Whether you’re a first-time trekker or a camping veteran, determining what you need and want to pack for your camping trip can be an overwhelming task. The fear that you’ve brought too much or too little is persistent and can nag you your entire trip.
To solve that problem, careful planning and conscious packing are necessary, aided by a written or printed list detailing everything you need.
If you don’t have time to create a list yourself, keep reading for a comprehensive camping checklist that keeps your packing organized and stress-free!
If you’re partial to camping in cabins, an RV, or a van, then you have a lot of necessities at your disposal already, including shelter, seating, a dining area, and a power source.
However, there are still some must-have items you need to bring with you for your trip.
- A cot
- A sleeping bag
- A fan
- An air mattress kit
- A portable charging station
For tent camping, you’ll probably need all of the items above plus a few more to ensure you’re fully prepared for a successful, comfortable camping trip.
- A tent, stakes, and a mallet
- A tarp
- A windbreak
- Mosquito netting
- A cooler
- A dustpan and broom
Just because you’re going off the grid and hitting the trails doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind.
The likelihood is that you’ll still need your everyday items on hand, even if your goal is to get away from them for a while.
It’s important to have all your everyday essentials that you would typically keep on your person on hand and easy to access throughout your trip and this camping checklist will make sure you don’t leave anything behind.
- A portable phone charger
- Any necessary licenses or permits
- A water bottle
- A GPS
- Insurance and booking information
Regardless of where you end up, it’s likely you’ll need some basic tools on hand.
Whether you need to chop some firewood, tighten a screw, or tie down some equipment, having the basics of a toolbox stowed away is good, preparative camping practice.
- Axe or hatchet
- Bungee cords
- A generator
- Spade or trowel
- Electrical hookup
- Jumper cables
- Reusable zip ties
For many, one of the biggest concerns about outdoor camping is safety concerns.
With that being said, this particular category on your camping checklist is not one to be narrowed down.
The last thing you want is to be caught out in an emergency without the essential items to help you through it. So if this case, the more safety precautions, the better.
- A portable fire extinguisher
- An emergency blanket
- A roadside kit
- Spare batteries
- A spare tire
- Emergency water supply
- Maps and area guides
- A whistle
- Bear spray
- Solar lanterns
- A first-aid kit
As for your first aid kit, you’ll definitely want to ensure it’s as comprehensive as possible.
First Aid Kit
- Calamine lotion
- Rubber gloves
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Bite treatments
- A thermometer
- Hydrocortisone cream
- An EpiPen
- Any prescription medications
- Eye drops
Next on this ultimate camping checklist is any outdoor furniture you might want or need.
Though a campsite might claim to provide a picnic table or seating area, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be in good condition when you arrive.
So, it’s good to have a plan B of some kind to provide a space to dine, chat, and relax outside the tent or RV.
- Shade (umbrella, awning, or pop-up gazebo)
- A hammock
- Enough camping chairs for your group
- A folding table
When it comes to clothing, you definitely want to be as prepared as possible. You never know when a thunderstorm might pop up out of nowhere or the temperature might plummet overnight.
However, you can use your best judgment when determining which clothing items make your camping checklist.
(For instance, if you’re RV camping in July in Tennessee, you can probably skip the winter jacket!)
- Light layers
- A rain jacket
- Rain boots
- Hiking shoes
- Durable socks
- Shower shoes
- Casual/walking shoes
- A wide-brimmed hat
- A beanie
- A pair of gloves
- A bathing suit
- A warm sweater
- Athletic wear
- Plenty of undergarments
- Hiking pants and shorts
- A windbreaker
- Breathable shirts and tanks
You’ve planned your trip, you’ve arrived at your campsite, you’ve set up your tent or hooked up your RV…so now what?
Camping in and of itself isn’t exactly an all-day activity. You’ll need to bring the fun with you!
What that fun will be is up to you, but here are a few suggestions for some entertainment to add to your camping checklist.
Recreation and Outdoor Gear
- Fishing pole and necessary tackle
- A kayak or canoe
- A stand-up paddleboard
- A surfboard
- Life jackets
- Beach or swim towels
- Soccer balls, volleyballs, frisbees, or footballs
- A hiking pack
For Rainy Days
- Board games
- A portable speaker
- A deck of cards
- Pen and paper
- A camera (digital or disposable)
- Plenty of chargers
- Portable DVD player with DVDs
Kitchen and Pantry
If you’re lucky, your campsite might have a small convenience or country store where you can pick up some food, drinks, snacks, and utensils.
But, the likelihood is that all you’ll have is what you bring unless you leave the camp to go shopping elsewhere.
As such, it’s crucial to be thorough and comprehensive with your kitchen camping checklist.
Of course, food and drink choices are up to preference.
Nevertheless, this list contains a few suggestions that are general crowd-pleasers and easy to store and cook, as well as basic appliances and utensils.
- Salt and pepper, and other spices and seasonings
- Cooking oil
- Bottled drinks (water, soda, beer)
- Granola bars
- Trail mix
- Hotdogs and burgers
- Hotdog and hamburger buns
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Cold cuts and sliced cheeses
- S’mores ingredients (graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate)
- Plenty of plates, bowls, and cups
- Travel mugs
- One utensil set per person
- A plastic cutting board
- Food storage (containers or bags)
- Cooking skewers
- A can opener
- A bottle opener
- A corkscrew
- A spatula, tongs, and a mixing spoon
- Fire-safe pot and pan
- Dishwashing bin
- Foil wrap
- A potholder or oven mitts
- A grill or camping stove
- A grate
- A cooler
- A coffee maker or percolator
Maintaining your hygiene is while camping is super important, not just for comfort and appearance but for health and safety, too.
Keeping yourself and your space clean will help you to stay healthy and able to enjoy your trip to its fullest. So here’s a camping checklist for hygiene and cleaning items.
- Dish soap
- Trash bags
- A sponge
- A portable laundry hamper
- Paper towels
- Dish rags
- Cleansing wipes
- Recycling bags
- Bath and hand towels
- Hand soap
- Hand and body lotion
- Menstrual products
- A toothbrush
- A hairbrush
- Body soap or wash
- Cotton swabs or balls
- A handheld mirror
- Contact lens case and solution (if needed)
- Shaving cream
- A razor
- Toilet paper
- Bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Lip balm
- Ear plugs
- Sleeping mask
- Hair ties or scrunchies
- Clips or pins
- Waterproof toiletry bag
- A sewing kit
Kids and Pets
This section of your camping checklist is optional for obvious reasons. But, if you do have a companion with you of some sort, you’ll need a few extra items to ensure their health, safety, and enjoyment, too.
- Portable crib
- Portable playpens
- A baby carrier, wrap, or sling
- Small camping chairs or high chairs
- Baby or toddler food
- Baby or toddler toys
- Pet toys
- A pet bed
- Pet ID tags
- Waste disposal bags
- Portable food and water bowls
- Pet food
- Harness and leash (with a spare set)
Narrowing Down Your List
While there are a few camping essentials that everyone will need regardless of the specifics, there are lots of items that are optional or conditional.
When it comes to camping, you don’t want to leave any crucial gear behind, but you also don’t want to be lugging around extra things you don’t need.
Though all of the items on this list would be nice to have, you likely won’t have room for all of them. But you also probably won’t need or even use all of them.
This is why having your trip planned before you tackle your camping checklist is the best place to start.
Planning Your Trip
There is a lot on your list that will be dependent on the specifics of your trip.
Are you camping in a tent, a cabin, or an RV? Does your site have bathrooms, water, and electrical hookups? Does your site provide picnic tables and fire pits? What’s the weather going to look like?
As you ask and answer these questions in your pre-trip planning, you’ll also be narrowing down your camping checklist.
If you’re in an RV or cabin, you probably won’t need all the tent camping supplies. If you don’t have access to electrical hookups, you’ll definitely want a portable generator on hand.
Warm, wet weather will dictate very different clothing choices than cold, dry weather. If you aren’t going to be near water, you can probably ditch the canoe.
Already, your camping checklist should be shrinking and getting more specific and tailored to your trip.
Camping Trip Planning Tips and Tricks
One of the greatest tenets of camping is to leave no trace. If you pack it in, you pack it out.
Depending on how developed your campsite is, you may have limited options for disposing of your trash or no options at all.
As you make your way through your camping checklist, it’s smart to formulate a plan for how you want to deal with your waste.
Bags, bins, plastic tubs, or whatever your preference might be should be pretty high on your packing priority list to ensure you leave your campsite as unlittered (and, if possible, cleaner) as when you arrived.
Though you probably expect at least some weather-related discomfort while embracing wilderness, it’s possible to curb any issues with smart packing.
In the long run, preparing to manage a range of temperatures for both your person and your perishables will save you money and space in the long run.
Do you have a compact but effective cooler? Do you have an efficient way to cook and heat up food? Do you have a cooling fan or portable heater for your tent?
Preparing ahead of time for these scenarios is a much better plan than having to toss out food that has gone bad or rush out and buy extra blankets or insulation.
Organization looks a little different for everyone, but regardless, you should have some kind of system to organize and inventory your camping checklist.
If you’re in a van or RV, you’ll likely have more options for storing things than if you’re tent camping.
Pre-packed plastic storage bins and foldable fabric drawers are all good options for keeping your stuff straight.
Once you go through your camping checklist and organize your things once, it’ll be much easier to do it again.
You can keep most of the items organized and stored away in your garage or shed and have them at the ready for your next trip.
The Ultimate Camping Checklist: FAQ
What if I don’t know where I’m staying yet?
Though knowing what your campsite already has to offer or is missing is helpful information that can guide your packing process, it’s not impossible to use your camping checklist without that knowledge.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to pray for the best but expect the worst.
If you turn up and your campsite has no power, you’ll be thankful you brought a generator and rechargeable batteries full and ready to go.
If it turns out you don’t need it, then that’s one less thing you have to worry about fiddling with.
Being ultra-prepared is great practice, but you can also use your best judgment to keep your camping checklist under control.
Even if you don’t know what campsite you’ll be staying at, you probably know how many people are coming and what kind of camping you’re intending to do.
If it’s just you and your pup in an RV, all your tent gear and kitchen utensils for 5 probably won’t be necessary.
How can I best organize all my camping essentials?
How you organize is ultimately up to how your brain works.
But, one tried and true organization method is using stackable plastic containers to store all your things.
They’re inexpensive, easy to transport, and protective. Plus, you can easily see inside them to locate what you need without having to dig through all your stuff.
Get Packing With Your Ultimate Camping Checklist!
Planning a multi-day camping excursion can seem tough, but having a comprehensive camping checklist can make your preparation easy as pie.
To learn more about camping gear and how to pack smart, check out our posts on Camping Gear.
Download the printable camping checklist PDF here.
- About the Author
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Leah is a writer, editor, and content manager with a master’s degree in English. Naturally, she is passionate about all things writing and learning.
She is proud to call North Carolina (specifically, the Outer Banks) home and loves exploring the state’s stunning coastline, sprawling Blue Ridge, and everything in between.
Leah can be reached at email@example.com