Family Camping Tips and a Printable Checklist

Hi Friends! I can’t believe that in four short days my kids will be back at school! We had one last summer get-away this past weekend to a campground right next to the American River with three other families. We had a great time tubing, relaxing and white water rafting on the river. My kids were so excited to go camping that they barely slept the night before and shot out of bed the morning we were leaving. They compared their excitement level to Christmas morning (which would be about a 10 on the excitement scale). Going on a family camping trip definitely includes quite a bit of preparation, supplies and laundry once you get back home, but the memories make it all worth it!  I thought I would share a few camping tips that we have picked up through the years and the Camping Checklist that my husband and I compiled when we first started camping. We refer to the checklist before every camping trip in order to feel secure that we aren’t leaving anything important at home.

Camping Tips

You will find that I included some of the items below on the Camping Checklist and not others. The reason I left some of the items off the list is that you don’t need them to have a successful trip, we just find that they make camping a little easier for our family.

Pop-Up Trash Can

Pop-Up Trash Can

For years, we tied a trash bag to a tree, but it was difficult to fit larger items into the cinched mouth of the bag, animals could easily scale the tree to get inside and little ones had a hard time reaching the top of the bag to throw things away. This handy trash can is one of my favorite camping supplies. It has a zipper lid to keep animals out, fits a standard trash bag, and is easily accessible for everyone on the campsite.

Foil Pans

Foil pans are a new addition to our Camping Checklist after one of the families we camped with brought a package of about a dozen on this last trip. It was great to have disposable containers that we could place sausages and hamburgers in as they came off the grill or use to serve watermelon that we cut up for dinner.

Floor Mat

I am a stickler for keeping the inside of our tent as clean as possible. My kids aren’t allowed to play in the tent during the day, we usually take showers at night so that we can keep our sleeping bags from getting too dirty, and we take our shoes off before we enter the tent. A floor mat outside the tent is a handy area to take off/put on shoes to keep dirt out of the tent. I also keep a small brush and dustpan by the door to sweep any stray dirt, leaves, and rocks that make their way into the tent.  Keeping our tent and sleeping bags clean help keep them in good condition so that they will last for years to come.

Plastic Shower Caddy

I pack one plastic bucket/caddy with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and quarters for the shower that everyone in the family can use. Sometimes bathrooms and showers can be quite a trek from your campsite and having everything in one easy-to-carry caddy is easier than trying to juggle all your bathroom supplies. I like that it also keeps everything off the floor of the shower and is easy to rinse off if it gets dirty.

Bungee Cords

Bungee Cords can come in handy if you run out of room inside your vehicle and need to load supplies onto your vehicle’s roof. They also work well as a makeshift paper towel holder or clothesline for wet towels and swimsuits. My friend, Erica, came up with the brilliant plan of attaching our paper towels to the shade structure in the eating area so that we could always find a paper towel when we needed one.

Garbage Bags

You can not pack enough large trash bags. Other than the obvious purpose of collecting trash, we use these as bags for dirty clothes, to transport wet towels and swimsuits back home and a place to throw all our dirty shoes at the end of the trip.

Dishwashing Station

We always bring a small table, sponge, dish soap, dish towels and two dishwashing pans with us for washing and rinsing pots and pans. During dinner we put a large pot of water in the camp stove to heat up while we are eating. Once dinner is over we distribute the water between the two dishpans. The first dishpan is for washing and the second is to rise off the the dish soap. Washing and rinsing with the hot water keeps everything disinfected versus using the cold water that comes out of the campsite spigot to wash dishes. During the day, dirty dishes can collect in the first pan until it is time to wash dishes after dinner.

Permanent Pen

We keep a Sharpee permanent pen with our cooking supplies to label sandwich bags, disposable cups and water bottles with each camper’s name. It avoids having a collection of half empty water bottles lying around the campsite with no obvious owner (does anyone else have that happen?).

Our (printable) Camping Checklist

Click HERE to print

We like to print this Camping Checklist the week before a camping trip as we start to gather and shop for supplies. As we load the car, we go over he checklist once more to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. I put an asterisk by certain items on the list because we usually camp with other families and there isn’t a need for everyone to bring duplicate camping supplies. When we camp with other families I create a SignUpGenius that includes the items with asterisks, meals for families to be responsible for preparing, and food items that can be easily shared such as…

  • marshmallows
  • chocolate bars
  • graham crackers
  • hot chocolate
  • coffee
  • creamer
  • cereal
  • chips

Each family signs up to cook at least one meal and brings a handful of items that they can share with the group. It seems silly for everyone to bring a camp stove when you really just need one at the campsite. We usually only include breakfasts and dinners on the SignUpGenius. Families are responsible for making their own lunches. We signed up to make dinner on the first night for everyone. We grilled chicken apple sausage, heated up a batch of rodeo beans we had prepared the weekend before and froze for the trip, a salad and watermelon wedges. Keep an eye out for our recipe for rodeo beans on an upcoming blog post.

Do you have any camping tips that make your trips easier? Leave a reply at the end of this post. I would love to read about what your family does and use your tips on our next camping trip.

Happy Camping Friends!

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  1. Alicia

    August 14, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I loved this post. I have used this list every year for camping to check my bins to make sure I have everything I need. I saw some other tips.. take an old belt to wrap around a tree, get S clips to hang from holes in belt and you can hang your cooking utensils. Also, a few months before you leave take the lint from dryer and stuff in toilet paper roll ( the roll at the end). You can use that as a fire starter for the pit.

    1. Parker

      August 14, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      I love your tips! Thanks you so much for sharing. What a fantastic way to recycle toilet paper tubes and dryer lint.

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