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Camping with kids: What gear do I need?

I'm married with two kids. One is 3 and one is about to be 6. We plan to take them camping for the first time in October. Does anyone have tips (general and specific)? I've camped many times growing up, but haven't in a long time. Therefore, I have no gear. We're starting from scratch. What should I buy? 

7 Replies

Hello there @BourbonBrother!

If you're going to hike with two kids, I can tell you that you definitely want to keep your hands free!  One of the best investments is a child carrier like the Kelty Journey Perfectfit Child Carrier or the Osprey Poco AG Child Carrier. One of the benefits of having a child carrier is that you can carry your toddler and hold your 6 year old's hand while hiking at the same time.  Don't forget to take a little container with cereal for the 3 year old to keep them busy and snacking during hikes!

For your 6 year old, REI has an adventure pack called the Carson Adventure Pak that is fun and educational!  

You can also bring an old camera for your child to carry and take pictures of interesting insects and plants.  Then you can go over their pictures together at the campsite and maybe come up with research you can do together later on when you have internet access. 

Make sure your children have some decent hiking shoes so they can have a great experience and memories. 

Since I assume you are car camping, bring a long marshmallow/hotdog roasting forks which are fun and safe because of the length.  

If you are going to share a sleeping bag, you can get a double sleeping bag, which I have and love!

We also have small sleeping bags for the kids like the REI Co-op Kindercone 25 or the REI Co-op Nodder 25 if you don't want to share bags with them.

You should definitely attend our family camping class at your local REI store.  There are a few other classes that may help you get back into the game!

If you have more questions or need more personalized information, you can always schedule a free outfitting session online.

Hope this helps...It's really awesome that you are getting back into camping and bringing your kids along to learn to love the outdoors!!

Stay safe and have fun,


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

When choosing a tent for car camping,  if you want to be comfortable get one that is sized for 1 or 2 people more then you have and test the tent out with the sleeping pads you intend to use and make sure they fit before taking it out to camp.  Tents tend to be sized by the max number of adults that can fill the floor.  This number may only be true with sleeping pads that are about 20in X 72in.      


This is an old question, and my reply won’t probably help the original poster. However, I hope it helps anyone else looking. The OP asks what gear to buy for camping with kids. A lot of this depends on what type of camping you are doing and what activities you plan on participating in. If you are going to do some light trail hiking without big elevation changes, I wouldn’t worry about getting a backpack carrier for any child over 3. Now something like an Ergo carrier can be helpful but not necessary. For the camping itself, kids don’t need a lot of special gear. Blankets and warm pjs usually serve just fine for sleeping. I liked to have mine in two sleeping layers like long underwear style pajamas with a fleece blanket sleeper over them. They had stocking caps if it was really chilly. Of course summer camping doesn’t require that, but I hate camping in the hot summer. Kids don’t even need a sleeping pad, but inexpensive closed-cell pads are great for them. You can up your game with sleeping bags, but most littles don’t stay in them well. My 8 year old still doesn’t stay in his well. As for day time, just have plenty of layers and at least one extra set of clothing  for every two days. I always bring two outfits per day because mine always end up getting wet or muddy. Have two pairs of shoes as well. After that, I would recommend lots of snacks and refillable water bottles. Outdoor exploring is hungry work. My biggest mom cheat was to take my Baby Bjorn potty chair to keep at my campsite for Middle of the night emergencies or ones that wouldn’t allow for getting to a bathroom quickly enough.


Oh, I forgot to add that if you are backpack camping with littles, then you would need some specialized gear. That isn’t something that I’ve done so I’ll let others answer that component since the OP didn’t clarify the type of camping she was planning on doing.


@CMOK even though the original post was from a while ago, we appreciate you adding your advice and perspective because, as you noted, others may benefit from it! Thanks for joining our community and engaging right away - if you're up for it, please introduce yourself to the community here!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

We camped with our kids for years and loved it! Be sure to bring things to occupy them. I had an activity kit with glue, paper, crayons, etc. We had the kids collect sticks, leaves, stones, etc and decorate them. Geocaching is a great activity too. You can look up geocaches online, solve the puzzle and swap "prizes". We kept a collection of trinkets we would use for this.

Keep the food simple and make sure they eat enough. Kids get cranky when they're hungry and camping burns a lot of calories.


@BourbonBrother did y'all end up camping last fall? How'd you do with gear? What was the best thing you took with you for your kids? We'd love to hear about it!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.