Every Essential Item for a Family Island Camping Trip


While many island holidays include luxury resorts and beautiful villas, island camping is a special immersive experience. As shown in our previous listicle on little-known island destinations in Europe, camping gets you up close and personal with the sights and sounds unique to islands. That said, island camping may prove a bit trickier for families. After all, camping with children requires a much more nuanced checklist than if you were camping solo or with other adults. The younger your little ones are, the more you’re going to have to pack and anticipate in case of any emergencies.

So with that in mind, here are some important details you should remember when getting ready for the great outdoors with your children.

Camping Gear: Backpack, Clothing, Footwear

Let’s begin with the backpack. Assuming you have little kids, you’ll be carrying some of their things in your pack, too. For this reason, try to find a snug and well-fitted pack with a suspension system to distribute weight. Part of the magic of camping is letting your kids feel involved and empowered, so letting them have their own backpack is important. Brands like Deuter even offer specifically made backpacks for carrying small children, and they come with storage space for essentials, too. But if your children are old enough, check models from REI, Camelbak, and Osprey among many other outdoor brands that have hiking packs for young adventurers. If you’ll be camping next to the coast, look for a brand that comes lined with waterproof material to be safe.

Next, don’t forget the importance of shoes. If you’re not planning to go on any rough off-trail terrain, then your children may be better off with light trekking rubber shoes. For wet terrain, they will probably be more comfortable in lightweight and flexible sneakers like Merrell Altralight Lows. Meanwhile, if you’re just going to be staying near your campsite, a pair of lightweight shoes will allow for great ventilation even if the island temperatures rise.

For clothing, regardless of the weather, prioritize sun protection. Everyone in your party should have waterproof sun hats as well as sunscreen. There is even clothing with UPF protection, perfect for people who like to do all sorts of outdoor activities like camping. You should also remember to pack a thermal coat, sleeping clothes, and extra socks, underwear, and tops. Some buzzwords you should look for in camping clothes are moisture-wicking, vented, insulated, and waterproof.

Survival Essentials: Navigational Tools, First Aid Kit, Flashlights

Here come your non-negotiables. Your camping checklist must never scrimp on survival essentials that can keep you and your family safe. Make sure to pack a first aid kit (which will always come in handy with first-time hikers). This should include insect repellent, antibiotic cream for cuts and burns, bandages, and alcohol. The Life+Gear 116 Piece First Aid + Survival Kit, for instance, comes in a waterproof soft case so you can keep it in your pack.

You should also have headlamps and flashlights with extra batteries. Your little ones may be better off with clip-on lights that they aren’t at risk of dropping. Navigation tools like maps, compasses, GPS, and personal locator beacons (PLB) are also important. Ideally, everyone in your family should carry a PLB, though at the very least you should have one per adult. This is especially handy if you’re staying on an island with very few inhabitants or infrastructure.

Camping Equipment: Shelter, Sleeping Bags, Cooking Equipment

The equipment you bring dictates your comfort and convenience level while at camp. You may need more than one tent, for example, if you’re camping with kids. A tent that has wider headspace may be more comfortable, especially as this can help accommodate your kids as they grow. Your sleeping bag will also need to be waterproof and versatile for maximum usability. Down sleeping bags are warmer and easier to pack, but synthetic bags are cheaper and water-resilient. Ultimately, the weather conditions of the island during your stay will dictate how thick or light your sleeping bag should be. It may also be tempting to buy your kids their own cute sleeping bags, but truthfully buying an adult-size bag and having the younger ones share is more economical.

One thing that is key on your trip is food, so you’ll need to prepare accordingly. A portable stove system that can hold a fuel canister and a water filter with a gravity system (like the LifeStraw Flex or the Platypus GravityWorks) will ensure you’re properly hydrated and fueled. Foods that you can cook onsite include soup, fish, eggs, and hotdogs. For some snacks, bring nuts, power bars, and dried fruit. If your family has a sweet tooth, they may enjoy energy gels, or s’mores! Just remember to double-check with the island authorities before you start cooking. Some islands will charge an environmental fee for this activity while others may prohibit it altogether.

Camping teaches kids lessons they’ll take for life. Making them feel involved by including them in the packing process teaches them about responsibility and creativity. As more families are beginning to explore islands, camping together is a wonderful bonding activity you’ll remember for years to come.