Minimalist Family Camping Gear List
The ultimate packing list for car campers who want a small, stress-free easy grab’n’go camping kit. Gather it up at the start of the camping season, pack as much as you can into a large plastic tub and a holdall and leave it ready for your next adventure. Easy! By packing light and choosing the smallest of everything your compact kit will easily fit in the boot of your car, no roof box, no trailer, no stress.
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You don’t have to spend money on the fanciest lightweight gear to go camping. The aim is to just get out there and do it, however you can. Ikea cups and plates, a Wilko stove… or buy it on gumtree, borrow from a friend. You can always upgrade later once you’ve done a few trips and find out what will work best for you. We started with what we could find and are gradually upgrading (and downsizing as we do).
The list below outlines suggested kit in detail. I have included links to a few products to show examples you may find useful. Some of them are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase, but recommendations are only included if I think they're really good products!
Tent - small, light, quick to pitch. 1 'man' larger than your family
Vango Beta 550 XL
Tarp for extra shelter, ideally with poles so can be used alone or attached to front of small tent as a porch. These are great for creating shade on a sunny day or protection from the rain if you have a small tent.
eg. Coleman Universal Tarp or Outsunny Sunshade Decathlon also do a great one Quecha Arpenaz Camping Fresh Tarp
Groundsheet (put it underneath your tent to keep the tent cleaner) Ideally it should be slightly smaller than the footprint of your tent so it doesn't stick out around the edges (this would allow rain to slide underneath which is to be avoided). You don't need anything fancy here but look for one which folds up small if you can.
Waterproof picnic blanket - to sit/play on or use under your beds for extra ground insulation at night. They are cheap and fold up relatively small and can be used as an inexpensive alternative to a tent carpet.
Sleeping bag x 1 per person
You will save tons of space packing sleeping bags instead of duvets and blankets. Bags come in different thickness and warmth ratings, we have 3 season bags which will keep us warm from spring to autumn. There's no room to give a full guide to choosing bags here so see this guide from GoOutdoors. Pack sizes vary hugely so do think carefully when you choose. If you find sleeping bags a bit constricting, try a 'cocoon' or 'pod' style which are more roomy.
Vango Cocoon 250 Sleeping Bag
self-inflating mattress (SIM) x 1 per person.
SIMS are much warmer than airbeds, have no need for a pump, and are very compact when stored. As they are thermally insulated they reflect your body heat back to you and keep the cold from the ground away from you. My children sleep happily on inexpensive 2.5cm SIMs, I prefer slightly thicker for more comfort. My current favourite, as they are just so small when stored, are Thermarest Neo Air Venture or Forclaz Trek 700 Air XL.
Inflatable pillow x 1 per person
(or just stuff the mattress bags with clothes for a diy pillow). I love the Quecha Grey Helium Trekking Pillow from Decathlon as it it folds up tiny but is a comfortable shape and has a soft liner.
CLOTHES per person, packed in their own bag, organised with packing cubes
thermal underwear (for sleeping / evenings)
flipflops (for showers!)
Light layers - instead of thick jumpers as they fold up much smaller and will keep you warm.
plus your normal day wear
Towel (compact travel towel) - You can save lots of space taking compact towels instead of regular ones, plus these are lighter and dry much faster. Decathlon do a great basic microfibre towel in several colours (one for every one in the family). Or for a more stylish and eco-friendly option try a turkish hammam towel which is light cotton and equally compact.
THE 3 BOX SYSTEM - THE TUBS OF DREAMS!
Put the following into one large plastic tub with a lid and keep it ready for last-minute adventures. You only need to pack it once all year! Then stack this box inside two empty tubs of the same size - one for shoes in the tent, one for food to buy when you arrive.
The average camping trip is 3 nights so if you're doing that or less you shouldn't need alot of anything eg. ketchup, oil, shampoo.... Get the smallest pack size of everything and you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in.
Saucepan set - I use a compact set of 2 pans, a frying pan and a tiny kettle which it inside each other with a detached handle so its super small eg. Outdoor Gear Cook Set
Wooden spoon (small)
Washing up liquid (very small bottle)
Clothes pegs x 4
Sandwich bags x 4
4 cups (insulated and stacking if poss,)
Compact folding chairs
squash (super concentrated)
rice / quinoa packs (Uncle Bens 2-minute)
hot chocolate sachets
1 head torch
2 pocket tissue packs (instead of toilet roll)
wipes (small travel pack)
cleaning wipes pack (small)
1 folding washing up bowl
1 single ring stove with gas cannisterFirst aid kit (plasters, antihistamine cream, sting relief, tick remover, calpol, paracetamol)
4 glow sticks
2 books for bedtime
Tiny disco light speaker (for rainy day tent discos!)