Camping with 3-5 year olds

I’m getting ready to take the kids camping next weekend, so I’m compiling lists of stuff and activities and food. Thought I’d share what I found good last year camping with Jen and Alex, and what I learnt hiking and mountain climbing in New Zealand before I grew up 😉 Here is us camping last year with my excellent mountaineering tent. For this year I decided to downgrade to a car camping tent. I’ll report in a couple of weeks on how that goes.


I like to go minimalist, but be comfortable, so here is my list with links to the actual items I own and use. This is my summer camping list, and does not include warm clothing, nor snow shovels…



  • Stove
  • Pots
  • Matches in a ziplock bag
  • Stove fuel
  • Sharp Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Spatula/Wooden Spoon
  • Plates (generic plastic plates)
  • Cutlery (from home)
  • Cups (generic platic cups)
  • Water Bottles
  • Water Containers (clean milk containers)
  • Campsuds
  • Scrubber
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Paper Towels
  • Baby Wipes
  • Plastic Bags for Garbage
  • Rope

Cleaning and Fixing:


  • Rain jacket
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Fleece sweater
  • Bathing suit
  • Sun hat
  • Pajamas
  • Laundry bag
  • Water Sandals


Lastly, bring confidence, happiness, and a sense of adventure. There are several excellent articles online on camping with kids. One article on the REI website ( has lots of good advice:

When Outdoors, Be Outdoors

  • Make the most of nature: Look for wildlife. Check out bugs. Examine rocks. Identify birds, flowers, clouds, constellations. Lead kids on a rock scramble. Show interest in things that interest them. Bring a field guide to help you identify and learn about the things they find.
  • Be active, stay loose: Try to keep your kids active without following a regimented schedule. If they’re entertained by skipping rocks on the water, give them time to perfect the multiple-skip fling.
  • Attend ranger talks: If you’re camping at a state or national park, attend the ranger’s evening talk. Ask staff if the park offers a junior-naturalist program or other kid-focused activities.
  • Geocaching: A GPS-guided treasure hunt engages kids physically and mentally. Check our link to geocaching to see if any caches are hidden in the area you’ll be visiting.
  • Share time together: “Hey, mom, remember when we saw that deer?” Great memories are one of the great payoffs of a camping trip. Come home with the sort of stories that can only be created outdoors. Shakespeare must have been camping when he wrote, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

1 thought on “Camping with 3-5 year olds

  1. Catherine

    Great list. I have been camping since I was a child and now get to share it with my grand children. Your list is great. One thing I always try to do is make a bingo game of where we will be and what we will see. They are easy to put together on the computer and the kids love them. I use places, animals, when we go to rock shows we use rocks, historical sights. anything you are interested can be used. make as many different cards as you like and have fun! Start playing before you go, and after you return to keep the memories alive!

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