Especially if it’s your first time camping, it can be hard to figure out what you need and don’t need. Having spent the greater part of my youth camping during breaks, I wanted to create this camping packing list to showcase all the things you need and the nice to haves. Whether you’re camping during the winter or summer, by the beach or in the tundra, different conditions will necessitate different camping equipment you pack. Hope this helps you decide everything you need to make your trip fun and stress free!
These are the items you need to bring no matter what type of camping you’ll be doing. They are necessities you should have on your person whenever you leave your house for days at a time, no matter where you’re going.
- First aid kit – Aside from treatments for scrapes, burns, blisters, sprains, and other wounds, always keep all your usual medications on hand if you’re prone to allergies, migraines, or if you have other chronic conditions.
- Travel wallet – It’s a good idea to keep all your cash, credit/debit cards, ID cards, licenses, and insurance information in one highly organized, waterproof container. Make sure to bring your camping permit/reservation and fishing license.
- Portable charger – Instead of worrying about packing multiple cords for different phone and device types, you can get a great quality 3-in-1 charging cord specifically for traveling. If you spend extended periods outdoors, you should consider investing in a solar phone charger.
- Insulated water bottle – Capacities go up to 2 liters so you can find a good size for your needs.
Basic Camping Gear
These are necessities for setting up your campsite outdoors. Make sure these items are weather-safe and sturdy.
- Tent – Don’t leave your tent stakes at home!
- Hammer – For installing the tent stakes.
- Tarp – It’s best to have one for underneath the tent and another one for the top in case of rain.
- Sleeping bags
- Mosquito netting
- Flashlights and/or headlamps – At least one for each person in your group, for maximum safety.
- Portable lamps or lanterns
- Portable chairs
- Camp table – Most campsites have picnic tables for every group. It’s best to check the camp website for more information.
- Table cloth and clips
- Cooler and ice
- Insect repellant
- Multi-tool pocket knife – The more functions, the better!
- Paracord/bungee cords
- Umbrellas or something similar for shade
Keep an eye on the weather forecast so you have a good idea about what type of clothing items to bring for your camping trip. The best general strategy is to mix and match light layers. Bring clothes that can take a beating, and keep in mind the myriad outdoor activities you’ll be participating in.
A packing pro-tip: tightly roll your clothes instead of folding them to make the most of the space in your luggage.
- Shirts/flannel, hiking pants/shorts – Assign an outfit for all your activities and bring at least 1 extra top and bottom for every day you’ll be camping. You’ll be getting wet and/or dirty at all hours, so plan accordingly.
- Waterproof jacket/raincoat – If there’s rain in the forecast, you should pair this with waterproof pants as well.
- A hoodie/sweater – For hanging around the campfire at night.
- Long-sleeved pajama shirts and pants – Even summer nights can get very cold, and you’ll want to keep warm while sleeping.
- Wool socks
- Underwear – Pack at least 2 pairs for every day that you’ll be camping. Better to bring too many than too few!
- Hiking shoes/boots/water sandals – Appropriate footwear is crucial for maximum enjoyment of any outdoor activity.
- Flip-flops – You’ll need footwear for downtime as well.
- Wide-brimmed hat – An essential if you’ll be spending a lot of time under the sun.
- A warm hat/beanie – In case it gets cold in the evening.
- Packing cubes – Great for organization.
- Dry bag – For your wet items if you’ll be spending time in the water.
- Day bag – For your essentials, if you’ll be spending the day hiking, or just away from camp. It should be sturdy and lightweight, with a hydration sleeve for your water bottle.
It’s important to still be as clean and comfortable as possible even when camping. Your campsite should have all the information you need about their available resources – if there are restrooms, running water, electricity, etc. Bring toiletries that you know you’ll be able to use. For maximum practicality, travel-sized bottles and containers are best.
- Body wash/soap/scrub
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Hand soap/sanitizer
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand/body lotion
- Bath towels/washcloths
- Toilet paper
- Hair brush
- Small mirror
- Waterproof, high SPF sunscreen – Re-apply every few hours, even if the sun isn’t fully out.
- Razor and shaving cream
- Basic skincare/makeup items
- Menstrual products
- Contact solution/glasses wipes
- Deodorant wipes
- Waterproof toiletries bag – It’s best to keep this stocked separately from the items you use every day, to lessen the risk of leaving anything at home.
Fully-Outfitted Camp Kitchen
One of the best parts of camping is the food. There’s nothing better than cooking around the campfire. Keep your activities in mind when planning – will you be doing a lot of hiking? Catching fish? Look up some recipes you’d like to try and bring the tools you’ll need.
- Cooler – Fill it with ice and/or perishable food items you’ll be bringing.
- Cast-iron pan or dutch oven
- Frying pan/pot – Bring the proper equipment for the meals you’ve planned, but also be flexible in your options.
- Camp stove
- Cooking tools – At least one full set of spatulas, tongs, kitchen scissors, knives, and mixing spoons.
- Cutting board
- Roasting stick – At least one per person.
- Food thermometer
- Coffee percolator/press/grinder
- Can opener
- Bottle opener
- Aluminum foil
- Ziploc bags and Tupperware in multiple sizes
- Paper towels
- Bear-proof storage
- Utensils – One full set for each person. If you’re a regular outdoors person, utensil sets and collapsible/stackable cups, bowls, and plates specifically designed for camping use is a worthy investment.
A trip to the grocery before a camping trip can be incredibly fun. Your haul will depend on the meals you’ve planned and your group’s overall preferences, but here’s a list of some basics:
- Cooking oil
- Seasoning and spices
- Meats for barbecuing and grilling
- Cheese and deli meats
- Burgers and hotdogs
- Canned beans
- Fruits and vegetables
- Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Trail mix/energy bars
- Potato chips/pretzels
- Beef jerky
- Bottled water/juice/soda
“Leave No Trace” is every camper’s motto. Cleaning up at the end of every meal and before turning in at night will keep bears and pests away from your campsite. These are the camp cleanup essentials:
- Wash basins
- Sponges and eco-friendly dish soap
- Trash bags
- Dish towels
- Disinfectant wipes
- Plastic bags for dirty clothes
- Clothesline for wet towels and clothes
- Portable broom and dustpan
For Your Recreational Activities
There are so many recreational activities you can participate in when camping: fishing, hiking, swimming, water sports, bird watching, ATV riding, and more. And even if you spend most of your time at the campsite, there are many ways to keep you and your group entertained. Some fun items you can bring:
- Fishing gear
- Life jackets
- Hiking poles
- Board games
- Playing cards
- Portable speakers
- Frisbees/volleyballs/other outdoor sports gear
For Your Safety
Spending extended time outdoors and interacting with nature means it’s important you have the knowledge and equipment needed for common emergencies. Here are items you can bring to ensure personal safety:
- Portable fire extinguisher
- Emergency blanket
- Spare cash
- Spare batteries
- A compass and a physical map of the area
- A field guide with details about local flora and fauna
- Water filtration system
- Whistle – One for every member of your party. Keep them around your neck at all times.
- Bear mace
Fully-Stocked First Aid Kit
All your first aid items should be kept in a portable, waterproof container. Keep it fully stocked at all times, preferably separate from the first aid items you have at home. Make sure all your group’s needs and health conditions are accounted for.
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Finger splints
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Sunburn cream
- Baby wipes
- Antihistamines, antacids, pain relievers
- Prescription medication
- Eye drops
- Oral thermometer