Once you’ve chosen your level of camping and your destination, it’s time to think about what to pack for your trip. If you rent an RV or stay in a pre-assembled glamping tent rental, you’ll have less gear to worry about, as your furnishings and cooking and dining essentials will probably be provided. If tent camping sounds like a fun fit for your family, here is a list of the basic gear to consider:
Tents are available in a wide range of sizes, designs and prices. Look for a simple design such as a dome tent that will be easy to assemble. A screened roof with a removable cover provides shelter from showers and shades your belongings from the sun during the day while letting you see the stars at night. Tents are categorized by the number of people they sleep, but pay attention to the floor dimensions instead. A four-person tent typically has just enough space for four sleeping bags side by side, with no extra room for belongings. When considering price, there’s no need to splurge on an elaborate, costly design if you’re planning shorter trips in mild weather. You can find a six-person, name-brand tent for under $200 that will work fine for a family of four.
Practice pitching your tent in the backyard so you’ll be able to set up camp quickly on your trip. You can even have a practice campout with the kids to test all your gear and let them experience sleeping outdoors.
Like tents, sleeping bags vary in design and price according to purpose. Consider the climate and season where you’ll be camping and choose your sleeping bag accordingly. An inflatable sleeping pad or mattress will make sleeping on the tent floor much more pleasant. In very warm climates in summer, you may want to skip the sleeping bag and use an old set of sheets over your sleeping pad instead.
Bring a canvas camp chair or folding lawn or lounge chair for each person, as campsites typically only have a picnic table for seating.
Most campsites include a fire pit that may have a grill rack over it, and many also include a charcoal grill. Either way, you’ll want to bring your own clean grill racks if you plan to cook your meals over the fire. Check ahead to see what your campsite includes; if needed, bring a small, portable charcoal grill. Campgrounds often have firewood available for purchase and may also have a camp store where you can buy charcoal and lighter fluid. Phone the campground before your trip to find out what’s available.
While it’s possible to cook entirely over a fire, a propane stove is a great addition to your camping equipment collection. Portable and easy to set up, it allows you to cook anything you’d cook on the stove at home and quickly and easily heats water for your morning coffee so you don’t have to build a fire.
Lanterns and Flashlights
As lovely as a campfire is, you’ll need more light to find your way around the campsite in the dark. Bring several lanterns to hang around the campsite and at least two powerful flashlights so family members can navigate to restrooms and showers at night.
Cooking and Eating Utensils and Other Necessities
Depending on what you plan to eat on your trip, cooking necessities might include a frying pan, a saucepan, spatulas and a pot for boiling water. Hot dog skewers are nice to have, as are grilling accessories such as grill baskets for fish or vegetables. Aluminum foil also works for cooking fish and vegetables on the grill or over the campfire.
Adding a set of reusable eating utensils, non-breakable plates and bowls to your camping gear will reduce waste and give you one less thing for your shopping list for future trips. However, be warned, some campsites discourage using communal water sources for washing dishes, so you may need to wash dishes at your campsite. For your first trip, consider disposables to keep dishwashing to a minimum. Phone your campground to find out what washing facilities are available. At a minimum, you’ll need biodegradable dish soap, a sponge and dish towels, and you may need bins or buckets. You’ll also need paper towels, napkins and trash bags, as most campsites don’t have individual trash bins.
Bring at least one large cooler with enough room to store perishable items. Ideally, bring a second cooler so you’ll have plenty of room for ice and beverages.