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The only camping checklist you’ll ever need

The man standing with a camping backpack on a rock with a picturesque sunset

A camping trip in France is probably one of the most fulfilling adventures a family can take. It’s chock full of excitement, new experiences and opportunities to learn and grow that will stay with you forever. But, as every good Cub Scout knows, to make a camping trip succeed you’ve got to be prepared – and that takes planning. We’re going to break down exactly what to take camping and reveal our top camping essentials so that you can head to France with confidence on your side. 

Escape into nature

Power up, pack strategically, and plan for fun: here’s our guide to getting into the great outdoors.

Choose your campsite early

First: plan ahead. Family campsites in France are very popular places, and the best ones book up fast. Many French campsites have terrific facilities like pools, waterparks and restaurants on site, bicycle and sports equipment hire, as well as guides to help you get the most out of your stay. So, decide the kind of camp you want to be in and the facilities it needs to have – the filters in our search tool, or the curated lists of campsites by type in the top menu, might give you some ideas – and book early to get what you want!

Choose your accommodation type

French campsites offer lots of accommodation choices. You can rent a mobile home or cabin on the campsite, or even a cottage, each of which is fixed in position, plumbed and electric-ready. Each has a small kitchen and sitting room area, as well as a private terrace outside, usually. You can also book a spot for a tent, camper van, motorhome or caravan, with most campsites offering electricity, water, a picnic table and even a toilet block beside each plot. So, in France, you can “camp for real” in a tent or camping vehicle, but in relative luxury! 

Pick accommodation that fits

It sounds simple, but make sure you have enough sleeping space for the number of people in your group. A four-person cabin technically sleeps four but your family might want more space, or more privacy from each other. If sleeping space is a priority, then a good rule of thumb is to imagine there were two more people coming with you than actually are. Also, French campsites tend to give you detailed measurements of your cabin or mobile home when booking, so do check the actual size, so that there are no surprises when you arrive. 

Campfire food needs careful prep

Plan for big appetites while camping – you’ll be enjoying a lot more activity than you would get on a normal holiday. Modern French campsites almost always have a shared outdoor kitchen. The camp BBQ is always a big favourite and cooking your food on an open fire is an amazing experience. Check the cooking facilities at your campsite and in your accommodation unit at the time of booking, so you know what equipment you’ll need. It’s also a good idea to make a rough meal plan for the holiday and bring the dry and tinned food with you, or buy it in one big supermarket shop shortly before or after your arrival. You don’t have to stick rigidly to the plan, but it will give you options. While there is often a shop on site, they are generally small mini-markets with limited stock.

Pack carefully – you’ll be glad you did

If you’re travelling by car, it’s a great idea to pack your camping gear into large semi-transparent plastic boxes that you can put in the boot. You’ll find these at most large homeware department stores or camping goods centres. It’s a great way to organise what to take camping. Put all your outdoor equipment in one; store your cooking paraphernalia in another; your bedding in a different box; your food in its own box. This way, it will be easy to find what you need when you get to the site. It also helps you organise your thinking and avoid forgetting things. 

Power up: electronics and gadgets

You might be leaving the modern world at home, but you will still need power in the French countryside. While most campsites will have power points at each pitch, you’ll still need your own equipment. You’ll want a number of torches, depending on the size of your group. Also pack a battery-powered lamp that you can hang anywhere that’s a bit too dark. Phones always need charging and while you’ll most likely find charging points on French campsites, it will be a good idea to get some extra phone-charging battery units that you can power up in advance. And bring extra batteries and fuel for everything that needs it. 

Washing up: Showers and toilet facilities 

A camp shower is going to become your best friend. Whether you’ve just come out of the sea or trekked through a valley, a shower back at the site is essential. These days, almost all campsites in France have modern, private, and safe shower blocks with hot and cold water, as well as toilets and wash areas. But you can also buy portable camping showers with bags of water that hang outside to be heated by the sun and – even if you don’t need it – this sort of “old-style” shower could be a real adventure for the kids! 

Tread carefully

Never wear outdoor shoes in your tent. Apart from the dirt, they can rip your groundsheet, letting in moisture or rain. Get everyone a pair of flip-flops or sliders for walking about the campsite (quick to get on and off) and teach the kids to take them off at the door. 

From the mountains to the sea: France offers the world in one camping-loving country. How to choose?

There are campsites all over France, offering every kind of holiday for every kind of person. You can either choose by region or by necessity, such as a family-friendly campsite, or one that has access for people with a disability – and our top menu will help with that. Here are just a handful of great ways to choose:

Capture the coast

There are over 2,000 kms of French coastline and many campsites to choose from the length of these coasts. The Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts both encompass a very broad range of regions, each with its own personality and unique things to offer. But everywhere, you can be guaranteed that the beaches are superb, and each small town or village is worth visiting!

Become a mountain goat

It’s hard to beat waking to the sight of the Alps or the Pyrenees rising up in front of you. Campsites in the Rhône-Alpes region, for example, are superb, offering amazing access to unique alpine landscapes.

Get off the beaten track

With camps at the coast quick to book up and sometimes pricey, you’ll find amazing value and more space if you look inland in France. You can find some equally amazing regions, with national parks, deep rivers and valleys, canals, lakes, interesting towns and their own individual gastronomic delights. 

Families first

The play and sports facilities at campsites can differ, with some having a huge array of infrastructure to keep older kids and teens independently busy for hours on end. Many campsites will also have kids’ clubs that organise activities through the day and in the evenings. Make sure and check the family amenities and activities on offer when comparing options. 

Yes, you’re able

People with a disability are finding more and more campsites in France adapted to welcome them onto the site – particularly along the coast. Look for this option when choosing. 

Important FAQs to make your camping experience easier

Let’s get down to basics: the frequently asked questions that will unlock your camping courage. 

What equipment will I need?

If you’re going for the tent option, you’ll need a hammer or mallet for sure. In addition, a small axe is great for cutting firewood. A multi-function pen knife will be your best friend. Duct tape has so many uses – from plugging a broken plastic bowl to fixing a hole in your tent. Then think of things to tie things with: bungee cords, small lengths of rope, pegs and fasteners, matches, lighter fluid. All ideal tools to have in your kit. If you’re going for on-site accommodation, focus on equipping yourself with the right clothes and footwear for all the activities you’re going to want to do on your trip.

Can I build a campfire at all sites?

In France, not all campsites allow you to have a campfire, so check this when booking. Where you can, fires must always be safely contained, so bring a fire ring with you (a metal circular ring that is pushed into the ground to help make sure your fire doesn’t grow too wide) as well as all the other things you usually use to make a fire. 

What special clothes do I need to pack?

Apart from your usual holiday clothes, make sure to pack a large warm sweater for sitting outdoors at night time. A light rain coat is very useful, as well as thick woollen socks for night-time – even in summer. Don’t forget sunhats or baseball caps for everyone too, as well as sunglasses. Long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers are also going to be very useful to protect you from mosquitoes, or the sun.

What should a camper’s first aid kit contain?

A well-stocked first aid kit for minor cuts and bruises is one of your camping essentials. You can pick up a complete kit from most good camping stores and you’ll expect it to contain things like: plasters and bandages; tweezers and scissors; pain relief; freeze spray, insect bite cream and disinfectant. Always make sure to pack bug spray and some after-sun lotion. 

What’s the best sleep kit when camping?

Bring season-appropriate sleeping bags or duvets. An extra inflatable mattress is great to have for that extra bit of sleeping or relaxation space, should you have room for it. A battery-operated fan is very useful for the hot weather in France and bring a pillow and an extra couple of blankets, just in case. You might also want to consider a mosquito net for some French coastal regions. If you’re bringing a pet then think about where they will sleep too, bringing their own bedding and whatever else will reassure them in the new environment. 

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