100 Genius Hacks to Make Family Tent Camping Easier

Whether you're new to camping or are experienced campers trying to add kids into the mix, these 100 must-have tips will make family tent camping easier.

Essential Ways to Make Family Camping More Comfortable:

Now that summer’s in full swing, have you been camping yet? Or are you still gearing up for your first family outdoor adventure? My hubby and I used to go camping several times each summer, until the girls entered our lives. While he wasn’t game for camping with kids still in diapers, we took our first family car-camping trip as soon as they were in preschool and both (mostly) toilet-trained. Since then, we’ve learned a lot of little tricks to make family tent camping easier.

True, several of them are more of a long-term investment, or may duplicate non-camping-specific items you already own. So it’s worth weighing the costs of adding extra “stuff” to your lives vs. the benefits of having this additional dedicated stuff in your camping pile. But having said that, we’ve gotten enough use out of these to make them worthwhile investments, both for camping and for other outdoor adventures.

And by the way, many of the larger “investment” items make great holiday gift ideas for doting grandparents wanting to know what they can gift your family that you’ll actually use! This is how we’ve acquired many of the larger gear items over the years. Likewise, many of the smaller items have made great gifts and/or stocking stuffers for us to give the girls at the holidays.

Ready to learn more? Here you go!

Whether you're new to camping or are experienced campers trying to add kids into the mix, these 100 must-have tips will make family tent camping easier.

Our Fave Ways to Make Family Tent Camping Easier

A. Shelter

1. Family-Sized Tent

Ideally, one that will grow with your family. For our 4-person family, we got a 6-person tent that can divide into two rooms. If your family is/will ever be bigger than 4, I’d recommend getting a family tent for more than 6 people.

For a family of four, I recommend at least a 6-person tent for comfort.
1. Our 6-person family tent with 2. (left side) “back porch” and (right side) add-on “garage”

2. Screen Room, Garage, and/or Porch

When choosing a tent, look for one with an attached semi-enclosed space. Some come with a built-in front awning or screened “front porch.” Ours has a “garage” we can attach on front, and a “back porch” attached to the back. Crucial for storing gear under, rainy days, etc. If these aren’t options for your tent, consider a portable stand-alone screened-in room.

3. Basic Tarp with Poles

You need something to go over your picnic table so you can have a dry, shaded space to eat. We love our Kelty Noah’s Tarp, and have a couple of extra poles for additional tying options (in case there aren’t enough trees).

4. Pop-Up Awning

But if you’re camping on a beach or in a field, you might be better off with the smaller footprint and self-contained framework of a pop-up awning.

Dining in camp under our pop-up awning.
Dining in camp during the rain under our 4. pop-up awning.

We bought our first one after broiling in the field at a summer music festival, and haven’t looked back.

RELATED POST: Is Taking Your Kids to Concerts/Music Festivals a Good Idea?

Cooking and Eating

5. Igloo Ice Cube Cooler

THE BEST cooler at keeping stuff cold for long periods of time, both according to our experience and Consumer Reports. I’ve had one for years, but last summer Dear Hubby got the upgraded version, which comes on wheels for easier transport. Genius.

Our car packed for a family camping trip, including Igloo cooler, collapsible crates, and 5 gallon water container.
5. Igloo Ice Cube cooler; 8. 5-gallon collapsible water jug; and 31. Collapsible plastic storage crates; on top of crates, 39. My husband’s Osprey day pack.

6. Two-burner camp stove

Unless you plan to spend all day in camp tending your fire, you need a stove on which you can cook a whole meal in minimal time. Our two-burner Everest stove from Camp Chef is perfect. Lightweight to transport, easy to use, and gets the job done.

7. Camping cook pots

Sure, you can take your own pots and pans from home – esp. a good idea if you have older ones that are already a bit beat. But we also bring my husband’s old Solo 2-quart pot with lid with us, every time. It’s perfect for heating water, and the clamp-on handle/grabber is a lifesaver when cooking.

Our-two-burner stove quickly heats hot water in our 2-quart pot.
6. Two-burner camp stove; 7. 2-quart camp cooking pot; 24. Camp-sized bottle of cooking oil; (back left) 11b. Klean Canteen metal pint cup and hanging ring.

8. 5-gallon collapsible water container

You NEED this in camp, but you don’t need the extra space it takes up when not in use. We’ve had this one for several years, and it’s sturdy but lightweight. Perfect for hauling water back from the pump – or the next town over.

9. Durable/lightweight utensils for everyone

Again, you COULD just go with leftover plastic disposables you have lying around. But these break, as we’ve learned.

Instead, I got each of us a lightweight titanium spork with a hole in the end (so one could clip it onto a pack if hiking). As with the rest of our camping gear, we each have a different color, so it’s easy to tell whose is whose.

Color coding everyone's camping gear, even dishes, is a fun and easy way to keep track of it all.
9. Lightweight titanium sporks; 10. Lightweight MSR plates; 23. Travel salt and pepper shakers.

10-11. Durable/lightweight plates and Sierra cups

We each have a MSR plate. They’re useful for camping now, but also for future backpacking trips. We each also have a 16-oz Sierra cup. These can double as a mug or a bowl, which makes them more versatile than bringing a mug AND bowl.

At last summer’s music festival, Dear Hubs and I each also got a Klean Kanteen pint cup with hanging ring (I later bought a lid for mine, too). So we now take those instead of our heavier travel mugs that we’d use at home, for our morning beverages.

(Oh, and bring a few extra plates if you can, for serving food.)

12-13. Dish bins (or collapsible buckets) and dunk bags

The easiest and best way I know to clean dishes properly in camp is to wash, rinse, and then dunk in boiling water. This requires three separate water containers. We use regular nesting wash basins from the store; if space is more important to you than cost, consider collapsible buckets instead.

Our nesting plastic wash buckets and mesh dunk bags make dishes in camp easy.
12. Nesting plastic wash bins; 11b. Klean Kanteen metal pint cup; 13. Dunk bags for sanitizing and hang-drying.

But then you need a way to dunk them in hot water, without burning your fingers. Hence the dunk bags, which are also a great way to hang the dishes to dry, AND store each person’s set when not in use.

14. Camp cooking table

By the time we get our camp stove, cooking gear, and ingredients onto the picnic table, we barely have room left to eat!

Enter this awesome collapsible camping cook table my mama got us a few Christmases ago. Its multiple layers are perfect for holding all our gear. And while DH still likes keeping the stove on the picnic table when it’s just the 4 of us, it’s ideal for putting your stove on top if you choose – especially if you’re trying to fit more than 4 people at the picnic table!

A two-burner camp stove plus camp cooking table makes feeding a crowd at camp easy.
6. Two-burner camp stove; 14. Camp cooking table; 71. (background) Folding camp chairs for all.

15-16. A few collapsible containers and lunch/snack containers

Because you’ll need serving vessels. And something reusable in which to pack picnic lunches.

We bring a series of nesting plastic rectangular boxes from a certain brand of cold cuts for our sandwich boxes. And several years ago, I found a couple of lightweight collapsible bowls/lids like these – perfect for camp bowls, and they fold up flat when not in use.

Collapsible storage bowls with lids are perfect for meals served in camp.
15. Collapsible storage bowl doubling as a salad bowl in camp.

17-22. Basic camp cooking utensils, knife, lightweight cutting board, etc.

Again, you could take the ones you use every day at home. But those are often heavier, bulkier, and otherwise less-ideal for camp use than camping-specific models. I love this GSI camp utensil kit we got last Christmas, and DH just got a sharp knife with sheath from MSR for our camp kitchen. (Much easier than worrying about taking a knife from home and protecting the blade!).

Beyond that, think about what sorts of things you’ll need in camp for the food you plan to eat. Some of our must-haves include a couple of lightweight cutting boards, a vegetable peeler, and a can opener/bottle opener. Also, these little silicone scrapers are great for getting food off dishes before they go into the dishwater.

23-26. Other camp cooking essentials

Don’t forget to pack the basics like a small camp set of salt and pepper and a camp-sized bottle of olive oil. Ditto for matches/a lighter, and whatever other seasonings or condiments you can’t live without. And finally, throw in a basic roll of aluminum foil, to protect food, make extra pots/trays/cooking plates in a pinch, etc.

27-30. Zip-top plastic bags in assorted sizes

Assorted-sized zip-top bags (snack/sandwich/quart/gallon) are also super-handy to have in camp, for everything from wet clothes to hiking snacks. Take a handful of each size out of the box before you leave home, and rubber-band them together into a bundle; put a few extras in your hiking backpacks as well.

31. Lightweight collapsible crates or sturdy bags

I’m guessing you’ll be bringing food items from home? We like collapsible crates because they keep our food contained and uncrushed while we’re in transit, and stack neatly in the trunk or at the campsite. But once empty, they collapse flat for the return trip home. (Because everything seems to take up more space when you’re going back home.)

And ours get tons of use year-round; I also use them for transporting books to and from children’s consignment sales, and we use them for transporting Christmas gifts when we drive to far-flung family members’ homes.

32. Cooking sticks

Even though we mostly cook over the camp stove, the girls insist we have s’mores at least once during each camping trip. So we use reusable roasting sticks for our marshmallows, plus anything else the girls want to cook on a stick (hot dogs, anyone?). The telescoping design makes them safe for littles to use, while keeping them at a distance from the actual fire pit.

Collapsible cooking sticks are a family caping must-have for hot dog-cooking and marshmallow-toasting.
32. Collapsible cooking sticks for toasting marshmallows, hot dogs, and more.

Precautions and protection

33. Sunday Afternoon hats

Hats are important both for sun protection and to keep things off your head, like ticks dropping from trees. For maximum kiddo protection against the sun, we love the lightweight durability and extra-long back flaps of Sunday Afternoon hats. Every time the girls outgrow theirs, I buy the next size up. They’re such a worthwhile investment!

Kid-sized hiking equiment, from hydration packs and backpacks to hats and permethrin-treated clothes, makes for happy campers.
My kiddos on a hike, wearing 33. their Sunday Afternoon hats; 34. clothing I treated with permethrin before our trip; 39. Kid-sized day packs; and drinking from their 40. Kid-sized hydration pouches.

34. Permethrin-treated clothing

According to the experts, permethrin-treated clothing is the best way to protect your family from tick-borne diseases, not to mention mosquito bites.

  • If you’re a grownup who spends a lot of time outside in the summer, pre-treated clothing is a worthwhile investment.
  • But for kids’ ever-changing sizes, a better bet is DIY-ing permethrin clothing treatment at home; I find that ✅a gallon of JT Eaton Kills is the most cost-effective way to do this. It’s easier than you’d think, and my step-by-step guide walks you through the process.

RELATED POST: DIY Permethrin Clothing Treatment

If nothing else, at least get a ✅permethrin-treated mesh hoodie for yourself. Though it’s hard to tell by looking, it’s actually made of breathable mesh, so it’s cool even on hot days. And it’s got a hood. I have been known to wear mine backwards, hood up, when being swarmed by gnats; problem solved. I got my mama one for Christmas, and she wears it all the time for her gardening now.

35-36. SPF swim shirts (preferably long-sleeve) and button-down long-sleeve shirts

A long day of boating and swimming isn’t much fun with sunburn. And sunblock needs regular reapplication. Hence, we all have long-sleeve rash guards for swimming, and lightweight long-sleeve button-front sun shirts with roll-tab sleeves. (Columbia makes them in kids’ sizes.)

Long-sleeve rash guards keep sun at bay, and camping towels pack small and dry fast.
35. Long-sleeve rash guard; 63. Quick-dry camping towel.

I wasn’t so careful about these things before I married DH. The girls inherited his fair complexion, and presumably his family history of skin cancer as well. So if I put something on them, I also put it on myself. That way, I can set a good example for them. (The same goes for wearing a hat!)

37. Sunscreen

And don’t forget the sunscreen! We like Neutrogena products because they don’t irritate my and Essie’s sensitive skin. But if you’ll be swimming with fish, coral reefs, or other natural critters while camping, consider a reef-friendly sunblock like ThinkSport. (This is what we got for our trip to Hawaii last winter.)

38. Repellent containing DEET and/or picaridin

Even if you wear permethrin-treated clothing, any exposed skin is still fair game for biting insects. So you’ll need to protect that exposed skin somehow. Again, according to the experts who’ve tested different products, the most effective ones for long-term coverage are those containing DEET or (if you have kids under 3) picaridin.

Being Active

39. Decent day packs, sized to wearer, for all

Everyone who’s walking needs their own day pack (backpack large enough to hold essential gear for the day/hike). Even the littlest hikers can use a tiny one for a small leakproof sippy cup and a few snacks. (I’m a firm believer in getting kiddos started on being responsible for their own stuff at an early age.)

Daypacks sized to the wearer make for happier camping trips and hikes.
39. My daypack and my kiddos’ Camelback Mini M.U.L.E. packs, each containing an appropriately-sized 40. hydration bladder.

RELATED POST: Teach Your Kids Responsibility: Ten Super Hacks

RELATED POST: Responsible Kids On The Road: My Top Tips for Travel

And unless your kiddos are school-age, it’s also a good idea to have a child-carrier hiking backpack for one grownup to wear. As long as your toddler or preschooler fits the weight limits, I’m willing to bet they won’t be able to take another step a lot faster than the rest of you tire, walking from your campsite to the nearby beach and back.

RELATED POST: Babywearing Made Easier, From Hikes to Dads To Big(ger) Babies: My Votes for Favorite Baby Carrier

40. Hydration packs

It’s so easy to forget to drink on hot summer days, when you’re out on a hike or paddling about. Hydration packs have solved this problem for us. We’re a Camelbak family, just because that’s what my baby bro Evan first introduced me to years ago, but there are plenty of other brands out there.

And yes, there are even hydration packs for kids. While you can buy the pieces (bladder + a backpack to hold it) separately, I recommend getting a full hydration pack system if you’re going to use it a lot. Water is heavy. The girls’ CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. hydration systems come with small backpacks just big enough to hold a few essentials besides the water, so they don’t overload them. And while my hubby and I use our M.U.L.E. packs as our backpacks for long biking trips, we just swap the bladder into hiking day packs the rest of the time.

41-42. Emergency sanitation kit + kids’ emergency supplies

Whenever you’re camping, at least one grownup should keep an “emergency sanitation kit” handy (e.g., in backpack on hikes or excursions) at all times. This is a small zip-top bag containing a small (i.e., almost-empty) roll of toilet paper, a small container of hand sanitizer, and a few small extra plastic bags for trash.

Every parent should pack an emergency stash of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and trash bags in a zip-top bag when camping.
41. Emergency sanitation kit: a small roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and extra bags for packing out trash and wet clothes after accidents

RELATED POST: Must-Haves for Family Camping With Preschoolers

A small diaper clutch is perfect for tucking in a backpack, if you have littles still in diapers. Otherwise, at least up until tweens, each child (especially each girl) should also bring a plastic bag in their backpack containing a spare pair of shorts and undies. Trust me on this.

RELATED POST: Our First Family Camping Trip, Done Better

43-44. Clip-on sanitizers and SPF lip balms

Because it’s easier to just clip these on your backpack, too. And kids, especially, might need to clean their hands before stopping for a snack. Plus you don’t want anyone’s lips getting sunburned and blistered – trust me, it’s not pleasant. (These little gadgets will help you clip on your lip balm.)

45-46. Two pairs of closed-toe shoes per person (preferably one waterproof, one water)

You don’t want your kiddos in open-toed sandals in camp. Everyone should have a pair of sturdy shoes for walking/hiking, preferably waterproof hiking boots. And everyone should also have some sort of shoes that can get wet, with grippy rubber soles (water shoes, old sneakers, etc.), for things like exploring wet coastlines.

Even kids need sturdy shoes for family camping trips.
Everyone, including kids, should have 45. sturdy closed-toe shoes for family camping trips, such as hiking boots or sneakers.

Again, learn from our experience: try on shoes shortly before you go camping so you know they fit. And if you only bring one pair of shoes for your kiddo, I can promise you they’ll get soaked the first day, and your child will be miserable.

If you haven’t tried Amazon Prime yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has saved our backsides more than once, when we realize 72 hours before our next camping trip that we’re out of some hard-to-find gear, or the kids have outgrown some of their camping attire. And if you try Amazon Prime with a 30-Day Free Trial, you can always take advantage of that free 1-2 day shipping on thousands of items, then cancel before your free trial ends if you don’t like it.

47. Trekking poles

Collapsible/adjustable trekking poles are great for helping keep anyone with bad knees (me) upright on unsteady terrain while hiking. Kids who are less-experienced hikers can also find them helpful. I was skeptical until I tried them; now I’m a convert.

48. Packable picnic blanket/ground cover

A lightweight something to put on the ground for impromptu picnics is a great thing to have. There are so many compact, packable lightweight versions out there, you can find one for pretty much any budget. But if you’re not yet convinced, just roll up a heavy-duty (oversized/contractor-style, if you have them) trash bag and stuff it in your day pack. (A small knife or pair of scissors is helpful for cutting it open along the seams.)

A packable lightweight ground cover is great for impromptu camping picnics with kids.
48. Packable lightweight groundcover blanket.

49. Lightweight multi-use rain ponchos

At some point, everyone will hike and/or camp in the rain. And for just a couple bucks more than a disposable single-use poncho, you can get a slightly sturdier rain poncho that you can reuse over and over. (Ponchos without sleeves are also nice in that they’re big enough to cover you AND your day pack.) We all carry our own in our backpacks, so we’re ready to wear them on short notice.

Rain ponchos don't take up much space, but you'll be glad to have one when you need it!
49. Rain poncho – unlike a regular rain coat, ponchos pack up small but are big enough to cover your body AND your day pack.

50-51. Dry sacks (for clothes + phones)

If there’s any chance you’ll have wet stuff you want to keep from soaking everything else (e.g., swimsuits) – or dry stuff you want to keep dry (e.g., your clean clothes for post-swimming), you need a few basic dry sacks. The kind made for boating will also get your gear safely through a day of raining hiking, boating, swimming, or what have you. While you could also use 2-gallon zip top bags, dedicated dry sacks are much more durable, and some will also compress the contents so they take up less space.

And now that I’ve discovered phone-sized dry-sack neck wallets, I keep one with my swim gear at all times. On camping trips, I keep an extra one in my day pack, just in case we get caught in the rain.

Staying Clean

52-53. Paper towels (properly hung) and cleaning wipes

Your camp kitchen gear should include a roll of paper towel (we like the choose-a-size types) and a canister of your favorite cleaning wipes. We take a lightweight dry-cleaner’s hanger (the white ones are easiest), un-twist the top, slide the paper towel through, and then re-twist the top together. This makes a camp-friendly paper towel dispenser that hangs from a corner of your camp table, so they don’t roll away from you.

54. Plastic shopping bags (for trash)

And unless you live in a state that bans plastic shopping bags, bring a bunch of extra grocery-store bags to use for trash bags. (Check for holes first.) Otherwise, bring some plastic trash bags with you.

55-58. Camp Suds 2-oz AND 16-oz, plus sponges/scrubber for dishes

We like Camp Suds as a general-purpose camp soap because it’s biodegradable, concentrated, versatile, and works in hot or cold water (even in salt water!). We use it for dishes and hand-washing clothes; Dear Husband also uses it for his bathing soap. (Thanks to our sensitive skin, the girls and I use moisturizing sensitive-skin body wash instead.)

We have several 2-oz bottles that we refill after each trip from the 16-oz bottles. When we’re camping, I keep the soap, a small sponge, and a small scrubber in a mesh clip-on bag; that’s our “dishwashing” kit. I have another small bottle that stays in another clip-on mesh bag along with my travel hand-laundry items. Makes life so much easier to have these bags always ready to go!

59. Flip-flops or slides for everyone

So you don’t have to

  • walk around barefoot in the shower house (eeeew!), or
  • fuss with getting shoes back on for middle-of-the-night toilet trips.

My pair are plastic Madrid-style Birkenstocks, which are so much more comfy for me than regular flip-flops.

60-62. Hanging toiletry kits, mesh shower caddies, and a small separate pouch with toothbrushes/toothpaste

Just as I’ve yet to see a shower house I’d like to walk around in barefoot, I’ve yet to see one with oodles of clean counter space for all your “stuff.” A couple of toiletry kits with hanging hooks (one for the girls/Mama, one for the boys/Dad) make it much easier to access your stuff without your things getting gross, wet, and/or landing on the floor in the process.

Likewise, each of us has a mesh shower caddy to stash our clean clothes/dry towels in when we shower (or go to swim), and carry the wet/dirty things back to the site when we’re done. And finally, because it’s easier to have just a few things (toothbrushes/toothpaste, bedtime pills, contact solution/glasses case, whatever) before bed and first thing, we just use one of the Vaultz pouches for these things, so we don’t have to take the whole larger kit each time.

63-64. Quick-dry towels and facecloths

If you’ve never tried quick-dry microfiber towels and camp facecloths, trust me: you NEED these. They pack up smaller than your regular towels. and line-dry so much faster. And the facecloths are genius – perfect for scrubbing off trail grime, but so quick-drying that they never get “funky” smelling. We each have our own set now, color-coded so we can tell whose are whose.

When choosing towels, make sure you pick bath towels that are large enough to cover bodies, and read reviews to find ones that won’t shrink or bleed. Also look for ones with an integrated hang loop.

65. Extra quick-dry towels for pots and pans

I also got a few extra sets, in black and gray, of these two-packs of 16″x32″ microfiber hand towels. We use one gray towel for a hand towel in camp, and the other three as dish-drying towels.

66. CGEAR desert-gear door mats

These seemed extravagant, until we tried them (thanks to my in-laws gifting them to us for Christmas). Best. Gift. EVER.

Before, the girls routinely tracked all sorts of crud into our tent (usually all over my/DH’s sleeping spaces, on their way back to their own spots). But these CGear mats keep 90% of the crud outside, in our “garage” and “back porch” (see above). They also provide a clean-ish, dry-ish space for stripping off wet and muddy gear before entering our tent, by keeping us separate from wet and muddy ground space. But they rinse off with a garden hose, and dry super-fast!

CGear mats do a fabulous job of keeping dirt from the outdoors OUT of your tent while camping.
2. “Back porch” of our 6-person tent; 66. CGear anti-sand mat.

67. Camp-sized whisk broom and dust pan

So, that 10% of crud that still slips into our tent, even after our new CGear mats? These clean it up, quickly and efficiently, when we’re packing up camp – so it’s not all waiting for us the next time we set up the tent.

68. Clothesline OR folding clothes rack

We always used to bring a long length of sturdy yellow rope with us for a camp clothesline. It was durable, and the color kept it visible.

This worked great until the time we camped out in an open field, with nothing to tie the rope to. (Oh, and it poured most of that trip.) Hence, if there’s any chance of either rain or no trees, I now toss in one of our lightweight fold-flat clothes drying racks. During last summer’s week of more rain than not, our laundry, towels, and swim wear would never have dried if we hadn’t brought the rack and set up in our tent’s garage.

Even kids can carry gear into the campsite when needed.
8. 5-gallon collapsible water jug; 33. Sunday Afternoon sun hats, 39. Kid-sized backpacks, 68. Foldable drying rack, 71. Kid-sized camp chairs. My husband was skeptical about bringing the drying rack on this trip, but we were glad to have it set up in our tent’s “garage” on the days it poured!

Leisure and Rest

69-70. Headlamps + extra batteries

Everyone old enough to walk for themselves should have their own headlamp. These hands-free flashlights are essential for getting around safely at night. Plus they now come in sizes and patterns targeted toward kids, too. (And don’t forget the extra batteries!)

71. Folding camp chairs for all

Because if your littles don’t have their own little chairs, they’ll crawl up into yours. We have basic adult-sized ones; if you’ll be going to music festivals or outdoor sporting events with yours, splurge on one with a sun canopy. We just upgraded the girls from ones sized for little kids to ones sized for bigger kids.

You could also bring the folding lawn chairs you may already own – but camping chairs fold up smaller, into carry bags you can sling over your shoulder when needed.

72. A small hanging light or lantern

Having a small light that can hang is ideal for the roof inside your tent when putting little ones to bed, or when putting yourself to bed without disturbing them. Also useful for having out on the picnic table during adult time after they’ve gone to sleep.

73-75. Fleece sleep sacks, sleeping-bag liners, and travel pillows

If you’re going to be somewhere that gets chilly at night, then yes, by all means, bring the regular (bulky) sleeping bags. But if you’re camping during the summer heat, when even the nighttime lows are still pretty hot and humid, you’ll all be much more comfortable with a lightweight fleece sleep sack and a sheet or sheet-weight sleeping bag liner. (I strongly recommend ones that can open up flat and are easy to wash.)

And packable camp-sized pillows will also help you save packing space. (For your kids, you might look for pillow-pet friends.)

Sleeping bag liners, travel-sized pillows, and inflatable air mattresses will help you sleep comfortably with less packing space.
74. Sleeping bag liner; 75. (hot pink left corner) Travel-sized pillow; 77. Inflatable air mattress; 82. Small games to play in camp.

76. Cots or sleeping pads (for kids)

Little ones will sleep more comfortably if they have their own sleeping pad or small cot. (Cots are a good bet if they’re useful for other travel, too. Essie sleeps on a Regalo cot when we visit friends with cats, to keep her off the floor and away from allergens.)

If you have several kids and will use them enough (camping and otherwise) to justify the cost, get your kids their own bunk-bed-style cots, which people who’ve tried them swear by. (Alas, we didn’t discover them until our kids were too big to justify the cost.)

77-78. Air mattress + electric inflation pump (for grownups)

Dear Husband and I have slept on the floor of the Grand Canyon, with only minimal padding from our self-inflating mattress pads.

We’re older and achier now.

So a few years ago, for a weekend camping trip with a 100-mile bike ride in the middle of it, we upgraded to a serious air mattress and a battery-operated pump. We haven’t looked back.

79-80. Stand-alone potty seat + “toilet kit”

Even if your littles are potty-trained. We brought one with us until the girls were 7 and 5, and put it under the back extension of the tent. We’d also hang a small clear bag with toilet paper/hand sanitizer off the back of the tent, along with a recycled plastic shopping bag for trash.

It takes more presence of mind than some young kids have (even if they’re fully toilet-trained) to wake up at night with enough time to put on shoes plus walk down to the shower house. Let alone wake an adult, wait for the adult to get on shoes, and walk with them to the shower house.

If you’ve got boys, they’ve got easier middle-of-the-night options. As a mama to girls, I preferred having access to more sleep and fewer middle-of-the-night accidents. And the girls loved having their private little bathroom just outside the tent, under our enclosed back-porch alcove.

81-82. A few diversions, e.g. books/small games (non-electronic)

Our first camping trip with the girls, we made the mistake of not bringing things to entertain them while we were setting up camp. Never again.

Plus, have I mentioned that sometimes it rains every single day?

For Emergencies

83. Compass/thermometer/whistle multi-tool keychain

Get several and clip them on everyone’s day packs. Kids can have fun learning how to read the compass – and in an emergency, they can use the whistle so you can find them.

84-86. A rubber mallet, small axe, and folding shovel

The rubber mallet is for pounding in tent poles; the axe is in case you have to chop up firewood; and the shovel is useful for digging out ashes and leaving no trace.

87. A basic, compact multitool

Because this should cover whatever other tools you might need in an emergency – screwdriver, pliers, clippers, etc.

88. High-capacity power bank plus extra charging cords

Because – wilderness. You won’t have much access to outlets for charging your devices, OR for charging your chargers.

Or even better, although we haven’t tried them yet, just get a solar-charging power bank.

89. Basic lightweight first-aid kit

Whenever you’re away from camp, one of the grownups needs to carry a basic first-aid kit for hiking/camping. (These are lighter-weight and more compact than the sorts of kits you might have in your car, at home, or at work.) For what it’s worth, this is my kit – I love how lightweight, water-resistant, and easy to spot it is., when it’s hiding in the bottom of my backpack.

90-92. Antibiotic ointment, alcohol prep pads, and plenty of decent adhesive bandages

For camping, skip the cute kids’ bandages; you want something that will stay on. (The 3M Nexcare sport bandages are great for this.) And you’ll also need some extra alcohol prep pads (for cleaning/disinfecting) and some sort of antibiotic ointment.

Why? Because once you get back to camp, that bug bite your kid scratched open – or that blister your valiant spouse earned on the trail – is going to need follow-up care. And if you don’t have extra supplies at camp, you’re going to run through what’s in your first aid kit in no time flat.

93-94. Moleskin and small scissors

And you also want some self-adhesive moleskin, plus a small folding pair of scissors. If someone gets a blister, wipe it clean with an alcohol wipe (preferably before it breaks open), cut a small piece of moleskin to cover the blister and surrounding area, and carry on with your day. The moleskin will protect and cushion the blister so it doesn’t get worse.

Moleskine and duct tape are must haves for family camping and family travel.
My camping emergency kit with 93. moleskin for blisters; 95. a small roll of duct tape; and (barely visible at lower left of mesh pocket) 94. small folding scissors; inside are 98. Ace bandages and 99. a couple of emergency single-use cold packs.

95. Duct tape

Duct tape can fix so many things in a pinch. Use it to fix luggage, patch your tent, cover a blister if you’ve run out of moleskin/bandages, attach a makeshift splint from a stick, etc. etc. etc. Rather than bring a huge roll, look for a compact one. Or take a tool you’ll always have with you, and carefully unwind several yards from the roll onto your tool, to make a new mini-roll attached to your tool.

96-97. Kids’ meds kit + emergency meds on-person

Besides whatever regular medicines your child takes, you’ll need to remember things like the rescue inhaler, epi-pen, or whatever else your child uses. Not back in camp, but in the child’s day pack (or that of the grownup with the child).

And since these things might be harder to find at roadside stores than adult versions, also remember to bring to camp your small kids’ meds toiletry kit (thermometer + probe covers, children’s acetominophen, children’s allergy medicine, children’s motion-sickness meds, your child’s occasional-use prescriptions, etc.). Before you leave home, check your kids’ current weight, then write their weight and current dosage right on the bottle.

98-99. An Ace bandage and instant ice pack

Especially if someone in your family is prone to wobbly knees, twisted ankles, etc. Because if someone trips on the trail, where are you going to get ice and an Ace bandage? Sometimes you can find instant ice packs in emergency kits with an Ace bandage; other times, you’ll have to buy them separately.

100. A water purification set

Because sometimes there’s no water faucets nearby, and your only source of water is the local stream or lake. Which means you’ll need to purify your cooking and drinking water.

What did I miss? What are your family’s essential items and favorite hacks to make family tent camping easier? Let us know in the comments!

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Whether you're new to camping or are experienced campers trying to add kids into the mix, these 100 must-have tips will make family tent camping easier.



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100 Genius Hacks to Make Family Tent Camping Easier100 Genius Hacks to Make Family Tent Camping Easier100 Genius Hacks to Make Family Tent Camping Easier