There are two types of people who enjoy family camping trips. Those that enjoy sleeping under the stars with just a thin bit of canvas protecting them from the elements of the great outdoors, in total zen with nature and the peace and tranquillity it brings while they watch the kids play free from technology.

And there are people like me, who hear every sound like it’s an abominable beast on the hunt for dinner. Who feel that strong metal support in the camp bed so don’t sleep a wink . And thus, mentally associate camping with lying uncomfortably with a cold nose, as the hottest summer day has turned into a clear night where the temperature has dropped to a spiteful level just to disprove I’m in Hell.

But the main difference between the two groups in embracing the outdoor adventure is not toughness or ear plugs. It’s simply being prepared and having the right camping gear. So this essential checklist is based on savage first-hand experience. Having just the basics is not rustic and back to nature, it’s woefully ill equipped and potentially hazardous and will ruin what has the potential to be a fantastic family adventure.

But of course it’s all worth it to watch the kids loving life in nature. So here’s my family camping essentials checklist.

family camping

Family Camping packing list

While modern campsites have a lot of glamping facilities with toilet blocks and hot food and coffee available to buy, this isn’t the case for wild camping. But even after smashing back a large quantity of BYOB and sitting around a fire, come 2am it’s only the togs on the sleeping back protecting you from the elements.

Regardless of the on-site facilities at your camping location, the only real things to impact you is the presence of a toilet block which is pretty standard. The other is food options, which reduce the need to bring enough to cover you three square meals a day plus copious amounts of kids snacks. Just a small word of warning, on my recent camping with kids trip everyone had the same idea and it sold out early.

Tent, Sleeping arrangements and Clothes

  • Suitable sized tent plus mallet and pegs
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Sleeping mat, air matress & pump, or camp bed
  • Pillow
  • Windbreak
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Spare warm clothes
  • Woolly clothes
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Suitable footwear and walking boots
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Spare warm clothes
  • Woolly clothes
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Suitable footwear and walking boots

warm sleeping bag

If you are a first time camper, your campsite might have Bell tents already put up with camp beds inside which takes away the stress and hassle.

If not, then you will need a suitable tent which you should put up in the garden the weekend before to familiarise yourself with the setting up and ensure you have all the pieces. A bigger size that you can stand up in will help you move about freely, which is especially handy if it’s raining. If you are bringing a tent you will want a mallet, pegs, and if you are super-organised then a repair kit.

The main thing to point out for beginners is even in the height of summer, the temperature can drastically drop at night. This means a quality sleeping bag is going to keep you nice and snug as it traps the body heat. I’d recommend a pillow and blanket too.

On my trip I had wondered why some people were carrying huge double inflatable airbeds across the grass to their tent. After one night on a camp bed I knew why, as they are not very comfy. Look for styles that are wider and don’t have a supporting bar going across the middle, or just go for an airbed with an electric pump. You can get portable battery packs, and a solar power bank is a game changer.

When camping in the UK, not only is there always a chance of rainy days, but you probably want to pack for all weathers which means waterproofs, a warm hoodie, woolly hat and gloves as don’t take up a lot of space, walking boots or wellies, sunglasses, and shorts. Don’t take anything that you care about, like smart clothes, jewellery, hair drier, or hair straighteners. You just risk them getting damaged or lost.

cooking on camping stove

Cooking equipment, food and other camping equipment

  • Picnic table
  • Camping chairs
  • Dry food for snacking
  • Camp stove and/or BBQ and fuel
  • Lighter or matches
  • Pots and pans
  • Cooking utensils
  • Cups, plates, bowls and cutlery
  • Chopping board
  • Can Opener
  • Cool box for fridge items
  • Bin bags for rubbish
  • Bottled water
  • Tea Towel and oven gloves
  • Washing up Bowl
  • Washing up liquid and sponge
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Torch
  • Toiletries including toothbrush, toothpaste, washing items
  • Toilet paper
  • Clothes pegs
  • Washing Line
  • Board games
  • Insect repellent
  • Solar panel USB charger
  • Music and entertainment
  • Wheel barrows

Due to limited cool box space, you should keep things simple and avoid too many perishable items. Rather than filling it with booze, fill up a bucket with cold water and use that instead. A top tip is to freeze a single pint of milk the plastic packaging (any more won’t defrost for the morning cereal) which works as an ice-block. This leaves more room for spread and any meat, cheese, ham, or fruit and vegetables you want to bring.

You will need bowls, plates, cups and cutlery to eat with, but meal choices depend on your kitchen equipment. You will need matches or a lighter for the Camping stove can be used to boil and fry, but can take a while to heat up. Cereal or eggs and bacon for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch are quick wins.

A flamed-grilled BBQ is straightforward for the evening meal but using a small pan makes cooking dinner difficult if anything more complex than sausages and beans. You might want a windbreak to stop the wind blowing out the flames. And of course, make sure you have some marshmallows for the fire pit.

bbq fire

Campfire safety tips

You should be aware of fire safety before you go. Most campsites provide clear fire pit areas, but always be wary of kids near the camp fire, and not have it close to dry grass to be safe. On average 26500 fires per year are started in England alone on grass or heathland, so you should only have open fires in safe, designated areas.

Where possible:

  • Keep a bucket of water nearby
  • Stay far away from tents and long grass
  • After use use water to cool down hot embers
  • Don’t store gas cylinders in direct sunlight