So you’ve decided to sleep in a tent with your kids (you must be crazy!), but what should be on your family camping checklist? Here are 18 gear essentials we recommend for every trip.
Spacious tent (with porch)
This is an obvious one, but also the most important. You don’t need to go overly expensive with the brand or model of tent, but make sure it’s plenty big enough. A two-man tent is really only big enough for two adults to just about cram themselves into, so go more spacious. As an example, when I camp with just me and my three-year-old son, we use the Robens Fairbanks 4-man Tipi. It’s got loads of room for our airbeds and gear, plus a decent-sized little porch for things like muddy shoes.
If you think putting up a tent with kids charging around you isn’t stressful enough, try doing it on rock-hard ground that you can’t stamp a peg into. I recently bought a cheapo mallet from Go Outdoors and it does a great job.
Comfy air bed
If you’re on a campsite with your car nearby, don’t bother trying to save space and weight with your air bed. Lightweight backpacking mats are great for lightweight backpacking trips, but they don’t help you get a good night sleep. We’ve used the Coleman Comfort Double for the past two summers and no complaints so far. Plus, if you have really young kids check out inflatable Readybeds. Perfect for mini campers.
Warm sleeping bags
Don’t let warm summer days fool you, because it almost always gets cold at night if you’re camping in the UK. On our first couple of trips we used double duvets for pure ease, and although they’re comfortable they do nothing to keep you warm once the temperature properly plummets. Loads of brands do good family sleeping bags, but we’re really happy with our double and junior bags from Outwell.
Whether you go with a charcoal BBQ or a gas grill, it isn’t a proper camping trip without a BBQ meal. We love our Primus Kuchoma gas grill. It’s compact, easy to transport, easy to use, easy to clean, and does the all-important job of cooking things well! It’s not the cheapest option though, so do plenty of shopping around to find what works for you.
Matches and firelighters
Because you’ll struggle to get your BBQ or campfire going without them!
Because your kids will start asking to roast some on the fire the second you light it!
Otherwise you’ll all end up with wet backsides once the grass gets wet. Look for something that packs down small so it’s easy to fit in your boot, and a drinks holder is always a bonus to stop spillages on the uneven ground. We recently got our hands on the ENO Lounger SL, and it’s already a massive hit with the adults and kids in our house.
Night lights are essential once the sun goes down, and make sure you pack more than one, or at the very least take spare batteries. Add something like a Nite Ize GearLine Organisation System to your camping kit, so you can suspend them to provide torches both inside and outside the tent.
Because torches and phones always run out of juice! Powerpacks come in a massive range of prices. We’ve always used cheapo options, which have been fine for a single night or a one-off phone charge, but it’s worth spending a bit more if you’ve got a big family or are staying out for multiple nights.
First aid kit
Because someone’s always likely to get a bump or scrape if you’re spending a weekend in the great outdoors. We’ve used the LittleLife Family First Aid Kit for the past few years, which is packed with useful essentials you may never think of. Just replenish what you use after every trip, and you’re sorted for life!
Hardly an essential, but a great thing to entertain kids (and adults). There are some fantastic lightweight and portable hammocks available at great prices. We’ve used the Grand Trunk Double Parachute and the Eno Doublenest, and both are fantastic.
Take lots. Because just when you think you’ve fed your kids enough, they’ll want more. My 3-year-old was still asking for food at almost 10pm while half-snoozing in his tent at almost 10pm last weekend!
No need to overcomplicate this, just think of things that will entertain your kids. Footballs, table tennis, badminton, water guns, catapults, binoculars, magnifying glasses – just anything you can fit in your car boot that will help pass the hours and stop your little campers from getting bored.
Even if your kids don’t have a bath or shower on your camping trip, trust me they’ll find a way to get wet. Ours were swimming in a lake at almost 9pm on one of our summer trips this year. And that was in Peterborough – not the south of France!
Waterproofs and umbrellas
Because it just isn’t worth getting your clothes soaked when a classic British downpour arrives. No need to get anything too expensive here, just anything that keeps the rain off.
We always tend to come home with the clothes we left home in (because we’re dirty smelly lads) but we always take plenty of layers to chuck on in the evenings, and particularly the chilly mornings before the sun reaches us. My lad Sonny is an ambassador for kids’ outdoor brand Isbjorn of Sweden, and their gear does an awesome job of keeping him warm when we’re camping. We’re particularly massive fans of the Wooly Hoodie and Frost Jacket, perfect to chuck on when the temperature drops.
No point fighting tecnhology. If your kids like using a tablet at home, they won’t complain about using one while you’re away. I’ve found it’s a great way to distract kids while you’re doing important jobs like putting up tents and packing gear away before you leave, when it’s just easier if they’re out of the way!