Ultimate Camping Checklist – A Guide to Everything You’ll Need
Camping is a great way to get outside with family and friends or even by yourself. You can go camping in many state and national parks, at private campgrounds, in the backcountry or even in your own backyard. (For more info, read Where Can I Camp?)
Most campsites include a picnic table, a place to park your car and a spot to pitch your tent. Many also have shared bathrooms and running water.
Part of the joy of camping is needing very little gear to exist outdoors. But it’s also nice to have a comfortable, convenient and homey campsite. If it’s your first time camping, it might be best to borrow or rent some of these things. As you become a more experienced camper, you may find that part of the fun is figuring out what to bring along to meet your needs.
While you’re packing, use this handy camping checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important and make sure to stock up on the things you need. This is a comprehensive list, and we don’t expect you to bring along every item — though we won’t judge you if you do!
Camping is all about bringing just the bare necessities. It’s also about being prepared. These two caveats may seem disparate at first glance but they can coincide.
By bringing what you’ll need no matter the camping setting.
You can do this by making a checklist of everything you’ll need. The thing is that knowing exactly what you’ll need requires first-hand trial-and-error experience.
Or you can ask experienced campers to give you suggestions. This article attempts to do just that.
Be Prepared with This Ultimate Camping Checklist
This article lists down what we believe every camper must have in any setting. Feel free to add to this list to tailor it more toward your specific camping location. In the end, you’ll find a simple checklist that you can just copy and print.
When you think of camping, you’ll usually think of sleeping in a tent. Modern tents are easier to set up and provide better protection against the elements. If you camp all year long, you may want to invest in a three or even four-season tent.
2. Sleeping Bag
You’ll need a sleeping bag if you plan to camp overnight. Get a lightweight waterproof sleeping bag with enough insulation for the place you’re camping.
3. Camping Pillows
Not everyone can get a comfortable night’s sleep with just one pillow. If you’re one of the 61% of Americans that need 2-3 pillows, then you may want to get some inflatable camping pillows for your camping trip.
4. Foldable Chairs
If you (or a companion) have back problems to the point where sitting on the ground is painful, remember to bring some folding chairs. Your camping chair should be lightweight and compact but durable enough for someone of above-average weight.
5. Appropriate Clothes
Yes, you will need camping-specific clothes. The material and number of clothes required will depend largely on where you’re camping. Lightweight, cool, and sweat-wicking for hotter conditions and body-hugging, insulating, and waterproof for colder conditions.
Whether you’re camping near the beach, in the backcountry, or a rugged mountain range, you’ll need some form of sun protection for your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for any extended outdoor activity.
Now that you’ve got sunscreen to protect your skin, you can pair it with sunglasses to protect your eyes. Polarized sunglasses don’t just reduce glare, they give you a sharper and clearer image while keeping your eyes comfortable.
8. Lip Balm
Whether you’re camping in the desert of a high mountain top, you wouldn’t want your lips drying, cracking, and bleeding due to the dry air. The solution? Use a stick of lip balm and carry it where it’s easily accessible.
Camping at night in the wilderness means having to stay in pitch-black darkness, especially when it’s overcast. A headlamp may be the difference between you stumbling in the dark with just your phone light and getting to and from the port-a-potty quickly and safely.
10. Insect Repellent
If you’ve ever camped during tick or mosquito season, you’ll know exactly why you need some insect repellent on your next camping trip. When shopping for an insect repellent, look for a product with 100 percent DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or Permethrin.
11. Camp Stove
If you plan to catch and cook your meals in the wild, you’ll need a surefire way to make a fire at the end of the day. Keeping a wood fire burning requires constant tending, which may be impossible if you’re camping alone, especially in a place with sparse firewood. This is where a portable camping stove comes in handy.
12. Frying Pan
Of course, you’ll need something to cook your food in. A camping frying pan often comes in a set of camping cookware. That said, adventurers packing light have gotten away with using an E-tool as a frying pan.
13. Water Bottle
When out in the wilderness, you need to drink according to thirst. Before buying a water bottle, consider how long you’ll be camping and if there’s a source of clean drinking water at or near your campsite. Be sure to bring more water if you’re camping in hot conditions.
Whether you plan to bring your food to cook or catch and cook something you find in the wild, you’ll need some way to carry your food and keep it fresh. A hard-sided cooler is great if you’re bringing your own food with you while a soft-sided cooler is perfect for catch and cook situations.
15. Soap and Towel
Just because you’re camping in the wilderness doesn’t mean you can abandon personal hygiene.
If your campsite doesn’t have a designated bathing area and requires you to bathe in nearby bodies of water, make sure you bring nature-friendly biodegradable soap instead of your regular soap. Microfiber towels are lighter than ordinary towels and can dry you just as well.
16. Hand Sanitizer
If the recent pandemic taught us anything, it’s the value of keeping our hands clean through regular hand washing. Since you can’t wash your hands any time you want out in the wild, hand sanitizer is always a welcome alternative.
17. Toothpaste and Toothbrush
As previously mentioned, don’t neglect your hygiene even while camping.
You can buy a folding toothbrush or shorten the handle of a regular toothbrush to make it easier to pack.
As for toothpaste, you don’t have to bring a whole tube or even a smaller traveling-sized tube. Just lay out pea-sized dots of toothpaste on a sheet of tin foil and let them dry then sprinkle some baking soda on them to prevent them from sticking, then roll the tin foil and store it together with your toothbrush.
An E-tool (short for entrenching tool) is a small foldable spade first used by the military. This versatile tool can help you dig cooking and latrine pits and help you even out the ground for your tent. You can even use this tool as a makeshift weapon or frying pan.
19. Toilet Paper
If you don’t want to risk using leaves to clean yourself after answering the call of nature, you’ll have to bring your toilet paper. You can either roll some out in advance and cut them according to how much you usually need or just get a fresh roll, pull out the core, and fold the roll for easier packing.
20. Bin Bag
One of the most important rules for camping is to leave no trace. Whether you’re camping on a campsite with camp staff or out in the wilderness, cleaning up after yourself acts as a courtesy to future campers and reduces your impact on the local environment.
The Ultimate Camping Checklist
Don’t leave home without these:
- Sleeping bag
- Camping Pillows
- Foldable Chairs
- Appropriate Clothes
- Lip Balm
- Insect Repellent
- Camp Stove
- Frying Pan
- Water Bottle
- Soap and Towel
- Hand Sanitizer
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush
- Toilet Paper
- Bin Bag
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