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.
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.
Your Complete Family Camping Checklist
Sleep and Shelter
- Tent with stakes
- Ground sheet
- Tarp or canopy
- Sleeping bags
- Pillows and pillowcases
- Extra blankets
- Sleeping pad or air mattress
- Small broom and dustpan
- Camp chairs
- Sun shelter or bug shelter
- Battery-powered lantern
- Extension cords (for sites with electricity)
- Insect repellers
- Plan for firewood
- Camp stove and fuel
- Charcoal for public grills
- Lighter and/or matches
- Camping cookware (pots, frying pan)
- Pot holder
- Kettle and/or coffee maker
- Can opener
- Corkscrew and bottle opener
- Knife and cutting board
- Cooking utensils (spatula, wooden spoon, tongs)
- Mixing bowl
- Roasting forks
- Grill brush
- Camping dishes and utensils
- Tub for washing dishes
- Biodegradable dish soap
- Dishcloth and towels, pot scrubbers
- Water jug, filter/treatment and water
- Water bottles
- Food, drinks, condiments, spices, salt and pepper
- Cooking oil
- Cooler with ice
- Aluminum foil and sandwich bags
- Food storage containers
- Garbage bags and recycling bags
- Paper towels
- Underwear, socks and bras
- Day clothes (tops, shorts, long pants)
- Warm layers (mittens, hats)
- Rain gear (umbrellas, waterproof jackets)
- Sandals (for beach and communal showers)
- Hiking shoes
- Two bathing suits per person (one wet, one dry)
- Laundry bag
Personal Care and First Aid
- Towels and/or beach towels
- Toothpaste and toothbrushes
- Toiletries (shampoo, skin care, soap)
- Hairbrush and comb
- Small mirror
- Extra set of contacts or glasses
- Feminine products
- Antibacterial wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- Sunburn remedy
- Insect-bite treatment
- First-aid kit
- Personal prescriptions
- EpiPen or inhaler
- Pain medication
- Toilet paper
- Multi-tool (e.g. Swiss Army knife)
- Flashlights and/or headlamps
- Extra batteries
- Air pump
- Patch kit or duct tape
- Axe or hatchet
- Bungee cords
- Water toys and sand toys
- Personal flotation devices (PFDs)
- Beach blanket and umbrella
- Bluetooth speaker
- Cards and games
- Bikes and helmets
- Pet gear (food, leash, poop bags, PFD)
- Power bank
Passes and Permits
- Campsite confirmation
- Park pass
- Boating license
- Fishing permit
- ID and health cards
- Cash and credit cards
- Pet vaccination/health records
Extras for Infants
- Two baby blankets
- Travel crib or other safe-sleep area
- Stroller or infant carrier
- Portable bath and lotion
- Portable high chair
- Baby food
- Breast pump
- Diapers, rash cream and wipes
- Sealed container for dirty diapers
- Infant-safe sunscreen
- A few favourite toys
Extras for Kids Ages 1 to 4
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.
- Tarps: No matter how you set up your sleeping arrangements, make sure you have an extra tarp on hand. It’s 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 in the heat of the afternoon.
- 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.
- 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.
Outdoor Clothing Picks
- Storage: Be sure to separate your campsite into three separate zones: camp kitchen, sleep and storage. Wildlife are attracted to the smell of food, of course, but the scent of garbage, dishes and toiletries may also cause them 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.
- Food: Pre-plan each meal and snack ahead of time and pack more food than you need because you may not be able to 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: Tidy after every meal to keep the campsite safe from animal visitors. 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. 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.
Cooking and Eating Must-Haves
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- 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.
Essential Tool Selects
- Soaps and cleansers: An important part of camping in Canada’s lush outdoor spaces is preserving them for other people and animals. To protect the environment, minimize your use of soaps and cleansers—even biodegradable formulas—and keep them away from natural water sources. 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.
- Bug spray and sunscreen: For a pleasurable and safe camping trip, bug spray and sunscreen are necessities. Just 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.
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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
- Healthline. Why Spending Just Two Hours a Week in Nature Is Good for You.
- Switch Back Travel. Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings Explained.
- Hack Your Pack. Why Hikers Say, “Cotton Kills.”
- Parks Canada. Respecting Wildlife Is Everyone’s Responsibility.
- Ontario Parks. Considerate Camper: Washing Dishes.
- Ontario Parks. What to Do When Showers Are Closed.
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