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January 23, 2021

Tent Camping Setup for Families – The Ultimate Guide

Our family camping setup is a far cry from our carefree single days. Back then, our essential camping gear included a two person dome tent, a sleeping bag and mat and a single burner stove.

Fast forward to the pitter patter of little feet and those minimalist days are distant memories. Tent camping includes an upgrade to something with much more sleeping and living space, comfortable sleeping arrangements, a fully functional camp kitchen and plenty of entertainment options, amongst other things.

We discuss below the various components of a family tent camping setup. These related articles may also interest you:

  • our tent camping checklist, which is a detailed list all of the things we think should be considered for tent camping for a family
  • our tips on camping with a tent, which goes through the do's and don't of tent camping

AND, if you want a kickstart to camping, trailer free, and avoid all of the trial and error and guesswork, then The Campus , our member only portal, is where you need to be.

Be sure to click on the links below for more details and camping setup ideas.

Your camping setup

1: Tent and shelter

A great camping setup

It goes without saying that a campsite should provide weatherproof shelter for privacy as well as for protection from the elements.

There are many tents on the market but our personal preference is one more suited to touring. You will find, however, plenty of other tent options, from smaller dome style tents just large enough to accommodate the number of people in your family as well as room for gear storage, to larger two and three-room tents incorporating living space as well.

Every campsite should also provide adequate outdoor shelter, if only to protect the gas cooking stove and outdoor gear from the rain as well as the dew formed during the night-time. This could be in the form of a tent with a larger awning, an annex attached to your tent, a separately constructed camping tarp setup or, if you can transport one, a separate marquee or screen room.

The larger open-air shelters will also provide a much more comfortable escape from the rain and hot sun than the shelter of an enclosed tent.

Further reading on this site: How to choose your ideal tent

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

2: Campsite tools

Camping tools packed in bag,

A good set of camping tools can really help you to deal with the various issues and dilemmas that might arise around the campsite and on your travels, and there are plenty of compact and lightweight options that don’t take up a lot of space. Hopefully, you won’t need to use many of them, but they will be there if and when you do.

Further reading on this site:  Camping tools

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

3: Power and Fuel

Camping power

Power and fuel is generally required for camp lighting, refrigeration, cooking stoves, the campfire and our seemingly ever-growing list of devices and appliances.

A simple setup on an unpowered site might only require ice for refrigeration, gas and/or the campfire for cooking, some batteries and smaller batter chargers for lighting and devices, and access to a power supply from time to time to recharge the batteries and chargers.

When on an unpowered site, a portable dual battery setup or a larger power bank with solar panels will be required for more energy-hungry camping setups, especially when operating a compressor fridge and more devices.

While technological improvements over recent years have worked in our favour in terms of pack size, these larger banks and solar panels can still be very bulky and heavy to transport together with everything and everyone else.

Further reading on this site:  Camping power and fuel options.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

4: Camp Lighting

Tent lighting

Campsites don’t need to be lit up like a sports stadium, but a good lighting setup should still provide adequate lighting for the various camping related activities, including:

  • general or ambient lighting for the kitchen, tent and living areas
  • task lighting for reading / cooking / playing games
  • directional lighting for spot lighting and pathway

While some products are particularly bulky for transportation, there are plenty of compact torch, headlamp and lantern options to choose from to meet your needs, and many are now rechargeable.

Further reading on this site: Lighting options for camping.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

5: Camp Kitchen

Camp kitchen

Camp meals don't need to be complicated and fancy, but with a well-equipped camping kitchen setup, delicious food can still be produced with a minimum of fuss.

A basic camp kitchen should include a two-burner stove and/or a campfire, dinnerware, cookware, utensils, ingredients, as well as a fridge or icebox, a camping pantry, an area for food preparation, access to a fresh water source and a way to store it at the campsite.

A functional kitchen doesn’t need to take up a lot of room if you choose neatly stackable items, although some campfire cookware can be bulky and heavy.

Further reading on this site: Easy camp kitchen setup

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

6: Camp Refrigeration

Camp refrigeration

Your refrigeration options for camping range from the relatively light weight esky / iceboxes and 3-way or absorption fridges through to the heavier and more power-hungry compressor fridges. Smaller cooler bags can also take items that benefit from a cooler environment but don’t necessarily require refrigeration. 

Larger fridges and iceboxes are not generally an option for tent camping families because of our size and weight restrictions, and in any case we don't believe they are necessary if you are smart about how you manage your fridge. Fridge stands are also very handy as well to elevate the fridge off the ground for easier access.

Further reading on this site: Refrigeration options for camping.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

7: Bathroom and Laundry

Camping bathroom and laundry ideas

Your bathroom and laundry related gear will depend on the types of facilities you have available to you as well as the length of your stay. With access to shower, toilet and laundry facilities, you might only need the standard items like toiletries, towels and basic laundry supplies.

Camping in areas without toilet and shower facilities becomes much more complicated for car campers, especially if you want to make room for a portable toilet and shower as well as a privacy tent. Areas requiring fully self-contained campers (who are required to carry out all of their waste, including wastewater) would be off-limits to car and tent campers.

Further reading on this site: Bathroom and laundry.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

8: First Aid and Safety

Components o a first aid kit for camping

It goes without saying that a well-equipped first aid kit is one of the most important items to include in your setup, especially when children are involved. Also important is knowing in advance how to administer first aid, especially in an emergency.

Further reading on this site:  First aid and safety.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

9: Camp Furniture

Your camping setup should provide for a table or benchtop for food preparation and casual dining, as well as a camp chair and a table or stand on which to rest the cooking stove. You might not necessarily need a separate table for each of these functions, but the longer your stay the more convenient that extra bench and table top space will be.

It probably goes without saying that everyone should have a camping chair, but if packing space is limited, give preference to those with a smaller pack size. That goes for the other items as well. Other useful items include shelving or a kitchen pantry to raise items off the floor and to help organise your gear.

Further reading on this site:  How to choose a camping chair.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.


10: Sleeping and Bedding

Sleeping bags and sleeping mats

Arguably the second most important item in your camping setup after the tent is your bedding. In fact, we can’t stress enough how important it is to have good quality and reliable sleeping gear that can provide you with the best possible night of sleep.

Sleeping gear can be notoriously bulky and difficult to transport. A family of 4 camping trailer free with the type of setup for beginners outlined in The Campus doesn't necessarily need extremely compact hiking style gear, but you will most likely need to compromise.

If you want to defer costs in order to invest in a better quality sleeping mat, the doona / quilt off your bed may suffice instead of a sleeping bag.

Further reading on this site: Sleeping bags and bedding as well as Sleeping mats and pads.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

11: Clothing

Which clothing to choose for camping

Your outdoor wardrobe will vary greatly depending on your planned activities, the expected temperature and weather conditions and your personal preferences. The important thing to remember when you have limited for car space is to choose compact and lightweight but comfortable clothing that you enjoy wearing AND that serves a specific purpose. To reduce the amount of clothes you need to pack, limit everyone to a certain volume of clothing (say the size of a reusable shopping bag each) and footwear.

Further reading on this site:  Outdoor clothing options.

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

12: Entertainment

Entertainment options for camping

And, last but not least, the fun things to bring camping. When children are involved, entertainment options are really important, not only to keep the kids active and off the screens, but also to provide some welcome relief for the parents.

Even with our limited packing space, there are plenty of entertainment options to choose from. You really just need to focus on what you can take rather than what you can't.

You might not be able to take the basketball but there are plenty of other easier to pack possibilities - tennis racks / cricket bats and balls, cards, compact games, pencils / writing paper, small toys and inflatable items. And then of course a couple of bikes could easily go on the tow / hitch bar, weight permitting.

13: Your car

Which car to choose for camping

Your choice of car is really the key to comfortable car and tent camping and the safe transporting of you, your family and your gear to and from your camping spots - trailer free.

There are many different types of vehicles to choose from, and if you do your homework you can avoid for buyers regret - that is, paying a lot of money for something that is either bigger than you really need, or worse still, not big enough.

You don't necessarily need the biggest car on the market either. We have identified a number of cars in the mid-size range that would generally be suitable for families or groups of up to four people. If you don't own a car, or the right type of car, all is not lost - consider renting or hiring one.

Further reading on this site:  Best car styles for camping review

Or  for help going camping trailer free, head over to our member portal, The Campus.

Your Packing Checklist

Now that you know what you should be taking, you will need a camping checklist which you can download and edit to suit you.

How to Pack for Camping

Putting your camping setup together is only half the battle. Getting it safely to and from the campsite is the next big challenge. Check out our tips for packing your car for camping

So there you have it - the ultimate tent camp setup for a family can really give you a comfortable experience and help to inspire you to get out beyond your backyard and to create those wonderful family memories. And it definitely doesn't need to be complicated - in fact you will be amazed at how straightforward and simple it is.

For further reading

Category: Camping Setup

Trailer-Free Camping Setup Inspirations

Thank you for reading!

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