Must-have Family Camping Gear & Family Camping Checklist



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It’s probably no secret by now- we LOVE camping as a family. We’ve been camping since our kids were itty bitty and they’ve become the best campers! I’ve been camping in some capacity most of my life- but it wasn’t until we decided to start camping as a family that I really started collecting camping gear. Now, I am pretty minimalist by nature and I DON’T think you need a ton of fancy camping gear to camp well. We started with very basic equipment (see the $2 plastic target plates, below) and slowly started upgrading to better quality items that will last us for years to come. These are my camping must-haves for easy car camping with a family.

p.s. Don’t forget to download my family camping gear checklist with clickable links!

Camp Kitchen Essentials:

  • Gas Camp Stove This is the one we have used for years– but it’s out of production now- this newer version is just as affordable (only $75) and with great reviews (this is the one we’ll get once we need a new one- but ours is just fine 5 years in!). If you need a single burner, this one is great as well! Don’t forget the propane (or butane for the single burner!)
  • Cast Iron Pan This is honestly one of the only truly ‘must-have’ camp cooking items, in my opinion. Cast iron pans are one of THE best investment you can make for your kitchen- not only do they cook the BEST steak, they can cook over a camp stove OR the fire (or from stovetop to oven if you’re at home).
  • Cast Iron Griddle This is more of a nice-to-have, but honestly, we use this EVERY camping trip for eggs, bacon, pancakes (flat top side) to burgers and skewers (griddle side). Worth every penny!
  • Small Pot(for boiling water, soups and more). A small pot is necessary if you’re heating water for coffee or hot chocolate, cooking small bags of pre-packaged grains, oatmeal or a small can of soup (for a larger amount of chili or soup I recommend a dutch oven- below!).
  • Chef’s Knife (with cover) You really only need two knives- a large (protected, especially when you don’t have a good place to store it) chef’s knife and a paring knife for smaller items.
  • Paring Knife
  • Cutting board I like one with secured edges so you don’t have to worry about slippage.
  • Mixing Bowl For mixing veggies with oil for skewers, salads and more!
  • Tongs – a small set for the griddle (bacon!) or cast-iron is an essential.
  • BBQ Tool Set for cooking over the fire (I recommend using an oven glove for extra safety!)
  • Heat-safe spatula for scrambled eggs or sauteed veggies is a must!
  • Oven Mitt or Ove Gloves
  • Heavy-Duty Foil– the regular stuff does not work as well over the fire, these are essential for cooking over the fire in a cast-iron (avoid sticking) or for foil packs of veggies, veggies and meat or cooking corn!
  • Heat-safe dishes and utensils I will tell you from experience, our first year of camping regularly we relied on inexpensive plastic ware from Target and it was NOT the same
  • Mugs (fancy or basic)
  • Meat thermometer Better safe than sorry- especially camping!
  • Cooler We love our current cooler, but just upgraded to a larger one for longer trips. The more heavy-duty your cooler, the longer you’ll be able to keep food cold (important!).

Non-essentials (but really nice to have):

  • Dutch Oven If you want to cook soups, stews, chilis or nachos over the fire (or camp stove)- a cast-iron dutch oven is a must- and will last you forever if you treat it well!
  • Grill for fire (option 1- over fire grill or option 2- tripod and grill grate). If you want to cook primarily over the fire- you’ll want an over-fire grill (more direct heat if you’re doing skewers, etc) or a tripod with a grill grate- it’s up to you, the tripod is more indirect heat and good for things that cook slower- but the over-fire grill is great for things like skewers, hot dogs and sausages.
  • Skewers– we love skewers for camping! They cook up fast and there are endless flavor combinations.
  • French Press or Pour-over System and Kettle. If you’re a coffee lover like we are, a good coffee system is important for camping! We recently upgraded to the Stanley french press and LOVE it- it makes a ton of coffee and keeps it hot for hours!

Pantry Items:

Click here for our family’s favorite easy camping meals

Sleeping & Hanging Out:

Other must-haves:

Personal items (don’t forget!):

Click here for my Amazon Storefront with all my camping favorites (affiliate link)

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