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Let’s Camp! – Camping Gear that Makes Camping with Kids Easy

Some of my favorite family memories come from camping trips we’ve taken across New Jersey. Believe it or not, some of those great camping memories can be credited to the camping gear we had and that I’m recommending below.

Our first successful attempt at cooking while camping came while using the Hero Grill at Stokes State Forest. I could go on and on with camp cooking fails from earlier trips without that portable grill.

6 hamburgers fit on a hero grill

My oldest son shared stories and a Bear Butt double hammock with me while camping at Bass River State Forest.

My other two sons and I had screen-free card game battles of Scrabble Slam and Uno while camping at Wading Pines Camping Resort.

We’ve listened to scary campfire stories over Bluetooth speakers and kept warm at night (in some pretty cold temperatures) with comfy sleeping bags and travel pillows.

The right camping gear can make a family camping trip fun and easy just as much as not having it can make everyone miserable and wanting to return home.

Boy laying in tent using a sleeping bag as a pillow

We get how important it is to have dependable and easy-to-use camping gear. We’ve been testing products since last spring, all to bring you this guide to camping gear for families. This camping gear was designed for the simpler camping trips where you’re camping in a tent or cabin at an established campground with some amenities. For more rugged or extreme camping trips your needs for gear will go beyond this list.

We’ve even included camping gear for babies and toddlers for those families camping with little ones.

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Start with the basics – Camping Gear Families Need and Want

As we start to share details about camping gear we’ve tested on our family camping trips, it’s important to know that some products were sent to us, at no charge, for us to review. We feel these products can make camping as a family more enjoyable. Therefore, we’re including affiliate links to them so that you can purchase them yourself before your next camping trip. We do participate in affiliate programs so if you make a purchase using those links we may earn a small commission.

A boy sets up his camping gear, a tent for 4.

When you first start camping as a family there is the camping gear you must have and then the camping gear that’s nice to have. We’ll start with the camping gear families must have.

For makers of camping gear for families

If you have a product you would like considered for this guide, please contact me at jenniferauer@jerseyfamilyfun.com. Samples will be required.

Tents

Yes, you could always do car camping, but our experience has been that camping as a family is more comfortable when we’ve got a tent. It provides more room for us to stretch out and we’re not trying to sleep sitting up or leaning on each other. These tents could be pitched on flat ground or the bed of a pickup truck.

  • Coleman Sundome Tent sleeps 2, 3, 4, or 6 people and is a spacious 100 square foot area that the largest tent can fit two queen-size mattresses! This tent is well ventilated and allows for plenty of airflow.
  • Coleman Cabin Tent is probably the best overall tent you can find on the market! It can be set up in just one minute, and it’s very roomy with a 6 ft. 7 in. center height that won’t leave you feeling cramped if you decide to stand up. It’s available in a variety of sizes: 4 campers, 6 campers, and 10 campers.
  • Shop more of Coleman’s camping tents for families.
camping on the back of a truck in the middle of Stokes State Forest
Camping can also mean pitching a tent on the back of your Chevy truck at a NJ State Park.

Sleeping bags, pillows, and air mattresses for camping

Air mattresses

If you are doing tent camping for the first time or it’s been a while since you’ve slept on the ground, I’d highly recommend an air mattress for sleeping on. I find the little kids don’t so much need it as adults and teens do. Amazon offers a selection of air mattresses with built in pumps (one less thing to carry.)

Yoga mats can also provide a smooth buffer between hard ground and sleeping bags.

Pillows

In our early days of camping, we’d just roll up a sweatshirt and use that as a pillow. But if you want something a bit firm or plan to camp regularly, get yourself and the kids a camping pillow.

  • HEST Pillow – Instead of packing your large-sized home pillow that is susceptible to getting dirty during travel, the HEST Pillow compacts into a smaller size inside of a patent-pending integrated machine washable, dirt and water-resistant cover with zipper protection to protect the pillow’s surface during transport. Purchase online at HEST or at REI.
  • TREKOLOGY Ultralight Inflating Travel/Camping Pillows are ready to pack and can deflate in seconds. This is ideal for backpackers or on-the-go campers.
Hest Pillow for camping

Sleeping Bags for camping

No family campout is complete without sleeping bags. Whether you’re sleeping overnight in a museum with kids or camping out in the woods, you want a good comfortable sleeping bag.

Gear for Camping with Babies and Toddlers

I absolutely love these products that make it so much easier for families to go camping with babies and infants.

PeaPod Camp – A pack and play for camping

New from KidCo is the PeaPod Camp. The PeaPod Camp is a new extension to the popular PeaPod line that was developed as a lightweight indoor/outdoor travel bed that could be used as an alternative to a travel crib. The PeaPod Camp is a lightweight foldable tent that’s under four pounds.  Recommended for children 1-6 years old, it easily pops open and is ideal for nap time or playtime in a shady spot.

GoPod Travel Activity Seat

What’s a grownup to do when they need their hands free for camping tasks? What about those times when you’re camping that you want your baby to be able to wiggle and move safely. Parents have new camping gear to help families camping with babies. The GoPod Travel Activity Seat gives little ones a safe place to be and wiggle while taking a break on hikes, enjoying time by a campfire, helping older children, or preparing meals. 

Parents love that the GoPod is only 7 pounds. The attached floor pad keeps baby’s feet on a clean surface, while four adjustable heights allow it to grow with the baby. There’s also a handy snack and drink holder. Five nylon loops allow you to attach baby’s favorite toys.

Rechargeable Nightlights for Camping

Nightlights aren’t just for little kids; they are extremely helpful when camping. When the sun goes down and you’re trying to find your way around the tent or campground in the dark you’re going to want a camping nightlight you can depend on.

  • LuminAID are excellent solar lights that you can use to light up your campsite by night and charge them up by the day! LuminAID’s 2-in-1 Power Lanterns pack flat for storage, and inflate into a lightweight, waterproof lantern that can charge your phone and other devices, too.

Cooking while camping

Cooking while camping can be easy when you don’t have to worry about the campfire

I admit it, my luck with campfires is hit or miss. Even when I can get a campfire going strong it doesn’t seem to stay that way for very long. It certainly doesn’t stay strong long enough to cook anything. That’s why I was super excited to try out a HERO Grill, a portable charcoal grill system.

must have camping gear for families the Hero-Grill-chicken-nuggets-on-the-grill-horizontal-image

Never has it been so easy to cook at a campground. The Hero charcoal grill system truly was the hero of our Stokes State Forest camping trip. The Hero system offers a grill large enough to cook a few pieces of chicken, burgers, or hot dogs and yet small enough to travel with easily. It even comes in a convenient carrying case.

Camping gear hero grill on a regular grill

How does the HERO Grill work?

The HERO Grill is one of the first charcoal grills that use a charcoal pod made out of biodegradable materials. All you have to do is unfold the grill legs, put in the charcoal pod, and light it! In a mere 10 minutes, your grill will be ready to use and ready to make your next camping meal. Get your HERO grill on Amazon.

A family size mess kit cooking kit

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a mess kit and I was almost hesitant to get one for our summer family camping trips. Stanley convinced me to reconsider. They sent me their full kitchen 21 piece Adventure Full Kitchen Base Camp Cook Set. If you think it’s something that would take a whole lot of space you would be mistaken.

All 21 pieces of this camp cooking set fit in nicely together in a pot that fits in my lap. The set includes

  • 1 18/8 stainless steel pot (3.7 QT / 3.5 L)
  • 1 Vented lid
  • 1 3-ply frying pan holds 32 OZ / .94 L
  • 1 Cutting board
  • 1 Spatula with extending handle, 2 pieces snaps together
  • 1 Serving spoon with extending handle, 2 pieces snaps together
  • 4 Plates (6 in / 15.2 cm diameter)
  • 4 Bowls (22 OZ / .65 L)
  • 4 Sporks
  • 1 Dish drying rack
  • 1 Trivet
  • 1 Locking bungee

The 21 piece Adventure Full Kitchen Base Camp Cook Set is available on Amazon or the Stanley website.

Chicken noodle soup around the campfire, hot oatmeal for breakfast

The other product Stanley sent us to test out is their Camp Crock. It’s a 3-quart stainless steel container with a lid that can keep hot foods hot for 12 hours or cold food cold for 16 hours. Before you leave home fill it with soup or stew for your first night’s dinner or prepare a batch of overnight oatmeal and have it ready for breakfast.

You don’t place this crock over the heat, but rather you use it to store prepared food that you want to keep hot or cold for later use. It has 4 inner/outer hooks that keep the lid secured tightly to the crock. No worries about leaks.

The Stanley Camp Crock is available on Amazon or the Stanley website.

A cooler that keeps food cold for days

If you’re not camping with an RV, then it’s highly unlikely you have a way to keep your food cold for days. Stanley again comes to the rescue with their 30 quart Adventure Cooler. This cooler can keep your food and drinks cold for 4 days, even under sweltering conditions. The durable, leak-free design and extra height is built to accommodate 2-liters, longnecks, fifths, and magnums so everything fits comfortably and stays protected. Close it up and use the top as a table, step stool, or seat.

Time to Eat

  • The Funky Strokes camping mat is a great way to keep your camping area clean and campers clean! I love the playful design of this one. Funky Strokes sent us a fantastic outdoor rug, which is eco-friendly (made from plastic bottles), sustainable, stylish and suitable for all outdoor weather conditions. Plus it’s large and durable, making it perfect for meals or a family game night while camping. It’s super easy to wipe down or shake out. Then it rolls up and fits back into a carrying case.
  • Camping Table: Most campgrounds will provide you with at least one picnic table for meals. But I’ve found that’s when I want space for food prep and such, there aren’t many options. You’re better off if you can bring a portable table. Any of these camping tables would be great for helping you prepare meals, eat as a family, or just set up your campsite and keep things organized!
  • Camping Chairs: This camping chair by REI is a great camping chair that is sturdy and comfortable! It has two drink holders and a side pocket to help you make the most of your mealtimes.
Recreational vehicle fifth wheel travel trailer in wooded campsite with awning and folding chairs.
Photo Credit Funky Strokes – Funky Strokes camping mat

Enough water for a weekend

In 2015, I bought this Igloo 5 gallon water jug with wheels and a spigot. It’s one of the best and most practical things I’ve ever bought for our adventures. Initially, I bought it for sports games and practices. Having a huge water gallon meant my boys and their teammates could stay hydrated beyond that first bottle of water.

The water jug has wheels. Even though it may be heavy when full, I can pull out the extending handle and wheel it to where I need to go. Rather than waste a lot of disposable plastic water bottles or bring every water bottle we own, I brought our 5-gallon water jug with us. I filled it fully before we left the house and then used bungee cords to hold it in place in the back of the 2021 Chevy Silverado.

I figured even if we went through all the water in the first day, I could easily wheel it over to the campground’s water supply. I would much rather wheel it over once to fill it than to carry jugs of water back and forth to our tents. Buy the Igloo 5 gallon water jug with wheels and a spigot on Amazon.

Hiking while camping?

Check out our Head to Toe – Hiking Gear for Kids, Tweens, Teens, and Adults. It’s filled with our recommendations for hiking gear for kids, tweens, teens, and adults. Here’s a brief look at what we cover in our Family Hiking Gear Guide.

  • Hiking backpacks
  • Hats
  • Shirts
  • Hiking pants
  • Hiking socks
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking sticks and trekking poles
  • Water shoes
  • First Aid
  • Insect repellant
  • Staying hydrated
  • Snacks and snack/food storage

Time to Chill

Campgrounds are one of the best places to relax and just chill for a little bit. The following camping gear for families will make that chill time even better.

The most comfortable hammock for camping trips

Do you need a hammock to go camping? No. Does an awesome hammock make camping even better? Absolutely!

We had the pleasure of being sent a Bear Butt double hammock to test out and I kid you not when I say their hammocks are incredibly comfortable and super easy to hang up.

When it comes to camping there are some things I struggle with. Hanging a hammock in the past has been hard for me. I’m short so I could never seem to get my arms around the tree to tie up a hammock, nor did I feel like I could get my arms around the tree. Bear Butt hammocks are easy to hang. If you struggle with strings you can also purchase their Bear Butt Kodiak straps. The straps have looped sections and all you need to do is clip the sections together and then clip the hammock to the strap.

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Laying in the Bear Butt hammocks was like being wrapped in a cocoon. On our camping trip to Stokes State Forest and later Bass River State Forest everyone wanted a turn in the hammock. I can even share that these hammocks were so comfortable and large that two of my sons were willing to share it together. Later, my big teen also shared it with me. Gotta love that mother and son time.

A few weeks later, I let a friend and her son borrow the Bear Butt hammock. They loved it so much they are now going to order their own.

The Bear Butt hammocks are easy to travel with as well. Each hammock comes in a drawstring bag that is attached to the hammock. When the hammock’s in use it makes a great pocket for holding a smartphone. When it’s not in use, it stores that hammock quite nicely.

The Kodiak straps also come in a convenient carrying bag. Order your Bear Butt hammock.

Scary campfire stories sound better over a bluetooth speaker

You could listen to stories over your phone or take turns telling them. But I like scary campfire stories better when I don’t know the story or have to worry whether or not everyone can hear it. Having a Bluetooth speaker lets you get wrapped up in the story too AND everyone can hear it too. Whether you want to enjoy a scary story or listen to music while you roast marshmallows enjoy those sounds with the Edifier MP700 portable Bluetooth speaker.

Camping Games

You’re likely not camping alone and you probably don’t want to take your kids camping just to have them stare at their screens. Make sure you pack some travel games or outdoor games you can play with your kids.

My Gnome on the Roam Travel adventure game for kids

My Gnome on the Roam Cards provide families with ideas for adventures they can take when they are “On the Roam” in airports, campground, hotels, museums or on road trips. The deck of cards comes inside a little bag, perfect for throwing in a backpack. 

My Gnome on the Roam’s mission is to help families build creative adventures and fun memories in as little as 30 minutes. My Gnome cards are $9.97 and are available at www.mygnomeontheroam.com/shop

Murbles

Imagine a bowling-type game for your backyard, that’s Murbles. We received a sample game when schools first closed last spring and it was a great way to get my boys outdoors.

the murbles outdoor game balls and bags laying out in a backyard on grass

Murbles is easy to play, easy to see and easy to score. Simply toss the point ball into play, then alternate turns trying to get your game balls as close as you can to the point ball. The player with one or more Murbles closest to the point ball wins points. It is just that easy! There is no court required, nothing to set up, or take down just dump the ball out of the Murble bag and you’re in the game.

More travel games for camping

Scrabble-Slam-from-Hasbro-Gaming-a-spin-off-of-the-classic-scrabble-game-3

Scandiborn Explorer Kit

This fun Scandiborn Explorer Kit makes little ones feel like they’re the camp leader with everything they need to be a true explorer.

Portable potties

When there are no port-a-potties or restrooms at the campsite, you need a way to go when you got to go. We understand. We’ve been there. Check out our guide to Portable Potties Help Kids Pee & Poop Outside. These portable potties, toilets, and products help kids pee and poop outside.

Child standing with knees together

Camping Gear for Keeping Clean

Camping can be messy. Make sure you have something to keep your cooking utensils, plates, and yourselves clean.

Ready to go camping?

Now that you’re ready to go camping, take a look at some of our favorite places to go camping and our other camping-related articles and guides.

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