Everyone! Welcome! Today I am writing about my life, specifically that I am packing to take my kids camping in Oregon.
I’m not going to lie, I generally struggle to get started with the shopping and the packing for camping trips with the kids because there is just a lot of stuff to organize and put together and get into the car.
Not only that, but I have anxiety about forgetting something that I might need. Sometimes that anxiety is so strong that it almost prevents me from getting out the door with the kids.
I’m working on getting over that, because I don’t want to sit at home because of fear. So in today’s post, I’m going to work through that fear and talk about what it is that I like to take with me camping, in the hopes that if you are reading this, you will get some ideas about what you need to go camping with kids, and what is okay to leave at home.
Making a list is the place to start getting organized to take kids camping
In general, to get ready to go packing, I tried to divide up the supplies into a couple different categories. I divided them up into clothing, kitchen, bedding, food, and other.
I actually put together a google spreadsheet, with each of these columns, so that I can come back to this spreadsheet in the future, to add or delete things. It makes it much easier for me to pack, because I know that if I follow my spreadsheet, I’ll get most of the things that I need.
Packing clothing for camping with kids
Under clothing, I pack all the things that I think that I or the kids will need to wear. I will pack shirts, shorts, pants, socks, sandals, shoes, boots if we expect the weather to be bad, jackets, hats, oh, and swimsuits. Maybe swimming shoes if there is a place to swim or wade.
For Mom, I pack just about the same.
It is easy to overpack in this category, and I give myself free rein to pack too much clothing. I know that the kids will probably wear the same shorts for four days, but it gives me some peace of mind knowing that if I need the clothes, I will have them.
Packing for sleeping in the outdoors with kids needs extra time an attention, because they struggle to get to sleep while it is still light out
Under bedding, I sit down and think of all the things that I will need to put the kids to bed at night, especially when they are over tired or it isn’t dark yet.
I will need the tent, sleeping bags, pillows, if you use a ground softener such as air mattresses or a rug or extra blankets, whatever it is that you use to make it to sleeping comfortable.
I also include in this section all the things that I need to be able to put the kids to bed with, including bedtime books, stuffies, favorite blankets, sleeping clothes, flashlights, noise machines if you need them, glow sticks, and anything else. Funny, as I was dictating this, I just realized that flashlights or not on my master camping list. Whoops.
The kitchen box is the next big important packing chore
Next is the kitchen box. Because I don’t always unpack this box, this isn’t necessarily too terrible to get ready. In general, I leave most of the supplies in the kitchen box from year to year but I make sure to review it at the beginning of every trip to make sure that I have everything I need.
In this category, I include the camping stove, any tables that I might want to take, propane if I need it, plates, bowls, spoons and forks, eating knives and knives for cooking, cooking utensils such as spatula and soup spoon, paper cups for coffee and hot chocolate, grown-ups mugs for coffee, water bottles for the kids, paper towels, dish soap, plastic reusable containers for leftovers, Ziploc bags, so, garbage bags, can opener, sponges, a wash basin, cooking pans, and whatever else I might want to throw in from the kitchen.
I suppose I also have a bathroom list, although that gets combined into the kitchen list a lot. This includes sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner, washing up soap, mosquito repellent, toothpaste and toothbrushes, Tylenol for the kids, first aid kits, tweezers, and baby wipes.
Planning out camping food with kids
Next I do the food. First I try to make sure I have some of the general necessities of cooking from the kitchen, such as oil, salt and pepper.
Then I make a grocery list of items that I think would be easy to make for the kids while camping. I know some families love to do really extravagant meals but when it is just one adult with a ton of young kids who are not very helpful, I’m going to be focusing mostly on foods that I can throw at them without having to do much preparation.
This means that I will avoid buying and packing raw meat, especially since ice may not always be available. If I have time, I might cook up some in advance, such as chicken legs/wings. But meat tends to draw flies and yellow jackets, so that really isn’t high on my priority list.
I will definitely have cold cereal, oatmeal, snacks such as chips, crackers, dried food, jerky, juice boxes, bread, bagels, peanut butter and jelly, bottled water, pancake mix and syrup, dried noodles and spaghetti sauce, s’mores fixings, ground coffee, hot dogs and hot dog buns, ketchup and mustard, cream cheese, hummus, tortillas, lunch meat, regular cheese for sandwiches, apples, bananas, carrots, green peas or other vegetables such as cucumbers. Stuff that I can just cut up and put on a plate.
I have to be careful about feeding the kids too much processed food in the form of snacks, because then they won’t poop. Dehydration is also a danger because their schedules are all messed up and the way they normally eat & drink isn’t going to happen. I don’t normally give my kids juice, but I relax this rule a bit while camping to make sure they stay hydrated and so that they can poop easily.
If you are really roughing it (like there are no toilets), then they won’t enjoy having to squat and strain over a hole for a long time if they are constipated. If there are pit toilets, who wants to sit in there longer than you have to in order to get your work done?
When I am at the store today or tomorrow, I will probably think of a few extra things to grab. But in general, for breakfast I can make pancakes or feed them hot or cold cereal, oh yeah, I need to remember to bring milk.
And then for lunch they can have sandwiches and fresh fruit and vegetables, and then they can just have snacks whenever they feel like. Then for dinner we can do spaghetti, hot dogs….. oh heck I’m going to have to figure out some other dinner type meals.
Burritos might be easy, or perhaps I could grill some corn and some other vegetables on the fire, maybe some potatoes wrapped in foil, oh yeah, add foil to the grocery list, huh.
If you have some ideas about really easy recipes for camping dinners, would you do me the favor of leaving those in the comments? I’m kind of struggling to think of what to make for dinner when it’s just me with a bunch of little kids who hate everything complicated.
I think I will also try freezing some items before putting them into the cooler, to see if I can stretch out my ice a bit (like hot dogs, cooked meats). I have frozen some of our water jugs in the past (leaving room in the top of course so that nothing explodes) and this has helped the cooloer ice last quite a bit longer (and kept everything from getting so water logged with the melted ice.
When I bring raw eggs (which I do occasionally), I’ll pack those in a rubbermaid container, or I will crack the eggs ahead of time and put them in a jar with a lid, so all I have to do is shake them up a little bit to make scrambled eggs, or the egg wash for french toast, etc. I just don’t like putting them into the cooler in the paper carton, because that ends up getting waterlogged and the eggs end up broken and gross.
Finally, all the extra odds and ends that bring the camping trip with kids together
Next, I have my extra category and that encompasses just about everything else that I need. On my list right now I have the BOB stroller, life jackets, towels, rope for a clothesline, the cooler, matches and fire starting materials, wood, my phone charger adapter, books for the kids and me to read, bikes and bike helmets, shovel for pooping in the woods or putting out fires, a bucket, candles and batteries.
In the past, I have brought a lot of toys, but I have found that the kids just don’t play with them. They end up spending more time running around, riding their bikes, and playing in the dirt. I think this trip I am going to leave the toys at home, and see if they miss them. The one place I might pack toys is for the beach, because everyone loves shoveling and making sand castles.
If you are camping with another family (or multiple families) I do think it is worthwhile to collaborate on the lists so that everyone doesn’t have to bring everything. Do we really need extra shovels, axes, tarps, utensils, hot dogs, etc?
If you are going to be eating together anyway, why not share the load (and the expenses) when you were going to buy the same amount anyway? I can’t count the number of times I have hauled home just as much food as I brought with me, having no idea what the kids ate the entire time we were there.
Prepping for camping with kids wrap up
You know, what I have listed out here probably isn’t everything but other people might bring, and there are some things that I might miss if I don’t include them. But if I get everything that is on my list, at the very minimum we should have enough stuff to have a good time. And if all else fails, I suppose I could pack up the kids and we could drive into town. As it is, I’m sure we will have to make a trip once or twice over a five-day stretch for ice.
What else would you bring on a camping trip, what else call a camping essential when you are camping with children? What is the one thing with kids that you would not leave home without? Let me know what you have on your list that I am missing, so I can make sure to added to mine in the future.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.