25+ Cool Camping with Kids Hacks

Are you ready for your next family camping trip? Camping with kids is fun and a great way to create family memories. It can also be a lot of work to organize and keep everyone happy. Use these cool camping with kids hacks to make your next outdoor adventure easier and more enjoyable for everyone. 

Our family has been camping with our kids since they were a year old. Take it from us, it’s requires a bit more planning than just throwing a tent and a bag of apples into the back of your car. Luckily these tested camping tips and tricks will make your family camping trip run more smoothly.

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Whether this is your first trip camping with kids, or you’re a seasoned camper, these tips and tricks will make your stay more comfortable and fun.

Planning is key

Planning is the key to an easy, fun and successful family camping trip. You’ll want to make sure you do some campground research, plan out your meals, and activities and have a packing list so you don’t forget important items.

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14 camping planner pages arranged in rows, with images of fire, roasted marshmallow and lamp.

Do A Trial Run At Home

If you have never camped out with the kids before it’s a great idea to give it a trial run at home first. That way you know you have all the tent poles, and pieces to the camp stove and the kids know what to expect. 

Familiarize yourself with all your camping gear, so you know how it works. Even if your family are seasoned pros, it’s a good idea to check your gear out at home before each trip. You just never know. 

We have a cheap outdoor screened canopy that I had my daughter help me put up the first couple of times at home for our yearly mom-daughter camping trip.  It was impossible to put up just the two of us, which I wouldn’t have known unless I tried it beforehand. 

Choose Kid Friendly Sites

One of the most important camping with kid hacks is choosing a site that is great for families. One that will suit the ages of your kids. Think about location and distance to washrooms, playground and the beach. 

With young ones you may want to be closer to the playground so you can keep an eye on them easier. As well as closer to a washroom for those quick late-night potty breaks. 

Is the beach / water kid friendly? Does it have a lifeguard?

Are you tent camping with kids? Is the site shaded during the hottest times of day?

If your kids like to bike or scooter around the campsite, choose a site that has a good biking area that isn’t too heavily trafficked. 

PRO CAMP TIP: Take note of what you liked and didn’t like about your campground and campsite, so next camping trip you can plan accordingly. 
Young girl sitting in the back of car, packed with camping gear.

Make Food Prep Easy – Plan Meals Ahead

First step to a successful trip, is to make a camping meal plan. Plan out simple meals like sandwiches, smokies, burgers and pasta. Or bring easy to reheat food like soups, chilis or stews. 

Let go of some of the rules, you’re on vacation. Use some pre-made food items to cut down cooking time, and let you enjoy your holiday too.

Our favorites are things we don’t usually eat at home; chili in a can, cup of soup, smokies to roast over a fire, s’mores (from a kit), store bought muffins etc.

Check out our list of easy make-ahead foil packet recipes. Quick n’ easy prep, & clean up.

Prep Meals Ahead Of Time

Prepare as much of your food ahead of time as you can, so you can decrease the amount of time cooking and preparing food at your campsite. Ie. “Make ahead meals.”  Plus all the mess of prep is at home, not in a place without easy access to running water and your dishwasher.

An essential camping trick, so the adults don’t spend their entire time prepping food and cleaning up after the hungry beasts.

  • Cut up hardier veggies, and fruit and store in ziploc bags or bins
  • Cut up meat, or use deli slices
  •  Pre bake cookies, muffins, biscuits
  • Make easy to reheat chilis, stews, stir fries and freeze them in ziplocs or reusable  

Check our ultimate list of 50+ easy & make-ahead camping meals kids will love

Propane camp stove, with pan of sausages and pot of eggs on picnic table

Freeze Juice or Water Containers to Use in Cooler

Anything that can do double duty is a bonus. Freeze tetra pack juice containers to use as additional “ice” in your cooler. It will help keep things cold longer and you get juice to drink once it’s melted. 

Not into juice? Freeze gallon jugs of water instead. You’ll have more cold, clean drinking water on hand.

Packing Food for Camping Hacks

Anything you can do to make things easier when  packing food for camping is a plus. Here are a couple of easy tips for packing food and water for your next family camping adventure:

  • Keep your matches dry – Put your matches in a mason jar,  plastic ziploc bag or reuse a plastic toothpick bottle. Have at least one pack of waterproof matches, or lighter as back up 
  • Freeze as much food as possible – freeze as much food as possible so it can act as ice, and keep everything cooler longer
  • Pack in Layers – Layer your food so the items you need first will be on top. 
  • Remove items from original packing – Only if it decreases the amount of space it takes up and makes sense. 
  • Keep your cold food separate from dry goods – Condensation from wet foods, can dampen your dry goods. 
  • Re-use tic tac boxes, or use small reusable condiment containers for spices – We use those small round condiment containers that come in lunchbox kits sometimes to hold our spices.
  • Re-use condiment bottles for pancake mix – Mix up pancake batter ahead of time, and put in clean condiment bottles, for easy pancake grilling.
  • Plan meals with similar ingredients – Plan out meals where you can use leftover ingredients for the next meal, cutting down on the amount of space you need. 

Arrive Before Dark

Setting up camp in the dark can take longer and be way more stressful. Aim to arrive at least a couple of hours before sunset. That should give you enough time to set up everything you need for an awesome family campsite. 

Pack Your Car in Order of Items Needed

Put the items you’ll need first to set up camp closest to the doors. Yup, I learned this the hard way.

Pack the tent, and sleeping items within easy reach. That way you don’t have to pull everything out of your vehicle before setting up. 

Pack Camping Items In Clear Tubs 

I can’t tell you how many times having our camping items packed in clear tubs has saved the day.  Not only is it easy to see where everything is, but they are easy to stack and waterproof. Unexpected downpours can happen at any time. 

Organizing your camping supplies ahead of time will make things easier at the campsite. For extra points, keep like items together and label the bin:

  • Kitchen Supplies
  • Toiletries
  • Food & Snacks
  • Clothes
  • Toys & Games
  • Sleeping Equipment

We typically just use reusable grocery bags for our clothes, as we have a small car / small trunk, and it’s easier to squish them into smaller spaces. 

Pack Layers When Camping With Kids

Layers are essential for camping. While days may be warm, nights can get cool. They also work well against bugs. Dress your kids in layers to avoid arguments over “I don’t want to wear my coat.” That way they can remove clothes over the day as it warms up, and put more layers on at night as it cools off. 

PRO CAMP TIP: Bring a sarong to wrap over your head to keep the bugs off. It’s lightweight and works great around the campfire, at meal times, and can also be used as a beach cover up, beach blanket, fort and more. 

Use Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes can be a lifesaver when packing your clothes for  many types of travelling vacations. Some pro tips for using packing cubes

  • Use a different color for each family member
  • Buy the cubes with two compartments, so everyone can keep their dirty and clean clothes separate
  • Pack a couple of days worth of clothes into each packing cube. Makes it so much easier than digging through a pile of clothes each day.
Camping planner printable pages over a large tent and bubbles. Text overlay camping ideas and tips.


Use Pool Noodles on your tent wires

Who gets tired of tripping over tent wires? Me, me, me. I know they are there but…..

When tent camping with kids it’s a good idea to make those tent wires easier to see, and avoid.

Cut up pool noodles and place over your tent guy lines.

Tent and canopy over picnic table in the rain while camping.
Hacks for Camping Set Up – Bring a Screened Canopy to avoid bugs and stick gear in if it rains

Grab some useful & fun camping gifts for kids, to get them excited for their next outdoor adventure.

Use a Screened Outdoor Canopy – Bug Free Space

Having a bug free space can make or break a family camping trip. 

For babies, toddlers and littles, a screened outdoor canopy  area can create a safe play space. Put down a sand free mat or blanket. 

We like to use ours to cover our picnic table, for more enjoyable meals, as our kids are older. Just be sure NOT to cook with a propane / gas stove with the tent all closed up. You don’t want to get carbon monoxide poisoning.

Choose a screened outdoor tent canopy that is easy to set up, light weight and spacious. 

We have one that is not easy to put up, and I wrestle with it everytime (but I am too cheap to buy a new one as this one still works). Do yourself a favor and pay a couple of extra bucks for the one that is easy to put up.

PRO CAMP TIP: Use hanging pockets in your screened gazebo to give quick access to things you use all the time like sunscreen, bug repellant, sun hats etc. 

Better Sleeps – Camping Tips for Family Sleeping 

Bring along a portable travel pack n’ play if your baby is used to sleeping in a crib. To keep the bugs off, pack an extra sheet to throw over top at nap and bedtimes. 

Pack n’ Plays are great as play areas as well. They are easy to move around, and can keep your babies safe while you are prepping meals, or getting tasks done around the campsite.  

We use camping sleep mats like these for our older kids and us. But if you are avid campers, and are  planning on spending a longer time roughing it, this double camping cot is deluxe.  A bit of an investment, but well worth a good night’s sleep. 

PRO CAMP TIP: Bring empty pillow cases to use as pillows.  Then just stuff with sweaters or jackets. Saves space and keeps your jackets handy for the midnight or morning potty runs. 

Use a Sleep Sack for Babies & Toddlers

Using a sleep sack is one of the best camping hacks for babies and toddlers. It’s a wearable sleeping bag. Just choose the weight, depending on the camping conditions / weather. 

We found this was the only way to keep our youngest warm when we took her on her first camping trip at a year old. 


Bring Baby Wipes

Baby wipes…….not just for babies!

Bring extra baby wipes as they are so useful. Kids (and adults) get dirty while camping. Wipes are great to have on hand to wipe up dirt, hands, spills,  bottoms and more. 

Especially for those sites where showers, or running water aren’t readily available. 

Camping with Kids. Young girl smling in front of campfire. With tent in background/

Portable Potty

A portable potty is handy for toddlers who are potty training. Or for any little kid who needs to go frequently while on the road or at the campsite. Also useful for avoiding those late night treks to the outhouse. 

This compact portable potty is similar to the one we used all the time when our youngest daughter was little, for camping and road trips. We kept it in our car at all times, and used it on many occasions.  Just be sure to buy the potty liners to go with it.

Or bring along a plastic bucket with lid, but only use it for Number One.

DIY Bathtub & Shower

Keeping kids clean while camping can be a challenge. This is especially true of the youngest who like to crawl around in dirt, pick up natural treasures, and who just generally don’t mind getting dirty.

A DIY bathtub solution for young kids is to bring along a plastic bin. Portable, safe and inexpensive. Just fill it a ¼ full of water, add a little soap, and bath time!

If you have babies, bring along a flat bottom baby bath. It can also be used as a foot wash station for the older kids and adults as well. 

Not all ages are going to be able to fit in a tub.

For an inexpensive DIY shower option, bring along a NEW 2 gallon lawn sprayer.  (Don’t grab one out of the shed you’ve been using to spray the lawn with though). To get extra fancy, attach a kitchen sprayer to the end. 

Hose down the kids at the end of the day. Everyone gets a better night sleep when clean.  

Not into DIY? Grab a portable outdoor shower here

PRO CAMP TIP: Fill your tub or outdoor shower device with water at the beginning of the day and set it out in the sun  to heat up. Cover the tub so bugs and dirt don’t get in the water. 

Plan out Games & Camping Activities for Kids 

There is only so much time you can spend roasting s’mores over the fire. Although my 9 year old would argue differently, as s’mores for breakfast is a common sight with us.

One of the best family camping hacks is to have a few board games or card games. They make great after dinner and rainy day camping activities. 

To avoid the “I’m bored” also pack a small bin of electronic free, camp friendly yous

Some family favorite toys and activities for kids while camping include:

PRO CAMP TIP: Bring an extra tent and set it up as the “play tent”. That way all the toys and activities can stay clean and  in one spot, and not make the sleeping area messy with toys and dirty feet.  Plus it’s also an extra shaded area.  

We have an inexpensive two person tent for this, that also gets used at home for summer fun and backyard campouts.

Make DIY Fire Starters

Making your own fire starters is a fun camping hack to do before your trip. That way you can decrease the amount of kindling you’ll need to start your campfires. 

There are a few ways to do this. 

In Girl Guides we learned to make ours out of the pulp egg cartons (not styrofoam), dryer lint and melted candle wax. 

  • Place dryer lint in egg carton holes
  • Melt candle or beeswax and drip over lint. Let it cool and set.
  •  Once set, cut out individual sections, and use one or two to start your fires/

For an easier version, just use cardboard toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint. 

Bring Bug Repellent  & Thermacells

Bug repellant & thermacells are always on the top of our camping packing list. Say no to bug bites!

Oh my gosh…when we discovered thermacells, it changed camping.

We live in northern Canada (the Northwest Territories) and the mosquitos / bugs  here are fierce. So fierce in fact I used a deet bug repellent for the first time in over 20 years. 

It creates a bug free zone around your picnic table, or gathering space. 

We use this thermacell patio shield and find it works well for keeping our small tent & eating area clear. You may want to buy a couple if you plan on having more than one tent, or spreading out. 

Bring Lights for Night Time When Camping with Kids

You’ll want to stock up on some form of lighting for night time safety.

For older kids, we love using headlamps, as they are reusable, and perfect for wandering around camp at night, or reading. If camping in cooler weather, kids love wearing these hats with built in headlamps. 

To make a DIY lantern, attach a headlamp to a jug of water or water bottle. Or bring along a few rechargeable lanterns  to light your way around your site.

Glow sticks are another fun thing for kids to wear as a necklace or bracelet, to help you keep track of them in the dark and they are cheap. They also give off the perfect amount of light as a nightlight, when you hang them in the tent. Just enough light to see by,  if you need to get up in the middle of the night.

Don’t forget to pick up help for your next Camping trip

Grab the Ultimate Camping Planner to make planning your next family vacation easy & enjoyable.

Save 40% OFF now with the coupon CAMP10

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