Family camping gear for all ages

Gear that will help elevate your family-friendly campsite. Sample packing lists provided by Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids. Find a complete family-camping packing list on Olsson’s blog,


Tent with poles, stakes, and rainfly (Find our picks here and here; pictured is the Big House 4 ($350) by Big Agnes)
Tarp (ground cloth)
Extra plastic tarp
Vestibule mat
Sleeping bags (Find our picks here)
Sleeping pads (Find our picks here)
Screen house

Camp Kitchen (Find our picks here and here)

Camp stove (Find our picks here and here)
Grill rack
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Big spoon
Long-handled tongs
Insulated coffee cups
Coffee making device
Water bottles
Marshmallow sticks
Bottle opener
Pot lifter
Aluminum foil
Small plastic bags
Large plastic bags
Plastic tablecloth
Extra-large tablecloth clips or tablecloth weights
Tupperware containers
Matches, lighter, or fire stick
Collapsible water container
Water purifier (Find our picks here)
Drink coozies

Camp Kitchen Cleanup

Plastic washbasins
Sponge with scouring pad
Small scrubber brush
Old washcloths or tea towels
Biodegradable camp soap
Grocery-store plastic bags (for small amounts of garbage)
Tall kitchen garbage bags
Paper towels
Baby wipes
Clothesline and clothespins


  1. Holy Cow that’s a lot of gear. If you are camping for a night or two you can go so much simpler than this.

    It’s awesome to be comfortable and have all the comforts of home. But a little planning an know how go a long way. Plan your meals ahead of time. Pre-cut, and cook ingredients to make meal prep simple. Limit your kitchen to what you need on that trip. It’s entirely possible to cook every meal with a dutch oven and a spoon or spatula to stir or serve.

    A personal mess kit per person is a great way to go. Plan on doing dishes and bring a trashbag for waste.

    With tent camping sleeping pads and air mattresses are great. IF you don’t have sleeping bags, no worries. The sheets and comforters off your beds work well on air mattresses.

    On bit of advice. Buy a tents a little larger than what you think you need. a 2 man tent is a 1-man tent. A 4 man tent is a 2-3 man tent.

    The trick. Keep it simple. Buy what you’ll use, borrow what you can, and go camping with friends to share gear and the experience.

    That being said, whatever works best for you and your family is all that matters. The point is to get outdoors. And, leave the electronics at home. They’ll be fine without you. And you’ll be better for it.

  2. The recommended name brand gear seems awfully expensive for family camping. I agree that you can take a lot less gear. As for clean up, where is the bleach ?

  3. YOU. CANNOT. BE. SERIOUS!!!!!!!!

    I’ve done family camping both with Cubs and on our own. I didn’t take 1/2 of the stuff recommended. I’ve seen first time families get scared about expenses when I showed them the cheap stuff I use. Thankfully a lot of items already around the house can be used.

    • Nahila, the list they posted the other day (for car camping) had high dollar equipment that I would never pay for. I think it is absurd to think that a new Cub Family would rush out and pay for all this equipment for an overnighter. As for me, I would never pay $400 for a tent. So far, the best 2 person tent I’ve owned cost $39.

  4. A Scout is thrifty. I started with a $10 tent that I still use. Are you trying to help people or sell books and equipment.

    • A 10.00 tent I sure hope it does not rain You will be wet(soaked) Yes that is a lot of equipment and you really should start small but a good tent is a must (the best way to ruin a good camping experience is for the family or scout to wake up wet.) You can get a cheap tent at the surplus store and work your way up. Some people are just not cut out to camp. Go to Goodwill Thrift store and pick up pot and pans. Recycle your towels,wash cloths, blankets,sheets as you replace them at home recycle to the camping box.Ck with other scouters as they upgrade camping equipment they like to recycle to new scouts.I am a old camper —Been a registered Scouter for most of the time since 1953. check with your leaders ( I have been in Packs and Troops that have a closet with uniforms,camping gear,they sell cheap, that puts money back into the unit. Don’t give up I am 75 y/o and still love it. As for a place to put all your gear I use Husky tool boxes (the roll around lg ones at Home Depot/Lowes watch for them on sale) I have a small trailer that holds 4 of them, I always keep them packed and ready to go. NO! don’t go out and buy all of this all at once build up to what you want and need. Remember you may not be cut out to rough it when you camp. I have friends that camp next to me in a 60 foot motor home. They might as well stay home but I still love them. Can I throw in some advice on cooking. Pre plan pre cut I use a lot of zip lock bags I love foil dinners , pre cook your bacon(don’t cook it all the way,, the smell of cooking bacon and coffee nothing like it in the morning,eggs in a zip bag, Instant soups, Get the idea have eave each meal all together before you leave home. This gives you more time to enjoy the outdoors

    • Amen! Who knows if anyone will ever see this late comment, but I had the same thoughts here in 2020. Growing up, my family had little extra money. We family camped in a big canvas tent, and likewise car camped with my troop. But in 1975 my Dad & I had the opportunity to share a trek to Philmont. We had to look for the best prices; we found a lightweight 5×7 tent for $50 ($241 today), excellent backpacks for less than $50, and 3.5 season sleeping bags for <$25 ea. We used Frisbees for plate & bowl, and frequented the Army surplus & discount stores. Yes, we saw some really cheap gear disintegrate – but our old tent & packs still live on – 3 generations have used them!

  5. And now I know why cub camping events have more adults show up with a tent big enough to sleep in plus use it as a parking space for their car…if it’s only the size of a suburban, nothing bigger, mind you.

  6. Less is more. Most of our troop has moved to hammocks with rainfly’s for cover for under $100. They allow more interaction and are more leave no trace friendly. And what happened to sporks and SwissArmy knives? Way too much equipment on this list, especially if you are hiking to your site a mile or two in the woods. You have to rough it a little to appreciate and get close to nature. Hope they read more of these comments and revise this list.

  7. My family and I wouldn’t fit in our vehicle if we took all that with us. Camp lean and mean. Most things should have more than one use or purpose. Also, why is there a “corkscrew” on this list. I realize it is for a family camp, but this is a scout article. Leave the corkscrew at home.

  8. I agree that you don’t need all this gear for a First camping trip, but once you’re hooked on camping all this stuff will become helpful. If you accumulate items over time, and develop your personal system for storing and packing, it’s so easy to put your boxes of gear in the car without reevaluating your needs each trip. That’s how we managed to take 7 extended car-camping trips that covered most of our national parks in all states (except Hawaii) and all the Canadian provinces and territories (except Nunavut).
    Back-pack camping is a whole ‘nuther animal!

  9. Camping equipment “front country” keep it simple use things from around the house . Have a tent ,good . If not borrow one ,you’ll be surprised the tents seasoned campers have , cookware that’s a troop thing don’t get over zealous .talk to your leaders and go prepared to start your list on things to bring next time
    Go have fun and laugh about the things you should of had .

  10. I just turned 70 years old and have learned that it pays for me to camp comfortable instead of commando. There was a day for minimal camping gear….it’s passed for me. I no longer lie on my back and wriggle in to my jeans….. I stand or sit which is pretty darned hard in a one or two man tent. As for sleeping pads….A nice piece of 4″ foam makes it a lot easier to get up in the morning and get moving. I’m now a car camper not a backpacker, and I enjoy my extra gear and my big ole tent. Y’all will understand one day……..and sooner than you think. Great list I say ;}

  11. I really enjoy the BSA BLOG. Always bring back many memories. 53 years adult scout leader with memories of other adult leaders taught me. This blog on camping gear reminds me of Joey Gill, who is now with the “ Master of all scouts “ after a motorcycle accident. The boys nicknamed him McGuyver because he could take whatever nature provided and turn it into what was needed. How this relates to this blog was his instructions to the boys before an outing, “if you are going backpacking or canoeing, take only bare essentials. Now if you can drive up to your campsite, take the kitchen sink”. We miss you Joey, but you taught us well.

  12. Best 2-3 man have a high skirt to keep out water and the mat is a cheap easy way to keep out dirt etc. Dryer lint and egg carton old candle stuff. Self strike matches are just as cheap as are led lights. Avon “skin so soft” is a great skeeter repellent. A tarp pole lean to and canvas chairs are always a hit along with lots of foil for cooking.

  13. Ladies and gentlemen,
    I believe a comprehensive list is very important as a starting point. The first thing you do is list everything you could use and then determine things that are unnecessary or unwanted for the specific outing you have in mind. Although is is never necessary to spend a great deal of money on equipment, I have found you get what you pay for. For example I spent years and lots of money buying tent after $100 tent only to take them out and have them perform substandard. I had read the reviews and tried to be thrifty in my choices yet what I found is the materials might be ok but the workmanship is so often shoddy. I personally have very high standards for my equipment and found I almost have to see the equipment set up before I can really determine the quality. Quality is relative to the type of camping or backpacking you do. If you camp 1 time every year in the spring with perfect weather for the first 4 years and you use a cheap lightweight tent, everything is just peachy. That is until the 5th year when a huge unexpected cold front drops down from Canada and the cheap stakes pull out of the ground in the middle of the night and the tent blows over causing the 5 gallons of icy rain that accumulated on the top to pour directly into the now upturned window/vent and find it directly on your head then fill your sleeping bag completely then in the middle of the night you which you had spent the extra $200 4 years ago to get the good one. My recommendation is to buy the best you can reasonably afford while keeping in consideration the type of camping you do. After you have made your choice then set it up for 2 or 3 days in your back yard in the worst weather you can foresee and see what happens. Before this do a complete setup for a quality check. If there are any quality issues return it and replete until you get a good one of that or another model. If no bad weather is in the near future make your own with the water hose and sprinkler. Find and reseal all the leaks and prepare it for use. It is great that someone bought a tent for $10 or even $30 for that mater but finding a new decent one for that amount is like finding a 1 carat diamond for a hundred bucks. If your mounting an Everest Campain you will need different equipment than if you through your tent in the back of the mini van on a beautiful spring weekend. Study, do your home work, buy the best you can afford, test before you use, have fun and most important of all be prepared for that moving cold front from Canada or where ever you are that the weatherman or weather app totally missed so your sleeping bag at 3am does not become a icy swimming pool.

    I was an Eagle Scout, spent 23 years in the Army and have been camping and hiking since before I was a Cub Scout

  14. You guys are harsh. The list LOOKS long but I fit most of the things in one Brute container. The list is pretty clearly speaking to the car camping crowd not someone planning on a two mile hike in to camp. And I’m sorry, but your $39.00 tent does not compare in any way to the Big Agnes suggested in the article. No one said you HAD to have that tent, but if you can afford it, it’s a nice option. I definitely agree with Dean. Go have fun with what you DID bring and laugh at yourself for forgetting matches. Seriously, don’t forget the matches!

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