Not sure what to bring when camping with a toddler? Resist the urge to bring everything “just in case” you might need it. You’ll end up with a chaotic mess of gear and spend all your time organizing it instead of having fun.
But some extra gear really is useful to have when camping with toddlers. This list covers all the essential toddler camping gear and supplies that will make your trip safer, easier and more enjoyable.
*The printable list also includes all the non-toddler items you’ll need too, like a camp stove, fuel, mess kit, etc.
1. Toddler Sleeping Bag
For younger toddlers or for camping in cold temperatures, I like the Morrison Big Mo sleeping bags. They have two versions: one rated for 20F and another rated for 40F. Also see these picks for Best Toddler Sleeping Bags
2. Sleeping Pad
The sleeping pad insulates your toddler from the ground, which is just as important as the sleeping bag for staying warm. My daughters use the Therm-a-Rest Short Sleeping Pad (available at Amazon and REI), which is very warm, lightweight and affordable. Also see these best camping sleeping pads for little kids.
3. Portable Bed, Crib or Playpen
This isn’t absolutely essential, but it can make camping with a toddler a lot easier (especially young toddlers). Some parents like to bring a portable playpen (like a Pack N Play) so their toddler has somewhere safe to play while they do camp chores. If your tent is big enough, it can also double as a crib.
There are also small portable beds your toddler can use for camping. Again, these aren’t essential – but it helps keep your kids “organized” in the tent. Mine has a tendency to squirm and kick me in the face!
4. Camping Chair
Your toddler will feel all grown up with her own camping chair. They are also incredibly useful during meal times: it’s much easier (and less messy) to eat from a chair than hunched over a plate on the ground.
Shown above: The OmniBoost folding chair with tray
5. Feeding Time Essentials
- LOTS of snacks. Bring more than you think you will need. Toddlers burn through calories while camping!
- Easy, quick-cooking meals: See these kid-friendly camping meal ideas
- Baggies and Tupperware: For organizing food while on hikes and day trips
- Toddler-friendly water bottle: We keep a water bottle in the tent for nighttime drinks. It’s got to be leak proof so it doesn’t spill all over the tent.
- Giant bib: Very helpful for keeping your toddler clean(ish) during mealtime.
Buckets are essential when camping with a toddler. You can use them for giving your kid an improvised bath, washing clothes, or filling with water and letting your toddler happily splash around for hours.
You can use the same buckets for washing dishes. If you are pressed for space, check out these collapsible buckets with drains.
Your toddler will need clothing which can be worn in layers for camping. Aim for synthetic or wool materials as they dry fastest (a wet toddler is a cold toddler). If you must use cotton, then bring lots of extras: it absorbs dirt and water like a sponge and takes forever to dry!
- Base layer
- Insulating layer
- Shell layer/jacket
- Hat with a brim
- Swimsuit (if you plan on swimming or splashing)
- Rain suit or rain jacket and rain pants
- Sneakers or boots
- Camp sandals
Note: Absolutely don’t skip the rain jacket or rain pants. Otherwise you will have to keep your toddler trapped inside the tent while it rains! The rain gear also keeps your toddler clean when playing in the mud after the rain has stopped.
8. Safety Items
- First aid kit: Here’s my camping first aid checklist
- Sunscreen: Or use UV-clothing for extra protection
- Bug spray: See toddler-safe bug spray here
- Mosquito net: For draping over stroller or playpen during naptime
- Life jacket: If you plan on doing any boating or water activities. Don’t count on the company to have toddler-sized life jackets!
- Child Leash: Aka “child safety tether.” My husband has a disability and can’t chase after our toddler, so this is a must-have for him. I also sometimes use it when I’m really tired; I can zone out without worrying that our girl will wander away.
9. Bathroom and Hygiene Items
Your toddler might not be able to hold it until he gets to the campground bathroom. Even if he can, those bathrooms might be pretty gross. 🙂 So bring along these essentials for your toddler camping:
- Portable potty
- Diapers, changing pad, wipes, and butt cream
- Leak-catching pad: If your toddler doesn’t wear diapers at night anymore, put this inside the sleeping bag in case of an accident)
- Trowel: You need this to dig a hole for pooping in the woods!
- Plastic trash bags
- Waterproof shoes: Optional but recommended if you plan on taking your toddler into the camp showers
10. Picnic Blanket or Foam Pad
Put one of these down at the campsite so your toddler has somewhere to play. Otherwise she’ll get dirty (I should say dirtier). If it is particularly cold, then use an insulated pad instead.
11. Stroller or Carrier
When my daughter was younger (and thus lighter), I mostly used a backpack child carrier so we could go on hikes. As she got bigger, we switched to using a stroller. It’s easier on my back, allows us to carry a bunch of stuff inside, and she naps in it. Luckily, a lot of parks now have stroller-friendly trails.
- Stroller vs. Carrier for Hiking with Babies and Toddlers
- Best Child Carriers for Petite Women
- Best All-Terrain Strollers
12. Toys and Entertainment
You’ll be amazed at how toddlers can entertain themselves while camping with rocks, sticks, dirt and other things around the campsite. The fewer toys you bring, the more likely your toddler is to actually interact with nature. So, other than a favorite stuffed animal or comfort item, leave the toys at home.
I do recommend bringing along some “adventure” items though, such as:
- Small buckets
- Bug net
- Specimen collection cups
- Notebook and drawing supplies
Need ideas about how to entertain your toddler while camping? See these 30 camping activities which require no prep.
Your toddler probably doesn’t need her own headlamp or flashlight. But she’ll probably cry to use yours. So it’s best that your toddler gets her own. 🙂 Some parents also like to bring glowsticks when camping with toddlers so they can find them more easily at night.
Rope is a weird random essential for camping with toddlers. On various trips, I’ve used it for things like:
- A clothesline for wet clothes
- Making a ridgeline, to create a fort or shady area
- Attaching a plushie to the carrier so it can “see” without getting lost
Tip: Check out REI’s Outlet section of their website. You can often find really good deals on toddler camping gear.
Need more advice? Read: How to Go Camping with a Toddler