Before we get to the packing list, heres a brief diagnostic test:
Which of the following best describes your current attitude toward the idea of going camping with children?
- A. It is a specific form of torture. One that has been passed down generationally due to some sort of moral obligation to an antiquated idea of nature, and an inherited genetic compulsion to self-punish. My parents took my siblings and me; therefore, I have to take my kids. Suffering. Pain. Failure.
B. Theres nothing quite like sleeping outdoors, getting up and eating bacon outside, spending the day together doing something memorable, making dinner on the grill, sitting by the campfire talking, looking at the stars, going to bed, and doing that again for a couple days.
C. I really just want to eat bacon outside, but Ive exhausted all my favors and I cant get anyone to watch my kids for the weekend.
Clearly, this is not a very scientific test. And in the end, it doesnt really matter if youre an A, B or C. At some point youll still probably find yourself in a flimsy shelter in the wilderness with kids who think bears are cute and should definitely be approached.
But its worth asking yourself if this is something you really want to do. First, wed like to say theres no judgment here. Dont go if you dont love it. Seriously. If you dont enjoy it, your kids wont. (Even if you do enjoy it, your kids may not.) There are a lot of other short-term outdoor activities you can do. You can stay at a hotel and drive to an amazing hike. Spend a day at a lake. Go fishing for a few hours. Picnics. Cookouts. And so on.
Then again, there is that mysterious thing nature tends to do. Even if you (or another member of your party) dont find sleeping on the ground enjoyable in the luxurious, hot-tub-and-margaritas sense of the word, camping teaches you. It changes you. It makes an argument for itself when you take a step toward it.
Or maybe youve been taking your kids camping for years, every weekend its above 40°, and youre tired of these long introductions talking you into something you already love. Okay. Fair enough. You can skip ahead to the packing list and see if we didnt think of something you havent.
Its helpful to think of kid-camping as being more advanced than regular camping, not less. And it certainly helps if youre independently camp-savvy yourself before you bring dependents along with you. But its also part of the fun to learn as you go.
There are a lot of variables for a camping trip with your kids. Their ages, where youre going and how long youre staying make a big difference regarding what you should bring. For this list were assuming something like a weekend trip up into the Uintas with a 10 year old, an 8 year old, and maybe an accidental toddler just to make it interesting.
In this scenario youre going to need a fair amount of stuff. This is survival after all. The good news is once youre ready for three days youre probably pretty well set for a week (except for food and fuel). And once you get your gear ready you can store it all together and just worry about clothes, food, water, and fuel when you want to go again. Enjoy! (Seriously. Enjoy this. And make sure your kids do, too. Remember your moral obligation to an antiquated idea of being in nature.)
Check out this list below, which covers just about everything youll need to camp with your kiddos. Now all you need to figure out is where to go.
[Open CAMPING WITH KIDS packing list (PDF) >>]
UTAH.COMS SUPER-AWESOME CAMPING CHECKLIST