12 Gear Essentials You Need When Camping With Young Kids

Hothands Super Warmers - 12 Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Essential Camping Gear and Equipment For Experienced and First-Time Campers With Young Kids Under 12

I grew up camping the State Parks of Maryland as a teen in the early and mid-90s.

Unfortunately, high school sports, the rigors of college, and eventually my career path aspirations got in the way and I took an unintentional 20-year hiatus from camping…no big deal right?

Well, fast forward about 20 years and now as a father of 3 kiddos (ages 6, 9, and 10), I bought a 4runner, started going off roading, and have re-discovered how much fun camping can be now with my own kids.

Needless to say, now in the Dad role, things are a little different than when I was a teen and I’ve learned a few things recently that help makes camping with kids a successful experience for both them and for us parents!

Let’s talk about a few items will enhance your camping experience with your little ones.

You may even have a few of these items already, but some you may have never considered!

By no means is this meant to be a comprehensive list of gear necessary for camping.

But it’s intended to highlight just a few items that hopefully enhance the family camping experience by making your time outdoors a little more fun, less stressful, and hopefully a lot more enjoyable!

#1 – REI Kindercone Sleeping Bags

REI Kindercone Sleeping Bag - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Don’t skimp on sleeping bags for the kids!

Good quality and appropriately temperature rated sleeping bag will prevent restless and sleepless nights…and we all know bad sleep leads to cranky kids, and cranky kids + camping is not a great combination!

Get some great sleeping bags and make sure those kids get some good sleep. REI has a great option in its Kindercone. They are mummy style, kid-sized, come with a stuff sack, and rated at 25º F.

REI constantly has these available in about 4-6 different colors/patterns to choose from and your kids will love picking out their very own sleeping bag online or in-store if you give them the opportunity!

Where To Buy:

#2 – Lodge Cast Iron Cooking Griddle

Lodge Cast Iron Cooking Griddle - 12 Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

We have a cast iron griddle that we use for just about every camping trip we take!

Cooking on griddles is easy a great way to incorporate your kids when making bacon, eggs, pancakes, burgers, veggies, etc.   The Lodge Pro LPG13 Reversible 20”x10” has a flat side and a ribbed side that should accommodate anything you may need to grill.

This model fits perfectly on our Camp Chef Everest Camping Stove and ought to fit well on similar camp stoves.

Where To Buy:

#3 – Eno Double Nest Hammock

Eno Double Nest Hammock - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Not much heavy explaining to do for this one.

Our kids have spent hours using our Eno Double Nest Hammock as if it were a swing. Comes in handy for adult lounging as well while the kids are scurrying around on the riverbed or woods.

Don’t forget your tree straps as well!

Where To Buy:

#4 – Potty Training Toilet

OXO Tot Potty Chair - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

If primitive or dispersed camping is your preference where water hook-ups and bathrooms aren’t available amenities, you may need to keep in mind that your kids (especially the younger ones) may not be the most comfortable doing their #1 and #2 potty business in the woods hanging on to a tree.

However, picking up a Kiddie Potty such as the OXO Tot Potty Chair is a great solution.

For #2s you can insert a plastic bag to collect the waste or dig-a-hole beneath the potty.

Its unbelievable how much more relaxed environment the campsite when you’re not having to spend 20 minutes trying to teach or coax your 5-year-old daughter into something as simple as going to the bathroom.

Truth be told, my wife and I have used it too!

Where To Buy:

#5 – Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster

Victorinox Swiss Army Fielddmaster - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Swiss Army Knives have proven to provide hours and hours of self-entertainment and fun for our kids.

They love carving up sticks, sawing twigs, and digging up the dirt with their Fieldmaster knives.

The Fieldmaster is small enough for kid-sized hands and relatively inexpensive compared to some of the more robust multi-tool models!

It’s not going to break the bank if it goes missing or ends up lost at the bottom of a creek.

Where To Buy:

#6 – 3X Shatterproof Magnifying Glass

3x Shatterproof Magnifying Glass - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Whether the kids are fascinated by bugs, rocks, leaves, or what have you… a magnifying glass is a cheap and fun toy/tool that again can give the kids hours of self-entertainment.

Our family loves to camp riverside and creekside, and there is plenty to explore with a magnifying glass in-and-around the campsite!  Go with shatterproof over the glass.

These are relatively inexpensive and don’t forget to grab one per kid to prevent fights!

Where To Buy:

#7 – Headlamps For Family Camping

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

We do most of our family camping in the Fall, Winter, and Spring when the daylight is shorter and nightfall comes fast.

Being able to see in the dark obviously improves the camping experience!  Flashlights are great but can easily be misplaced by the little ones and they do require hands.

Headlamps are a great alternative that should stay-put on their heads relatively easily while leaving the kids with both hands available for fun activities at the campsite.

Where To Buy:

#8 – FreeSpirit Recreation ReadyLight

FreeSpirit Readylight - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

When kids are involved, a well-lit campsite is a safer campsite and in most cases a more enjoyable campsite.

We carry an arsenal of camping lanterns, some large and some small…but a larger scene light such as the FreeSpirit ReadyLight can be really useful as well.

This light sits just over 6’ tall and emits 550 lumens from the center LED alone.  It has 4 smaller removable Light Pods for even more light!

It can be charged 3 different ways: solar, AC, and DC.  The ReadyLight is compact, lasts 30 hrs on Low, it’s lightweight and easily packable!

Where To Buy:

#9 – Hand Washing Station

Hand Washing Station 2 Gallon Enviro Bottle - 12 Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

After all that digging in the dirt, romping through the woods, and making sticky dessert treats by the campfire, you’ll need a wash-up station.

There are several great options for purchase such as the products linked below. But a (thoroughly cleaned) empty detergent dispenser will do just fine too!

Where To Buy:

#10 – Fiskars X7 Hatchet

Fiskars X7 Hatchet - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Ok, maybe not a 100% essential, but our 9 yr old son absolutely loves using this hatched around the campsite.

Whether he’s chopping up firewood for kindling, or hacking into a dead/downed tree for bugs, or just being a boy and cutting stuff up…a hatchet is a great item to have around for the kids.

Obviously, take care to teach the kids proper use and technique when using sharp tools that cut! The last thing you need is ending camp early due to an injury!

Where To Buy:

#11 – Hothands Warmers

Hothands Super Warmers - 12 Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

Kids with cold feet on a chilly night is a certified way to ensure that you’ll be woken up every 45 mins by their restlessness and it probably will result in some grouchy kids (and parents) the next morning.

To help alleviate cold feet at night, grab some XL HotHands Super Warmers and toss one or two into the footbox of your kid’s sleep bag!

This may not be a 100% perfect solution, but it will definitely give your kids (and yourself) a better chance at a more peaceful sleep on a chilly night!

Where To Buy:

#12 – Mr. Heater “Buddy” Heater

Mr. Heater "Buddy" Portable Heater - Camping Essentials With Kids Under 12

For the extra cold nights, a Mr. Heater “Buddy” portable propane fuel heater can do more than just take the edge off.

On HI setting, these compact heating units can fully heat up a 2P tent in less than 5 mins and a 6P tent in about 7-10 minutes during temps below 32º.

They are rated for 225 sq ft, include a tip-over shut off the sensor, as well as a low oxygen shut-off sensor.

CAUTION:  Take proper safety precautions when using a heat source in a tent or an enclosed space.

These heaters are HOT and burn if touched and will melt materials if placed too close to the heat source.

Be sure not to place these units too close to tent walls/ceilings, sleeping bags, backpacks, shoes, etc.

Follow ALL instructions and warnings included in the product’s manual.  Ensure proper ventilation, these heaters can emit CO2 if not used with proper ventilation.

We recommend a battery powered CO2 detector or even two of them if you plan on using this heater inside a tent for extended periods of time.

Where To Buy:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

Awesome post! I have three seven year old’s so yes all of these are great ideas. Not sure about the sharp objects but the magnifying glass is a great idea! Thanks!!

5 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Hi Ben, Great to hear! Hopefully some of these items can provide some fun times for the kids!!!

Questions or Comments?x

GET 20% OFF!

Get Up to 20% Off the Trail 4Runner Store!
Your Email
Our content is pretty fire! We will never spam your inbox or sell your data.