Family camping in the backyard.

Want to do one good thing for your mind and body? Get outside. Not only does time spent in nature allow for fun activities like biking, hiking and canoeing, but it can also boost mood and self-esteem while lowering stress—for kids and adults alike.[1]

If you want to spend more time surrounded by lakes and trees this summer, there’s no better way to make precious memories than a family camping trip to a national or provincial park. To keep the planning process as stress-free as possible, follow our family camping checklist that includes everything you’ll need for a safe, comfortable and fun camping trip (of the car-camping variety).

You can also download a comprehensive camping supplies list to check off as you shop and pack.

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Sleeping and Shelter Essentials


Campsite Essentials

Camp Kitchen Essentials


Clothing Essentials

Personal Care and First Aid Essentials

Tool Kit Essentials

Nice-to-have Items

Infant Essentials

Kid Essentials

Passes and Permits

  • Maps
  • Campsite confirmation
  • Park pass
  • Boating license
  • Fishing permit
  • ID and health cards
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Pet vaccination/health records
  • Passport

Camping Gear Tips for Families

Read on for expert tips to keep everyone safe and comfortable on your camping adventure

Sleep and Shelter

  • Tent(s): Whether you have a young baby with lots of gear or older children who like their independence, opt for more sleeping space rather than less. This tactic could involve packing a 10-person tent for only five people or pitching one tent for adults and one for kids.
  • Sleeping bags: Sleeping bags are rated by the temperature for which they’re recommended and are sold according to season (summer, three-season or winter). It’s best to choose a sleeping bag that promises to keep you warm in the coldest temperatures you might camp in—or even a few degrees colder. Keep in mind: These ratings assume you’ll be sleeping in long underwear and on a sleeping mat or air mattress.[2]
  • Tarps: Tarps are a versatile piece of camping equipment that you can lay on damp ground to keep a tent or picnic blanket dry. You can also hang a tarp over your tent or picnic table to divert rain or even string it up between trees to create a shady oasis.


  • Waterproof gear: Be prepared for any type of weather by packing lightweight layers and a waterproof shell or jacket for every member of the camping trip—even babies. Stick with wool or synthetics and avoid cotton in colder temperatures, as it tends to hold onto moisture from sweat, rain and humidity.[3]
  • Sleepwear: Also remember to pack extra layers for bedtime, including warm socks, hats and mittens or gloves, especially when camping early or late in the season. Extra sleepwear will also come in handy in case of accidents. If any little ones aren’t fully toilet trained, be sure to pack night diapers.

Camp Kitchen

  • Storage: Separate your campsite into three separate zones: camp kitchen, sleep and storage. The scent of food, garbage, dishes and toiletries may cause wildlife to wander over to your campsite. To keep your family safe—and prevent animal break-ins—store your food and other scented items in a designated storage locker or inside your vehicle.[4]
  • Food: Pre-plan each meal and snack ahead of time and pack more food than you need in case you can’t run to the store. Pack easy-to-eat items like pre-washed and cut fruit and veggies, canned goods, granola bars, crackers and jerky. Don’t forget essentials like salt, pepper, spices and oil.
  • Cooler: When buying a cooler, check how long it keeps things fresh and that it’s easily transportable. Some models will keep food cold for three days, which is convenient for weekend trips. Depending on the size of your family, you may need more than one cooler to store everything properly.
  • Meal clean-up: It’s neither safe nor considerate to wash dishes in the bathrooms and showers or at the water tap because dishwater contains food particles that can attract animals.[5] After scraping food off your dishes and into a garbage bag, fill a large, handled container as your “sink,” boil water and add biodegradable soap. Be sure to dispose of the dirty suds away from your site and according to park rules.
  • Bug shelter: If you are particularly bothered by bugs, you can purchase a screened dining tent and place the picnic table inside.

Tool Kit

  • Multi-tool: A Swiss Army knife or pocket multi-tool device is a camper’s best friend—especially the scissors add-on that can be used to cut rope and open food packages (like freezies!).
  • Mallet: A hammer has a smaller head, which can lead to bent tent spikes, so you’ll want to bring a mallet instead.
  • Air pump: Trust us, you don’t want to be stuck blowing up a unicorn floatie for two. You just need to decide if you want to go for an electric pump that connects to your car’s lighter (to save your energy) or a manual pump that the kids can stomp on during set-up.
  • Patch kit: It’s a smart idea to bring a patch kit for minor holes or tears in your tent, air mattress or water toys.

Personal Care

  • Soaps and cleansers: Minimizing your use of soaps and cleansers—even biodegradable formulas—and keeping them away from natural water sources will help protect the environment. Biodegradable products break down in soil, but they can still harm algae and aquatic plants, so don’t wash dishes in a lake or waterway and keep shampoos and body washes out of the water, too.[6]
  • Bug spray and sunscreen: For a pleasurable and safe camping trip, bug spray and sunscreen are necessities. Dispose of all washing up water safely according to park rules, which often means either dumping dirty water at the trailer sanitation station or pouring it down a toilet.
  • Wipes and washcloths: You may want to bring biodegradable wipes or washcloths (that you dampen with water only) for wiping down sticky kids.

For information about booking a campsite, local fire rules and safety info, visit your province’s parks website or plan your visit to a national park with Parks Canada.

Print this Family Camping Checklist

It will help you keep track of everything you need to stay organized whether you’re shopping or packing

Family camping checklist

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