Now that my son is getting older, we have started asking him to pack his own backpack for what he will need for camping! This has been an easy way for us to start only bringing what we really need. If he has to carry his own supplies and gear, he won’t be over-packing! Over the years we have been packing less and less, figuring out what we really need and don’t need. We car camp now, but are hoping that in the next couple of years, we will be slowly buying the right gear so that we can backpack camp as a family. I made this kid’s summer camping checklist for my son and figured other families could use it too!
Having your child pack and carry their own bags also creates a sense of independence. In my son’s bag, he has his own sunscreen, bug spray, water bottle, and mini first aid kit. I still help him apply the sunscreen and bug spray, but instead of me rummaging through our tote bin of supplies, he can pull out what he needs quickly.
The bag he uses is a women’s 28 liter bag we found practically brand new at a garage sale. It has several pockets and lots of loops to clip his stuff to. He LOVES his carabeener’s !
As children grow, so does their clothing! I remember being able to fit my son’s clothes in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Now that he is 7, his clothes are a little more bulky. But starting with the proper layers is key! We adore our Simply Merino Wool layers because they are extremely versatile and roll up tightly in a pack. The Summer PJ’s (Which are on sale now!!) are the perfect base layers for Summer camping. My son will wear these around the campsite and then as it gets cooler in the evenings, throw his jacket or hoodie on and if it’s really chilly, he will put his fleece pajama bottoms over his wool layers. He has worn the tank top as a shirt and used jean shorts as his bottoms and then changed into the pj shorts in the evening. We have even washed these at the campsite and hung them up to dry so he could wear them again the next day! What makes this super soft wool unique is that it wicks away moisture from the body and helps regulate body temperature. So during those hot Summer days, it helps keeps you cool and chilly evenings around the fire, helps keep you warm. My son loves how stretchy and soft they are and would literally wear these every day if I let him. He likes to wear them under his clothes sometimes and calls them his “Summer long johns”! haha
USE CODE SHOPWOOL for 10% off your purchase!
We always have extra underwear and socks but try to keep the clothing minimal. One pair of jeans or other durable pants for hiking through brush. Two pairs of shorts with one of them being a swim-short type material in case there is a creek or lake to go splash in. Two t-shirts that are lighter in color to keep cool. A jacket or sweatshirt for cool nights. Merino wool base layers/pj’s. Fleece pj bottoms to put over his wool shorts for cold nights. And that’s it! If we are only going for 2 nights we may only bring one t-shirt and one pair of shorts. This list is for a three day camping trip. Kids are going to be dirty and getting s’mores all over their shirt and bringing the whole forest back into your tent. That’s just what it is! I try not to care that my son is covered from head to toe in dirt and leaves and has twigs stuck in his hair when we are camping. It’s a time for kids to be wild and free and get messy!
Mini First Aid Kit
We keep this very simple with just a handful of band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and small gauze pads. You can get all these from Dollar Tree. The container is a lock-top snack container from the Dollar Tree, too! We got this idea from mamacheaps.com and I love having one of these in the car, in my purse, in my son’s bag… because life with boys seems to be full of cuts and scrapes!
My son will wear his boots there and pack both water shoes and flip-flops. The flip-flops are really nice for him to just slip on and off getting in and out of the tent. They don’t take up much room in the pack and we always end up using them. We usually only bring the water shoes if we know we will be near a creek or a lake. These have also really come in handy if we want to cross a rocky creek or low river or he wants to run around the campsite and not wear his heavy boots.
We use to bring this whole tote bag full of toys to keep my kiddo entertained. I think we have lost at least one toy every single spot we have ever camped! The more stuff you bring, the more you have to haul and keep track of. We like to pack just a few small toys that can be used in lots of open-ended imaginative play. We love our wood animals from ToysByAnthony . These are perfect for keeping him busy while we build a fire or cook or set up the tent. A small lightweight picture book to read before bed time and a nature journal or sketchbook and some colored pencils are always packed. Sometimes we will pack something special like glow sticks or a card game. I just find that the more free time the better! In a society where we are all constantly entertained and soaking up content and information, it’s nice to get away from it all and just be bored! Nature is your playground and when my kiddo gets “bored” , his imagination really kicks in and his creative wonder really shines.
My kiddo is obsessed with Indiana Jones so he has this little fishing bag that he calls his “adventure satchel”. He attaches this to the back of his backpack so when we get to the campsite he can detach his satchel and go off to explore right away! He packs binoculars, his animal tracks book, any small field guides he wants to bring, pocket knife, compass (which is also a whistle), and a little pad of paper and pencils. He may throw in some snacks or toys but the bag is quite small so he can’t fit that much in it.
Kid’s camping backpack list:
You can download a PDF version of the kid’s summer camping checklist to print out HERE.
We still pack all the sleeping bags and cooking utensils and such, but having my kiddo responsible for his very own pack and gear helps us out a lot! Plus, it builds confidence in himself because he feels more connected and valued when he pitches in and we work together as a family.
Do you have your child(ren) pack their own camping bags? What do they pack?