35 answers

First Camping Trip

My wife and I are planning our first camping trip with our daughter, Mia. She's 2.5yo, and i'm just wondering if anyone else has gone camping with a child that age. What did you bring? What didn't you bring and you wished you had? I'm not a big camping type person, so anything to make this easier would be great.

Thanks so much!

Here's to happy camping!

3 moms found this helpful

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Take along a BIG TALL bucket -- Big enough that the child can squat down in it. When she gets dirty, or hot, or bored, fill it with some water, and let her bathe, cool off, play, whatever she wants. My kids and grandkids would do this for a long time... Functional and entertaining -- we had fun just watching them play in it...

We have been camping with my son since he was 6 weeks old. He is now 4 and we usually take a toy tractor, a ball, and books for his entertainment. The rest of it he finds on site (bugs, rocks, dirt piles, etc.) A toy magnafying glass or bug jar may be neat to take as well. Bring extra snacks. She will most likely be more active than at home and will work up an appitite.

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I always took bubbles for blowing, a cloth bean bag tic tac toe game (so it washes easily), and until we lost part of it a plastic hoop and dart game that was a blast! bug spray is a must. We also have a solar shower for the really dirty times when using a washcloth just isnt gonna hack it. my son really liked it when i would rig up a private shower stall using a clothesline and some old sheets and he could stand in there and get nice and clean before bed. we had a piece of phony grass that we laid down on the ground so our feet didnt get dirty while we showered. make sure you bring band-aids and some type of cortisone cream for itchy situations and neosporin for boo-boos. I have a little sewing kit I bring also, and a pair of nail clippers. have fun!!

2 moms found this helpful

Hi, J..
We first took our daughter camping when she was about 4 months old and she's now 11yrs old. You've all ready recieved alot of good suggestions so I'll just add a few...

- tarp is a great idea and you may want two. One in front of the tent and one in a "play" area.
- lots of clothes are good but don't worry if they get dirty, because that's what camping it all about. They really don't need to be changed 5 times a day.
- bring plastic washable toys not stuffed toys unless they stay in the tent.
- bring some familiar things (pillow, blanket) from home so your daughter is comfortable.
- We always used one of the large rubbermaid storage tubs for our daughter to take a bath in. We filled it part way with water and then heated some water on the stove to heat up the water. I think my daughter used that until she was about 6yrs old and loved it!
- Glow sticks are really great, especially in the tent at night. Works like a night light. We used to use two every night.
- If you're going somewhere cool at night...bring a hot water bottle. I covered ours with heavy fleece fabric (made a pouch and then used velcro to close it). My daughter always loved going to bed with her hot water bottle and fell asleep fast. We'd usually removed it or put it at the end of her sleeping bag when we went to bed.

You can contact me if you have other questions. We have done and love camping. We just returned yesterday from a week and half long camping trip. Have fun!!!


2 moms found this helpful

We just got back from camping with our 2.5 year old.

Things to bring Lots of baby wipes these double as a bath for alll of you to knock the dust off of you before you go to sleep.

Toys that can be washed.

a ground cloth to play on with toys They will still get dirty but not as bad.

Bug spray and sun screen, first aid kit, lots of bandaids.

Something to carry water in as it may be a walk. easy to prep meals. bringing things that mean very little cooking makes it easier to do. I like to bring pre cooked meat if it is an ingrediant. Like costco chicken boned pit into pasta. We like to bring shelf stable milk. Juice and things like that are best if they are in individual containers. Make sure there is food your little one will eat. also stuff to wash dishes.

Sleeping bag and air matresses, folding chairs if you have them, a hammer or something to drive tent stakes, flash lights to include one for the little one to play with (I have an Ikea rechargable night light for this purpose) Camera, flip flops for running to the bathroom in, a jacket no matter how wam it is supposed to be, think late night bathroom runs. knit hat for nights if it gets cold and you dont have much hair.

Portable high chair if you have one already. if not dont stress ablout it.

Things not to bring: Power anything unless you know your campsite is equiped, or you can charge it with your car, large ammounts of toys (dirt and sticks are going to be more fun) Simple is better. Work, email, cell phone (use only for emergencies)

PS a great tip we have used is when you get your camp site walk your child around and show them it and land marks of where they can not pass (like do not go past this tree that has fallen) make them large and noticable remember from their perspective all trees are big, rough tall.

We also like to give our little guy jobs. hold these tent pegs, take this to the tent, help find...) keeps them near and busy and they feel great because they are helping.

Lastly, dont take yourself or camping to seriously. Have fun. If you forget something there is usually a campstore or town not to far away or you can do without. Dirt happens, it is part of the fun.

1 mom found this helpful

You will have so much fun. We have been taking 2 of our grandchildren camping (ages 2 & 3).

Major things to keep in mind:

1. Keep food easy and 'snackable' - easy for them to hold - hot dogs, string cheese, etc. Take their sippie cups for drinks.

2. Take a spray bottle for fun - they LOVE them - dollar store's the best place. Kids don't need fancy stuff - they really do love simple, we adults are the ones who think they need expensive toys.

3. Don't expect them to stay clean - it ain't gonna be that way:)

4. If you're around water, just put them in a lifejacket to keep you from having to worry at all.

5. Take your camera:)

6. Be sure to take your first aid kit as little scrapes do happen - mine includes lavender spray to take away pain and help healing (my lavender is found at http://aromascents.younglivingworld.com ), and Silver Shield Gel (my favorite is at http://www.mynsp.com/morethanherbs/products/guide.aspx?st... ) . And Bandaids!

Kids have so much fun out of doors, so just enjoy:) It will be a time of discovery and newness for them (and you:)


B. C.
Natural Health Coach
Certified Reflexologist
Certified Newborn Instructor
Certified Applied Aromatherapy Instructor
Herb Specialist

1 mom found this helpful

Good morning! What a wonderful time she will have! We started taking our son camping when he was 8 months old and he has loved every trip we have been on! At your daughters age I would be sure to bring extra clothes, ones that she can get all dirty. Extra pajamas and socks as they tend to want to run around in their socks if the ground is soft dirt. Be sure to bring pleanty of whipes for those dirty hands! We also take one of those big plastic round tubs with the rope handles, they are typically used for laundry or toy barrels. We bring this to use as a miniture bath tub and it works great! we simply heat some water on the stove pour it into the tub mix it with some cool water and give our son a quick bath before bed. It's a quick and wonderful way to get him cleaned up and a little relaxed before bed. We also take lots of activites color crayons, color books, blank paper, glue sticks (to make art projects out of the stuff we find outside like sticks and leaves, etc. Also bring toys that she likes and that u are not worried if she gets it dirty or not. Make sure to bring extra cups or sippy cups for her as they will get lost or dirty! I like to take extra blankets and a beanie for my sons head for when he goes to bed, it helps keep his ears and head warm. Toy cars like hot wheels are always great for boys and girls when camping as they love to make race tracks and ramps to jump off of in the dirt. I like to take my son his own child size camping chair and a flash light for him as it makes him feel more like a part of. Well I hope some of these ideas help you, camping is a wonderful family adventure and most kids love being outdoors. Oh ya, be sure to bring pleanty of sun screen and insect repellant for her too! Best of luck and have a great time!

1 mom found this helpful

I went camping with a 2 and a 3 year old. I brought a water hose (we had a spigot in our campsite) and a small blow-up pool from Walmart. The kids had a great time, the water warmed up in the sun, it was right in our camp site.

Hi J.,
I just read all the advice and you got some really good tips. Me and my family went camping in a tent when my girls were about 4yrs old and we loved it. I would agree with the tarp suggestion, we did that and it helps a lot! Keeping it simple is also a great idea they will find so much to do while they are there that they don't play with a lot of the things you bring from home, but if she needs something special to go to sleep make sure you don't forget it. She will be dirty...lol and that is part of the fun. Snacks and juice are a must. My kids would get to playing and loose tract of time and that helped keep them fueled up so that they didn't crash later. The most important thing is to remember is to have fun.

We camp with our kids every year. They have little blow up beds with attached sleeping bags that are great for that age. You can get them at WalMart or Target.

Wipees, wipees and more wipees


You have a lot of great suggestions below. The only one I didn't see was an EZ UP. If you camp somewhere that is hot, and there is no shade, you end up spending time in your tent trying to get away from the sun. An EZ UP works great to put over the picnic table to eat at and even as just a place to get out of the heat sometime. Bring an extra tarp too and you can place it under the EZ UP. I would also grab a few extra blankets that you could put on top of the tarp. You never know when a little 2 year old may need a nap and the last place they want to go is back in the tent. This way they have a nice little cozy spot in the shade and they are still with everyone as they take a little nap.

Good Luck and have FUN!!

Cold cereal was our staple when mine was that age. We also had paper bowls and milk. Paper bowls when empty can go right into the fire pit. Light up shoes for the night time. It gets unbeleivably dark in the wilderness. We had a little lantern for the tent, and I gave my son a wind up flashlight. He played with it constantly. He had fun and I always knew where he was.

She'll really love a Kid size camping chair from Walmart.

Take lights and go on nightime nature walks. It's fun to see the things you dont see in the day.

Have fun.

Greetings J.: Welcome! My husband was the one that got so excited about this site and the great people that have pro's and con's of many situations so I hope that you will be back along with your wife.
As for camping we have spent years camping ans have taken many new born let alone toddler. Depending on where you are going the needs are different. For example we generally were in tents and as toilets were a walk away we brought a seperate small tent that had a portable toliet just for ease. If you are taking a tent then PLEASE set it up at home in advance so that you make sure you know how and that you have all the parts-- nothing like discovering at camp that you left something behind!!!
You may have laundrymats along the way so can take fewer clothes than you think. SMILE- our 1st trip I packed 2 suitcases per cild for clothes and I swear everyone around us laughed and commented on our being 1st time campers(we were camping with family and friends) by the time we'd been doing it awhile we could get everything one might need in a duffle bag for 2 weeks per child. Look carefully at the weather- we had only lightweight sleeping bags once and had a snow storm in July. So be prepared. Thankfully Grass Valley, Ca. was only an hour away and we got what we needed.
You child will have a great time- dirt, eatting differently than home, sleeping in a fun place so get alot of pictures. The greatest gift we gave our children was camping and the friends they made over the years from campsites they still meet today as they take their families to the same placesswe went. I know that a tent trailer and a motor home are the easy way to go and those can be rented. I hope that you have a great adventure and special memories are made. Nana G

Hi J.,

We go camping a couple of times per year and have been doing so since our oldest was about 18mos. Until she slept in her own bed she would sleep in the play n pack. This made it easier for her to get to sleep. Once she was in her own bed we just put her in own sleeping bag. We did the normal bedtime routine (without the nightly bath): pjs, story, song. She only got up once and then she went to sleep. Our children always feel it is an adventure to go camping so they love sleeping in the tent. My husband and I can spend a little extra time at the fire and then we go to bed too. It can be a lot of fun.

I would take some outside toys to play with but the type all depend on where you are camping.

Good Luck!


We just went camping over the weekend and our kids loved it. Our son is a little over 2 years old. He definitely likes to explore, so be ready for that. When he was 1, we brought his pack & play (portable crib), but unfortunately, he is now too big for it so we couldn't bring it this time around. He fell asleep just fine on the air mattress we brought. One thing we forgot that we definitely needed was a ride-on. There were lots of other kids with their bikes or ride-ons. Since our son can't peddle by himself, the ride-on would have been nice for our walks around the campground. We also brought one of his favorite stuffed animals to comfort him at night. We've been camping for years and the kids love it.

Take along a BIG TALL bucket -- Big enough that the child can squat down in it. When she gets dirty, or hot, or bored, fill it with some water, and let her bathe, cool off, play, whatever she wants. My kids and grandkids would do this for a long time... Functional and entertaining -- we had fun just watching them play in it...

OOh happy camping, a few things we did was, alot of baby wipes for a baby wipe bath before bed. (I still do this with my teens) If you have a power wheels type of vehicle or trike for her is great for going on walks. Also premake food so you just have to warm it up. Glow sticks for nightime are great too. Hmmm I know there is more, I hope you have a great time.

Best advice I can give is to bring a portable potty unless she's still in diapers. Give her her own miniature flashlight she can hold on to if she's scared. Also bring her favorite stuffed animal, some nice books about friendly animals. If you can bring her pillow, warm pj's, a hat a warm socks to sleep in, a pad to put under her sleeping bag...she should have a wonderful time. Marshmallow are always a bit hit. Bring several changes of clothes that you don't care about...they will get filthy. Bring lots of wipes too. Also,plan on very short hikes, less than 1 mile or you'll have a sore back. Bug spray, snacks and rubber boots are also helpful. Have fun!

We camped w/ our daughter when she was almost 3 and again this year at 3.5. We LOVE it. Lots of people have offered great suggestions of what to bring. I just wanted to mention that the hardest part for us is that being in a tent, my daughter wakes up as soon as it's light. Then you have to try to keep her quiet because other campers are still asleep. We would go for a walk around the campground or quietly read books.
Have a great time,

A plastic tub or bin for baths and cars,shovel and bucket to dig in the dirt with.


We have taken our two girls (almost 2 & almost 3) camping twice this year already and we have at least two more trips planned. They love it.
Make sure to bring lots of clothes (remember it can be cold in the mornings and evenings) and toys (simple ones that are ok to get dirty). Also make sure you take any lovey that your daughter needs to sleep (we have to take blankets, binkies, animals and pillows).
Hope you have a great time!!

Kudos to you for getting on this site and asking questions. I don't think my husband would ever be that proactive. :)

We go camping all the time (with our 3 kids ages 2, 4, and 8). What a treat - they love it.

First, if you want to try camping the easy way, go to a KOA (Kampground of America). They have petting zoos, swimming pools, arcades, shows, a store, etc. We often go to Petaluma KOA - it is great!!

Here is a website: http://www.koa.com/familyzone/
There is a checklist on what to bring (it is very helpful) and has a lot of other information on camping.

We also find that bringing bikes and scooters are very helpful in addition to the pack and play crib (the baby feels very comfortable and secure in his crib while sleeping in the tent). It is cozy for him.

Good luck!!

Things we love to bring:
1)A small extra two person tent to play in. Bring lots of toys and books to put in it. This always kept our kids busy and contained for a good part of the time.

2) side walk chalk if there are paved paths/driveways

3) a child size push broom....my boys spend hours pushing around dirt and brush. my youngest even got a dishpan, filled it with water and scrubbed the paved driveway to out campsite.

4) bike/big wheele/trike if you have room in your car.

The whole goal is to keep her as busy as possible. And expect her to get dirty. It's all part of camping. Have fun!

My husband and I love camping!! The first time we took our oldest camping she was only 3months..again when she was 5months..My son too went when he was 5months for his 1st time..and we always plan a few camping trips through out the warmer months... They are now 5yrs and 2 1/2yrs and we actually just went camping this past weekend
Im not sure where your going..If you are going to a lake area we love to bring blow up floaty's for the kids and a beach umbrella to protect from the sun.
Also bug spray!! sun screen, the kids love roasting marshmellows and making s'mores.... maybe some coloring books, crayons so she can be entertained well adults are cooking...we usually do hotdogs since the kids love them, and capri suns..My kids still like to drink milk before bed so we bring powdered milk...make sure extra blankets...any other questions just message me!!

All great suggestions. I have one more- plastic/vinal table clothe and our kids 2.5. and 5 have thier own small camp chairs and they them. Have fun!

Hi J..

I'm going camping with my son -who was born 3 days before your daughter- for the first time next weekend so thanks for asking this question.

I really just wanted to respond to your comment that this site is for moms and I want to reassure you that everyone is welcome here and a Dad's perspective is really valuable.

Have a great camping trip.

We just got back from a 4 day trip, then home for a day, then a 3 day trip the opposite direction! :) The first trip was just our family and we took our own cooler, which we'd just bought... it's a 5 day cooler, so we didn't have to worry about our milk staying cold. It worked beautifully!!! On the second trip, we went with a large group into bear country, so all food and coolers have to fit into the bear boxes provided. Bear boxes are actually big enough for a standard size cooler (not the supersize ones at Costco, but regular size ones) and some other items. Could actually fit two coolers and then put other items on top of the coolers... anyways, because we were with a group and no one actually knew how big these boxes would be, not everyone brought coolers. We took a soft sided day cooler with ice for milk, but it leaked all over and our milk went bad. So... if your daughter is a big milk drinker like my kids are, I'd either get a very good cooler, or if you're going to be in bear country and have limited space to store food, I'd actually go with powdered milk and mix with water. I wish I'd done that for the second trip, it would have saved a lot of hassle.
The other thing we did that the kids LOVED was we got those cheapie pool mattresses, the blow up kind, and used those as their mattresses. They had a great time and it wasn't a big investment and low and behold, they held up for both trips! We were amazed!!! We also took a beach ball, which when flat traveled great and was a big hit both by ourselves and with the group!
Also, just bring clothes that will get dirty that you don't care about... she WILL get dirty. :) Dirt just seems to find you when you're camping, especially the kids! :)
And last, you might make a list ahead of time and check off as you load the car so you don't forget essentials: lantern, tent, coleman stove, etc... ;) We've done it several times!!!
Have a great trip!

Wow, you already have such great advice from so many seasoned campers, I just wanted to give you a little encouragement. I am not an outdoorsey person at ALL and neither is my husband, but our 5 yr old has been begging to camp so when family friends invited us to join them at Del Valle I had to go.
Our youngest is 3.5, a bit older than your daughter, but I've got to say she and the rest of the family loved the experience. Go ahead and overpack, as long as it fits in your car. Better safe than sorry. :-) Practice firesafety with your child in advance as she'll be mesmerized by the campfire. Then just relax and enjoy. Get home early if you have to work the next day...even with air mattresses, if you're over 30 you might feel some aches and pains and you'll have a mountain of laundry to do when you get home. The experience is totally worth it though. Great family bonding time and a fun way to get to know friends better.

What fun! I always bring lots of extra baby wipes! Camping gets a little messy and it sure helps. Enjoy your trip!

Hi J.,

You guys will have a great time! I'm sure you've been told how messy it will be :O) There will be dirt everywhere, so be prepared! A few things that helped me:

*** Putting a large Tarp outside of our tent entry, to be used as a "foyer"....it was easy to sweep and tracked in less dirt than the times before when we camped. Bring a broom and small "stakes" for the corners.
*** A Play pen will help be a place to put your daughter somewhere for a few minutes WITHOUT getting dirty :o)
*** Travel hi-chair that fits on the end of any picnic table. Kmart, Walmart has them. Check online.
*** Potty chair for placing on top of any potty seat. If my kids had their "own" potty seat, it made it easier to go potty when they were SOOO excited.
*** A swing was really fun. My hubby is very handy, and can "rig" a swing anywhere.

That's it, J.. Those are my best camping tips! Oh yeah, lots of wipees would be good, too :O)

Have fun!


J.! Welcome. You are so sweet to join and reach out.

Camping is great for a 2.5 yr old cause they get to do what they want to do. GET TOTALLY MESSY in a great learning environment. It is astounding and upsetting how awful they get.... but surprising how long they can be entertained.
I was at the beach with my teenaged son just today who watched a two year old playing in some old cindered fire pit and said, "He must be a homeless child" to which I said..... "in some places we just let it go"

Here's the key.... BRING A DISHPAN, a big one, with a sponge and bar of fairly detergent soap. It is now a part of your camping gear. We called this camping sponge bath a "Gi gi" (I don't know why) At the end of the evening, after the smores, snipe hunting and going to the lu, lift the child onto a picnic table and sponge down her hands face and feet. Poison oak should be a concern, so sponge her down pretty good. My 19 yr old still sometimes asks for a gi gi. Its a pioneer nurture thing.

For fun.... playdoe, sticker or magnet books... all for the picnic table surface. pine cones sticks and balls for ground play. If you are near a shallow creek, tupperware to play in the water AND MOST IMPORTANTLY the sweet and wonderful night stuff. Our little fort in the tent where we snuggle, work a flashlight, sing old songs, talk about animals, whisper of our love and read.

It'll be great! Don't ever stop...... We've been doing it in our family for 20 years now.


We have been camping with my son since he was 6 weeks old. He is now 4 and we usually take a toy tractor, a ball, and books for his entertainment. The rest of it he finds on site (bugs, rocks, dirt piles, etc.) A toy magnafying glass or bug jar may be neat to take as well. Bring extra snacks. She will most likely be more active than at home and will work up an appitite.

DO NOT try to use pull-ups on a camping trip-- this is the voice of experience speaking-- because they're easy to get off, but you have to completely undress the child to put them ON.

And be prepared to have one person who is dedicated to doing nothing but watching her every single moment, because she will be absolutely fascinated by the campfire, and any other nearby hazards: a stream, a road, the kerosene lamp, whatever; and she will be dead set on eating anything she can get hold of: poison oak, toadstools, earwigs, etc.

If you put sunscreen and/or insect repellent on her, she will rub it right into her eyes, and get a sunburn and a whole crop of mosquito bites anyway.

I'm sorry to be a wet blanket, but the long and the short of my advice about taking a 2 year old camping is: wait until she's older.

Welcome J.!

Just wanted to say THANKS to everyone. Great tips! We aregoing camping with our 22 month old soon and I have a great list now. This is the best site!


My husband and I just had our fist camping trip with our little girl who is a year and a half. We had a blast, but...., but sure to bring plenty for her to do, it's hard to entertain those toddlers! Also, we didn't realize how FILTHY she would get and how FAST she got that FILTHY! Bring lots of clothes and plenty of wipes!
Good luck!

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