A Family Outing: What to Take When Camping With a Preschooler

Camping with Kids

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As a child, I went camping with my family numerous times. We even spent an entire summer camping one year, traveling from state to state. And although for years now I’ve lived in a city or suburb, a good chunk of my childhood took place in small towns of Ontario, Canada. I used to play in the woods -sometimes with my brothers, sometimes with my friends, and sometimes by myself. That was normal, and it was amazing.

I want my son to have some of those same memories: digging in the dirt, watching bugs crawl over tree bark, a rabbit gnawing at some plants, tossing rocks in a creek…good times.

Over the last few years, Hubby and I have talked off and on about going camping at some point, but with his work schedule, our camping trip just hadn’t happened yet. This Father’s Day I bought this six-person tent for a great price, so we finally decided we were going to take the leap and go camping.

For a couple of weeks before the trip, I researched online and compiled a list of things to pack and take with us camping, especially with a kid (or kids). Listed in no particular order, we brought:

  1. 3 pillows
  2. 3 sleeping bags
  3. 2 air mattresses
  4. air pump
  5. car charger power converter (for the pump)
  6. portable chargers for our phones
  7. tent and stakes
  8. mallet
  9. tarps
  10. trash bags
  11. paper towels
  12. toilet paper
  13. hand and face sanitizing wipes
  14. dish soap
  15. hand soap
  16. toiletries
  17. bug repellant (spray and wrist bands)
  18. rainwear
  19. hats & sunglasses
  20. variety of clothes and shoes, including hoodies and pants for the evenings
  21. sunblock
  22. citronella candle
  23. propane lantern
  24. laundry detergent
  25. quarters
  26. folding event chairs
  27. utensils (including spatulas, etc.)
  28. dish towels
  29. empty Ziploc bags
  30. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper 2-4 Person Cookset (This was awesome!)
  31. GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip for our coffee (I’ll talk more about this in another blog post.)
  32. Coleman Triton Series propane camping stove
  33. 6 cans of propane (we didn’t need this many)
  34. potty seat for Little J (We love our OXO seat. I’ll write more about this in another post.)
  35. slip-on diapers and wipes
  36. allergy medication for adults
  37. fever-reducing medication and an antihistamine appropriate for Little J (Since these need to be kept cool, I initially put them in a small bottle cooler with an ice pack until we purchased a bag of ice for the big cooler.)
  38. flashlights
  39. headlamps
  40. 2 plastic/vinyl table cloths

I also packed dry food like a box of pre-seasoned quinoa, several packages of dry soup, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, graham crackers, marshmallows, etc. I normally try to make healthy choices with what we eat, but I also didn’t want to make our first family camping trip difficult…so overall, yeah, we ate a lot of processed food.

When we were close to the campgrounds, we stopped at a grocery store and bought:

  1. hot dogs
  2. bread
  3. firewood (You’re not supposed to bring firewood from state to state, because you could be bringing foreign pests with it.)
  4. butter
  5. eggs
  6. milk
  7. fruit
  8. veggies
  9. water (two large jugs)
  10. ice for the cooler
  11. chocolate (for the s’mores!)

If we were going straight from our house to the campgrounds, I may have bought some of these ahead of time (I did mean to get the bread ahead of time but forgot), but we were stopping at a theme park on our way. I didn’t know how hot the car was going to get, so I thought it would be better to stock the cooler with perishables when we were almost to the campgrounds.

Next time we go camping, if we go straight from our house to our campsite, I think I may make pancake batter ahead of time and freeze it in large Ziploc bags.

We did buy a new bag of ice every day. It was about a 15-trip from our campgrounds to a Wal-Mart, so that wasn’t too bad. The drive there and back was actually a great way to get Little J to fall asleep and actually nap! I’d wait in the car while Little J slept and Hubby ran inside for the ice.

Things we should have packed:

  1. rope
  2. more trash bags (Three was barely enough.)
  3. more refill bags for the OXO potty seat. (We used a paper towel shoved into the bottom of a plastic grocery store bag, but that didn’t work as well as the actual bags they make for the seat. We had some leakage problems with the grocery store bags.)
  4. Our bikes, including Little J’s, for riding around the campgrounds

We nearly filled up the back of the SUV, and we used our cargo carrier. Yes, it was a lot of stuff, but we ended up using everything or nearly everything. I would enjoy bare bones, backpack camping, but probably not with the 3-year old.

When we got to our site, we kept all the food in the back of the vehicle, and we hung the trash bag up from a tree branch stub. Next time we’ll use a rope, just to make sure we get the trash up out of reach of any potential furry visitors to our camp.

So that’s about it for the preparation. I’ll follow up with posts about where we camped and some of the equipment that we used.

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