Plan a Family Camping Trip – What You Need for an Outdoor Adventure

Spring is almost here and that means many of us are itching to get outside. If you have a bad case of cabin fever and want to get out and enjoy the warmer weather, family camping is a fun and frugal way to spend time together and to enjoy our beautiful planet. If you haven’t done much camping, you may want to try car camping first (versus backpacking) especially if your kids are small.

Ask camping friends for advice about good places to go, and go online to research destinations yourself. Keep it simple your first time out and chose a site that isn’t too remote, so you don’t have to go far if you forget to bring an essential item, or if you want to eat a meal (or two) at a restaurant. You’ll need to gear up, of course, and we can help with tips that will make your first family camping trip a success.

Camping Tent for Families


1. Stay Warm, Dry, and Comfortable


The most important thing to remember to pack is a tent big enough for your family.  As long as you have a high quality tent, you’ll be able to stay warm, dry, and comfortable while camping.

Although you can’t pack your bed from home, you CAN invest in a super comfy sleeping bag and even a sleeping mat for a little bit of extra cushion on the ground.  These are great for kids who are light sleepers or adults with bad backs.

Don’t plan on packing your normal pillows on a camping trip.  First of all you don’t want to get your favorite pillow dirty.  Secondly, normal pillows cannot withstand the humdity of the outdoors very well.  You’ll want to pack a travel camping pillow or a pillow with a special moisture wicking covering so that the pillow will stay dry.  You can even order one that is inflatable so it won’t take up a lot of space when not in use.

Folding chairs are great to pack because you won’t always have a picnic table near your campsite.  You can purchase basic camping chairs or more elaborate models that include an umbrella or overhang built in, and some even have trays or tables attached.  Make sure to bring enough chairs so everyone can sit around the campfire.

Bring along a camping hammock for the ultimate outdoor relaxation.

Coleman Classic Propane StoveColeman Classic Propane Stove


2. Food and Drink


For meals, you don’t have to cook over an open flame like they do in the  movies.  A portable camping stove can be hooked up to propane to give you a lot of heat, so you can prepare many different dishes; it also ensures that food is thoroughly cooked.

Aluminum based pots and pans work best when you’re cooking out of doors.  And just because you’re “roughing it” you don’t have to sacrifice your morning coffee (there are enough bears in the woods!).  Just bring a  camping coffee maker along with your favorite coffee and brew it right over the flame or on your camping stove.  If you get mess kits for every member of the family, everyone will have a plate, a cup, and eating utensils. Check out our list of the 25 Best Camping Recipes for some ideas of what to cook. This S’mores Cone Recipe is one of our favorites!

I recommend Investing in a high quality cooler because you’ll use it all year round, not just for camping.  We have a heavy-duty cooler that keeps ice solid for five days; it also has cup holders and a sturdy top so it can double as a seat.  We have the  COLEMAN 100 Quart Xtreme Wheeled Thermozone Insulated Cooler w/ 2-Way Handles and I highly recommend it! Whatever cooler you get, make sure it has wheels so you won’t have to carry it. A cooler is surprisingly heavy once you load it up with ice!

Make sure to pack a  reusable water bottle for each member of the family.  You can assign everyone a different colored bottle so there won’t be any confusion.  I suggest grabbing water bottles with caps that can be clipped to a backpack for easy carrying.

Sitting around a campfire at night is one of the best parts of camping. Grab some  waterproof matches or at least a  waterproof container for your matches so you can start a campfire even if its damp outside.

Camping First Aid Kit


3. Camping Safety


You should always pack a  First Aid Kit for travel no matter where you’re headed. I always take first aid items out of the boxes, put them in clear baggies,  and include an index card with the dosing information in each baggie. You should bringbandaidsdisinfectant creampain reliever,   allergy medicine,  remedy for upset stomach,  bug bite creambug spraysunscreen, and maybe even a  sleep aid if you tend to have trouble sleeping in a new environment. Don’t forget to  bring along plenty of  hand sanitizer!  You can even get  special holders that can clip onto your backpack or belt loop.

Microfiber towels are ideal for camping because they absorb a lot of moisture and are light and easy to pack.  The towels are perfect for drying off after a sweaty hike or a dip in the lake.

Water Resistant - Shock Proof Camping LanternWater Resistant – Shock Proof Camping Lantern


4. Let There Be Light


You’ll be surprised how much you appreciate your  camping lantern, because it’s dark out there!  There are many different models to choose from; you may want a larger one for your camping table and smaller ones for inside the tent.  You can get a lamp with a handleone that hangs on a clip, or even one that can be used as a “ceiling fan” in your tent! Don’t forget to bring  backup batteries if you choose a battery-powered lantern.

Headlamps may look a little silly but they are very practical because they leave your hands free. And kids seem to love them!  Strap a headlamp on before going exploring or venturing to the restroom in the middle of the night.

Camping Smores

Just a few more camping essentials and you’re ready to go! Pack a kickball so you can play soccer, kick ball, and four square. Other fun camping games include  ring tossladder ball washer tossdisc slam, and more! This list of the 7 best camping games will give you more ideas.

A  deck of cards doesn’t take up much space but will provide hours of entertainment at night or if you have a bad weather day.

Last but not least, don’t forget to pack graham crackers, chocolate squares, marshmallows and marshmallow roasting sticks so that you can make the traditional camping treat: S’mores!

About Chrysa

Chrysa is the founder and owner of, a site dedicated to living a fabulous life on a frugal budget. Her approach is that by spending less on the boring everyday stuff, you can have more money to splurge on the things you REALLY want, whether it’s travel, fashion, electronics – you name it! Chrysa is married, has a 9-year old nephew she dotes on, as well as three lovable cats and a big sweetie of a German Shepherd.


  1. Oh gosh yes, this list is spot on. I need to do more camping with my trio. I used to camp all of the time, especially when I was a teenager. It was so fun to go out in the woods and set up camp in our local town woods. I will have to try to get these products to plan a family camping trip with the trio this summer.

  2. We love to go camping with the family. The past couple summers we have made sure to camp out in the backyard a few times too! such great memories!

  3. LED lanterns are so cool. They’re much lighter than the previous generation and you can clip them almost anywhere!

  4. lisalisa says:

    Great post! We just actually went to Meijer’s yesterday and purchased a tent. Camping has been on our mind since last year and I can’t wait to get outdoors. So many fun memories to create and lots of family bonding time.

  5. We loooove camping and these are great ideas!

  6. This is insane, but I have never gone camping! I want to give it a try though at some point… before it gets too hot in Florida!

  7. shelly peterson says:

    The kids love to go camping. But we don’t go very often. Thanks for the helpful information.

  8. When our kids were small, we went camping all the time. It was hot, humid, and full of mosquitoes, but we still loved the outdoors, the moonlight, & the crickets chirping in the night! The kids loved to fish, roast marshmallows, make a campfire ? I miss it! But there’s no way I can sleep on the ground anymore or take the heat & humidity. The camping equipment has changed for the better. My grandkids like sleeping in their backyards and going camping with the church groups. It’s a good experience for them.

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