10 Must Have Camping Supplies You’ll Want to Get Your Hands On

Camping Must Haves | 10 must-have camping supplies & camping gear

Oh man, do I love camping. When M and M were toddlers, camping was really hard, exhausting, and overwhelming. (We have a couple of runners and apparently, they don’t have a stopping point. We learned that after taking turns chasing a 2-year-old Big M for two days straight.)

Now that they’ve gotten older camping has become so much more fun. It’s time to start gathering some camping must haves.

You’ll also want to pack some hilarious camping jokes and camping puns along with your camping supplies for kids.

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Camping Must Haves | 10 must have camping supplies & camping gearThis list of camping must-haves includes things we love, things we want, and things the readers have suggested in the comments. Enjoy! (Once you’ve finished: print, cut, and pack up these Camping Jokes.)

#1 The Big Camping Must Have. First up is always a tent! We love our Coleman 6-Person Tent.

must have camping gear for camping with kids

#2 We must sleep! Each kiddo gets their own special color sleeping bag. We love them for special nights on the floor, sleepovers, and especially for last year’s FREEZING camping trip. They were warm… hubby and I were too cold to sleep (see #5).

#3 The Best Traveling Cups EVER! To say I like these Thermos Funtainer Cups is an understatement. Ours lasted for about 7 years (I’m not kidding!) They are a camping must-have because we refilled them constantly and didn’t have to worry about a bunch of wasted, unidentified plastic water bottles.

Update: Because the kids have had these cups since they were little, we tried out a few different brands. Nothing even comes close… we’ll be going for the more “grown-up” version now.

#4 Games That Travel Easily. We love family games around here. Some of our favorites to take camping are Mancala, Uno Flip (I think this might be my favorite version of Uno, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, Phase 10, and Boggle. Check your game closet first. Anything that can be played on a picnic table, doesn’t get swept away in the wind, and fits nicely into your camping bag will work.

Update: Bocce Ball is a new family favorite. This set Bocce Set has great reviews.

#5 Extra Warm Adult Sleeping Bags. Our sleeping bags are okay, but Hubs and I really need to get some that will keep us warm on cold nights. These Coleman Sleeping Bags look warm… and cozy!

#6 Somewhere to Sit. I have a cute pink chair. After sitting in my brother in laws Rocker Chair I decided I want a new one. It’s so comfy. Hmm… I wonder if this one comes in pink?

#7 A Camping Table for Eating and Playing. We always bring throw-away table cloths for the tables provided but a Pack-Away Table would give us a lot of extra space!

#8 Camping Stove. We fell in love with my brother in laws camping stove last camping trip but we may have to settle for the newer version of Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove. Unless we can weasel this oldie away from my brother-in-law. It has a ridged side and a flat side. Perfect for burgers or pancakes!

#9 Camping Lights! This camping must have come from the comments. It’s so smart and will become a regular part of our camping supplies for sure. Solar-Powered Lights are perfect for setting up when you first arrive. By nightfall, you will have a well-lit path to the bathroom.

Alrighty, that’s nine must-have camping supplies. What would you add for #10?

*Update – I just had an idea! There are so many awesome ideas in the comments. SERIOUSLY BRILLIANT camping must-haves!

I suppose I could make it even easier for you by moving some of those camping supplies for kids and families here and giving you clickable links. So here are camping tips and tricks all of you readers think are camping must haves.

Keep in mind these are just product links, reading the comments will help give you a better idea of why the readers love these things so much and how they use them.

Want even more camping ideas? How about tips for camping with kids? (Of course, you should read the comments before you go… there is a lot of great info there!)

This post contains affiliate links.

must have camping gear for camping with kids


  1. We bring a few packs of glow bracelets from the dollar store. We attach one to the zipper on the tent (easier to find at night), hang one from the ceiling as a nightlight, and put one on the site number so we can find it coming back from the washroom. Sometimes we put them on ourselves too 🙂

    For cold camping night we’ve found that wearing a toque (knit winter hat) and socks makes a huge difference to keep us warm.

    1. Hang the glow sticks on the guy ropes as well…..stops from tripping over them in the middle of the night after a call of nature.

  2. I love tent camping too but the idea of a snake freaks me out EXCEPT a snake-light flashlight. The bendable handle allows you to use it as a free standing light source in the tent (get the perfect angle for shadow puppet shows too). Best of all wear it around your neck so that the ground in front of you is illuminated leaving both hands free to carry towel and toiletries. Wearing it around your neck also means you don’t have to put down your flashlight or lose the light in the outhouse. Black and Decker makes them.

  3. These are basic simple things to think about. Your camping equipment needs will vary depending on where you will be camping. Camping on the beach has different needs then camping in the mountains. You should always start your foray into camping small. Take a day trip somewhere close to your home. Check out the surroundings and the camp sites. Get an understanding of what the equipment needs will be.”

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  4. Glowsticks are a must, we pick out a tree in our camp and decorate it so that folks coming in after dark know which campsite is ours.

      1. Another reader wants to know. “I’m just wondering how long do the glow sticks last? Just for one night or do they regenerate for the next night?”

        1. In my experience the glow sticks will be bright on the first night then much dimmer but still workable on the second. On the third I have to do a new one. I camp with my horses and I put them on the fence so I can see the horses, and in the potty/shower tent as a night light. I will also put it on the hitch of the trailer so I do not bang my shin on it.

  5. Some people vacation in permanent camps with cabins and other facilities (such as hunting camps or children’s summer camps), but a stay at such a camp is usually not considered camping. The term camping (or camping out) may also be applied to those who live outdoors, out of necessity (as in the case of the homeless), or for people waiting overnight in queues.^

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  6. I take knee highs and insert a small almost used up bar of soap or a hotel bar of soap into the knee high and tie it around the water faucet for quick clean ups. The knee high keeps the soap up off the ground and it doesnt sit in a puddle of wet and melt away. It keeps it right where its needed.

    1. Depending on your location soap can be an attractant for bears and other wildlife and presents a safety hazard. Be careful with this tip.

      1. A better soap to use is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap – Peppermint, or Unscented. I pack it backpacking.

        I have read that since peppermint is often wild and animals don’t eat it, they don’t associate the smell with food.

  7. Another good idea for lighting up your camp area at night is cheap solar lawn lights. The little cheap ones you just stake in the ground. They charge during the day, then light up at night. Put them around your table/tent etc to mark areas. Great for the little bitty ones (we camp with 3 kiddos under 5), to know where to go/not go.

  8. Pie irons are great we use left overs from supper to create breakfast or lunch the next day and everyone gets what they like and no dirty dishes!!!

  9. take a large party coffee pot without the guts and keep it plugged in for a hot water heater ready for dishes washing up cocoa

        1. If you tent camp at a campground and use an electric site with an extension cord. We don’t back pack into the wild, and we have rope lights that go around the inside of our dining canopy, so we usually hook up to an electrical outlet.

  10. I’m just wondering how long do the glow sticks last? Just for one night or do they regenerate for the next night?

      1. They only last a few hours. For the tent gut lines use Nite Ize Reflective Guy Lines, since most people use a light when they go out at night, they work great.

  11. Glow sticks typically last one night. If they are still glowing in the morning, put them in the cooler and you might get some extra out of them.

  12. I take a few solar lawn lights that stake in the ground and we take them along for bathroom strolls during the night. They charge all day and we sit them by the tent doors at night. I love to take my griddle to make panckes also.

  13. I think a 30′ travel trailer (or at least a pop up!) is a must have camping supply. Sleeping on the ground, even with an air mattress sucks. And I know people will say it costs too much, but we bought an old pop up for a hundred bucks and fixed it up, sold that for more than we paid for it, wash, rinse repeat until we finally moved up to the super nice 30′ travel trailer we have. It took us years and a lot of work, but what it saved us in money and bad backs and late night potty trips made it well worth it.

      1. I too feel I have earned the right to be “off ” the ground. LOL
        We started camping in a 2-man tent… worked our way up to a 4 person tent, then purchased a 20 yr old pop-up, which was great!..Then invested in a new pop-up, then moved up to a 26ft. travel trailer.
        In our old age (well… we both turned 60!!) we invested in our “retirement” project… a 31 ft. Jayco Class C Motorhome…
        but I still carry a tent… just in case – you just never know who will show up… maybe one day grandkids!
        Life’s too short.. so Camp on!

    1. Katie, I love that Idea! My husband and I want to get a camper, He loves the tent camping experience but I am more about the Glamping experience. I still like the outdoor-ness, but when it comes to sleeping with a 3 year old and cooking, I am going to need a camper! I will have to share this idea with my husband!

    2. I agree! I tented for years, but now that I’m older my $600 pop up is like a little piece of heaven! So much nicer when you get a wet weekend! Everything stays dry! I’m doing some decorating this year with new curtains, cushions, paint and flooring. It shouldn’t cost me more than $100, and I’m going to love it even more! Maybe 1 of these years I can upgrade, but no more tents for my old butt, and this will do for now!

  14. You can also get glow sticks that have batteries and are on cords for the kids the batteries last for several camping trips as long as you turn them off.

    I also took a 5gl bucket with kitchen trash bag in it and a little cat sand 100% clay for a need to pee at night for the kids then twist the bag closed and put the TP in a separate trash then you can dump the cat sand around a tree at the end of the weekend and the used cat sand helps the trees or bushes. Then dispose of the rest of your trash in the dumpsters.

  15. The things I take car camping that I don’t go with out any more are.

    3 Burner Camp Chef Stove with griddle.
    Dutch Ovens. Wonderful for cobblers, apple crisps and just about anything else.
    Charcoal Chimney for starting the charcoal for the dutch ovens with lighter fluid. I place the dutch oven on the stove on low and put the coals on top and it works great.

    Hammock. Great for naps or lounging around. When I backpack, I use a hammock and a tarp instead of packing a tent and sleeping pad.

  16. We string a strand of solar lights around the inside of the tent. They have an on and off switch that you can use each time you come into the tent or leave it on all night if you have little ones and just recharge it the next day (we just put the charger on the top of the tent during the day). We also put a glow in the dark bracelet (or larger) on the dogs at night as a collar so we can see where they are.

  17. We have two sets of sturdy metal cot bunk beds that we set up in our large tent. You are off the ground for sleeping and it is so much easier to set up and put away than crawling on the floor with air mattresses and sleeping bags and leaves more open space in the tent for getting dressed or in case of rain. They are heavy but pack nice and flat.

  18. I primitive camp with my horses a lot. I have washed out a laundry detergent bottle- the ones with the spigots on them, to use for hand washing water. I actually have a few of them depending on how many days I will be camping. When it is going to be cold, I actually take a sheet with me, unzip the sleeping bag leaving the foot section still zipped ( I sleep on a memory foam camping mattress) and use the sheet and the sleeping bag. I also will wear a hat or put a hoodie on, and take two “hot hands” put one in the pillow case of my pillow about where the back of my head will be and throw one down in the foot area of my bed and I stay very cozy. The hot hands can be very hot! so I try and make sure my face will not hit the hot hand in my pillow case, and near my feet but not where my feet are. (I also wear socks!)

      1. I wonder if the “hot hand” are the little heating pads that you can put in your Gloves and shoes. Not sure where you live Jillian, but they sell them at Scheels, here in South Dakota!

  19. I always have my daughter wear her light up shoes – always know where she is at night. We also use the solar landscape lights for guy lines and other toe hazards!

  20. 1. You can get a pop up hamper at the dollar store and line it with a garbage bag for trash. Get one in a different color for you recyclables.
    2. You can stuff toilet paper rolls with shredded paper or dryer lint and use it as a fire starter. Add dried sage and it will keep the bugs away too.

    1. What about cooking over the open fire like a tripod or other open fire grills? We use and love the Tough Tripod grill. Nothing like cooking over an open campfire! 🙂

  21. If you’re using the solar lights, you can put them in an upside down terra cotta potting plant instead of steaking them into the ground. This way they are easily movable!

  22. Solar showers. We use them to heat water for washing hands and dishes. it comes in handy for day two or three shower.

  23. I’ve used glow sticks and solar lights before. Now I came across a new trick: paint a few rocks with glow in the dark paint and place them wherever needed (around the tent, to mark a path…). Definitely going to try it this year.

  24. Wow I have picked up several really useful tips, my husband and I are new to camping so we can use all the help we can get. I don’t know how we would have done it without Pinterest, I have learned a lot.

  25. OK first of all I love camping and most of the time I have a great time,but I do find some of it boring. So for years I carry a simple deck of cards. Card games can be fun with others or when camping alone. In recent years I have been bringing outdoor magazines on solo trips. Other items I carry; one I feel we should always have is a garbage bag. Take the trash back with you and not just yours, but the trash of less thought full people.

  26. Okay let’s see, the solar lights u can use as tent spikes, glow paint is awesome-it recharges in the day light & u can paint it on almost anything including ur flashlight, duct tape now makes glowing tape too. Mix pancake mix in zip bags, keep in the cooler & just cut the corner to squeeze onto cook top. Old squeeze bottles work for this too. When my kids were little I kept a training potty with a zip bag in it for the night time potting. I have moved on to a fifth wheel myself, couldn’t pass up great deal, but camping is my get away its my favorite place. I still use a lot of these tips now.

  27. The company Hot hands also makes a product called toasty toes. They stick room your socks an keep your feet warm all night. I won’t camp without them.

  28. I’ve been camping in a tent for the past 5 yrs — things I’ve done over the years to make things easier for us is —

    ** Take along a shelving unit (one that comes apart) and you can use 2 of the shelves outside the tent for your cooking kettles and dishes, etc.. and the other 2 (or 3) to use inside for food items (buns, bread, crackers, clothes, etc) and you can hook a garbage bag on the side for waste inside the tent…

    **on Pinterest, there is a few postings of silverware storage made from cans.. so you can leave it on the table or move it back in tent easily (the one I made has 3 soup cans (fork, knives, spoons) on one side and a space for putting napkins on the other side and they are mounted to a piece of board in the center

    ** I also use 5/5 gal buckets from one of the box hardware stores for doing dishes (one for washing, one for rinsing) and one w/lid for garbage with a shopping bag for easy discard… you can also put a “Noodle” (used for swimming) around the edge (or buy a toliet seat) for them emergency potty runs (ie – little one can’t make it or it’s raining outside)I also take along a 4-pack of toilet paper (just in case) —

    ** At the end of Christmas, buy a few semi cheap light sets, and you can (providing you have an electrical site) hang them up inside the tent or outside (they will shed enough light inside the tent also) I have mine around the whole outside of the tent (they do attract the bugs, so if you don’t want them inside the tent, keep them away from the zippered door) or the outdoor lights (solar) if at a non-electrical site..

    ** I also found old melmac (?) dishes at a rummage sale and use them instead of paper plates or my dishes from home…

    ** Dollar Stores have bargins on aluminium foil, zip lock bags, squirt bottles, (you can use the bottles for pancake mix, etc) etc — I also get pot holders and hot pads from there, clothesline, clothespins, I also bought a plastic beach tote (don’t know what else to call it) to hold my towel and toiletries for shower time or you can get a handled tray (as you use for your cleaning supplies) to carry, they have small ones for the little tykes to carry their toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, etc

    ** Visit your Goodwill/Salvation Army/Purple Heart – as you will find old kettles, silverware, dishes, etc – you can use just for camping, and don’t have to worry about ruining your stuff from home.. It doesn’t have to match, that’s the fun of camping (I found an old stock pot that I use to heat water for washing dishes – once you finish cooking, place water on fire to heat up)

    ** At the end of the summer deals, get a few Shepard hooks as you can hang your trash bags and other things from them and off the ground (if you have little ones around) also, you can get small tables for the sides of beds to hold a night light or water cup or other things from K-Mart, Shopko, Wal-mart, etc (end of summer clearance works best – also check out ONLINE clearance, as they don’t have somethings in store as you will find online)

    ** I also use a “drying mat” for placing the dishes on once they are washed – you can also find a folding dish rack to dry your dishes on…

    ** Freeze your meats before packing in coolers, that way you don’t have to use as much ice and things stay cold… also, cut up all your onions and peppers, etc before you head out (I double wrap my onions so they don’t smell up my coolers) also, freeze some water bottles to use to keep things cold, and you will have them to drink once they thaw.

    ** We also use a Queen blow up mattress that is well above the ground – comes up to our knees (or you can buy folding platforms to place your mattresses on – I’ve seen ppl use old milk crates with a few boards to hold up the mattress)… also buy a solar emergency blanket, which we place under our mattress to keep some of the coldness at bay… (electrical site to make it easy to blow up – if not you can buy an adapter for your vehicles’ lighter port to inflate your mattress) just make sure you can get it in the tent door once inflated

    ** Once again – if you have an electrical site – you can (which we already had) you can purchase a small dorm size refrigerator for your food instead of using coolers w/having to get ice all the time.

    ** For your tent – if you can – place on soft ground (grass or sand) – stones will wear holes into the floor of your tent– we purchased the “kids” foam puzzle mats that piece together (they are colored blue, yellow, green) are mildew resistant and dry out pretty quick – they had cushion to the feet (without shoes) and saves your tent in the process

    ** NEVER cook on the grate on the fire pits at the camp sites — you can purchase grates that will fit over the fire rings or purchase a tri-pod – which ever will fit your cooking style

    ** I place everything in bins when I get home — once washed it goes into its proper bin for the next time or the following year — that way I know it’s all back where it belongs — I have one for bedding stuff, (place a fabric sheet inside to keep it smelling fresh for next time/year) I have the “kitchen” in a bin,

    ** A radio or a weather band radio — just in case!! (with plenty of batteries)

    ** Sitting around the fire — place a bunch of SAGE into the fire — this keeps away bugs at night from being pesty!

    ** Bug repellent — Johnson’s Baby Baby Creamy Oil (Brown tube preferred) Skin So Soft from Avon, works good too, but leaves you feeling greasy.

    Sorry for this being a “bit long” but thought these were good “hints/ideas” to help and my mind just kept going on what we do for camping (as I am looking forward to camping again this year) We are in our 50’s and over the years we’ve “enhanced” our camping experience – we don’t have little ones to worry about, but hope they help in anyway to those that read this.. 🙂 Enjoy camping!!!

  29. I recommend for you to include hammocks in your must have camping supplies. I’m sure you’ll find them to be the most wanted camping gear there ever is. See exploreserac.com and you’ll find one of the most durable outdoor equipment.

  30. Hi,

    We are using our Coleman Packaway cots (http://campingandcamping.com/coleman-pack-away-cot-with-side-table-review/) for 3 years already. We have two of them (me and my wife). We mostly go camping in the warm season, but we also go at least 5 times camping in winter. These cots are simply amazing. They are very sturdy and super convenient. The table is the best thing about it.

    This is my third camping cot. Previously I have been using a no-name camping cot and then I have been using a simple Coleman ComfortSmart Camping Cot, but I was too simple. Squeaky and too weak.

    I recommend the one I am using – Coleman Packaway cot. Good value for money, guys.

    All the best

  31. I’ve only been on a few backpacking trips, so I only have a little experience. I usually go in the desert during the summer, so I’ve never needed any crazy stuff. I think a fire starter is really important. Even if you can make a fire without one, it’s nice to have something quick, because you never know when you’ll need one in a hurry.

  32. #9 Camping Lights! I think camping fan with LED light is good choice.
    I always have a camping fan with LED light in my tent. It easily store and transport. The LED lights provide an option for you whether you intend to use the lights direct or indirect.

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