Make Family Camping Way More Fun – Pack Less!

by Josée

“When are we going camping?” asked my son just the other day. Camping is a much anticipated activity in our household. As a child, I loved camping too. My parents couldn’t afford luxurious trips abroad, but it didn’t matter. Our summer camping trips were filled with the best kind of adventures: discovering forests, climbing rocks, playing in streams, eating marshmallows, and listening to bedtime tales. Camping was magical and I wanted to share that magic with my own children.

I approached our first family camping adventures with zest. I prepared for everything. I packed, repacked and packed some more. I stocked up on those “ultimate” family camping checklists and created an elaborate system of bins. Instead of feeling well-prepared and ready for our camping adventure, all the lists, bins and plans left me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Camping became a logistical nightmare.

Minimalist Family Camping

A couple years ago I was wrestling my way through our pile of camping gear. “I hate packing,” I grumbled to myself while pulling out bin after bin. With my frustration rapidly mounting I looked at the huge pile of stuff and declared, “I don’t have to pack all this crap!”, and then I realized – I truly didn’t!

Why go camping?

Why do we bring our family camping? Is it to spend time with our loved ones? Disconnect? Reconnect with nature? All of the above?

For our family, camping is a time to connect with nature, one another and our friends. It’s a time of unfettered play. We get dirty, make fires, roast marshmallows and fall asleep with dust on our feet and smoke in our hair. Camping is a break from our complex lives and an opportunity to live simply, even if only for a few days.

Every family might have a slightly different reasons for why they camp, but I can guarantee that virtually nobody will say: “I bring my family camping so that I can pack an obscene amount of stuff”.  Said no parent ever.

Want Happy Campers? Pack Less!

Why are we so obsessed with those “ultimate family camping lists”, system of bins and piles of stuff when we go camping? The fact is we can make do with much less. Camping is suppose to be simple, that’s the beauty of it.

Every year when I sort through our camping supplies, I ask myself “what can we do without?”. Packing less means it’s easier to go on those last minute camping trips. Less stuff also means we’re better able to enjoy our time camping. There’s less stuff to unpack at the campsite, less stuff to manage, and more opportunities for creative fun!

What if I forget [fill in the blank]? Some of our best memories only happened because we didn’t have something. Try opening a corked bottle of wine with a shoe (it can be done!) or brushing your teeth without a toothbrush. One time we even forgot our stove! It’s amazing how creative and adaptable we can be when given the chance.

The “Ultimate” Minimalist Family Camping Checklist

  • Tent (poles, pegs, ground pad and fly)
  • Sleeping bags and pads
  • Headlamp
  • Matches/lighter and hatchet
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen and bug repellent
  • Cooking stove and fuel
  • A pot (like a Primus Pot)
  • A knife
  • One cup or water bottle per person
  • One bowl per person
  • One spoon/fork (or spork) per person
  • Small cooler for perishables
  • Multipurpose soap
  • A rag
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Weather appropriate clothes (hats, raincoats, fleeces…)
  • Easy to prepare food that keeps well (oatmeal, bagels, hard cheese, dried sausage, marshmallows, foil wrapped meals).

Get your FREE PRINTABLE: The Minimalist Family Camping Checklist

Keep Packing Simple

It’s always possible to add items to the list. You might want to bring one or two towels if there’s swimming nearby, an AeroPress for your caffeine fix, or your camera to capture those magical moments. However, keep everything as simple as possible. Don’t worry about bringing toys (not one!). Let kids play with rocks, dirt and sticks instead. Leave the electronic gadgets at home too (keep your cell phone tucked away for emergencies only). There’s also no need to bring a cutting board, pan, spatula, can opener, measuring cups, measuring spoons or even a plastic tablecloth. Plan for meals that don’t need these things, or do your prep at home in advance.

More Minimalist Camping Tips

Packing simply is the first big step towards fun, easy and stress-free family camping adventures, but here are a few other great ways to keep camping fun and easy to pull off on short notice:

  • Camp close to home.
  • Discover what the campground amenities are available before leaving (potable water, bathrooms with toilet paper, picnic tables, firewood).
  • Go for a short camping trip (a couple days).
  • Leave the sport gear at home (bikes, SUP, kayaks, climbing).
  • Have one small backpack per child for their clothes and any little extras they want to bring.

Disclaimer: This page contains Amazon Affiliates links and I may earn a small commission from your purchases made through them. 

Related Articles


Annette, Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne May 2, 2018 - 7:19 am

Exactly what I need before this weekend’s wild camping adventure! Couldn’t be more timely. Thank you! 🙂

Maria May 2, 2018 - 2:38 pm

I am glad that I stumbled on this website, even though I have seen it before, I totally forgot about this. Will be back for more.

Elnore Macey October 3, 2018 - 3:00 am

Minimize your tent packing by investing in a pop up tent. Seriously – Life changer for us. Takes up less space in the car, is light weight and literally only requires you to take it out of the bag. No heavy poles. We own one very similar to this 2 man coleman tent : Only ours is a camp master tent.

Often toiletries take up a ridiculous amount of space. We use an all in one body soap for the entire family that can be used to wash hair as well. I make do with body cream for the weekend as facecream – It does no harm. Also avoid chucking in extra clothing. I am always tempted to pack in 2x the amount I actually need

Ryno Tuff Sleeping Pad Set December 24, 2018 - 10:17 pm

Yes, we should consider these things before camping. Thanks

sarah August 13, 2019 - 9:08 pm

thank you!!!!! i was overwhelmed and filled with anxiety before i read this post…. all the fun sucked out of camping. i can definitely work with this minimal camping list. now, how to not be a helicopter parent so everyone can enjoy themselves.

Sarah October 3, 2022 - 9:43 pm

Get your kids collecting and sawing firewood where you are allowed! My 5 year old’s favorite part of camping 🙂

TIGERATTACK May 23, 2023 - 6:59 pm



Leave a Comment