Camping with Kids

I love the great outdoors and I really want my kids to, too. Before we had our little brood, my husband and I logged hundreds of trail miles to some of the most beautiful destinations in the country while backpacking. We’d carry 35 or 40 lbs of gear in large backpacks on multi-day treks; we’d run into bears and thunderstorms and get lost, but that was all part of the thrill.

So it’s not feasible to add the weight of entire small human (let alone three) to one’s backpack. Nor would I like to deal with managing a wild animal and a small child at the same time. The new whole-family outdoor adventure option has shifted temporarily to what we call “car camping.” Instead of having everything you need on your back, you have it all in your car. And since you’re not schlepping your gear up a mountain while trying not to acquire blisters and knee problems, there’s not much motivation to “pack light.”

I’m finding that to enjoy camping with kids, you need a realistic perspective and a little organization and planning. So this post is about sharing some tips for fun with kids in the woods.


1. Be realistic about your family’s season and the limits of the individuals.

  • What are the ages of your kids? What kind of sleepers do you have? Do both parents think it’s fun to car camp? How would poor weather impact your trip? Do you have the gear that will allow for a comfortable trip–warm sleeping bags? camping mattresses? a large enough tent or a camper?
  • At this point, we have nothing to prove. It doesn’t have to be a long trip, in the middle of nowhere and without ameneties. In fact, I think the opposite is better for us.
  • We can only go if it’s going to be mostly nice out. The rain isn’t something I could handle in this season, so I check the weather frequently leading up to the trip.
  • I currently find childcare for my 2 year-old, she is too much of a safety wildcard and too much work to allow for fun for the rest of the family.
  • 1 or 2 nights is about right for our 3 and 5-year-old.
  • On our last trip, I was 29 weeks pregnant and found that sleeping on a thin mattress felt horrible on my back. So I didn’t force the 2nd night, we went home before bedtime. I knew it wouldn’t be worth the lack of sleep and pain just because I had planned on two nights of camping.
  • The amount of packing that has to be done is a big commitment with kids, so consider if just a few nights is worth the work (for me it is, but only just barely!).

2. Find a family-friendly location.

  • I find our campgrounds by Googling recommendations for campgrounds with kids in our state.
  • Kids are going to need stuff to do. What does the campground offer?? Playgrounds, pools, children’s activities are part of a lot of campgrounds. A bathroom with showers may be helpful with youngsters.
  • The drawback to these types of places is that they can be LOUD at night. As a family, you might get placed next to a bachelor party of beer drinking dudes that want to loudly convrse until 3am.
  • State campgrounds may be more subdued but may not offer the amenities of other campgrounds.
  • Most campsites offer a picnic table and that is a good place to do your cooking (and eating), so I think of that as my kitchen area.

3. Make a list of needed gear.


  • Stove/gas
  • Cups (disposable or easy to clean)
  • Plates (disposable or easy to clean)
  • Mugs
  • Silverware (disposable or easy to clean)
  • Can opener
  • Pans
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Cooler/ice (ice melts super fast so may need to restock daily or just realize that it won’t keep your food very cold)
  • 1 Gallon drinking water- can refill at water spouts (This is a very key item to bring!)
  • Biodegradable dish soap
  • Bucket for washing dishes
  • Extra plastic bags/garbage bags



  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads
  • Pillows
  • Portable chairs
  • Headlamps/flashlights
  • Life jackets (for pool/lake)
  • Rope (to hang wet clothes)
  • Firewood bundle/matches

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  • Toiletries- don’t forget the baby wipes, no matter the ages of kids!
  • Clothes
  • Bathing suits
  • Shoes/flip flops



  • Camera
  • Alternative shelter/screened room
  • Books- for all that down time you’re going to have


(I went camping last with my book-loving friend. She got a little ambitious with the amount of literature she lugged on the trip….)

  • Toys/Balls/Sports equipment


4. Make a food plan.

Here’s an example of two days worth of mine. I prep what I can at home (chop, measure, put together spices), take some food items out of their original packaging and group by meal to make sure I have everything. Click on the link to get a detailed two day food plan.

2 Day Car Camping Food Plan


5. Organize your gear.

I depend on Thirty-One bags for organizing all my stuff! They’re super durable, come in all shapes and sizes to meet every organizing challenge and wipe clean in an instant.

Most campgrounds offer a bathroom with toilets, some with showers, but for the most part, it won’t be right by your campsite. I make a toiletries bag to take to the bathroom using the Mini Tote Bag. That way I’m not dropping little items on the walk there or forgetting stuff back at camp. I put in everyone’s toothbrushes/paste, face soap, a washcloth etc.


The food bag contains the snacks, dry goods, and all other related kitchen items that don’t need to be kept cold. I use Thirty-One’s Large Utility Tote for the food because it is an amazing carry-it-all option. I got one for a friend recently and she joked that my new nick-name is “Awesome Heidi” because she loves it so much.


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I use the Keep-It Caddy with a plastic grocery bag as a handy garbage that can sit right on top of the campground’s picnic table.


Drawing for a free Thirty-One Bag

And that was just a few of the Thirty-One bags I used on the trip! My friend Lindsey, is a dedicated and fun Thirty-One consultant and is making this post sweeter by offering a drawing for a free Thirty-One bag! (It’s a really summer-y one in a fresh, bold print!)

Two ways to enter:

1. If you’re on Facebook, and you haven’t liked either of our pages yet, do so and let us know you did in a comment directly on the page. You can click on the links below or “like” my blog via the social media icons on the top right corner of any page.

That’s one drawing entry possibility…

Lindsey’s Facebook 31 Group Facebook Page

2. Leave a comment after any blog post between August 1- 8th, either in the comments section of the blog or on my TheBlessedNest Facebook page.

6. Setting up camp.

Setting up camp is fun because it’s your outdoor “home” for a few days. On our last trip, we brought a screened-in room (but not necessary) and our friends brought a canopy to put over the picnic tables as a shelter from the sun.


Hang up rope for organizing essentials, like the flashlights you can never find when it starts to get dark, and wet clothes.

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Once you’re all set up, it’s time to play!

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Feel free to share the ideas you have for successful camping trips with kids!






  1. Looks like a fun time. I like the picture of family-time push ups. Those Douglass’ know how to have fun!

  2. This reminds me of camping as a kid. Of course, I never had the cool 31 bags. Camping seems like so much work as an adult. Now I have to be the responsible one!

    • Hi Heather! Thanks for commenting (and you’re entered in 31 bag drawing for doing so!) It is a lot of work as an adult that sometimes just barely outweighs the fun of all the logistics 😉 But…my kids LOVE it and I want them to have wonderful childhood memories of the outdoors (and not be the little princess who wouldn’t get dirty like I was untii my college years).

  3. This is great! I just pinned a bunch of great camping ideas…specifically bug bite remidies! My little on get horrible welts from Mosquitos! We are camping this week! We had a site that had water and electric hook up but switched to a primitive site because it was in the middle of the campground and we wanted some quiet!
    Definitely loved the organization part of this! Next time I need to do better with food. My favorite pin is the essential oil in a mason jar wih a floating candle so much nicer than a citronella candle! Happy camping! Ohhh also I brought Norwex cloths and towels with us…loved them a must have from now on!!!

    • I was thinking the Norwex towels are something I want to try since they dry fast! I’ll have to talk to Deirdre about them! How quaint to have an essential oil candle that keeps away bugs. I tried a home-made bug spray last summer and couldn’t tell if it worked or not because I don’t get tons of bites anyway…. Mason jars, that’s a good one! Think we need to go glamping (glamorous camping) sometime with all of your Pinterest-y touches. 🙂

  4. Ohhh and mason jars! I put milk and liquids in them instead of lugging large quantities with us as keeping stuff cold is a challenge. They also add a homey touch to your campsite!!!

  5. Jaci Root says:

    Thanks for the tips, Heidi! We still have to get out there and camp with our kids (besides the backyard!) – we are stalled out trying to find the right tent right now. And finding the right campground…we don’t really like to be so close to the ‘neighbors’! Unless they are friends of course!

    • I know! Josh is on the lookout for the perfect and quiet beach site and I have two tents I’m looking at… one’s close to $100 (a highly rated Coleman with three rooms) and an REI one that’s more like $400 (but we could use our 20% member coupon). I think the Coleman would be fine for a couple times a summer! Could look up the name and share it if you’re interested!