Camping Gear For Toddlers: The Ultimate List
Post Summary: A complete list of the essential camping gear for toddlers including recommendations of the best products.
Have you taken the leap and decided on a family camping adventure with your toddler? Curious about what kind of camping gear for toddlers you might need to get? While most avid outdoors people like to keep it minimal, any caretaker knows that minimalism and toddlers don’t really go together. That’s okay because all that toddler camping gear that you shove into the back of your Subaru will be what SAVES you from meltdowns (both yours and your toddler’s).
We’ve compiled a collection of essential camping gear for toddlers based upon our own misadventures while camping with our wild one. We’ve made two lists: the first list is camping equipment for toddlers that we consider absolutely necessary and the second list is things that are really nice to have but can be skipped if you’re wanting to spend less or reduce how much you bring.
Need tips for camping with a toddler? Learn from our mistakes and read our guide on how to not only survive but enjoy camping with a toddler.
Pssst….This is a long post. I wanted to save you the hours of research I did and give you one place for the most thorough and compete list of essential camping gear for toddlers. If you want one single page that has all the items listed, you can go directly to this page HERE for all the products I recommend
1. Best Tent For Camping With Toddlers
When you’re going tent camping with toddlers, naturally you’ll need a tent! You’ll want one that can grow with your family, is easy to put up, and is built to last. Buying a tent can be a hefty purchase, but it is a one-time investment that has the potential to be used for years. It’s much better to buy something that’s well made than to buy a cheap one that will rip apart after one use.
We use the Coleman Octagon Tent and love it. We like that it comfortably holds the three of us, comes in a storage bag on wheels, and that there’s room for more kids or pets if your family grows. There’s also an optional room divider so when your kid is older you can divide the room if more privacy is wanted.
Once you know how to put it up, it’s easy to assemble and disassemble. Although we always recommend setting it up once at home so you know how to do it. It’s waterproof (ours stood up very well to a massive rainstorm in Yellowstone) and has nice features like a door that opens on a hinge and the ability to open up the shell of the tent so you can see outside while hanging out inside the tent. While many think of a tent as something that you merely sleep in, don’t forget it’s also the place you might have to hang out in when it’s raining or too hot. It’s nice to have a tent that’s enjoyable to be in. For us, that’s having plenty of space and the ability to fully stand up inside.
You can read more reviews and find prices HERE.
2. Sleeping Supplies For Toddlers
Top on the list of camping essentials for toddlers is what they’ll sleep on at night. There are a multitude of ways to handle how you want to do sleeping arrangements for your toddler when camping. Sleeping bag or travel crib? Wearable blanket or wool throw? The choice is ultimately about your toddler and what will work best for them. I’m going to give you ALL the options so you can decide what’s best for your little ones.
Camping Bed for Toddlers – Many parents choose to bring there own portable travel crib from home and set it up in the tent. We opted to bring our travel crib because he sleeps well in it, and we thought the familiarity would help him sleep better. It did! We also like it because it helped to contain him when it was sleep time. If you don’t already have your own travel bed, consider buying the Guava Lotus as your standard travel crib that can be used for camping, hotels, the grandparents’ house, and more. We like it because it’s lightweight, easy to put up, and has a convenient zipper opening. Check prices for the Guava Lotus HERE. A bonus of a travel crib is that it can also double up as a safe play spot in the campsite for younger toddlers.
Another option is to use a small pop up tent that goes within the tent. We have the KidCo Peapod Plus Pop Up Tent, and our son enjoyed sleeping in it for a few nights. It’s a fun option for a toddler who would enjoy feeling like they have their own tent. If you get the bigger version, it can grow with your kid and last for a while. It’s also great for beach days! Check HERE for current prices.
**TIP: If you’re using a travel crib, consider using blackout shades like these. It’s a godsend for nap time! You slide it over the top of the crib, and it significantly reduces light. While we used it for naps, it could help your child sleep later in the morning since most tents aren’t light reducing.
Toddler Sleeping Bags – Rather than using a portable crib, you can also opt to go the old fashioned route and have your child sleep on the floor with a sleeping bag. We bought a sleeping bag for our toddler and he hated it. He is a kid that tosses and changes positions all night. For him, a sleeping bag was way too constricting. That being said, your child might love it! They might find it cozy and have the best sleep ever. If you’re not sure, you can buy one beforehand and test it out with them. The key to buying a toddler sleeping bag is making sure it’s weather appropriate for where you’re camping and to get one that can potentially grow with them. A great choice is the Big Agnes Sleeping Bag. It fits a growing toddler up to 4’5″ and can be used for temperatures as low as 15 degrees. It’s not the most packable of sleeping bags, so its best for car camping. Check prices for the Big Agnes sleeping bag HERE.
3. Sleeping Pad – If you’re opting for a sleeping bag that will go on the ground, you MUST put a sleeping pad underneath the sleeping bag. Not only will it be more comfortable, but it’s also what will keep your child warm at night. No matter how good your sleeping bag is, the ground will steal all your body heat, so an adequately insulated sleeping pad is vital to a good night’s sleep. We chose to buy two XL, high-quality Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads so that our sleeping space would be equivalent to a queen bed. Instead of purchasing his own pad, he slept with us on our bed and we piled on together. You can opt to do that, or you can buy three pads if you have more than one child or you need more room because your toddler kicks and tumbles all over the place while they sleep. We have many camping trips in our future, so we invested in the best, knowing it would last for a while. We prefer a pad with foam rather than an air mattress because they are more comfortable and an air mattress is useless when doing any kind of cold weather camping. You can read more reviews and get current prices for the Therm-A-Rest HERE.
If you want a more affordable option you can buy the highly rated sleeping pad from Sleepingo. It’s lightweight and meant for warm weather camping, so you will need extra insulation if the weather goes below 40 degrees. You can read reviews and get current prices HERE.
Lastly, if you’re looking to save as much money as possible, remember that toddlers are used to sleeping on harder surfaces. In a jam, you can definitely fold up thick blankets from home as a comfy surface. Even better if they’re wool blankets since they provide wonderful insulation. We’ve even used a doggy mattress like THIS and he loved it. Kids are resilient. Don’t be afraid to get crafty when camping!
3. Sleeping Clothes and Blankets
Sleeping Blankets – An alternative to sleeping bags is to pack blankets from home. It’s not written in stone that you have to use sleeping bags when you’re camping! If you are car camping and won’t be lugging your stuff on a backpacking trip, then you can save money and use warm blankets and sheets from home. This is a great idea if camping isn’t something you plan to do a lot. Because our son hated the confinement of a sleeping bag, we ended up using regular blankets from home that we piled on him in his travel crib. A wool blanket is a gold standard for camping (I love this one HERE) or a synthetic material that won’t wick moisture.
Sleeping Clothes – Another option is to have your toddler use a wearable blanket. This is a good option if the weather will be cooler, and you have a toddler who kicks off their blankets at night. I prefer the ones like THIS that have feet since toddlers are so active and agile, but you can also find a sleep sack like THIS that functions similar to a sleeping bag.
Wearable Sleeping Bag – Lastly, you can buy a wearable sleeping bag from Morisson that could completely wipe out your need for a sleeping bag. You could even put them in this and still have them sleep in a portable crib. I’ve never used it, but I kind of wish I bought it before our first camping trip with our son! They have two sizes (baby and toddler) and two types available, one for cold weather camping and warm weather camping. You can read more reviews and see current prices HERE.
4. Camping Chairs For Toddlers
Choosing a camping chair for toddlers is a pretty basic thing, but high on the list of important camping gear for toddlers. Essentially it comes down to, what do you want to pay and what kind of cute pattern do you want? Yes, there are certain bells and whistles like those that come with a canopy and ones that lock in place so they won’t fold over when your toddler rams into it at full speed, but essentially they are all the same. Here are a few fun options to look over:
1. Paw Patrol Canopy Chair– Perfect if you want shade for hot campsites.
2. Animal Folding Chair – Perfect it you want a cute chair with camp themed animals.
3. Coleman Kids Chair – Perfect for anyone who wants a simple chair that can grow with them.
5. High Chair For Camping
Some parents may not need a high chair for camping and can get away with holding them or letting them sit on the camping chairs or picnic benches that most campsites have. If you have one of those kids…awesome! We don’t. For us, we bring our Fisher-Price Booster Seat and strap it on to the camping chair. It works great! You do need to be careful if you have a toddler that moves around in their chair since camp chairs are mostly made of aluminum and can tip over easily. You can also opt for a travel-ready high chair like the one from Summer Pop. It’s a sturdier chair and a good choice if you want something higher off the ground than a booster seat. You can read reviews and check current prices HERE.
6. Toddler Water Bottle
Having water while camping is paramount, especially when you’re camping in humid climates or high elevation campsites. We always travel with our Hydroflask water bottle because we LOVE that the double-wall insulation keeps water ice-cold for up to 24 hours. It’s also smashproof and can withstand the rough play of toddlers. You can find current prices HERE.
The only issue I have with the kids Hydro Flask we have is that it isn’t leak-proof, so if you have a toddler who likes to turn their water bottle upside down, you might want to opt for a leak-proof bottle like the Contigo Autoseal Trekker. You can find current prices HERE.
7. First Aid Kit
You’ll want to be sure to include a first aid kit to be prepared for cuts and scrapes that are inevitable when kids play outdoors. You can buy a fully prepared first aid kit like THIS or you can opt to make your own. Some things to include would be:
-Bee Sting Relief
-Kids Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen
-Instant Ice Pack
-Antiseptic Cleansing Wipes
-First Aid Tape
8. Sun Protection
Most people opt to camp in the summer, so you’ll want to be sure to bring sunblock, a sun hat, and/or sunglasses. Here are our favorites:
1. Sporty Swim Hat – We LOVE This sun hat because it can get wet, it has UPF 50 protection, is stretchy, and the brim doesn’t get in his way of seeing. It’s the best hat ever.
2. Sunblock – Any chemical-free sunblock will do, but we like Blue Lizard because it’s perfume and paraben-free, an ideal choice for sensitive toddler skin.
3. Sunglasses – We love these sunglasses from Cocosands. They offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. They are built to be handled by toddlers (smashproof) and come with a strap, so fiddling fingers can’t pull it off.
9. Bug Deterrents
Camping often comes with mosquitoes. If you are camping in a place known for mosquitoes you’ll want to buy some DEET free bug repellent to keep the bugs at bay. Babyganics has a great spray that is designed for the sensitive skin of babies and toddlers. You can check current prices HERE.
In addition to bug spray, you might want to buy a battery-operated fan. A good breeze can go a long way to keeping bugs away. It’s a good option if you’re camping somewhere humid and the cool air would be a nice addition to your tent or on your table while you’re dining. I like this one HERE for its easy portability and extra-long battery life.
10. Lighting Options
Playing with flashlights while camping is as quintessential to camping with a toddler as toasting s’mores. Since you’ll have your own flashlight, it’s practically guaranteed that your toddler will want to play with it, so it’s best to have a flashlight that’s a designated toddler flashlight. You can go the standard route with a flashlight made for kids, but you can also play with lanterns and headlamps as your toddler is sure to love them all. We had all three for him since we knew he would want all of the adult-sized ones. Here are some great options:
1. Mini Flashlights – Fun collecion of brighly colored mini flashlights, that can be used by the adults as well.
2. Melissa & Doug Flashlight – Cute flashlight that looks like a firefly. Great if you want a flashlight that has a kid-friendly look.
3. Camping Lantern For Kids – We love this cute lantern that’s durable enough to withstand the rough play that toddlers can have.
4. Headlamp For Toddlers – We love this adorable fleece headlamp that has three lighting options, including a low setting so you won’t be constantly blinded when they shine it in your eyes.
11. Camping Toys for Toddlers
While most toddlers can make creative games and toys out of what’s available at a campsite, it’s a good idea to bring a few toddler camping toys to keep them occupied.
1. Magnifying Glass – Unleash their inner explorer and let them explore the campsite with a shatterproof magnifying glass.
2. Glow Sticks – We like these glow sticks because they are battery operated (less plastic waste) and can double up as fun flashlights.
3. Bucket + Shovel – A collapsible bucket and shovel is a great open-ended toy they can find multiple uses for.
3. Frisbee – These lightweight frisbees that are built with kids in mind are great for an easy, active game at your campsite.
4. Kinetic Sand or Play-doh – A great sensory play toy that is perfect for outdoor play, since you don’t have to worry as much about the mess.
5. Binoculars -This is a great toy for kids 3 and up that will enjoy looking for birds and seeing things in a way they never have.
If you want more creative toy options for camping check out our in depth post on cool camping toys for toddlers.
12. Camping Snacks For Toddlers
Any caretaker knows that snacks are the ultimate tool in keeping a toddler happy. Before you leave, stock up on your child’s favorite snacks and throw in some new ones as well. Camping is a unique experience and treats they don’t typically get are part of the fun. Don’t forget the mashmallows!
13. Camping Cooler
If you’re only camping for few days you can use a standard cooler and be sure to refill it with ice as you need. If you’ll be staying for longer you might want to invest in a high quality cooler that will keep your food cold for days. Yeti has long been the reigning champion of high quality coolers. We love the Yeti 45 because it’s bear-resistant, built to last, and keeps your food cold for days. In the right conditions, it can keep ice cold for up to 10 days! That being said, it’s pretty expensive, so if you’re not someone who uses a cooler a lot, it’s perfectly fine to get a no frills affordable cooler like the Coleman Performance Cooler.
Camping + Toddlers = Wipes. Pack wipes. So so many wipes.
Wipes will come in handy for the inevitable sticky fingers, dirty feet, and all around cleaning that never ends when a toddler is around. Also, while your campsite may have a shower, you might want to consider doing a “wipe” shower rather than try to do communal showers with an antsy toddler. Regular wipes will suffice, but you can also opt for biodegradable wipes like THESE that are meant to replace showers when traveling or camping.
15. Camping Shoes For Toddlers
Forget about finding hiking boots or special camping clothes for toddlers, we learned the hard way that what you really need are a good pair of campsite shoes. We thought his cute Native Shoes were perfect since they are easy to slip on, waterproof, and easy to clean. The only problem is they are covered in decorative holes so by the end of the day his socks would be covered in three layers of campsite dirt. We ran out of socks while camping! Then we had him wear his shoes without socks, but then his feet were covered in three layers of campsite dirt, which then required sooooo maaaany wipes. The lesson being that when you’re camping, you need closed shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, can slip on and off, and are machine washable. Yes, you can use lace up tennis shoes, but it can be a big nuisance when you’re having to tie and untie their shoes every time you go in and out of the tent. Shoes like these canvas slip ons are perfect for hanging around the campsite.
16. Portable Potty
If you are camping with a potty trained kid, then bringing your own portable potty will help you on those frigid early mornings or late nights when you don’t want to schlep through the dark to a concrete bathroom. This foldable travel potty comes with 20 bags that line the potty for a fuss free, mess free clean up.
Optional Camping Gear For Toddlers
Now that we’ve gone over camping essentials for toddlers, let talk about camping items for toddlers that you can potentially skip, but admittedly are nice to have on a camping trip. They may not be deemed essential, but they could go a long way to making camping with toddlers more enjoyable.
1. Hiking Carrier For Toddlers
If you’re camping, it’s a fair assumption to think that hiking might be in your plans as well. If you have a toddler that doesn’t want to walk the entire way, bring or invest in a high quality hiking carrier like the Deuter Kid Comfort Active. If worn correctly, the pack takes stress off your shoulders and distributes the weight down to your hips. Click HERE for more reviews and current prices.
2. Sound Machine
A battery-operated portable sound machine can be a godsend for loud campsites and sensitive toddlers who stir easily. Most toddlers go to bed before campsites settle down for the night, so it can be a great way to drown out excess noise. We like this sound machine for its simple aesthetic and that it has the option to be plugged in or battery operated. Click HERE for current prices.
You can also opt to download a white noise app on your phone or tablet. A good choice if you have electricity and can recharge your device every day.
Our kid loved hanging out in the hammock, and it was the only time we could get him to sit still with us. Swinging in the hammock together and enjoying simplicity is one of our favorite memories of camping together. Buying a hammock is something the whole family can enjoy. We love the Wise Owl Outfitters hammock because it packs down to a small size and is easy to put up. You can check prices for the hammock HERE.
Another option is to do the kids hammock from Wise Owl. Kids love to have their own version of things, so a hammock made for their size might be just what they want.
4. Camping Books For Toddlers
Books to read at nighttime or around the fire are a great option for toddlers who love reading time. Before our first trip camping with our son, we bought a few camping-themed books to get him ready for our adventure together. He loved them so much we brought them with us on the camping trip. We loved reading Oliver & Hope’s Adventure Under The Stars, a sweet story of three friends on their first camping trip.
Want more books about camping with toddlers? Check out our post on 15 fun and exciting camping books for toddlers.
5. Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
The first time we went camping, I decided to be a purist and use sticks we found in the campsite. Now, I only want to use roasting sticks! In fact, its on my personal list of essential camping gear for toddlers.
These extend up to 34″ making it a great choice for kids and they have a rotating option meaning everyone can compete to make the perfectly roasted s’more. We also love that it comes in a packable bag. Check prices for the roasting sticks HERE.
Headphones can be a nice addition when camping if you want to treat your toddler to a movie. It can be perfect for when it rains and you hunker down in the tent for a couple of hours. We like these soft, sound-sensitive headphones that are made with children in mind.
7. Towels and Blankets
It’s always nice to have multi use blankets that can be thrown down on the ground to sit on. Perfect for when you’re at camp or on a hike and taking a rest with your toddler. A few nice options are:
1. Turkish Towels – We love to use Turkish towels since they are lightweight, can be packed down to a small size, and dry quickly.
2. Matador Pocket Blanket – Perfect for anyone who wants something that will take up minimal space. The non-rip nylon material packs down to the size of your hand.
3. Oversize Blanket – Perfect for anyone who wants a waterproof blanket that’s extra large. Great for when you want to create a safe playspace for your toddler.
8. Firestarter Cubes
While these are good for anyone who is camping, when you’re a parent and just need things to be easy, Firestarter Cubes can save you a lot of hassle and time. No need to fiddle with cardboard and newspaper to get a fire started. Also, no one has newspapers casually laying around anymore! We love that these are all natural and won’t have that awful chemical smell when lit. Check prices HERE.
9. Solar Power Bank
Again, this is something that any camper would need, but when camping with toddlers, it’s nice to know you have a way to charge up your devices. The solar power bank from GoerTek has three USB ports and can charge an iPhone up to seven times. It also includes a 3 mode flashlight, perfect for lighting up the tent at night.
10. Toddler Backpack For Camping
Our son really enjoys his hiking backpack from United By Blue. He likes being able to collect rocks and leaves and we enjoy that he carries his own snacks and water. Choosing a backpack is really about having something cute and fun that your toddler can enjoy. Check out these cute backpacks HERE to see what fits your kids’ style.
11. Life Jacket
Camping is often synonymous with hanging out by the water, so you’ll want to make sure to pack a life jacket for your toddler if that’s in your plans. We like this life jacket from Body Glove because it is coast guard approved and helps them to get comfortable with swimming. It does not inflate and deflate, so if you want something that can flatten and take up less space, you can opt for this space-saving swim vest from Splash About. It helps kids float and learn how to swim, but isn’t certified to be a life-saving device, so you will need to keep an extra watchful eye if you’re using this life vest.
12. Rain Jacket
If you’re traveling somewhere that has the possibility of rain, you might want to pack up a light rain jacket so your little one can still enjoy their outdoor adventures. We like this cozy, waterproof rain jacket that comes in several bright colors.
Did you make it all the way through!? Let us know if you have any questions about the products or if you have a recommendation on the best camping gear for toddlers.
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