Things to Take Camping – a Checklist before Heading Off

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You have your destination planned and you know exactly what you are going to do there. Everything is in order. Things to take camping is the last item you have on your checklist before heading off. In this article, you will first learn about all the essentials you need, day trip items, kitchen gear, clothing, personal items, fun stuff, and, finally extras.

This list is quite comprehensive and is by no means personalized for anyone person. Feel free to pick and choose what you like off of the list. The most important thing is that this checklist helps you on your camping trip.

Essential Camping Gear

In a previous article, I wrote a how to guide about learning how to camp. One of the first things you learn is that Every camping trip has necessary items you have to bring. When you bring the gear listed below with you, you will be sure to have a wonderful trip.

Necessary Items for Your Campsite

  • Tent, this is an essential item for your campsite. A good tent will keep you sheltered from the rain and minimize the wind you feel at night. When looking at tents, take your time. A good investment in a great tent will make your nights a lot more pleasant.
  • Tent footprint, I used to overlook footprints because I felt that a tarp would work just the same. Tent footprints, though, are specifically designed for your tent. You should be sure to get one of these as they extend the life of your tent.
  • Pillows, for the longest time, I just stuffed clothes into a sack and called it a pillow, but I always ended up with a poor or low quality night’s sleep. If you are worried about space, then consider an inflatable sleeping pillow. They make your nights much easier and are quite inexpensive.
  • Sleeping pad or air mattress, the ground is hard and you only have one back. When you sleep well at night, you are sure to have a much better next day. Either one of these items will make your day that much better.
  • Air mattress pump, if you are using an air mattress, you do not want to forget one of these. It is one of those items that you are likely to forget. A pump is not big enough to be remembered; nor is it so small such that you are bound to remember it. Either way, an air mattress pump is worthy of a bullet point if you choose to bring an air mattress.
  • Cot, unlike an air mattress or sleeping pad, a cot keeps you off the ground like a bed. It is quite light, but can take up a bit of room. It is a good option to consider if you want more of a feeling of a bed at home.
  • Sleeping bags, a camping trip would be incomplete without a sleeping bag. Nothing says camping like one. When looking at these, take your time. A good night’s sleep is essential to a good camping trip.
  • Folding chairs, at the end of the day, you are going to want to unwind by the campfire. A good folding chair will help you do that. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the night’s stars.
  • Mallet or hammer, personally, I just use any old rock I can find to pound my tent’s stakes into the ground, but a mallet or hammer is better designed to make it happen. If any other pounding issue comes up, a mallet will be sure to help you out.
  • Lantern, at the end of a long day after resting by the fire, you are going to head into your tent. A lantern will be a great friend for your bed time reading.
  • Lantern fuel or batteries, whether you have sterno or batteries, your lamp will need extra power to keep running.
  • Folding Tables, it can be cool to rough it, but nothing completes a camping trip like eating together around a table. You will be sure to enjoy your evening when you have a table to eat off of.
  • Multi tool or knife, a good multi tool is your best friend. While a knife is always nice, a multi tool provides a lot of options. You are maximizing utility and minimizing space. When camping, that is ideal. For every item at my campsite, I strive to maximize the number of multi use items I have.
  • Water filter or treatment tablets, while you are probably bringing water with already, it always helps to have treatment tablets or a filter with you. In case you run out of water, these bad boys will be sure to help you out.

Day Trip Items

Whether you are hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or doing any other activity away from your campsite, you are going to need a day pack. Proper gear will ensure that you have a great day of adventure.

  • Day pack or a backpack, first things first, your backpack is essential. It is where you will store all of your gear. Aim to get one that is reliable and durable. If you are anything like me, then you will put your pack through the ringer, so get one that will be sure to last you a long time.
  • Trekking poles, these are easy to dismiss. “I can just find two good sticks on the trail and they will do the exact same thing.” Well yes, you can, but trekking poles are designed to hold up under stress and they are perfectly straight. Also, it takes quite a while to find the right walking stick whereas you put your faith in an item that was specifically designed for trekking.
  • Hiking boots, if there is one item that is critical, it is a good pair of hiking boots. With a good pair of boots on your feet, you will be sure to prevent blisters and keep your feet comfortable. Take the extra time to carefully choose your boots.
  • Headlamp, I used to be against headlamps. “I am not a miner” as I would say, but they keep your hands free unlike a flashlight. You just strap it to your head and off you go. Do more with your hands and don’t lose them like you would a flashlight.
  • Flashlight, unlike a headlamp, flashlights can be passed around more easily. If I need to find something in the dead of night, my friends will be sure to toss me their flashlight. When the trail gets dark (and you can bet it will), you will need a flashlight to illuminate your way.
  • Water bottles, you are bound to get thirsty on your day trip. It is better to bring too much water than too little, so pack plenty of water bottles with you and keep your internal body moving.

Kitchen Gear, Important for Eating Well and Hearty

  • Food, this is essential to keep everyone happy. Without good food, you can bet a lot of people will not be happy campers. Take your time to ensure that everyone will be eating well.
  • Stove, whether you are eating off a small propane grill or a big barbecue, you are going to need a stove. Whether it be for your morning coffee or that evening Dutch oven dish, you will need a stove to cook to your stomach’s desires.
  • Fuel, a stove will always need fuel, so be sure to pack plenty of it along with you.
  • Matches or lighter, people always remember the stove and fuel, but matches or a lighter are often forgotten. Be sure to put it in your car.
  • Charcoal, many campsites have grills that use charcoal. If you are heading to one of those, then charcoal is a must. Unlike propane, charcoal causes the food to come out much differently, but in a good way.
  • Firewood, a camping trip is incomplete without a campfire. Firewood will make that happen. Depending on where you go, there maybe restrictions on burning, so check up on the rules for your area.
  • Quick dry towels, messes happen. They are just a part of life and you will have to clean them up. Some quick dry towels will be sure to clean them up in no time flat.
  • Drying rack, when cooking, there will be dishes to clean up afterwards. A small drying rack, even small, will make the process a lot easier.
  • Collapsible water containers, anything that collapses down is something to look out for when considering camping products. It saves space and minimizes the load you have to carry.

  • Egg holders, it may be tempting to just go with the cartons the eggs come in, but they are much more fragile than a plastic egg holder. When camping, you have to realize there is a lot of movement and items can get thrown about. It can happen to your eggs, so keep them safe.
  • Biodegradable soap, you are out in nature, not the city, so you have to be particularly careful with the trace you leave. In case you accidentally spill some soap or throw your gray water onto the ground, you are going to need to minimize your impact. Biodegradable soap will help with that.
  • Aluminum foil, a lot of my camping meals use aluminum foil. It is a versatile camping kitchen friend. You can put potatoes in them, roast corn, and much, much more.
  • Cutting board or cutting surface, if you like vegetables, then a cutting surface is essential. Even a small plastic one will do the trick.
  • Mugs and cups, these are a must. At the end of a long day, while sitting around a campfire, you are going to enjoy a hot chocolate or some tea. Mugs and cups will help with that. When the sun sets and the temperature drops, you will crave a hot drink to warm your spirit.
  • Spatula, eggs are my favorite meal to start my day. Only a spatula can help me do that. With one of these in your kitchen, you will be sure to eat well.
  • Measuring spoons, in kitchen cooking, it is essential to measure out the proper amount of ingredients you need. It is no different when it comes to camp cooking. They take up a bit of space, but they will make your eating experience that much better.
  • Measuring cups, just like measuring spoons, you can rely on measuring cups to get the exact numbers you need.
  • Pot scrubber or a sponge, if you are cooking a lot, then a pot scrubber is essential for having clean dishes for the next day.
  • Ice, I like to bring meat along with me. Whether it be beef, pork, or lamb, I enjoy it a lot. To keep it fresh, ice is necessary.
  • Coolers, whether you are keeping beer, meat, vegetables, or anything else cold, it helps to have a cooler to keep your food at a frigid temperature. If you are not careful, then your food could go bad, resulting in you poisoning yourself.

  • Table cloth and clips, just because you are camping does not mean you have to eat like a savage. A table cloth will help to formalize the campsite and make life a bit more like home.
  • Trash bags, pack your trash! When camping, everything you bring in with you should be brought back out. Only leave your footprints. Trash bags will help you make that happen.
  • Resealable storage bags, these are always nice to have around a campsite. Keep your food sealed and make it last longer.
  • Roasting sticks, for every camping trip, I always bring marshmallows, but they only work well on some roasting sticks.
  • Recipes, if there is one thing you want to make sure everyone stays happy, then bring some recipes and set the meal plan ahead of time. You want to make sure everyone is a happy camper.
  • Can opener, I usually strive to avoid canned food on my camping trips, but they are good on those tiring nights. In case you have a slow day, bring some canned food and a can opener to pry those puppies open.
  • Dutch oven, this is a campsite meal essential. You put all your food in one of these and let everyone eat from it. They really make cooking a lot easier. You can set it up and then forget about it.
  • Pot grabber, dutch ovens, pots, and pans can get quite hot. Save yourself the sting of a burnt hand and get a pot grabber. Personally though, I do not have an item that is specifically a pot grabber. A towel or an old sweater can do just the same trick.
  • Pots and pans, if want some morning eggs, then a pan will do the trick. Personally, an iron skillet pan should do the trick. They may be heavy, but they last forever. You cannot expect to break one.

Clothing, the Key to a Comfortable Adventure

When camping, your clothes are essential for a good time. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing and inadequate modes of transportation. So strap up and get ready for what you are about to read when it comes to the clothing you need.

  • Clothesline with clips, if you plan to do laundry while camping or get your clothing wet, then some clotheslines are perfecting for drying clothes. They are solar clothes dryers.
  • In-camp sandals or booties, when resting at camp, you are going to want to get around easily. Some sandals or booties will help with that. If you are near to water and you plan to dive in, then some sandals will help protect your feet along with assisting you when you get out.
  • Moisture-wicking T-shirts, you can get quite sweaty when outdoors, so make sure your t-shirts can handle all that moisture.
  • Moisture-wicking underwear, the same goes for your underwear. If you do not bring proper underwear, then it will bite you in the butt.
  • Quick-drying pants/shorts, rain is more frequent than most would think while camping. Make sure your clothes will dry out. Nothing is worse than sitting in wet clothes at the end of a long day.
  • Long-sleeve shirts (for sun, bugs), if you are like me, then you can turn pink if out in the sun for too long. The same rings true if you do not like bugs.
  • Sleepwear, grab your pajamas and get ready to dive into bed. If you like to go au’ natural, then that is fine too. Just be sure you know what you will be wearing when your head hits the hay.
  • Sun-shielding hats, your face is the most vulnerable part of your body to sunburns, so be sure to properly protect it with a good hat.
  • Swimsuits, if you want to take a dive into the ocean, lake, or stream nearby, then you will need a swimsuit to make it happen.
  • Bandannas, these are a versatile friend. Wipe your sweat off or use it as a napkin. If you need something marked, then a bandanna can designate that.
  • Rain wear, rain strikes more than most would think. A poncho, umbrella, or rain proof jacket can really make life a lot easier when the clouds have decided to rain in your camping trip.
  • Insulated pants, the nights and can be quite cold, especially if you are Winter camping. Keep your legs warm with a good pair of insulated pants.
  • Insulated jacket or vest, the most important part of your body to keep warm is your torso. When that is warm, the rest of your body generally follows suit. If it is not warm, then your body cools down. An insulated jacket will be sure to keep you nice and toasty.
  • Long underwear, long underwear is only really needed if you are planning to go Winter camping. It is essential for staying warm.
  • Socks, cold feet are no fun. Be sure to bring synthetic or wool socks so you can keep your feet warm even if you get wet.
  • Gloves or mittens, it is next to impossible to work with cold hands, so be sure to warm them up with some gloves or mittens in case the weather turns cold.

Personal Items, Take Care of Yourself

  • Biodegradable toilet paper, nature calls, sometimes while you are out hiking. Biodegradable toilet paper will help to minimize the environmental impact.
  • Sunscreen, if you have fragile skin like me, then the sun can be merciless. When I am out in the sun for too long, I can turn into the pink panther. When you take the extra bit of time to put on sunscreen, you are saving yourself from future skin cancer.
  • Toothbrush and toiletry kit, if you want to keep your dentist and your future self happy, then be sure to bring your toothbrush and some toothpaste along with you. It helps to have a specific bag for your daily toiletry activities.
  • Cosmetics, makeup is usually reserved for the city, so, like I usually do, I do not put it on at all. But if you absolutely have to wear some, then go right on ahead.
  • Shower water bag, if your campsite does not have showers or you will be camping away from civilization for a long time, then you will need showers. A campsite shower is great for cleaning up at the end of the day before jumping into bed.
  • Lip balm, dry weather can cause your lips to dry up like a desert. Bring some along with you if think that will be the case for you.
  • Brush or comb, my hair can be like a jungle in the morning. Only a comb can tame it. Just because we are in nature does not mean we have to act completely uncivilized, so be sure to bring a comb to keep your hair in check.
  • Prescriptions and medications, if you have to take some medications, you do not want to forget them. That is why they are on this list. If you are worried about a particular plant where you are camping like poison oak, then bring the necessary medication along with you.
  • Mirror, personally, I like to fully immerse myself in nature, so I avoid mirrors. I am more at peace with myself when I do not have a mirror to look at. If you have to bring one along with you, then, by all means, go ahead with it.
  • First aid kit, this is a must have item. While you probably will not experience a severe injury (*knock on wood), a first aid kit will help with those minor scrapes and bruises you are bound to get. If you are a rough person, then you are quite likely to bump into the tree a bit too hard.
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, while I do not need glasses, you may need a pair. Since you will be staying out there for a while, then an extra pair will come in handy in case your original pair breaks. The same goes for contact lenses.
  • Insect repellent, personally, I embrace the bugs. It is a part of camping. If you are particularly worried about bugs, then bring on the insect repellent. If you are going to have a better camping trip, then go ahead.
  • Hand sanitizer, if you are cooking, about to eat, or answered nature’s call at the bathrooms, then some hand sanitizer will clean you up just in time for dinner.
  • Eyeshades and/or earplugs, if you need your beauty rest, then some eyeshades or earplugs can really help you zone out everything else and help you fall asleep.
  • Alcohol or antiseptic wipes, just like the hand sanitizer but in a different form, some alcohol or antiseptic wipes will clean you right up for dinner.

Fun Items, Have a Blast Camping

  • Playing cards, these are always a great addition to any camping trip. Play all sorts of games with your friends like poker, blackjack, hearts, spider, rummy, and much, much more. Find what you like and play it.
  • Kites, if there is an open field where you can fly kites, then these are an inexpensive toy to play with. They can get quite complex, dancing and jumping in the wind to the flick of your hands.
  • Glow sticks, these are much more than just safety items. When you break them, they light up the night, illuminating the darkness with pink, red, yellow, and many more colors. Let you and the kids have a crack at ’em.
  • Boomerang, a boomerang is wonderful to have at a campsite. It does take some skill to learn how to use it though, so just know you were warned.
  • Frisbee, just like a boomerang but more user-friendly, a frisbee is wonderful to throw around. Play golf by throwing it at trees you designate as flagpoles or get your team spirit going by playing against each other in ultimate frisbee.
  • Any ball, personally, I think that camping increases my creativity. You get thrust into a low stimuli environment and have to think of ways to entertain yourself. When you have a ball, you think of all sorts of games to play. It is quite astonishing.
  • Geocaching materials, people hide things out in the woods. If you want to play this, then this is an excellent activity to consider.

Extra Items Worth Consideration

  • Camera and/or a camcorder, if you want to have wonderful memories of your trip, then a camera will help a lot. While a phone is great for taking videos or pictures, it is also an opportunity for distraction. It can take away from the experience of being in nature. One of these will do just the same in a phone’s place.
  • Memory cards/film, if you are considering a camera or a camcorder, then some memory cards or film are great in case you take too many photos.
  • Maps, when out in nature, you are not connected to technology and, by extension, the outside world, so you have to rely on yourself. This means getting some maps to help guide you.
  • Campsite reservation confirmation, sometimes campsites experience a rush of people. You will need a reservation number to back up your case. When you have a number, you can ensure you have a spot.
  • Binoculars, if you like wildlife, then some binoculars will help you spot it out. These are always wonderful to have around. You can see animals in much more detail and, consequently, you have a better camping trip. See them much better without getting too close
  • Wildlife and wild plants field books, when outside in nature, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn. Take note of what you see while camping and find it in a guidebook.
  • Star chart/night-sky identifier, at the end of a long day, you will probably be sitting around a campfire. A night sky identifier will help you point out the constellations. It really is quite the skill and a very fun activity.
  • GPS, if you do not trust yourself with a map and compass, then a GPS is worth consideration. If you get lost, then one of these bad boys will guide you right back home. When starting out or inexperienced, you can really save yourself with a GPS.
  • Travel alarm clock, while a phone can be an alarm and more, they can also be distracting. You can rest easy knowing that your travel alarm clock will do only one thing, wake you up at the time you set for it.
  • Sketchpad with art supplies, if you are an artist, then nature is an excellent opportunity to draw. The experience of nature relaxes your body, enabling you to create fantastic artwork.
  • Two way radios, if you get lost outdoors, then a two-way radio will help you in the event of an emergency.

Final Thoughts

After reading this, you should be all ready to set off on your camping trip. You have all your gear in order. The food is lined up and everything is packed. Take your time and enjoy the experience. It is not every day you go camping. Take in the smells of nature and embrace what is to come. You are entering a world unto itself.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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18 Comments on “Things to Take Camping – a Checklist before Heading Off”

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful and comprehensive list! I always feel like I am going overboard when packing for a camping trip, but I’m glad there are others like me who simply don’t want to forget that one-potentially very important- item. Next time, I think I’ll just print out your checklist instead of taking up half a legal pad with mine.

    Also, I dig the green bus in the second pic… My first camping experience was in a similar blue VW bus (a ’68, I believe.) Made for a very comfortable night’s sleep and some good memories. Cheers!

    1. Yes, you are quite right that this list is comprehensive. I did not want to miss a thing! The important thing with checklists is to start them early and take note of items you need for your particular trip as you think of them.

      It is interesting to hear you mention the VW bus. It is quite the classic car. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. How do you get all that essential gear to your campsite? Only thing I can imagine is you must have a truck and be going camping with a few other people. Camping sounds fun and I haven’t done so since childhood. It would definitely be comfortable to have an air mattress and a sleeping bag but you must invest in a nice size tent.

    1. For most people, their car will be the best bet to get all the gear to the campsite. By and large, they pack up their cars to the brim and then travel to the campgrounds. It definitely helps to travel with other people. They keep you safe and they, most likely, also have cars. A good tent is crucial. It is the backbone of any good camping trip.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. I needed a checklist before going camping and I also feel awkward about headlamp but as you said it can be quite useful for many things. I will start bringing one with me.

    1. That is good to hear you are going to bring a headlamp from now on. They are very useful when camping, a very underrated tool. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. Very extensive and well thought out list. I have not been camping in a long time and I’m not sure I would even know what to bring if I was going camping anytime soon. This list really helps and I like the how you separated out the sections so readers can pick and choose what is important to them while camping. Thanks, Curtis

    1. Hey Curtis, it is good to hear you liked this list. I appreciate the compliment of how this post was separated among the different sections. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Very informative post! Makes me want to go camping and bring my sketchbook. 🙂 Great checklist to make sure you have everything you need!

    Thanks for posting!

    1. I appreciate the compliment Sarae. A sketchbook is always good to bring camping with you. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    1. A tarp is completely fine to put underneath a tent. Tarps are more versatile than tent footprints. You can use them elsewhere at your campsite or you can place them underneath your tent. Tent footprints, though, differ from tarps in that they are specifically shaped for your tent. They are perfect fits. Consequently, they do not extend beyond your tent. Nor are they too small. I hope this answers your questions.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  6. What a thorough article, you really covered all the bases. I loved your intro, how magical your trip sounded and I loved how you made me feel the want to pack up and head off camping when you referred to the call of nature and embracing it. Thanks

    1. I appreciate the compliment on the intro Ali. I always try to make my readers feel the joy of camping.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  7. Alex, this is Awesome!! I am such a list person myself. It takes the pressure off when packing for each trip. Well Done!!
    We have grandkids with us, so I also include baby wipes. They really come in handy. And I’ll also bring a portable battery pack for recharging phones and such.
    Can’t wait for camping season, lol

    1. It is good to hear you enjoyed this list Suzanne. Anything that makes life easier for my readers is always good to hear. I appreciate the compliment.

      Baby wipes are important to bring with you, especially when you have grandkids. You can use them after they get their hands dirty. A portable battery pack is always handy. You can keep your phone charged in case of emergency.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  8. I love your list. Too many times I’ve gone camping and found out I left something at home. Then I had to leave the camp to drive to the nearest store and buy the missing items, which tend to be more expensive when purchased in small remote towns.

    1. You are quite right Rita. Replacements can be quite expensive if you forget a piece of gear. It is good to know you found this list helpful. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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