Family Camping – Creating a Checklist

Family Camping – Creating a Checklist


I’m feeling pretty smug. It’s taken some gentle persuasion but my family now has the camping bug.

This is the holy grail for many an everyday adventurer. Getting the family on board means you’ll be spending much more time outside. Every spare weekend becomes an excuse to get some fresh air. Not to mention the benefits for the kids – connecting with nature, being free range, inspiring a sense of wonder plus keeping them fit and active.

Different requirements

Camping with a family is different from getting yourself into the hills. On your own, you’ll probably manage if you forget your spare fleece. But fail to pack Mr Bear and your wife’s hot water bottle on a family trip and your whole world comes crashing down.

Planning is key for most outdoor activities. I love the military adage of the seven Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance. It was drilled into me on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expeditions and has served me well in all aspects of life, both work and play.


Here’s where checklists come in. Studies show that using checklists in the operating theatre reduces death rates and complications. It’s the same with aviation, where checklists are routinely used. If it’s good enough for surgeons and pilots, why not for your family camping trip, where the stakes can be just as high?!

I find ready-made checklists generally fall into one of two camps:

The first is a comprehensive list of everything you could possibly ever need to create a home from home. It’s overwhelming and can make you feel you won’t have a good time unless you buy a six-ring gas burner and the latest palatial tent.

The second hails from the ultralight backpacking community, where it’s excessive to take anything more than a penknife and a bag of rice.

They are both right, of course. There’s no point on taking loads of equipment to enhance your comfort if you are only staying for one night. You’ll spend most of the trip unpacking and setting up until it’s time to leave. Equally, if you are heading away for a week, you don’t want to find you are missing simple items which would make your life a lot easier.

Create your own list

Because the perfect list doesn’t exist, you’ll have to go bespoke. Do some homework and create your own. But don’t worry – it’s all part of the fun and can help to build excitement for your family’s new pastime.

Think in terms of categories, not one long list. Categories help you to focus on the discrete aspects of your trip and help to organise your mind.

But what if you don’t know where to start? Then you need this handy guide to creating your own category checklist:


In it, you’ll find suggestions for each category plus hints and tips on what else you might need (or might like to leave behind).

It’s far from a complete list but nor will your trip be a disaster if you don’t take all of these items (except maybe the tent – don’t forget that). The aim is to produce your own list which will evolve over time as you figure out what works for you.

So don’t get bogged down in what others say you should or shouldn’t take. As long as you keep everyone warm, dry and well-fed, you’ll have your family eager to come on more adventures with you – the ultimate goal for anyone needing more of the outdoors in their lives.

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