The Ultimate Car Camping List

Car Camping-2

Spring is right around the corner. Winter is the perfect time for planning and packing for camping trips. Last year, my husband and I made a commitment to get outdoors as much as possible with our little one. My dad was a Boy Scout Master in Alabama and coming to Tennessee was what we did year round. My dad always emphasized, “Be prepared.”

Last year, we took our infant son for a March trip to the Great Smoky National Park Elkmont Campground. This proved to be an adventure. It was way too cold (in the 30s at night) and we were definitely not prepared. I swore then, “Never again.” I set out to make the “Ultimate Car Camping List.” I developed this list to save time and piece of mind because I would spend nights before trips ruminating on a mental list.

Below is an alphabetized, categorized list that may help your family plan for a low-stress trip. I have added comments detailing how I use some items. I keep a separate list for camping meal ideas divvied out by general, breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner.

The trick is how to fit all of this into our mid-sized hatchback! Keeping that in mind – I do not pack every item. I select what is needed for the duration and season OR just invite more friends to use their car-space.

{Free Printable PDF–The Ultimate Car Camping List}

Baby Gear

  • Baby Wipes
  • Bug Netting (for crib/carrier/strolled; find at fabric store)
  • Changing Pad (towel will work)
  • Child Carrier (backpack style/front carrier)
  • Diapers
  • Portable crib tent (I prefer the Peapod)
  • Stroller (only packed if there will be paved campground)


  • Air Mattress
  • Air Mattress Pump
  • Baby Blanket (for naps)
  • Batteries for pump (critical)
  • Pillows
  • Sheets
  • Tent (we use a hand-me-down from a friend but Coleman has great options that are easy to find)
  • Tent Pad (a cheap tarp will work; helps keep the bottom of the tent from getting wet)

Clothing Necessities

  • Bathing Suits
  • Flashlights/Headlamps
  • Hats
  • Hoodies
  • Life Jacket
  • River Shoes
  • Socks
  • Undies

Family Medical Kit

  • Antibiotic Ointment/Wipes
  • Aspirin/Baby Tylenol or Ibuprofen
  • Bandages
  • Benadryl
  • Bug Repellent
  • Burn Ointment
  • Moleskin (for hiking trips)
  • Poison Ivy Treatment (I prefer TechNu)
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers (good for removing splinters and ticks)

From our most recent trip, camp-side! My husband caught 12 wall-eye!

Fun Stuff:

  • Baby Bath Toys (for water play)
  • Balloons
  • Balls
  • Bean Bags
  • Bubbles
  • Glow sticks
  • Inflatables (for water play)
  • Instruments (tambourine, drums, train whistle, kazoo)
  • Shovels

Handy Campsite Tools

  • Clothespins
  • Duct tape
  • Hammer or Mallet (to secure the tent)
  • Multi-tool/Utility Knife
  • Rope (for clothesline or last minute crisis)
  • Scissors
  • Small Collapsible Foot Stool (multipurpose use as a seat)
  • Small Hand Broom w/ Dust Pan (for sweeping out the tent)
  • Tarp (for overhead shelter)
  • Tub of Disinfectant Cleaning Wipes (great for kitchen clean up)
Fisher Swim

My toddler eating his “hot diggity dog.”


  • Baby Bowl, Cups, Spoon
  • Baby Food Containers (for condiments, dressings, etc.)
  • Camp Chairs (small collapsible foot stools can be used if space limited)
  • Camp Kitchen (I use a Coleman camp table)
  • Can Opener
  • Charcoal and Lighter Fuel (if grilling)
  • Citronella Candles (for campsite perimeter to keep out mosquitoes)
  • Collapsible Sink (I use an old Thirty-One bag to hold kitchen use it later to wash dishes)
  • Cooking Pots
  • Cooler
  • Cooler Bag
  • Cork Screw
  • Cups, Plastic
  • Dish Detergent (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s/environmentally safe soap)
  • Dutch Oven
  • Extra Water (to keep at your site)
  • Foil
  • Fry Pan
  • Grill Top (for fire-pits without a grill top; foil on top of the coals will work in a pinch)
  • Hot Pads
  • Knives with Slip On Covers
  • Koozies
  • LED Lantern (no fooling with Kerosene lantern pieces)
  • Lighter
  • Paper Towels
  • Plates, Plastic or Paper
  • Coffee Press
  • Spatula and Grill Tools
  • Sponge
  • Stove (I prefer a Coleman stove)
  • Stove Fuel
  • Table Cloth
  • Thermos
  • Trash Bags
  • Utensils
  • Wood (some parks do not allow your own wood but offer it at local stores)
  • Ziplocs


  • Baby Wipes (very handy for campsite cleanup)
  • Bath Towels and Washcloths
  • Cash (for boat rentals, self-pay campgrounds, etc.)
  • Deodorant
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Lip Balm
  • Razor (for last minute swimsuit touch-ups)
  • Shampoo (Dr. Bronner’s will work for this)
  • Soap (Dr. Bronner’s will work for this)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet Paper and Hand Shovel (for more primitive sites)
  • Toothbrushes/Toothpaste

Are you planning on camping this spring? If you think of anything to add to the list, please comment! 

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3 Responses to The Ultimate Car Camping List

  1. Sarah Curtis
    Sarah Curtis February 8, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Great post, Lisa!! 🙂


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