Badlands National Park, South Dakota

What to Pack for a Camping Trip with a Toddler

Planning a weekend camping trip with a young child (or more than one) can be a real challenge, as we know. So when we set out to take a multiple-month road trip across the country, our tripathalas (the region of the brain devoted to travel) went into overdrive for several weeks. How can we possibly do this? We can’t just take a tent and some toys! We actually have to keep another human being alive! We have to think about the number of diapers we need (we’re still in the process of potty training), the amount of snacks to take, which sleeping bag, how and what we would cook, what the weather would be like, and so on.

And then even more issues came up, such as how we would fit all of this stuff into our car.

Camping in Hood River, Oregon
Camping in Hood River, Oregon

And then one day we remembered that we used to be minimalists regarding travel. Once upon a time we spent a year traveling around the world with only a modest backpack, treking through Africa and Asia while sleeping in questionable establishments. But now we have her – the tiny human who requires twenty times her body weight in supplies and equipment simply to exist (and to keep anyone from calling social services on us). Yes, things have changed.

Finally we sat down and thought hard. We weeded out the essential from the fluff, as any good traveler would do. And then we added some stuff back in, as any good parent would do. Finally the list was set.

Below is our packing list. Yours might be different, because as they say, “every kid is different.” But every kid still needs to eat, sleep, avoid long-term psychological damage. So let’s get to it….

  • Clothes for Mom and Dad
  • Clothes for the Kid
    • warm weather clothes
    • cold weather clothes
    • pajamas
  • Kid Stuff
    • diapers, wipes
    • stroller, small umbrella
    • trash bags
    • small toys
    • books
    • iPad with games, movies, TV shows
  • Bathroom Stuff
    • kid’s shampoo
    • kid’s portable potty that plays music when she pees in it
    • Desitin
    • ringworm cream
    • sunscreen
  • Camping Equipment
    • tent
    • air mattresses and pumps
    • sheets, blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags
    • flashlights
    • clothesline
    • rubber mallet for the tent pegs
    • camping chairs
    • portable fan
  • Cooking Supplies
    • portable stove with propane tanks
    • cooler
    • pots, pans
    • spatulas & tongs
    • plates, bowls, cups
    • spices
    • plastic bags
    • cooking oil and other basic cooking ingredients
    • grits (we’re southern)
    • dish soap, sponges
  • Electronics
    • camera
    • laptop
    • mini surge-protector
Subaru Crosstrek Cargo
All of our stuff in the back of the Subaru

As we mentioned earlier, one of the big questions was how to fit all of this stuff into the car. While this all depends on the size of your car and the amount of stuff you take, we did a few key things to make it happen. First, we bought a roof-top cargo carrier (a Yakima RocketBox to be specific). Everything related to camping goes into the cargo carrier, while the stuff we need more immediately goes into the car itself. The other thing we did that helped is to place everything into large clear plastic bins. Each person has a bin for their clothes, and there is a bin for food, a bin for books, one for toys, one for the cooking equipment, and so on. While not everything could fit into a bin, it has made a huge difference so far. Where bins didn’t work, we used cardboard boxes (diaper boxes are a good size) or plastic grocery bags to hold various items.

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So that sums it up, that’s how we roll.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Our campsite in Badlands National Park, South Dakota
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