Camping / Spreadsheets / Travel Tips

The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist: Essential Gear + Spreadsheet!

Last Updated: September 28, 2023

This post is all about my camping spreadsheet that I use to plan out camping trips! One of the hard things about camping is not only getting everything packed, but remembering what you need to pack, what you’re going to eat, and all the trip details. With this family camping checklist, you can spend your time enjoying the great outdoors instead of trying to remember what to pack! 

About a week before our first camping trip each season, I get out our “camping box”. It’s just a 70 quart clear latch-lid storage bin that we store camping stuff in. This box becomes camping headquarters as we round up gear and make sure we have everything we need, while working our way through this camping checklist. (The box then serves as our kitchen camping box while we’re car camping).

Jump to a Section: Family Camping List

Camping Checklist: Essentials and Extras for Happy Campers + Spreadsheet

Camping Prep Work:

  1. Review your family camping checklist and make sure you don’t need to repair, buy, rent, or borrow anything. I like to do this about a week before so we’re not racing around the night before we leave.
  2. Start rounding up your camping gear.
  3. Review your camping plans: location, fees, check-in hours, print confirmations/parking, check weather.
  4. Make a camping meal plan and buy any groceries.
  5. Prep any food to save time (pre-cooking pasta for mac/cheese, cutting up fruits, pre-measure or portion ingredients, make or buy ice etc).

Ultimate Family Camping Checklist:

Download the camping checklist here or at the end of this post, to customize your own family camping list.

Family Camping Checklist Spreadsheet

Essential Camping Gear:

These are the bare minimum necessary items for camping. More listed under Extras, below, to make your campsite extra comfy. Try to use what you have and see how it goes. For example, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade to a 4 person family tent when you have a kid. If you already had 2 small tents, try those for one camping trip first. It can actually help one parent get better sleep (solo in their own tent!) and then trade the next night.

  • Tent (including rainfly, tent footprint or tarp)
  • Sleeping pads or air mattress
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Folding camp chairs (we have 2 for the adults, kiddo is on the move, on a lap, or on a blanket)
  • Camp blanket (also nice to fold in half length-wise for picnic table bench padding)
  • Headlamps
  • Beach towel (or one per person if you’re planning to shower or play in water)

Camping Extras:

We don’t bring all of these items, all of the time. However, it’s helpful to have a “optional” camping checklist to run through of what extras you might want for any particular camping adventure – backpacking, “car”/tent camping, yurt/cabin camping, bikepacking, national park camping, group camping etc. It also depends on the time of year, how much space you have etc.

  • Tarp and rope for rain or sun shelter
  • Camping hammock
  • Extra blankets
  • Extra batteries for headlamp
  • Lantern or battery string lights
  • Cell phone backup charger
  • Travel speaker (like Sony Mini Bluetooth)
  • Depending on how remote – compass, printed maps etc. (I just download offline maps and have a backup charger handy)
  • Small shovel for digging cat hole when not using a restroom, toilet paper
  • Water filter
  • Tiny broom for tent sweeping
  • Tent repair kit
  • Travel clothesline
  • Campsite Quiet Activities – card deck or a small game, book
  • Campsite Active/Games – ball, bikes, tossing games, slackline kit, guitar etc
  • Cash for firewood
  • Hatchet (backside can double as a mallet for tent stakes)
  • Duct tape
  • Lake/river floating options – float inner tubes, kayak etc
  • Bikes, helmets etc

Camp Cooking Gear:

I keep some of these items in my “ready to go” Camp Kitchen box. It doesn’t make sense to have duplicates of all of these items though, so the items I will need to gather up from the kitchen, I write down on a Post-It note that goes on the lid of the box. This makes it easy to know which items need to be added from this family camping checklist.

  • “Kitchen” box with latching lid and handles
  • Cooler
  • Campstove & Propane – basic Bottletop Twist-On Propane Stove or standard two-burner propane camp stove
  • Extra propane fuel tank
  • Long-handled lighter
  • Matches (back up for lighter and for starting a campfire)
  • Duralog fire starter/paper bag for campfire tinder
  • Cast iron skillet & handle hot pad
  • 4 quart pot with lid or dutch oven
  • 1 medium or small plastic or metal mixing/serving bowl
  • 1 pairing knife, 1 steak knife, 2 thin plastic prep cutting boards
  • Multi-tool with knife
  • Serving spoons/large fork
  • Tongs
  • Metal flipper spatula
  • Mini silicone spatula
  • Plastic camp plates and bowls
  • mugs (also used as drinking cups)
  • Utensils – 1 set per person (fork, spoon, knife), plus extra for serving etc
  • Tablecloth wipe-able or cotton washable, clips or just use heavy objects like castiron
  • 2-3 kitchen hand towels (dual as hotpads)
  • 3-4 kitchen rag/cloths and paper towels (also used for wrapping around knives for transport, washing dishes, kiddo napkin, and kid washcloth if needed)
  • Tubtrug type plastic bucket with carrying handles – to wash dishes, kids, and transport water for fire etc
  • Dr Bronners soap – this can be used to wash dishes, hands, hair etc.
  • Trash/recycling bags – 1 large, and then 1 small/compost bag per day
  • Resealable bags or containers
  • Travel salt/pepper
  • 1 Gallon water jug per person per day – more or less depending on if your campsite has drinkable water source or not, how much water you drink, what you’re cooking
  • Water bottle (1 per person)
  • Coffee prep – we take aeropress, filters, ground coffee and use pot w/lid to boil water, instant coffee is our backup
  • Depending on your meal plan: small grater, whisk, peeler, can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew, foil, extendable roaster stick for marshmallows and hotdogs etc

Camp Clothing & Toiletries Packing List:

I pack each family members clothing, personal items, and toiletries in an individual small soft bag. This makes it easier to toss the correct bags in the right tents, and for everyone to be able to find their own things easily. Plus, if you stick to soft tote bags it’s much easier to pack the car, than if you’re trying to fit in a suitcase etc. :P

  • Pants – I’m a jeans person for around the campfire, don’t try to dissuade me.
  • Shorts
  • Tees – 1 short sleeve or tank per day
  • Long sleeve button down – for sun or in-camp cool down weather or hoodie
  • Fleece jacket
  • Puffy vest or coat – depending on weather and your temps (I usually only do fleece and vest, husband brings a puffy coat)
  • Rain coats
  • Socks, underwear, (& comfy bra for ladies)
  • PJs – (leggings and a clean tank)
  • Swimsuit/swim shorts
  • Sun hats – Trucker hat for me, sun hat for kiddo
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking/trail shoes or boots (we’re not a family that wears hiking boots, so just running shoes for us)
  • Flip flops or slip on sandals like TEVAs etc for camp site and any water play
  • Hat/beanie or Buff
  • Gloves
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Pocket Tissue packs
  • Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, small mirror
  • Any other toiletries or makeup you need – lotion, chapstick, under eye concealer, shampoo, feminine products, prescriptions etc
  • First Aid Kit (band-aids, wipes, Neosporin, tweezers, needle/thread, Ibuprofin, matches)

Camping List for Kids, Toddler, Baby:

Every baby, toddler, and kid is a different temperament, has different activity, eating, and sleep needs, and experiences weather differently. You know your child best, so here’s a jumping off point for what you might need for your little one.

  • Any extra kiddo sleep gear – sleeping bag, sleeping pad, crib pillow, fleece blanket, lovies, white noise machine/chargers, popup-tent/dockatot etc.
  • Hooded fleece PJs or fleece sleep sack, wool socks, beanie (the last thing you need is a cold kiddo!)
  • Diapering: diapers, Pull-Ups, wipes (whatever you use at home)
  • Outer layers: Fleece, puffy jacket, Buff head band or beanie or more for cold weather
  • Travel potty and liners
  • 2 pairs of shoes (at least) – we usually do regular shoes and river sandals
  • 2 outfits per day, including – 1 pants, 1 shorts, 2 tees, 1 long sleeve shirt, 2 socks, 2 undies
  • Toys/activities for campsite – it’s a good idea to keep toys minimal – small bucket, small scoop shovel, couple toy vehicles or animals, small notebook and few markers. The great outdoors is the “toy” they just need some “tools” to make it more fun.
  • Toys/activities for car – a book or stickers, a lovie, a few Duplos, or Matchbox cars
  • “Hush Money” – gummies, surprise small toy, anything little that can serve as a distraction or treat when you need it! More kids camping gift ideas.

Trip Planner & Camping Meal Plan

The second section of the camping spreadsheet is a Trip Planner to use for each new camping trip. Just make a copy of your last trip, and record all your trip details and camping meal plan.

Camping Meal Plan & Details

List out all the details for specific trips – car camping, backpacking, yurt/cabin camping, group camping etc. Including: location, fees, expected temperature highs and lows, drive time, hiking mileage and elevation gain, meal plan, grocery list, and any extra gear needed, things to do or buy before leaving, and if you’re group camping or backpacking – shared gear and who’s bringing what etc. I’ve included an example, so you can see how I used the Camping Planner to plan out my last camping trip.

Camping Checklist Printable Spreadsheet:

You can download the customizable camping checklist spreadsheet below. Enjoy and happy camping! After downloading the spreadsheet, you can open or upload it to use in Google Spreadsheets (or just use in Excel or Open Office).

And there you have it, our Ultimate Family Camping Checklist! Are we missing anything on your family camping list?

Originally published August 2020, updated for 2023.

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