We know the feeling of getting excited about a year-long planned camping trip with our family and friends. You talk about the places you'll go to, the items you'll bring, the experiences you'll encoun [...]
The Ultimate Camping Checklist
Published: May 22, 2020
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Packing is always an essential part of any trip. For a typical outing, you'd only need to pack clothes and some items for personal comfort. When it comes to camping, packing can make or break your trip.
If you're going camping, you won't have the usual luxury that hotels provide such as a comfortable bed, high speed Wi-Fi, or room service. Depending on where you plan on setting up your camp, the amenities that you have access to can vary greatly. Established campgrounds are often equipped with fire grates, picnic tables, and bathrooms, while some backcountry campsites have nothing at all. When it comes to camping, you'll most likely need to bring everything that you need yourself.
The first hurdle that beginner campers need to overcome is preparing and packing the necessary equipment needed for an amazing camping trip. Camping equipment can be quite pricey, especially if you're starting from scratch, which is why it is very important to pack only the essentials.
What equipment should I bring if I'm going camping?
Depending on you and your personality, you can pack as much or as little as you want for your camping trip. You can stick to the essentials or you can spruce up your camp a bit and bring a few more items for a more comfortable experience.
There is no “one size fits all” camping equipment list because what you pack for each camping trip can vary. When you make your checklist, make sure to consider the following:
Is your desired camping spot an established campground or a backcountry campsite? Some campsites are equipped with various amenities that can lessen the items that you need to pack while some will require you to pack more.
Are there any specific activities that you want to do that require special gear? For example, are you planning on going on a hike that requires hiking poles or do you plan on going on a fishing trip?
- Personal comfort
Some campers are content with a basic and minimalist camp, while others prefer a more decked out one. Packing a few extra blankets and a comfy chair is fine if it makes your camping trip more pleasant and enjoyable.
Since you'll be out in the open, it is very important to make sure that you are properly equipped for the weather. Each season has its own set of gears that need to be packed along with everything else.
For beginners, it's best to try your hand at car camping first before going on a more challenging trip. Car camping, or front country camping, is a type of camping where you can easily access your car from your campsite.
Car camping is great for beginners because it allows you to pack as much as you want, or as much as your vehicle can carry, without having to worry about how you're going to transfer your equipment from your car to your campsite. Despite this freedom, there are still certain gears that are essential for a successful camping trip.
Camping Essentials: Everything that you need to pack
Packing for any kind of trip requires attention to detail and is often a source of stress. If not managed properly, this stress can lead to either bringing too much unnecessary stuff or worse, forgetting something important. I've been on both ends of the spectrum and trust me, it's not fun.
To help you in your packing and planning, here is our checklist of camping essentials that you'll need for your next camping trip. Please note that this list is made with car camping in mind.
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
First on the list is your sleeping gear. I tend to pack these first because they are often the bulkiest items that you have to pack. They also tend to be more on the expensive side.
If you're a first time camper, we recommend that you try and borrow most of these items rather than buying them brand new. The reason for this is that if you decide that camping is not for you, then you would not have to deal with equipment that cost you hundreds of dollars that you'll never use again.
Tents are the most common kind of accommodation used for camping. They're like cozy and collapsible caves that protect you from the hazards of sleeping outside. Tents are not that difficult to find and there are tons of options out there to choose from. If you're not sure about the kind of tent that you'll need for your upcoming trip, check out this article to know which tent is perfect for you.
Aside from your tent, you also need to pack a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a pillow. A sleeping bag and sleeping pad not only makes your sleep more comfortable, they also protect you from freezing to death at night. Packing a pillow is also highly recommended.
If you're camping in a place with warm weather, generic equipment will do. When it comes to places where the temperature drops once the sun has set, you'll want to consider packing something that will keep you warm and snug throughout the night. Give this article a read if you're not sure which camping pad to get or if you're considering purchasing a high quality camping bed. If you have the proper equipment, sleeping outdoors will be much more comfortable than what you initially thought.
Your sleeping gear is the backbone of your base camp. These equipment are meant for rest and recuperation, which is why it is very important to pack the items that will protect you from exposure and also allow you to enjoy a comfortable night out in the wild.
- Water storage
- Stove fuel
- Pots with lids
- Frying pan
- Cooking utensils
- Cutting board
- Plates, bowls, cups
- Eating utensils
- Water filter
- Dishwashing basin
- Biodegradable soap
- Dish towel
- Garbage and recycling bags
The next thing that you need to pack is your cooking gear. Cooking outdoors is no longer limited to cooking hotdogs on sticks over a fire. With a vast selection of cookware and appliances available for outdoor use, you can enjoy a meal with multiple courses even if you're away from your kitchen.
Before packing all of these equipment in your car, try to come up with a meal plan for your entire camping trip. This will help you to figure out which cooking utensils you actually need to bring. Some campers prefer to pack ready-to-eat meals that need no cooking at all while some prefer to go all out when it comes to their dinner. Figuring out what kind of camper you are will help you in packing the appropriate cooking gear that you'll need for your trip.
Most campgrounds are equipped with facilities that you can use for cooking. These include fire pits with fire grates and picnic tables. Opting to use these facilities to prepare your meals lessens the items that you need to bring.
Most of the cooking gear that you need to pack can be easily found in your kitchen like your cooking and eating utensils. Keep in mind, though, that not everything can be used for camping, especially if you'll be cooking over open flames. Just make sure that you won't bring anything that is made of plastic and you're good to go.
If you want to invest in good camping cookware instead of just using the ones that you have at home, check out our reviews of the top camping cookware available in the market to see which one is the best for you.
Personal Hygiene and Safety
- First aid kit
- Prescription medicine
- Menstrual products
- Toilet paper or wipes
- Bug protection
Safety should always be your top priority, especially when spending time outdoors. Mother Nature is notoriously fickle, which is why it is very important to be prepared for any accidents that might happen. This entails packing a first aid kit and maintaining proper hygiene.
A typical first aid kit should do for your trip. Add more items as you see fit like a small multi-tool or treatment for sunburn, insect bites, etc. Also, make sure to pack your prescription medicine if you're taking any. Pack your first aid kit in a place that is easily accessible and let everyone in your group know where it is located.
Toiletries are pretty self-explanatory. Just make sure to check beforehand if your campground has access to a shower so you can pack accordingly.
- Camping chairs
- Camping table
Most people are turned-off by camping because of the idea that it's not a pleasant and comfortable activity. This assumption mostly stems from the fact that camping is done outdoors and away from the comforts of everyday life. But, you shouldn't have to miss out on an amazing activity based on a notion that can be easily addressed by packing a few extra gears.
There are tons of amazing items that revolutionize the way that we enjoy the great outdoors. Since car camping allows you to pack more stuff for your camp, you can bring items such as camping chairs, camping tables, lanterns, hammocks, and as many blankets as you want to make your campsite more comfortable.
Most established campgrounds are equipped with picnic tables that can eliminate the need to bring camping tables and chairs. In spite of this, we still recommend that you pack camping chairs because of their versatility. You can use them for a serene afternoon siesta, surrounded by trees or for viewing the breathtaking night sky dotted with millions of stars. If you're looking for the perfect camping chair, we've got you covered! Just sit back, relax, and read this article to find the perfect chair for you.
Another item for comfort that you should consider packing is a hammock. What's amazing about this item is that you can use it as a shelter alternative. This is perfect for campers who are not that comfortable sleeping in a tent. Whether you're just taking an afternoon nap or calling it a night, nothing beats being rocked to sleep by Mother Nature herself. If you're looking for the perfect hammock for your next camping trip, check out our reviews of the top hammocks available in the market today before you make your decision.
To complete your comfy camp setup, don't forget to pack lanterns and as many blankets as you want. The lanterns will help you to see your camp more clearly and blankets just make everything much cozier.
Some consider camping as an activity where you spend rough nights in the wild while some enjoy it as a peaceful escape from a busy life. If you're more like the latter, making a few adjustments to your packing list can make your trip infinitely better.
- Lighter or matches
- Fire starters
- Axe or saw
Starting a fire in the old-fashioned way is an amazing feeling and experience that should not be missed by any camper. With that being said, it's a very difficult and time consuming activity. If you're pressed for time or just looking for a much safer and easier way to start a fire, make sure to pack appropriate fire tools.
Before you pack these items, make sure to check if fires are allowed at your chosen campground. Due to its destructive nature, making fires is heavily regulated. Some campgrounds only allow fires in designated places while some don't allow it at all. Firewood is also regulated because of its potential to cause harm to local ecosystems.
If you're staying in a campground where fires are allowed, make sure to pack lighters or matches, fire starters, firewood, an axe or a saw, and a shovel. With these items, you should be able to build a fire as well as extinguish it. As another safety precaution, make sure that there is water nearby in case of mishaps.
A campfire is an important part of camping. Nothing beats gathering around it while roasting marshmallows, exchanging stories, and having a great time. Packing the appropriate tools not only ensures that you'll be able to make a fire, it also ensures your safety and the safety of your surroundings as well.
- Quick-dry pants/shorts
- Wicking shirts/tanks
- Light fleece or jacket
- Hiking shoes/boots
- Long-sleeve shirt
- Rain jacket rain pants
- Warm insulated jacket (down or synthetic)
- Fleece or wool pants
- Gloves or mittens
- Sandals or water shoes
- Bandana or Buff
Packing clothes for a camping trip is highly dependent on when and where you're going. Different seasons require different clothing items and the same goes for location.
When you're packing clothes for a camping trip, always go for comfort and protection over fashion. Since you'll be out in the wilderness all day long, you need to wear something that is comfortable and protective.
If your trip is scheduled in the warmer months, make sure to pack clothing that can wick sweat and dry quickly. Try to stay away from cotton because it will absorb everything that it can absorb. It will also cling to your skin, which will only make the situation much more uncomfortable. If you're going camping in winter, keeping warm will be your top priority.
We recommend that you dress in layers for easier temperature management. The reason for this is it will be easier for you to regulate your temperature depending on the situation that you're in by simply shedding or wearing more clothing. This is especially important if you're going on a hike in a place where the weather can change drastically in a short period of time.
Exposure is your foe when you're outdoors. One way of dealing with exposure is by wearing appropriate clothing. Wearing a top with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses can protect you from the harmful rays of the sun. Just in case, make sure to pack rain gear as well.
Proper footwear is also very important, especially if you're planning on doing a lot of hiking. Make sure that your footwear of choice is properly broken in to avoid painful feet and nasty blisters. Looking for the perfect hiking shoes can be a bit intimidating, mostly because of the massive selection that you have to choose from. Lucky for you, we already did the dirty work and compiled a list of the best hiking shoes that are worth your consideration.
Another thing to consider when you're packing your clothes are the activities that you want to do. For example, if you plan to go swimming, you should not forget to pack your swimsuit and water shoes. I also like to pack comfy pajamas to make the nights extra comfortable.
Camping requires you to be active and up and about for a major part of the day, which is why it is very important to be comfortable. Packing appropriate clothing, though, does not entirely mean that you have to let go of your personal style. Dress to impress if you must, just make sure to do it in a practical way.
- Headlamp (w/batteries)
- Water bottle(s) or hydration pack
- Lightweight knife or multi-tool
- Map compass or GPS
- Phone (w/ charger case)
- Cash or credit card
Last but not the least, you have to pack your personal gear. These items include permits, identification, money, your phone, and basic safety gear.
Unlike the other items that you had to pack, your personal gear will be on your person for a majority of your camping trip. For example, if you're going on a hike, it is important that you have basic safety gear, water, identification, and your permits and reservations at hand.
Most, if not all, of the items mentioned in the list above will have to be carried on your back. This can make activities a bit more strenuous, especially if you do not have the right carrying vessel. If you're looking for a good camping backpack that will not break the bank, check out this article that also includes reviews of other packs that you might want to check out.
When it comes to packing your backpack, make sure that the safety items are easily accessible. Keep all important documents in one container, preferably a waterproof one, so that you won't have to dig through your entire pack if you need to access them. After packing everything, try on the pack and see if it's too heavy and adjust it accordingly.
Once everything is packed, you're good to go. Make sure to double check everything before leaving, to ensure that everything is where it should be. Packing your camping gear in an organized manner makes setting up camp easy and breezy. Just make sure to remember how you packed everything for an easy and breezy pack up as well.
How to prevent overpacking
I know I'm not the only one who struggles with packing only the essentials for any kind of trip. I'm an over packer and sometimes, it helps but most of the time it's just annoying and inconvenient.
I've since learned from my mistakes and now, here are my tips to help you prevent packing your entire house for a weekend camping getaway.
- Make a list and stick to it
Before I start gathering the items that I need to bring, I make a list of everything that needs to be packed. This also includes meal plans, outfit plans, and activity plans.
First, I make a list of everything that I want to bring. Then, I narrow them down to a list that includes only the essentials. I then pack these essentials and add some items from the initial list if I have some space to spare.
This process helps me to organize my thoughts and the items that I need to bring. I stress less about the fear of forgetting something important, which helps me to not pack any unnecessary item.
- Get organized
Pack your items in an organized way. Knowing where everything is will make your camping trip much more pleasant and enjoyable.
Keep the items that you'll be reaching for the most on top for easy access. You don't want to be the person who struggles to retrieve his first aid kit in an emergency situation because it is buried beneath all of the bulky equipment.
Grouping and packing items in separate bins is an easy way of being organized. What's amazing about a system like this one is that it's useful before, during, and after a trip: easy packing, easy set up, and easy storing.
- Do a test run before the trip
A dry run is always a good activity to do before a trip. This helps you to make sure that you know how to use all of your equipment, that they are all in good working condition, and that you can carry them to your camp.
I mainly use this system in packing the items that I need to carry on my back. I also like to carry a pack that mimics the weight of my camping bag when I exercise to make sure that I can reach my destination even with an excess weight on my back.
Overpacking can easily be dealt with as long as you have a working packing system in place. I've been on way too many trips where half of my luggage has not been touched because I didn't need to pack those items in the first place. I've developed my own packing system to avoid being in the same situation again. This is how I pack and prevent overpacking, I hope this system can work for you too.
A great and successful camping trip is highly dependent on the equipment that you pack. It's very difficult to enjoy a trip where half the necessary gear that you need were left behind in the garage because you forgot to pack them in the car.
Overpacking is also an issue that you have to deal with. Sure, you're prepared for more situations but at what cost? Unloading everything will be a pain, which will only be worsened when you realize that you never needed all of these in the first place.
We've written this camping checklist to help you pack and not forget all of the camping essentials that you'll need for a successful trip. Camping is a wonderful activity that is much more enjoyable when you have everything that you need at hand. Make a list, stick to it, and pack away.