You can say we are a family that loves camping. We go every time we have a chance!! We have been in all the weathers and terrains. So yes, my list is the essentials!! Because if you go with children, you want to avoid bringing the unnecessary, you are going to carry it!! So here is my list and some links to my Amazon recommendations, please use them:
Good tent. By good tent I mean that has a good rain fly just in case of wind and rain. It is always a possibility!! We like these because they are good quality and light weight.
Chairs. Bring foldable chairs for everyone in the family! Is really hard to just sit on rocks or hard surfaces all the time!
Camping towels. These would save so much space in the bags and also dry in no time! With kids a must.
Inflatable mattress. This would save your back and your stuff in case of water getting inside your tent! Don't forget to bring the air pump to inflate. Please be mindful of the size of your tent to get your mattress. In a small tent for four persons a queen size will take the whole floor space!
Sleeping bags. Be aware that there are all kinds of weather sleeping bags! The ones they sell in stores most of the time are not necessarily for cold weather, I mean 50 degrees or less. So be mindful about your necessities. I usually want one that you can pack small that way everyone can carry it. We bring our South American wool ruanas to double as clothes and blankets!
Rain Jackets. These are a necessity, especially with children. You don't want to get all your clothes wet in a wet day and never get anything dry at your camp. So at least, you can wear two long sleeve shirts and your rain jacket to keep you warm. Shoes would always get wet. But you can always get them warm in the campfire!
Insect Repellent and Tick check kit. Choose any you like, but don't forget it. You may or may not need it. You can even keep it in the car. For the tick check, you need: Tweezers, a small jar (to keep the ticks) just in case the thick was attached too long and will need to be tested for Lyme, and some antibiotic cream. For the correct way to remove them:
Cooking plans. You can go different ways about this. There are people that plan ahead all their meals, bring them on foil paper and put them on the campfire to cook. We like to bring our plastic container with a small camp stove, 1 pan, 1 pot and reusable utensils and plates. My husband always brings a coffee strainer to make his coffee. We like the collapsible cups. Then we will bring the food that needs ice in a cooler and snacks and fruits in a big bag! Don't forget your salt and oil if you are going to cook, can opener, lighter, and knife. This takes a lot of space in the car. So always plan for this.
Shoes and socks. I will recommend 1 pair for water and 1 for hiking. Always bring good and many socks. They keep your feet warm at night!
Tarp. You can use it as a floor, or as a fly over your tent, or if is too cold at night, just throw it over your tent!!
Water Is always good to bring enough water. Usually, you will have access to drinking water at the campsite, so bring your container to have water near your tent.
We will always bring our hammock because you never know if you can find the perfect spot for one and sleep there! I hope this list is useful for you if you are going camping for the first time and remember to enjoy nature and to leave everything the same way or better than what you found it!!