Camping with Kids: Best Gear, Sleeping, and More Questions Answered


I asked if you had any questions about camping with kids since we are just back from our 3rd or 4th trip this summer. It keeps getting easier but it's never easy, ha! But as my friend reminded me when I was complaining about how tired we were and how much laundry there was... "travelling with kids is never easy, but it's always worth it"

Ideal Number of Days Camping with Kids?

I would argue that 3 nights is perfect. It is worth all the packing up and un-packing and cleaning. You get to slow down, relax and focus on the simple things like what to eat next, when to switch from coffee to wine and washing dishes outdoors. But it is short enough that you don't get too dirty or bored of your campsite and need to do additional exploring. After 3 days we get a bit antsy and want to go on a hike, adventure or find a nearby town for a meal ;). I know this does not make us true hardcore campers... never claimed we were! 

Personally I find one night of camping way too much effort to pack and unpack and not enough relaxation. Two days is on the cusp, depending on the travel time to get there. Longer than 3 days and I start to run out of food, ha!

How do we manage car seats in an '82 Westfalia?

I really need to put together a tutorial for what Trevor did to the van. He removed the existing seatbelts and replaced them with rock climbing anchors and stainless steel quick links to create anchors for the carseats. They are tricky to connect and there may be a way to improve this system in the future but we are happy it allows us a safe ride for the kids. 

When we set up camp, we have a small 2 man tent we set up to store the carseats and any extra gear. 

If we want to drive into town we have to put away the bed and connect the car seats again. It's a bit of a process and we will be happy when at least Theo is in a booster seat but at his current weight and height that is going to be a while!


How do the kids sleep camping? How do we handle routines?

We have come to accept that routines are different when camping. Kids are unlikely to go to bed before it's dark and fighting that is usually futile. We let them stay up until dark which is usually 9 or 9:30pm. With all the window coverings in the van they tend to sleep in a bit later than they do at home. Sometimes they went to bed at the same time, sometimes Mae went to bed a bit earlier. One of the nights I had to lay down with them so they would fall asleep. 

We tried to keep a nap for Mae and got creative with taking the stroller with us on a walk or going for a drive or even carrying her back from the beach until she fell asleep in our arms... whatever works! And if she didn't nap we just tried again the next day and hoped for an earlier bedtime. 

Currently I sleep with the kids in the lower bunk and Trevor sleeps on the top bed. Mostly this is because we fear they will fall out of the bed (our kids are active sleepers in the van). We hope next year they can sleep alone. Last year Mae only slept through the night once so we are doing much better! Next year we can worry about the sleeping arrangements, this year we were just happy to get sleep (yay!).


Recommended Gear?

6 plates
6 cups
Washable Cutlery
Knife with cover
Small Cutting Board
1 pan
2 pots
2 small square tupperware bins for washing and rinsing dishes
Camp Stove
Good Lantern (ours)
Table Cloth
Duvet + Pillows
Good Cooler (this is ours, this is the dream)
Camp Chairs x 4
Small Rug
Clever Coffee Maker
Small Broom and Dustpan
Potty (for emergencies)
2 Buckets 2 Shovels
Bike for Theo, Scooter for Mae

Nice Extras:

Ikea Fleece Blankets
Telescoping Marshmallow Sticks (here)
This $6 Toaster!
Glow Sticks ( would like to find a less wasteful alternative!)

Extras on our list:

Small folding table for the kids
Portable Shower

Don't Need:

Toys! (the kids played with sand, dirt, bugs and rocks the whole time)

Mackenzie Beach in Tofino

Mackenzie Beach in Tofino

Topics for another day...

Packing Clothes for camping with kids
Camping Meals
Lower Waste Camping (something I want to be better at!)

What are your favourite campsites? Please share below! So far we have liked Golden Ears Provincial Park, Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast, Bella Pacifica in Tofino, Surf Junction in Uclulet, Miracle Beach in Comox, Nahalem Bay State Park in Oregon.

updated June 2019 with some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Alison Mazurek