Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents
Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents

The Big Packing List

I used to do all the packing for camping trips. My husband and I found that if we tried to divide the job up - someone would forget something, thinking the other person had packed it. Now, I just print out the list you can request below and everyone can help! This is the deluxe list for the car. It may seem like a lot of stuff but experience has placed most of these items on the list and visitor suggestions have completed it nicely!

The suggestions provided or improved by helpful visitors are marked with an *

If you would like a copy of this list without the extra commentary to print out, just click here

The Emergency Box

I live in an area prone to earthquakes (southern California) and have a box of supplies all made up in case of a disaster. This 'emergency box' has all of the basics for camping and is the first thing I pack. If you live in an area prone to any kind of natural disaster, you might want to keep a box like this on hand.

Flashlights with batteries one for the parents and one for each kid old enough to use it.

*Headlamps This is a flashlight that straps onto your head. If you ever want to hike at night - this is the ONLY way to go.They're better than carrying a flashlight around. This helps one see what one is looking at, and are great for cooking and eating at night - not to mention a trip to the potty or fixing a tent stake at night in a storm.

Wooden matches and a lighter

A battery powered radio (with batteries of course)

Basic tools- phillips head and slot head screwdrivers, a hammer, and a camp knife are a must. If you know anything about car maintenance add to this basic list.

A fire extinguisher - it may sit in your trunk for years or you might find yourself putting out an engine fire like I did a few years ago.

A first aid kit- If you want to put it together yourself, check out the Camp-A-Roo list of necessary contents.A first aid kit is nice, but it helps if you know what to do with it. For some suggested classes, come here! I would suggest 'mole skin' in your kit if you plan to do any hiking. Mole skin is taped over blisters- it makes the blister heal much more quickly and takes away the discomfort.

A sewing kit- scissors, thread, a few needles and safety pins will do it.

*Duct tape - this stuff has fixed everything from my tent to my car muffler. A Camp-A-Roo visitor recomends 180-ft. rolls of 100 M.P.H. Military Duct Tape. It's stronger than regular duct tape and the olive green color looks nicer in the outdoors. You can get this stuff from The Sportsman's Guide (1-800-888-3006).

Dish soap - I use anti-bacterial soap as I often do dishes in cold water. Keep this stuff upright- it can make a heck of a mess.

*Rope- Clothesline works fine but a Camp-A-Roo visitor has suggested this: Clothesline rope is heavy, can be difficult to work with and doesn't look cool. I use 7 strand, military style Para Cord.. All my tent tie downs are para cord. All my tarp and pole tie downs are para cord. Hanging lines are para cord. Equipment ties are para cord. I purchase black para cord in 100 yard spools from The Sportsman's Guide (1-800-888-3006). It's strong, light, weather resistant, and it's easy to seal off the ends over a flame.

Swiss Army Knife or something comparable - You don't need the super expensive model, a basic knife will do fine.

*Folding Multi-Purpose Tool - There's different names and brands for this item. It's a good replacement to the Swiss Army knife, and comes in handy -particularly the pliers function.

*Machete It's great for cutting branches into firewood or trimming a camp site. The enclosed handle grip keeps the machete from falling out of your hand - a problem once, on a river journey where I had to hack through some fallen trees in a swiftly flowing river. (BrigadeQuartermasters, 1-800-338-4327.) The idea of campers with machetes brings to mind too many horror movies - hehehehe

A cup for each camper

A roll of trash bags - Great for packing up wet gear, dirty laundry, dirty dishes, and trash.


Many companies send out sample sizes of their products. I throw the stuff I get in a box and save it all up for camping trips.



Dental floss

Mouthwash or breath mints


*A Metal Mirror - For shaving, hair combing, or "What do I look like today?"

Baby shampoo

Baby wipes - Great for faces and hands as well as bottoms.

Diapers and /or Pull-Ups Training pants - better to have too many than to have too few!

Toilet Paper and a small shovel - Just in case you can't find a rest room or the facilities are out of paper!

Hair conditioner

*Quarters for the Showers - Keep them in a prescription bottle.

Three hair combs and/or brushes - Three seems to be the magic number, any fewer and I wind up without a comb by the third day of the trip.

Hand soap - I find the anti-bacterial soaps very reassuring on camping trips though good old Ivory is supposed to be just fine

Sun screen - This is a must have - talk to our doctor for use on babies under six months

*Bug Repellent

Skin lotion - go for something unscented unless you really like mosquitos and bears

Shaving Accessories - Don't forget the power cord!

*Tweezers Someone is always getting a wood or glass sliver, or bug stinger in their skin. Also good for pulling out dirt or debris from a nasty cut

Aspirin, Tylenol, or some other pain releaver

Childrens Tylenol or other kid size fever reducer

Forehead thermometer - I use a handy heat sensitive strip(like the ones you see on fish tanks). You just hold the strip up to your child's forehead and wait a few minutes for the results. This is not as accurate as a normal thermometer, but will give a good estimate. The strip is reusable, inexpensive, and is the size of a band aid.

Finger nail clippers or nail file


Lip balm - some come with U.V. protection

Prescription medications - get spares of all you can; especially allergy and athsma medications as these conditions can be worsened by changing climate and vegetation

Pet Prescriptions - If you are bringing along a pet make sure your animal is medically ready for your trip. Click here for veterinary tips for dog owners.

*PlasticTrays - The trays I use have two open side pockets on either end which support the tray top between them, about 8 inches off the floor.They fit perfectly in one's lap, particularly when sitting in a chair, making chow time much more comfortable.The side pockets come in handy for towels, napkins, salt and pepper, and other items. I even use them for end tables. I have a folding chair that I set up next to my lounge chair. I put a pocket tray over the folding chair, set it up next to my lounge chair, and I have a nice end table for my beverage, cookies, book, table lamp, or such.

The Gear

A tent - (or RV)Make sure you have all the stakes, ropes, poles, et. Most tents come with trashy stakes that bend after the first few uses - I buy 'industrial strength' stakes at my local hardware store.

*A ground cloth or tarp - You should always have a tarp or two or more to go with your tent.You should have one tarp that fits well over the top of your tent. Support it with poles, tie it to trees, drape it over a gazebo. Whatever. Cover your tent with a tarp, with enough room under the tarp, around the tent, to walk around, sit in a chair, cook on a table, etc. A tarp keeps the sun from deteriorating your tent. It keeps tree droppings and bird droppings off your tent. It helps prevent small tree branches from falling through your tent. It keeps the rain away from your tent and allows you to be outside your tent when it's raining. I prefer the heavy duty tarps in Campmor catalog (1-800-525-4784) for base camps, nylon tarps for mobile camping.

*Tent Carpet- A piece of used or remnant carpet, cut to fit your tent floor, makes for a comfortable tent experience. I have a piece of polyethylene tarp cut-to-size, that goes over my tent floor first. On top of that goes my cut-to-size carpet. This arrangement keeps any ground dampness (I also use an under tent ground tarp) from reaching my clothes or body, prevents holes being punched in the floor, and gives the same luxurious feeling in a tent that one has at home. If you've never camped with a tent carpet before, once you have, you'll never do it without one.

Sleeping bags or blankets - lots of blankets

*Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner - Not only does this add warmth to a sleeping bag, it helps keep your sleeping bag clean. It's easier to wash a bag liner than it is to wash the whole sleeping bag. Campers often get dirty and don't necessarily shower before turning in for the night. Crawling into a liner keeps the grudge and grit off the inside of your bag.

*A Canteen - Bota IV Canteen  (Brigade) Great carrier for your favorite beverage - even water! My two step-daughters love their smaller bota's I purchased at a local store.

Blankets- I used to have a nice warm 'mummy' sleeping bag. Now I have a small child who insists on sleeping with me. The bag isn't nearly as warm with the zipper half way down so I use several warm blankets. If you are unsure of the sleeping arrangements of all of your kids or plan on cuddling with your significant other, bring a blanket.
Inflatable cushions (for under the sleeping bag) If you sleep with a small child like I used to do - don't waste your time. I always ended up fighting for a small piece of my pad (and loosing) - so I just leave the pad at home.

Pillows coats work great if you're in a pinch for space.

Camping lanterns - we use the battery operated kind. They aren't as bright as gas lamps, but are much more safe with a small child and can be used in the tent without fear. If you cut a hole in a plastic gallon milk container (yes, empty) at the end with the cap and shove it onto a flashlight it makes a nice lantern in a pinch.

*Candle Lanterns - Pretty safe, good at night inside a tent, and saves your batteries. A table-top candle lantern adds light and warmth to a tent, saving the battery lamps for special purpose use. I can attest to this campers statement: Candles really can warm your tent!

Camp stove and Propane or other fuel - You don't need a stove if you don't mind cold food or buying wood every night. I recommend the 'Coleman Dual Fuel' stove. This stove costs nearly twice the price of the regular propane model, but it burns gasoline or propane. Gas is much cheaper and you can find it anywhere. We have used our stove more than 30 times without having to refill it and if you loose power and/or gas at home you can still cook a hot meal via your gas tank.

A Propane Grill - A propane grill for grilling meats comes in handy under the tarp when it is raining and you want that grilled steak for dinner. It's a nice compliment to your dual fuel stove. Cook corn and potatoes on one, steaks and brats on the other. A small charcoal grill also works, but it's messier. I have a duffle bag with various campfire grills in it. A good, 25 inch barbecue grill replacement works well over a couple logs, stones or fire ring. Put it in a surplus army bag and add it to your gear. It comes in handy.

Charcoal and lighter fluid great if you don't have a gas grill - not every place has fire wood available

*A Long Handle Pick Ax I use the side of the ax head to pound in my stakes, the point of the ax to take them out. The flat edge of the ax is handy for cleaning out fire pits, digging a potty hole, a hole for a pole support, or a rain run-off trench.

A bandanna Great for tying hair back, can be a washcloth, etc.

Solar Powered AA Battery Recharger - Those AA batteries run down fast, particularly with children. Campmor sells a nifty solar powered AA battery recharger. They work great.

A Cooler - I bought a really nice collapsible cooler and caused permanent water stains to my car. I ended up throwing out a lot of food to prevent exposing my family to food poisoning. I now use a cheap $6.00 cooler. HINT: A block of ice will keep food cooler much longer, cubes will cool much more quickly.

A baby backpack - The Kelty company offers a really sweet backpack called the 'Elite'. They also offer several other models, but I think this model has the best features. If you're not ready to part with $150, try a local swap meet. I picked up my first backpack for $10 bucks and it worked fine until my son reached 25 lbs.

Backpacks for the kids - Why carry snacks for everyone? Let the kids pack and carry what they want to bring (they might want to bring less stuff next time).

A stroller - This is a nice item to have but a nightmare to pack. If your child is able to walk, I really recommend you leave the stroller at home. If you do want to bring it - pack it last so you can get it out without emptying the trunk.

A chair for meals - I purchased a child's chair that will clip onto almost any table. I hook this up to the picnic table, and belt the kid in. Now I can safely cook meals and eat in peace.

*A solar shower - I've been told that these are great for dish washing as well as bathing!

The Glove Box

Car Registration and Insurance information Don't forget insurance for Canada or Mexico if you plan on leaving the US.

Medical insurance - Bring everyone's cards; better safe than sorry.

Travelers check receipts

Camera and film - Many cameras take strange batteries - bring a spare!

Bring a book - If you read, bring something. You never know where you'll be waiting.

Your Drivers License - obvious, but please make sure!

Your AAA Card - If you don't have one, I recommend you get one. Free tows in the U.S.A. are only the beginning. Your policy may say they only tow 7 miles - but that's not the full truth. AAA will tow you seven miles in town. If you break down 40 miles from the nearest town - they won't start counting up your seven miles until you reach town. I once broke down 60 miles from the nearest services and bummed a ride to the local AAA office. I paid the $49 card fee and had my car towed the next day. I would have paid $120 for the same tow had I not purchased a AAA card. Free maps and trip planning are just a bonus.

Your checkbook - Most self-service campgrounds accept checks and it's less complicated than trying to come up with exact change at every stop

The Golden Access Passport and/or Adventure Pass- For $50 you can purchase a pass that covers the entry fees to National Parks, National Monuments, Beuro of Land Management Areas, and Forest Service areas for one year. Some forests now charge for the Adventure Pass.This pass also gives you a discount on camping fees for some parks. Most parks have a $10 entry fee. Yosemite and the Grand Canyon are $20 areas. Some parks are free. These fees are in addition to the fees you pay for camping. If you plan on visiting five parks in the next year, this pass will pay for itself.

Your credit cards and ATM cards - Yes, I have left my VISA at home accidentally - the only time I have needed it of course

Money - Don't bring hundreds please and find a creative hiding spot for some emergency cash in case you loose your wallet

The Food Bin

This list is from my personal family favorites for camping. If weight is not an issue, canned goods are excellent camping food. This stuff is inexpensive, packs well, and tastes good. This list is based on a two week camping trip for a family of three. Please take into account that we are hiking 6-10 miles per day as this really picks up our appetite. (We normally don't eat this much!) 

A plastic dish pan - This keeps the stuff from rolling all over in the trunk and comes in handy for dish washing and bathing.

Paper plates - bring twice as many as you think you'll need. Also useful to entertain kids - instant art paper!

*Can Opener


*Granola Bars

Silverware - 2x everyone in your party

*Napkins or paper towels - They come in handy, keeping me and my equipment clean. I have both standard and heavy duty paper towels. Used ones go in the camp fire. Often times, a stock pot of hot water is always kept by the campfire. Dip a paper towel in the hot water, wash off your dinner plate, and toss the towel in the fire. The hot water cleans my aluminum plate well enough and a few goings over with a paper towel makes it ready for the next meal.

*The makings for a good cup of coffee - I don't drink the stuff, but a Camp-A-Roo visitor reminded me that the list was lacking this essential item!

*Single serving coffee bags or tea bags

Tamales (3 cans)- Fry them up and scarf them down! My personal favorite!

Beef Stew (2 cans)

Corned beef hash (2 cans)- Great with eggs!

Canned pie filling (3 cans)- Excellent dessert!

Ravioli (4 cans)- Even good cold and kids love it!

Macaroni and cheese (2 cans)- very soupy but tasty. The boxed version of this dish requires preparation and suppies, so I stick with the canned stuff when we're cold camping (no fire).

Baked beans (2 cans)

Soups (4 cans)- Pick the stuff your family likes best. The soups that don't need water added are great - just place 'em on the dash on a warm day and you'll have a tasty meal when you finish your hike.

Vegetables (8 cans) green beans, peas, mushrooms, corn, carrots, etc. Hungry kids will eat most anything after a long hike!

Fruits (6 cans) pineapple, applesauce, peaches, pears, apricots, etc.

When traveling from place to place - lunch can be made in a pinch. If you have all the makings of a good sandwich in reach, you are set to travel.

A good loaf of bread - Buy this as you need it :I have never found any trouble finding some good local hearty bread.

Cheese - Cheddar or mozzarella keep well in a cooler. Wrap well though, soggy cheese is just gross!

Sandwich meat - I hate eating preservatives but I have to recommend the most processed meat you can find. Temperatures inside of a cooler aren't constant so go with a product you are sure of.

Butter - Margarine melts at a much lower temperature, so I stick with butter.

Condiments - Almost all condiments will keep well - Just make them easy to get to.

Adult beverages - If you like a beer or a glass of wine after a long day of hiking I recommend that you bring some along if you are going someplace you haven't been to before. I have run into dry counties or outrageous prices on every trip I have taken.

Hot Dogs - Excellent food. Almost everyone loves hot dogs. I recommend that you select Kosher Hot dogs. Kosher means no hoofs, no horns, no genital material is used in making these hot dogs. I can't say the same for the other dogs you see at the market. Ask for Kosher!

A box of Cereal - Cherrios, Chex's, any Cereal that requires no sugar. Eat this out of a cup. It's a quick and easy breakfast. You can also buy single serving packages - slice these open down the front of the box and carefully fold back the wax paper. Just add milk and forget having to wash bowls!

*S'more Fixings - Marshmallows, Hershey chocolate bars, and graham crackers!

Zip lock storage bags - really handy if you hate seeing your butter floating around in the bottom of the cooler.

Aluminum foil

A spatula - My husband says the flat ended ones work best for camping.

* Cooking Utensils - A serving spoon, a pronged fork, a pair of tongs, and a good knife

*Hot Pads

*Clothes Pins - great for clamping shut snack bags, hanging clothes and towels to dry (it was windy and the pins kept them from blowing away), and hanging up our reclycling bag.

A frying pan - I use an old cast iron pan so I can cook on any surface without worrying about my pan.

A pot with a lid -

In The Car

Water - I use a large container for the bulk of the water and keep a soda bottle with water in reach for drinking in the car or on hikes. My son could drink water from a soda bottle by 10 months of age.

Maps - Please keep in mind the altitudes. You may find things colder than you anticipated. AAA has a wonderful selection of maps and a service called trip-tic. With trip-tick you get your planned trip laid out on cards on a binder. The cards include areas under construction, speed traps, etc. Just go to AAA several weeks in advance and they will set up a trip-tic for you.

Toys - Let your kids pick out what they want. If you have children too young to select their own toys - pick out things that can roll in the dirt. My boy loves books and I only bring along the cardboard books that can take a lot of abuse. For more trip activity suggestions see Fun Projects.

Snacks as distractions - One of my boys loves olives, the other will be agreeable for raw carrots. Make sure you have a food treat for your kid. I hate it when parents offer candy as a bribe for kids camping - but you need a distraction after too much travel time - just try to keep it healthy.

Towels - I use them as seat covers to protect from accidents for easy packing. The towels also help keep little legs from getting burned on hot seats.

Clothing To Bring

You'll fnd a few suggestions to add to your normal wardrobe.

* A Good Hat - Seattle Sombrero Rain Hat - Best all-round hat I've ever had. Gotta have a good hat. Seattle Sombrero will do it.

*Rain Poncho - For kids or adults, a rain poncho is a quick putter-onner when the water is coming down. Quicker and easier than a rain suit, and can be used in conjunction with one.

*Multi-pocket vest - A great piece of apparel. Keeps all your little items handy. Not just for fishermen anymore!

*Sport Sandals - Quick and easy footwear around camp, nice bare-footin' in a warm rain, often useful for walking in shallow river and lake water. Also a really good idea for those public showers!

*Long Underwear - Put 'em on when the air is chilly or damp, or at night when the temperature drops. Gotta have a pair - or two. I have my warm Union Suit for evening bed-time wear, or under my coveralls when temps get chilly.

If this list is lacking a necessity, please e-mail me!

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