Camping with Kids 101: What to Pack and How to Plan

Now that camping season is upon us here in Canada, and now that the basics of gear have been picked out, the next step is to get all packed up and get out the door on your own adventures. The biggest, most daunting part of that is what to pack for a night or three away from the house? You will need to bring, literally, everything you need to get by for the duration of your trip, unless you enjoy trips to the store for little things you’ve forgotten. Not only that, but how can you plan for every eventuality? How can you make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything?

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The easiest answer to that is making up a list. Or multiple lists, ideally. I get ready for camping with two lists, one for camping equipment, and one for a detailed menu. I find that this takes a lot of the stress of camping off of my shoulders and I can rely on my preparation to ensure that I know we’ve got our bases covered. We also have a duplicate set of most of the home things (plates, silverware, etc.) that we’ll need camping that all live in the basement in a box, so when we do head out a) the house hasn’t been stripped of most of it’s essential components, and b) it takes more of the stress of remembering off of me again. In the past we’ve used big Rubbermaid tubs to store our camping stuff, but this year I’m going to try and organize our kitchen equipment in a plastic set of drawers that we have kicking around, to see how that’ll do.

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And get your kids involved in the packing and checklisting process. It’s a good learning experience, and it can be a positive way of talking about what to expect when you’re not at home.

At this point, I should say that I’m happy to be able to share my own checklist and menu with anyone who is interested. This link is to my actual Excel document, which you are free to download and use/change to your hearts content. It should make a good basic starting point for your own lists.

And as for planning for every eventuality? Well, you can plan for a lot, and be prepared (the Scout motto, and one of the phrases I keep returning to in a lot of aspects of my life) for MOST situations, but there are always times when no amount of planning will do the trick, and you’ll need to improvise. Even the best weather reports can be wrong, but if you’ve prepared yourself for what is likely to happen, you can still have an enjoyable time.

The Scout motto actually has two aspects of preparedness: being prepared physically, and mentally. Being prepared physically means that you have the equipment that you need, and the skill and ability to use it as necessary. Being prepared mentally means thinking ahead to try and foresee what might go wrong, so that if that situation occurs, you have an idea of what you’ll do to overcome it. So, if you’re camping and it rains all weekend, know that you have enough clothes and rain gear to stay outside and enjoy nature still, know that you’re mentally prepared for the whining that comes with too much rain, cold fingers, and drippy noses, and know that if the worst comes to pass, you have some kind of reasonable escape route to take.

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Mostly, and this is the biggest takeaway I can give, you can’t hope to be perfect on your first trip out. Maybe not even on your fifth trip this year. Something gets forgotten. Something is missed. It is part of camping, doing without salt because you forgot to refill the container, or borrowing some butter from your neighbor because you forgot to grab some (and yes, both of these things and more have happened to me in the last 12 months). Borrowing and sharing is such a great lesson to be able to teach kids too. There is almost always somewhere nearby to buy what you’ve forgotten, or someone to loan you what you’re missing.

Good luck packing this year!

One Reply to “Camping with Kids 101: What to Pack and How to Plan”

  1. Thanks for the list! I’m going camping in August so might be stopping by your basement to go tent shopping…

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