One should always have a packing list of the essentials when preparing to head out for a Family Camping weekend. It should include the obvious things: tent, sleeping bags, bug repellent, food, and so forth.
Here are a few non-essential items that can be very helpful for those times that the whole family heads out.
- Cards or portable games—For those times when it rains or someone gets sick a few things to do while lying around the tent are a great idea.
- Headlamps—Late night bathroom runs, night hikes, reading, or doing anything in the dark is easier for the little ones when the flashlight automatically points where they are looking (and easier for adults helping little ones, when they can be used hands free). There are some inexpensive headlamp options or you can always use duct-tape, a cheap flashlight, and an old baseball cap.
- Nature Study Backpacks—Have each child pack a small backpack with all of the gear he needs to do some sketching, identify trees, catch bugs, and so on.
- Family Modified First-Aid Kit—Make sure that you update your first-aid kit to include the items and quantities needed for your family and size. Most off-the-shelf varieties are quite limited in what they contain.
- A Good Read-Aloud Book—One of the best ways to get the kids settled at bed time is this old standby.
- Kid Sized Toilet—The merits of this are obvious. Bring a bottle of spray cleaner and a dedicated roll of paper towels for cleanup. Don’t forget the Toilet Paper.
- Outdoor Sports and Games—It is really easy to pack a variety of things into one duffle. Options include a football, Frisbee, baseball and mitts, a stack of plastic cones, soccer ball, kick ball, etc. For the very little ones, bring a bucket and shovel.
- Camp Craft Activities—Plan to spend a certain amount of time teaching some of the skills of camping. If you plan the activity you will focus on ahead of time, it is easy to figure out the things you will need to pack. Some activity options include: fire building, cutting wood, knot tying, tracking, orienteering, and plant identification.
- Portable Lock Together Play Pen—These are bulky, but if you have the room, they are a great help. You can identify a clean play area and keep the little ones in one place, while you attend to activities that require all hands (camp setup and take down, most notably). When all the kids are too young to help with certain jobs, this can be a life saver.
- Musical Instrument—If you play, bring along a guitar, autoharp, ukulele, or mandolin. Learn a few kid standards ahead of time or grab a book of campfire songs.
By Kenneth Rolling, Dad of 7 children and Eagle Scout