Photo: How to pack smart for camping

Pack smart. Sites have garbage bins, but you'll probably need to take recyclables home. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

I like seeing stars, watching bats at dusk, smelling like smoke and enjoying life off-grid. Some people call it camping.

I'm organizing a summer solstice camping trip with six families and 12 kids under seven years old. Let's hope it doesn't feel like the longest day of the year!

I've divided them into communal cooking teams, planned a scavenger hunt and granola bake-off AND sent them this camping list — which I'm sharing with you in case something's missing!

Rule #1: Pack smart. Sites have garbage bins, but you'll probably need to take recyclables home.

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  • Tent, tarp/ground sheet
  • Playpen/baby tent
  • Sleeping bags/liners/baby sleepsack
  • Mattresses/cots
  • Pillows
  • Optional: shade tent/umbrella

(Baby tip: include a dark-coloured sheet for draping to block light!)


  • First aid kit (I made this homemade ointment!)
  • Cash for firewood (if fires are allowed)
  • Axe/hatchet
  • Kindling or fire-starter log/sticks — to protect biodiversity, many campgrounds don't allow you to collect sticks and twigs from the forest floor
  • Cooler with food (raccoon- and bear-proof)
  • Flashlight/headlamp/candle lantern (charge batteries now!)
  • Bug repellant (DEET-free)
  • Sunscreen (non-toxic)
  • Lighter/torch/matches
  • Unscented, Dirty Dozen-free toiletries
  • Fair trade chocolate


  • Camp chairs
  • Picnic mat/beach towels/hammock
  • Kid's toys/bikes/activities
  • Musical instruments
  • Card deck/books (nature ID guides)
  • Baby carrier/backpack (a stroller might be overkill and too bulky to pack)
  • Earplugs


  • Stove/BBQ and fuel
  • Coffee maker
  • Pots, pans, dishes and cutlery
  • Biodegradable, unscented dish soap
  • Wash basin
  • Dishcloths/towels
  • Weenie- or marshmallow-roasting sticks
  • Knife/cutting board
  • Reusable water bottle/water jug/collapsible pail


  • Warm layers
  • Stay-dry layers
  • Boots, shoes, sandals
  • Socks and undies
  • Swimwear
  • Hat and sunglasses

What you might need

  • Toilet paper (100 per cent post-consumer)
  • Lightweight table

What you don't need

  • Disposable dishes (they are evil and make me cry)
  • Bottled water — potable water is often on-site
  • Too many toys — what sticks and rocks are for

What supplies do you take for an enjoyable, low-impact, eco-friendly, nature-loving getaway?

Enter to win an Onyx stainless steel Popsicle mold. (Congrats to our winner, Charlene!)

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

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June 16, 2014

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Jul 08, 2015
2:28 PM

I’ve yet to camp at a site with potable water. We freeze 2 and 4 litre milk jugs before hand. Fresh water and ice to last a few days! I also prepare as many meals before we go. It’s hard to compost and recycle while in the woods!

May 24, 2015
2:44 PM

If going for more than one night you will definitely need rope/clothesline and clothespins. Perfect for drying beach towels, dish towels, and hopefully only airing out sleeping bags!

Jul 14, 2014
1:41 PM

If you are taking the musical instruments, and are going to camp where others are around, please have the courtesy to be talented, and OF COURSE you will invite the neighbours to join you, right?

Jul 03, 2014
12:59 PM

pancake mix with the dry ingredients in a 1 L mason jar, and the list of wet ingredients written on the outside…

YOu add the wet to the dry, and mix it and shake it, and you can pour straight into the fry pan. no extra bowls or large utensils required.

Then you also have a storage container after you wash the mason jar.

We also take mason jars for drinking out of, and try to freeze as much food before hand.

Make your own reusuable ice packs in the lingering plastic storage containers you still have, and then you can dump the water (or drink it if you want), for a lighter pack home.

Jul 02, 2014
7:04 PM

Hopefully, for the sake of the kids, the electronics are left at home too. Our kids have such a very short time to acquaint themselves with nature. Some parents already missed their chance to enjoy it as kids, so why make it worse. I can understand if there’s some medical emergency concern, but there are so many people and so much traffic

Jun 24, 2014
7:54 AM

A solar charger for our gadgets! Though last time we went road-tripping and stayed in campsites we were both working in media at the time, so it was much more necessary than it would be now.

Jun 23, 2014
6:53 PM

Great list…I always like to pop a few extra mason jars in for storing leftovers, that is if we are car camping. And I completely agree I have never packed many toys for the kids (even as babies there is lots for them to explore) and besides they do have to eat that peck of dirt before one!

Jun 23, 2014
7:58 AM

This is great, i love camping and im also a survivalist, but i also love being a steward to the environment.

Jun 16, 2014
6:05 PM

The meals that I have the week before camping are ones that everyone likes and can be frozen. Then when it comes time to pack up, I take them out of the freezer. When it’s time to eat, I just warm them up!!

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