The best garden camping gear for outdoor fun

garden camping gear

by Samantha Ball |
Updated on

If you're not going on a proper family holiday this year, you can still take a holiday away from your home – and you only need to go as far as your own garden. All you'll need is some good garden camping gear and a bit of imagination. Camping with a toddler or child may seem daunting, but there are lots of options for child-friendly daytime camping, with garden exploration games and creative costumes to spark imaginations, but what happens when night falls? What kind of garden camping gear will you need then?

Hunker down for the night in a spacious tent, with the rest of your garden camping gear and let the children throw all the normal bedtime rules out of the window. Eat a fun dinner cooked on the gas stove, before toasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. Then bed down with sleeping bags and lots of blankets – the benefit of being in your garden, rather than on a campsite, being that you can nip indoors to fetch more cushions and pillows if you need them. Garden camping gear really does make a difference.

As the night draws in and it gets dark, you’ll have the magic of the stars overhead to watch. Sing a rousing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle under the night sky before getting a good night’s sleep (hopefully!). And, obviously, there’s the benefit of real bathrooms and toilets instead of the campsite shower block…

Editor's Choice

 Best tent for garden camping: Coleman Darwin 3+ Tent
 Best air mattress for garden camping: Pavillo Airbed Quick Inflation Camping Mattress
 Best plush blanket for garden camping: Velvet Plush Cuddly Blanket
 Best bedtime book for garden camping: Where The Wild Things Are

We’ve brought together a selection of the best garden camping gear that we feel will help you create a truly lovely experience for everyone in the family. It’s time to head into the garden and start making memories. And, of course, you can use all this garden camping gear next year on a real camping trip away from home!

Best tent for garden camping

This tent is easy to pitch, and will sleep three people (or, parents and a couple of small ones). In addition to the essential tent waterproofing, wind proofing, fire proofing, in-built groundmat and UV guard, it’s the perfect size for a garden. There’s a front porch area, which is sheltered and really nice to relax in, and Coleman is a trusted camping brand, so it will last you for holidays near and far for years to come.

One reviewer said: "This tent is perfect if you're searching for a light and compact tent. It is pretty sturdy and you can easily move the tent in case you need to relocate your spot. The seam is perfectly stitched which gives you protection from insects like ticks etc. The tent has been through medium rain and so far, there is no condensation issues. However, I have not tried it on heavy rain yet."

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to pitch
  • Several ventilation flaps

Cons

  • Smaller than advertised

Best air mattress for garden camping

This Pavillo Airbed Quick Inflation Camping Mattress will add a touch of luxury to any camping adventure. A double or king-sized air mattress will raise everyone in the tent off of the ground, making sure everyone is dry, warm and comfortable. If you want to avoid back pain, this is an essential pick.

One reviewer said: "I hate sleeping on air beds, this one is not bad though. Pumped up using car blower type pump -took about 5 minutes. Topped up once over a weekend with little foot pump. Great product and surprisingly comfy. Good buy!"

Pros

  • Durable vinyl
  • Easy to inflate

Cons

  • Might be too big for some spaces

Best sleeping bags for garden camping

Milestone Camping Sleeping Bag
Price: $11.37

What camping adventure is complete without some cosy sleeping bags to snuggle up in? A couple of these Milestone sleeping bags (suitable for temperatures as low as -5) will provide that authentic camping experience, while keeping you and your little ones as warm as possible outside.

One reviewer said: "Where this bag really shines is in durability. I have has so many children's sleeping bags with poorly made zippers. This has been zipped up and down, and trailed about for over two years now. It has been used to stay warm on cold winter days and even for sleeping sledging down the stairs...the boys crawl into an old bag and slide down the stairs in it."

Pros

  • Can open to be used as a blanket
  • Double-sided zip

Cons

  • Not as thick as other options

Best plush blanket for garden camping

If you’re looking for a little more of a cosy, warm feeling akin to glamping, then stocking the tent with soft blankets, pillows, duvets, and cushions is a guaranteed winner. This velvety Amazon Basics Cuddly blanket looks and feels good, plus it comes in multiple colours to pick from.

One reviewer said: "Bought as a present - This is a lovely, big blanket which adds a nice bit of weight to a duvet during the cold months. It is very soft and not too light, so feels nice and comfortable while providing a good level of warmth. The recipient was most happy with it."

Pros

  • Super soft
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • It's hard to find any!

Best fairy lights for garden camping

Fairy lights are an easy way to create ambience in any space. These little lights can be arranged in the porch of the tent for a welcoming look, or inside the tent to give your child a cosy, charming and enchanting camping experience. Your little one will just adore how these twinkle at night.

One reviewer said: "We aim to use these (seven sets purchased) in glass jars at our wedding in June. After that, dinner parties and Christmas lights beckon. Oh, and inside the log burner in summer. No review on timer as we haven’t used it so far, but imagine it works."

Pros

  • Timer and memory function
  • Safe to use with children

Cons

  • Careful when storing them away - they can get tangled

Best projection light for garden camping

Add a little wonder and magic into the tent with this Moredig star projector night light, which’ll cast a sweet night sky on to the inner canvas of the tent before bedtime. It’s really calming, and helps make the home holiday experience a little more whimsical and special for your children.

One reviewer said: "I was worried about buying a projector light as I’ve seen reviews for others about how it’s a glorified night light and the images are blurry but this is perfect. You can actually make out stars and moons. My little one loves it at night."

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Night light mode

Cons

  • Batteries not included

Best no-spill cups for garden camping

Drink spills in a tent are a no-no but obviously, refreshments are a must. These nature themed, 360-degree Muchinkin Miracle no-spill cups will keep everything dry while you're having some camping fun. We love the overall design of these cups and choice of adorable patterns your child can pick from.

One reviewer said: "My little boy loves these. He’s been using similar cups since turning 1. They’ don’t spill and hold quite a bit of water. Just remember to take apart the lid for cleaning - it separates into two pieces so you can clean the silicone properly."

Pros

  • Leak-free design
  • 100% recycled and recyclable packaging

Cons

  • None!

Best picnic blanket for garden camping

VonShef Picnic Blanket
Price: £19.99

No camp out is complete without a picnic! We're loving this large, herringbone patterned blanket, which is ideal for adding a little al fresco country living into your garden.Yes, your children won't understand that, but you will. What they will get, is how soft and comfortable this is to sit on while they have a little camping feast.

One reviewer said: "Bought this as a gift to put in the back of the car for use on trips away. A great price compared to others. This product offered an attractive design, nice combination of colours (green pattern and brown straps), a decent size and a practical waterproof back. It has had minimal use so can't comment on durability but don't have any reasons to expect it won't last."

Pros

  • Durable design
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • May not be an essential

Best mini projector for garden camping

This mini projector is a marvellous way of adding even more charm to the garden camp. You can project from a phone, USB, laptop or Fire Stick directly on to the canvas of the tent, or peg a bedsheet on the washing line and have yourself an unforgettable open air cinema experience. The projector can be powered via a mains plug or portable power bank.

One reviewer said: "For the price it has, it’s brilliant. The sound quality is good and the picture is amazing. It is really worth the money for that price. It is a good buy."

Pros

  • Portable
  • Supports a lot devices

Cons

  • Fairly basic

Best popcorn cartons for garden camping

Best bedtime stories
365 Bedtime Stories and Rhymes

Rrp: $16.99

Price: $13.95
Alternative retailers
Target$12.99View offer
Kohl's$16.99View offer
Macy's$16.99View offer

Snuggle up in the blankets and read some nursery rhyme favourites by fairy light. This lovely story book includes all of the classic fairy tales, stories and fables, and each with its own beautiful illustrations. We love how simple yet effective this book can be for getting your little one to drift off.

One reviewer said: "My two little grandsons (2 and 3 years) adore this wonderful collection of short stories and rhymes. It really is an absolute treasure trove — beautifully illustrated and with enough variety to entertain little ones from the age of about 18 months to 5 years.

Every page is an adventure. From traditional fairytales (Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Puss and Boots, etc.) to classic fables (The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare, Chicken Little, etc.), to modern tales featuring favorites such as pirates, princesses, unicorns, and countless animals (see photos for full list of contents).

Then there are dozens of little ditties and rhymes — many of them ones I used to have recited to me as a child. What a joy to share these again 60 years on! I’m having the time of my life, and so are my wee boys. You’d be amazed how quickly 2 and 3 year-olds pick up a four- or six-line verse — so much to capture and fire their imaginations."

Pros

  • Lovely illustrations
  • Amazing value

Cons

  • Can't read them all in one go

Best bedtime book for garden camping

Where The Wild Things Are
Price: $17.01

There’s no better time to read this fantastic book than when camping. It’s a beloved tale, full of adventure, magic and stunningly drawn creatures. Where The Wild Things Are is a fan favourite for a reason, so why not introduce this modern classic to your little one under the stars?

One reviewer said: "Simply one of the best books for kids. Great story, and the illustrations are glorious."

Another reviewer said: "Wonderful book - My Grandson loves the story and pictures."

Pros

  • Amazing illustrations
  • A wonderful story

Cons

  • Can something be too perfect?

Tips for camping with kids

Keep the tent simple - tead of a tent with umpteen compartments, it’s easier to have one big open space. ‘It’s warmer, you can see where the kids are and there aren’t lots of noisy zips going up and down in the night,’ says Sidharth Sharma, organiser of family camping event Starry Skies. Ones with a porch or canopy are also good for leaving muddy coats and boots. And dark fabric to avoid early morning wake-ups? Yes, please!

Pick your pitch - Family-friendly festivals and campsites often have designated family (i.e. quieter) areas, but still think about where you pitch up. ‘Find somewhere close enough to the toilet so you can reach it in a hurry, but not so near that you’re put off your breakfast and your little ones want to play around it,’ says Sidharth.

Shine a light - Add a bit of hippy chic to your tent with battery-powered fairy lights. Magical for your toddler, plus they can be wound around the buggy if you’re out in the evening. Head torches are also fun for children – and essential for 2am toilet dashes. If your kids are used to a night-light, take a battery powered lantern.

Sort the transport - If you’ve got a distance between your car and tent pitch, a cart can be helpful for carrying luggage (and the kids when they’re tired). Most festivals have services that hire them out, so look into it beforehand.

Bring the comfort - Baby sleeping bag fans, bring them with you – they’re great for moving a sleepy baby from buggy to tent. ‘Sheepskins are also amazing and children can happily sleep on them, plus they double up as play mats,’ says Sidharth. Bring an old towel, too, in case the floor is wet.

Create a play zone - Turn your travel cot into a day-time play pen if you need hands-free time to dress/wash up/dry shampoo. Also remember toys and books in case the weather’s bad and playtime has to move inside.

Involve the kids - Toddlers love having jobs to do – so let them, or at least bring them into your camping housework. ‘Never underestimate the need to keep a small child entertained in the morning when you are making breakfast,’ says Sidharth ‘Giving him pots and pans to play with, or a washing up bowl so he can help you.’

Over pack essentials - Mainly baby wipes and snacks. Think fruit bars, biscuits, rice pudding… anything you can pull out of your bag easily and regularly. ‘Food-wise, bring easy-cook meals like pasta and sauce, beans and bread and egg rolls,’ says Sidharth.

Bring a sling - Ideal for carrying your little one around if you don’t want to lug a pushchair, which can be tricky to navigate around tents and tent pegs.

Make it social - The whole holiday-with-friends thing doesn’t have to stop now your baby’s here – in fact, it may be an even better time to do it now. ‘You can share food, watch each others’ kids while you pee, and perhaps even give each other a night off,’ says Sidharth. Just try and team up with a family whose children gel with yours. Makes for much happier playtime.

Be clothing smart - It goes without saying to pack for all weathers, so wellies and sandals. ‘There’s no need for expensive clothes, but do remember a fancy dress outfit or three,’ says Sidharth. Also take more clothes than you think you’ll need – good prep for slips, accidents and over-excitement in the festival’s craft zone.

Get toilet realistic - If you’re worried about not being able to go to the loo block while the kids are asleep, it might help to bring a wee bucket – although you may just prefer to go au natural on the grass.

For some super easy to remember tips that you can even use as a checklist before going camping with your little ones (whether it's at home or away), check out one of our posts from the Mother&Baby Instagram page.

Whatever way you choose to camp with your children, it's bound to be a lot of fun. The tips above should make it a lot easier to make sure that you're as prepared as possible. You got this!

Is it safe to camp in your garden?

This will be down to where you live and your personal preferences, but if you're setting up a tent in a closed off back garden, you should be completely fine. If you're not so sure, there's nothing with making some space indoors for a camping tent or play tent, and making it more of a fort adventure as a treat.

Samantha Ball is a Product & Lifestyle Writer for Mother&Baby and freelanced for the website for two years before joining the team full time. She's a mum of two and loves browsing for the best products and cute outfits.

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