If you want your little ones to fall in love with the great outdoors, taking them camping is a fantastic place to start. Camping with kids can help children discover more of the amazing world around them, from the wonderful wildlife to the sights and sounds of nature. It’s an immersive experience that gives the whole family a chance to get active, have fun, and most importantly, create memories to last a lifetime.
And the good news is that camping with kids doesn’t have to be a challenging experience as some seem to think! With the right preparation and gear, you can pull off a smooth family camping trip of any size. To help you plan and prepare for your trip, we’ve put together a handy guide containing what you need to know when camping with kids, including a printable camping family checklist which you can use when preparing your adventure.
Read on to find out more about the following:
- Where and how to camp with kids
- What to take when camping with kids
- Camping gear
- Clothing, footwear and accessories for camping
- Other camping essentials for the family
- Camping activities for kids
- Camping hacks with kids
The first thing you’ll want to do when preparing for going camping with kids is finding the perfect site to pitch up in. For less experienced family campers, it’s a good idea to opt for a campsite specifically geared towards families. These campsites are more likely to have all the facilities you need and should have the relevant safety precautions in place — although you should always set strict safety rules for your children no matter where you set up camp. Choosing a family friendly campsite can make camping for kids even more fun too, as it gives your little ones the opportunity to make friends with other children on their holiday.
You should also think about the activities you and your family are planning to enjoy while camping. If you’re keen swimmers then you’ll no doubt want to be close to a sea, lake, or clean body of water to enjoy a dip, while bike riding families will benefit from choosing a site with plenty of well connected and safe cycling paths nearby.
It isn’t important to just find the right site: you should also put thought into where you decide to pitch your tents. If your little ones are light sleepers, it’s especially important to pitch up somewhere far away from noise to make camping for kids as comfortable as possible. Keep far away from road noise and try to choose neighbours who seem the quietest when you’re scouting for a place to put up your tent.
On the other hand, if you’re a family of sound sleepers, you will likely benefit from pitching up camp nearby the sites facilities. Being close to the toilets can be handy for particularly young children. And if you’re camping somewhere with a children’s play area, pitching up nearby allows you to keep an eye on your kids from the comfort of your own camping chair.
And of course, don’t forget to check the weather forecast before setting up camp. The British weather can be difficult to anticipate, so always check on the day you’re setting up to get the most accurate prediction. If it’s set to be a scorcher you’ll want to try to pitch up under plenty of shade, as tents can get hot in the sun. For wet weather, try to place your tents on higher ground to reduce the risk of flooding. And if it’s set to be a particularly windy period, set up camp with your door facing away from the wind to prevent it from flapping throughout the night and make sure you peg out and tension all the guy lines
As well as choosing a spot, it’s important to consider where you’re going to sleep when taking the kids camping. Here are the most popular types of camping, and the pros and cons of doing them with your children.
This is by far the most popular method of camping and it’s easy to see why. It’s affordable so anyone can enjoy it, it fully immerses you in the great outdoors, and it’s a fantastic way to teach little ones more about the world around them. It can come with a few challenges, such as the struggle of pitching a tent while contending with a restless rabble of children who are eager to explore, but the positives far outweigh these making it a fantastic way to appreciate the great outdoors for the whole family.
If you’re looking to enjoy an outdoorsy holiday with some home comforts, this may be the option for you. When camping in a campervan there’s very little to set up beforehand, plus many come with kitchens and bathrooms so you don’t have to worry about being near the facilities. They’re also good for rainy weather days as you can keep the children dry and entertained inside the mini home on wheels. However, campervans are a large expense and they tend to be charged more than tents at campsites too, so this isn’t the best choice for families on a budget.
While searching for campsites you may have spotted some which offer “glamping” experiences. Glamping, or glamorous camping, is a more luxurious form of camping. With this you are provided with more than just the basic facilities. You’ll often be placed in a spacious tent or hunt, like a yurt or a safari tent, and will usually be given a bed, some type of cooking equipment, and usually a form of heating too. It’s safe to say that this is one of the most comfortable camping experiences. But just like campervans, glamping is not a particularly affordable option. In fact, a glamping holiday can sometimes cost just as much as a stay in a decent hotel! Plus pitching up in a regular tent will make you feel much more outdoorsy, which is important for parents who want to help their children immerse themselves in nature.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect place to take the kids camping, it’s time to think about what to pack for your outdoor adventure. When crafting your camping list for camping with kids, it’s important to make sure that you don’t scrimp on any essentials, as you want to make it as comfortable as possible for the whole family. But this doesn’t mean you have to pack everything and the kitchen sink. As long as you have the following camping essentials for the family, you should be able to enjoy a comfortable and pleasant camping trip. And remember to also check out our printable camping family checklist PDF to help you when packing your bags. You can even take it with you and make sure you bring everything home safe and sound too!
Getting all the right camping gear will no doubt be your main priority when taking the kids camping. As well as making your trip much more comfortable, bringing the right camping gear can make the experience much more enjoyable overall.
The top of your list will of course be a tent or two. When it comes to finding the right size, it’s always best to opt for a tent which caters to at least two more than the amount of people who will actually be sleeping in there. For example, a family of four will be best suited to a six-person tent. This extra space is important for all campers, but especially for families as kids always seem to fill up as much space as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got all the right kit in your tent bag, including tent pegs, a mallet, and all the right poles — you don’t want to realise after a long drive to the campsite that you don’t have the equipment to put it up! It’s a good idea to bring extras of the small parts of the tent, such as tent pegs, as these can easily become damaged or go missing.
One of the most important things to consider when camping with kids is how you can help them get a decent night’s sleep. The good news is that as long as you’ve got the right gear, you can make your tent comfortable enough to get some good shut eye in. Opt for top quality sleeping bags and camping pillows for the family, and invest in sleeping liners too if the weather is set to be chilly on your trip for extra insulation. Camping mats can also help your little ones stay warm by keeping them off the cold ground, plus it’ll give them padding to make their sleep more comfortable too.
Other essential family camping gear to pack includes:
- Camping chairs
- A foldable camping table
- Camping stove and cooking utensils
- A picnic basket with enough plates, bowls, mugs, and cutlery for the whole family
- A washing up bowl with washing up liquid, dish cloths, and tea towels
- Head torches and lanterns
The clothing you’ll take for your camping adventure depends largely on the weather during the time you’re there. For hot weather, you’ll want to fill your backpack with the following clothing, footwear, and accessories for the whole family:
- Trousers and shorts
- A light jacket
- Comfortable walking sandals
- Comfortable and durable trainers
- A sun hat or a cap
- Socks and pants
If you’re having a cold weather camping trip, you’ll want clothing and footwear for your little one which will keep the heat in as much as possible. The following are the best camping clothes for kids to pack for chilly, rainy weather:
- Long sleeved tops
- A reliable and comfortable winter jacket
- Fleece tops and trousers
- Sweatshirts and hoodies
- A waterproof all in one
- Walking boots
- A neck warmer
- A winter hat
- Pants and thermal socks
When it comes to changeable weather, as we often experience in this country, you’ll want a good mixture of the above to make sure you’ve covered all bases — even in summer. It’s a good idea to pack layers which are easy to take on and off if there’s set to be a few changeable days in the forecast. And of course, no matter the season, packing some form of waterproofs is always a good idea! Opt for lighter waterproof jackets for the warmer seasons, and a cosy down jacket for winter.
You’ll also want to make sure that your little one has the right clothing to keep them comfortable at night. Even in the summertime it can be chilly outside overnight, so make sure to pack thermals for them to sleep in, for their body and their feet. And just like with changeable weather, layers can come in handy for when the tent starts to heat up as the sun rises.
Your child may also need extra clothing depending on what your activities are. For example, if you’re planning on doing a lot of cycling, bike gear like cycling jerseys, gloves, and sunglasses will be valuable, and for climbing it’s important that your child has the appropriate climbing shoes and harnesses.
When it comes to clothing and footwear to avoid, try to steer clear of white clothing to avoid bad stains. It’s also best to skip any designer clothing and accessories to keep them clean and in good condition. Instead, choose pieces which are designed for the outdoors so your little one can fully embrace nature without having to worry about getting dirty. And if their clothes do end up needing a wash on the trip, you can simply bring a collapsible washing up bowl and clean them with some travel wash.
One of the most important things to do on a family camping trip is to keep your little ones as entertained as possible. Not only will this make camping for kids a fun experience and encourage them to really make the most of their getaway, but it’ll make the trip much easier for the adults too! The good news is that there are so many activities for your little one to enjoy in the great outdoors, from climbing to cycling, so keeping them entertained should be easy if you bring the right gear for these activities.
However, with the British weather, it’s also a good idea to prepare kids’ camping entertainment for rainy days too. Books, paper and crayons, and games like Jenga or snakes and ladders are a great way for little ones to pass the time. A deck of cards is also a must on any camping trip. There are so many games to choose from and the grown ups can join in too. You can also take a couple of toys to keep them entertained, but avoid packing their absolute favourites in case they become damaged or go missing.
While camping gear, clothes, and entertainment are the bulk of what you need to pack when camping with kids, the following camping essentials for the family can’t go amiss:
- A fully stocked first aid kit
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Sun cream and after sun lotion
- Bug spray
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
- Ear plugs and eye masks
- Washing line and travel wash
- Extra batteries
- Portable charger
- Safety pins
Now you have the essentials for your family camping checklist, it’s time to plan the activities you can enjoy once you’re there.
One of the best things about camping with kids is getting to enjoy fun activities with the whole family. There are so many ways to enjoy family bonding time on a camping trip, from exploring the great outdoors together to playing games back at the campsite. To give you some inspiration, here are some of the best family-friendly camping games and activities for kids and adults to enjoy.
This is one of the best camping activities for kids, and the whole family too. All your little ones need is a sturdy pair of walking boots or walking sandals, hiking socks, comfortable clothes, and their imagination! Your campsite will no doubt have plenty of scenic areas nearby to explore on foot, so make sure to ask the staff at the site for their recommendations.
When it comes to keeping your little ones engaged and entertained on the walk, why not create a scavenger hunt? This will really help your children learn more about nature by getting stuck in and discovering it for themselves. And to teach them more about wildlife, you can even bring a pair of binoculars and do some bird watching. Before you go, print out our handy bird watching checklist and bring it with you on your walks throughout your trip. You can even give a prize to the family member or team who spot the most birds at the end.
If you want to explore as much of the area as possible, a great way to do this is by getting around on two wheels. This is a fun way for your little ones to get active and it will help them practice their cycling proficiency too. Make sure you pack all the right cycling gear to enjoy bike rides on your camping holiday, including bikes, helmets, cycling clothes, and rucksacks to carry the essentials like water bottles, snacks, sun cream, and a bike lock.
If you’re a family of avid climbers, your camping getaway gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the activity together. Pack the kids’ climbing shoes and harnesses, and explore the great outdoors in a completely different way. And if you’re interested in getting into climbing, why not give it a go on your family camping trip? There are a number of campsites across the country which are close to climbing sites with certified climbing instructors, so you can rest assured that your little one will be safe in their hands. You may even be able to enjoy this activity on a rainy day, as there are a number of indoor climbing walls dotted across the country.
Most children love swimming, so this is a great camping activity for kids to keep them entertained on your getaway. If you’re the water, whether it’s the sea or a lake, make sure to bring all the swimming gear you need like wetsuits, swimming costumes, towels, and goggles. When swimming in the sunshine, make sure to bring all your hot weather essentials to keep your children safe. Water repellent sun hats with wide rims will keep the sun off their heads and necks to prevent them getting easily burnt. And a good pair of sunglasses is vital for keeping their eyes safe and preventing headaches too.
Looking for camping activities for kids to help your children make long lasting memories? Try setting up some fun wilderness challenges for your little ones. You can kit them out in camouflage gear and camo face paint, and give them notebooks, whistles, and torches to use for their adventures. There are a whole host of fun outdoorsy challenges you can set for them, like tug of war, a scavenger hunt, or an epic game of hide and seek. You can even create a den for them for the day with a camouflage net.
You don’t need to leave the campsite to have fun, as there are plenty of great camping games for kids to enjoy any place at any time. Both the children and adults can have fun by having races, playing stuck in the mud, doing ring toss, and playing catch. Just make sure that the family is mindful of other campers, especially in the evenings when young ones might be trying to sleep.
You could bring a few fun games with you too, like Twister, Uno, and dominos. And if you’re looking for easy sit-down camping games for kids to help them wind down in the evening, you can’t go wrong with the classics like I spy, Simon says, and camping themed charades. You could even get creative with the kids by crafting your own friendship bracelets as mementos for your camping holiday.
As well as having the essential information of knowing where to go, what to do, and having a camping checklist for the family, you’ll no doubt be looking for ways to make your family camping trip even easier. With these hacks for camping with kids, you can make your family camping getaway run as smoothly as possible:
- Have a trial run: If you’re new to camping with kids, it’s a good idea to try a trial run in the garden first. Not only will it give you practice in putting up your tent, but it’ll help your little ones get used to sleeping in the great outdoors. If your tent is second hand or you haven’t used it in a while get the hose out to check it is still waterproof.
- Designate a play area tent: Don’t want to end up kneeling on one of your kids’ toys in a dark tent? Create a designated play space for them to use and keep their toys in. As well as keeping the tent tidier for sleeping, you can also easily keep an eye on your children.
- Set up a foot washing station: Kids can get dirty with just a half hour trip to the park, let alone a whole day on the campsite, especially if they’re wearing flip flops – or no shoes at all. Keep their sleeping bags and the inside of your tent clean by setting up a foot washing station for them to use before coming inside.
- Make tent ropes (guy lines) stand out: There’s nothing worse than falling over tent ropes in the dark and waking up all the soundly sleeping kids in the tent. You could make them stand out by hanging glow sticks or lights off them or by tying neon ropes around them.
- Prep your meals: Cooking on a camping stove can be especially difficult if you have little ones to entertain. So, get your past self to make it easier for you by preparing dishes ahead of time, like soup and chilli. You can also rely more on foods which can be eaten cold, like quiche and pasta salad.
- Turn tidying into a game: Kids can be especially excitable on holiday so you may find it more difficult to motivate them to tidy up after themselves. Try encouraging them to keep their tents tidy by turning cleaning up into a game, and give them a small treat at the end.
Whether it’s your first time camping with kids or your fiftieth, your family camping holiday should be a breeze if you use our tips above. Make sure to print out our family camping checklist so you know that you have everything you need to have fun on the holiday.
If you’re looking for gear for your family camping trip, you’ll find exactly what you need here. We have a great collection of camping gear for kids, including kids’ sleeping bags and rucksacks. We also stock products for a wide range of outdoor activities, so if you’re planning on doing some climbing or cycling on your trip, we’ve got what you need right here. And make sure to keep your little ones safe in all weather, with our range of waterproofs, jackets, clothing, and accessories.
Want more tips on enjoying the great outdoors with the family? Make sure to keep up to date with our blog for advice on camping for kids, and getting active outside as a family.