Backpacking Light & Overnight Camping with Kids

Have you ever taken your kids on an overnight hike? It is not ‘mission impossible’ but does need some careful planning with regard to the gear that is used and the weight children can be expected to carry easily.

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We recently completed our first overnight hike and camp with the kids and loved it. The dog came too (a Jack-a-Fox), and another dog (Maltese x) we were looking after! Camping on the ridge of Mt Timbertop in the Victorian High Country, a fantastic spot with gorgeous views of the mountains and the Mansfield Plains. Nearby is ‘Timbertop School’ the outdoor education centre for Geelong Grammar.

Mount Buller is not far away, one of Victoria’s premier ski resorts and a fabulous playground during summer too.

Timbertop is on our list of ‘Ultimate Hikes’ with kids as it’s not overly difficult or too long. The walk to the ridge is 3.6kms – UP!

Camping Checklist

This is not a comprehensive list of ‘must-haves’ when packing for a camping trip, everyone is different and every camping trip may require various items depending on location and season. It is designed to give some ideas of what would be required for an overnight hike with kids.

Kids backpacks – Choosing a suitable backpack for children.

Kids backpacks come in a variety of makes and sizes, choosing a backpack can be a little confusing. A few points to consider are:

  • Make sure it is not too big for the child, it can be tempting to put extra gear in when there is room to spare.
  • How many external pockets do you need?
  • Does it have a few places to add a carabiner clip so a couple of items can be clipped to the outside for easy access (sunscreen etc.)
  • Will it be used a lot, is it worth spending extra on a really top-notch backpack?
  • As kids will not be carrying a lot of weight, does it need a rigid frame?
  • How water repellant is it?

We used a Jansport Backpack for one child who carried the hammocks and two lightweight sleeping bags. It is not a kids backpack, but a good sized overnight pack.

Kids Backpacks - Jansport

Sleeping Bags

Choosing a sleeping bag can be quite perplexing as there is such a range of choices available. A few factors to consider:

  • Does it need to be a 4 season sleeping bag?
  • Will it get a lot of use in very cold weather?
  • Are you likely to carry it on overnight hikes? This will determine the weight and overall packed dimensions to consider.
  • Can you manage with a light-weight bag that is ideal for summer/spring/autumn and take a light fleece blanket / extra clothing layers when required for added warmth?
  • Do you want to be able to machine wash or are you prepared to have it dry-cleaned or hand wash the bag?

Lightweight Camping Chairs

Super compact, comfy, light-weight camping chairs are now available. some are so light that they could very well be included in the contents of an overnight hiking list. I must admit, it is a luxury to have somewhere comfy to sit after a long walk! Regular camping chairs are fine for most uses, but if you really want to have a light-weight, compact seat for hikes or to take to any event, the Helinox Chairs are the ultimate in light-weight portability and strength… See the website for the full range.


Hiking and Family  Tents

Deciding on a tent is an important decision to make, do you want a light-weight hiking tent or something suitable for families to camp together in?

  • Do you plan to do any overnight hikes?
  • Will the tent just be used for warm weather camping?
  • Do you want/need to be able to stand up in the tent?
  • How much time do you want to spend setting up the tent? Some are super quick and others are irksome!

Dozens of different makes and models can be found, from 1 person micro tents to huge family tents. Coleman makes well designed instant tents that are suitable for families and have enough headroom to stand up in.

Coleman Instant Tents for Families, Couples, Singles

Coleman Instant Tents for Families, Couples, Singles…

Instant Pop-Up tents are very popular. We actually used our Explore Planet Earth Speedy Pop-Up tent for a recent overnight hike – they pack into a circular bag, ours is 75 cm in diameter and about 5 cm thick. These are fabulous little tents with integrated led lighting and really do set up in seconds. Weighing 3 kg’s, it was easy to for the kids to carry as it has backpack straps on the carry bag.

Speedy Instant Pop-Up Tent

Speedy Instant Pop-Up Tent. Sets up in seconds and packs away super fast. 75cm diameter carry bag with shoulder straps. Weight- 3kg

Does it look a little hilarious to carry for an overnight hike? Sort of.    Does that matter? No.

The feature image at the top shows our little pop-up tent set up on Mt Timbertop, along with our hammocks.

Camping with Kids - instant pop-up tent


Not everyone would be keen to sleep in a hammock, however, if you buy a quality hammock like the Hammock Bliss with built in mozzie netting and designed for a comfy sleep… there is such a difference compared to a regular hammock. The trick is to be able to lay across the hammock as flat out as possible.

Even as an afternoon rest spot, hammocks are good to consider as an addition to your camping gear.

Camping Stoves

Another headache, possibly! Choices.. choices… Coleman offers a variety of fabulous gas camping stoves, ideal for most families or lightweight hiking stoves are ideal when bushwalking and camping overnight.

The Swedish designed Trangia Stove is well known all over the world. A compact design that uses methylated spirits as a fuel source. We love the Kelly Kettle, it uses twigs/bark etc. and boils super fast. The kettle comes in a few different sizes and is a quality product that will last many years. Designed in Ireland a century ago and improved over the years.

Gas & Fuel Camping & Hiking Stoves

Children’s Hiking Boots

To wear hiking boots or trainers/running shoes? Our kids had hiking boots when touring Europe during winter but generally just wear good trainers when bushwalking in Australia. This is a personal decision and depends on just how much hiking you plan to do with kids, the terrain and if it is likely to be muddy.

Have you hiked overnight with kids? Share your experiences below…