Practical tips for camping with kids

Camping with kids requires extra planning and preparation. Here are some practical tips to ensure a smooth trip.

  1. Involve the kids in planning. Let your children help with packing and choosing activities. This builds excitement and helps them feel involved.
  2. Practice setting up camp. If this is your first time camping, practice setting up the tent or RV at home. This activity can become a fun backyard adventure and help avoid stress at the campsite.
  3. Keep routines. Try to stick to regular mealtimes and bedtimes. Familiar routines can provide comfort and stability in a new environment.
  4. Stay organized. Keep gear organized in bins or bags. Label each child’s items and ensure everyone knows where things are stored.
  5. Be flexible. Despite the best plans, things can go awry. Be prepared to adapt and go with the flow. Sometimes, unexpected moments make the best memories.

Choose the right gear for camping with kids

Camping with kids can be an incredible experience, creating lifelong memories and instilling a love of the outdoors. Your family’s camping trips can be safe, comfortable and fun with the right gear and preparation. Pack smart, stay safe and enjoy every moment under the stars.

Sarita Harbour is a long-time business and finance writer. She created An Off Grid Life to help people become more self-reliant.

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