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We aren’t expert campers by any means, nor do we ever intend to be. Katie’s family keeps a big camper on a permanent site within a campground, but that’s a whole different kind of camping! We all grew up tent camping as kids and wanted to recreate those same memories for our own families. (Click here to read more about why we tent camped in an article we wrote for Northerly.)
Tent camping forced us to be a bit creative and get out of our comfort zones for a weekend – especially with heavy rain on the forecast. Our site was actually a double site, so there were two picnic tables and two firepits but no electricity. Vault toilets and water pump were nearby, along with showers and flush toilets a short bike ride away.
This is not an exhaustive list of what to pack for camping, but suggestions and recommendations of the things we were happy to have along on our weekend tent camping. Several of these things we’ve had for years, and many were new purchases to upgrade old stuff that we know we’ll use in the years ahead!
Sitting ‘Round the Campfire Gear
Coleman Portable Camping Quad Chair with 4-can Cooler
Cascade Mountain Low Profile Folding Camp Chair
(The kids used these when camping since they sit lower to the ground. We all have these chairs – great for sitting on the beach!)
Retractable Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
Retract into small pouch, plus rubber tips to cover ends when transporting; slightly flimsy but worked fine for marshmallows and hot dogs
Unique Cooking Systems Grill
Katie’s parents have used this system for years camping – it’s a post, adjustable height cross-arm, and grill. Much easier than tripods.
Blackstone Grill Station
A newer purchase this year for Katie’s family, this is a great portable griddle option for camping, tailgating, or just cooking on the deck.
Vegetable Grill Basket
Pictured above, great for grilling vegetables over the fire
Aluminum Foil Bread Loaf Pans
Easy way to reheat food without doing dishes
Coffee Perocolator (similar)
The exact one we used isn’t available online right now, but link is similar. We hadn’t done coffee this way before but it worked well!
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
We each have a different brand, but makes sure we have one wherever we go
Katie has this one: UE Boom, waterproof speaker
tent & Sleeping Gear
REI Base Camp 6 Tent
Katie has had this about 15 years ago. While pricey, it’s a great tent compared to cheaper options. It fit two adult cots + two kids cots, but a family of four may want to consider the next size up.
Coleman 6 Person Sundome Tent
A newer version of Sara’s 15 year old tent – this one is slightly smaller in interior space but has held up well over the years for the price.
Water Repellent Tent Spray
Sara’s tent is old and hasn’t been used for equally that long, so figured some water repellent spray couldn’t hurt! (it worked!)
Camping Tent Fan with Light
We only used the light when getting situated in the tent at night. The evenings were cool and didn’t need the fan but seemed to work well! Battery operated, so we brought along extra batteries just in case.
Inflatable Camping Sleeping Mat
Easily and quickly inflates and deflates, fits in very small travel pouch
We’ve also had these ones for years and have held up great! LL bean sleeping bags
Cascade Mountain Heavy Duty Cot – $34.99 at Costco (not online currently)
Portable Toddler Sleeping Cot
We’ve each had these for years and have used them so many times. Our big kids have almost outgrown them, sadly. There is an XL version too for bigger kids and could get more use out of it
Kid’s Sleeping Bags
Our kids all have these, gifted over the years since they’re a pricey novelty. They’re not really “camping” sleeping bags but fun for sleepovers and movie nights.
Other Random Camping Gear
We’re iffy on whether this is a good idea or not — if you have the space in the car, it was a great way to keep all the smaller supplies, utensils, kitchen gear and food organized. Plus, it was easy to stash in the back of the car overnight or during rain. However, they’re big and clunky and still required transporting home even after empty
1-Gallon Water Bottle / Jug
Fill up at home with drinking water, bring when on-the go to refill everyone’s smaller water bottles
Rechargeable Camping Lantern + Flashlight
This worked awesome, plus it’s able to be charged with an attached USB cable. Super bright light with different modes.
1-Gallon Water Bottle / Jug
Fill up at home with drinking water, bring when on-the go
5-Gallon Water Cooler
If there is room in the car, we’ll fill this up with drinking water at home and use throughout the weekend
Bamboo Biodegradable Utensils
Avoiding dishes and also plastic utensils at the same time!
CaterGator 100qt Cooler
This was a new purchase – we actually split the cost together. We couldn’t get behind the price of a YETI so looked for a cheaper option. We’ve only used it one weekend, but held ice pretty well (there was A LOT of opening and closing of the cooler)
Collapsible Soft Side Cooler
We love CleverMade products when traveling because it collapses flat for easy packing, and this cooler is great for day use
Choose for your type of phone; charges phones and tablets when no electricity is available on site
Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Rack
Comes in various sizes, we’ve been super happy with this for the price
Do you like our packing lists to see what we bring when we’re heading out for adventures? Then you may enjoy these other posts: