Do you fancy spending time camping in the great outdoors, perhaps sleeping under the stars, and getting back in touch with good old Mother Nature? Camping is one of the few activities that let us recharge and renew our spirits.
If you’ve been feeling cooped up, listless, stressed, or just want to immerse yourself outdoors, go on a camping adventure! There are many places where you can bask in outdoor life. State and national parks, private camping sites, and the backcountry are just a few options that are open to you.
If you’re concerned about the tools and camping gear you’ll need, remember that campsites generally provide a lot of amenities. This includes campfire pits, picnic tables, and even bathrooms and running water. Of course, you’ll still have to plan on bringing some personal items which we’ll tell you more about.
As you get ready and get excited about your upcoming camping trip, use our handy camping checklist to know what to bring camping and what not to. We’ll prevent you from packing items you don’t really need and make sure you bring items that are worth filling your limited backpacking space with.
What You Should Bring When Camping
This camping checklist includes non-negotiables for an enjoyable camping trip. Some essential items, like the poncho and camping chair, may not seem that necessary for your packing list but it’s better to have them and not need them than the other way around.
A Tent With a Rainfly
First on our camping checklist is a tent with a rainfly. Unless you’re going to a camping spot with cabins or pre-installed tents, you’ll need a tent or outdoor shelter. A tent protects you from the natural elements and ensures you have a safe space to sleep in once nighttime arrives.
Sure, you could sleep under the stars but just in case the weather, wildlife, and other elements don’t permit it, it’s wise to be ready with your own shelter.
You’ll find different types of tents for different weather conditions and number of occupants. Make sure to research the camping conditions at your destination and the type of camping tent you’ll need beforehand so that you have adequate protection at night. You should also check that you have all the accessories you need to pitch your tent. General items include ropes, stakes, poles, and a rain fly.
Good Quality Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags are essential must-have items, especially if you’ll be sleeping somewhere that gets cold at night. One may argue that milder weather won’t require a sleeping bag, but if comfort is your priority, you may want to consider one either way.
A sleeping bag that’s rated for cold weather will keep you warm and cozy, ensuring that you get to sleep comfortably while being protected from creepy crawlies that come out at night.
If you’re going camping with your family, it’s important to get sleeping bags as part of your camping gear, since it may be the first time that your kids will be sleeping in the wild.
A Sturdy Sleeping Pad
While a sleeping bag can help provide comfort and a bit of warmth, a sleeping pad provides additional insulation and cushioning. If you’re sleeping on the ground, sleeping pads are laid directly on the ground before your sleeping bag, making your slumber a little more comfortable.
They are especially useful in regions where the temperatures drop sharply at night.
A Headlight, Torches, and Flashlights
Campfires are great for having a fun time with your friends and family at night as you eat, sing, and share stories. But they’re not the optimal light source while you’re camping.
As you set up camp, light your campfire, and attend to other activities, you’ll need other lighting options where headlights, flashlights, camping lanterns, and torches will be extremely useful.
A lot of experienced campers swear by headlamps/headlights as they offer hands-free use while flashlights and torches are functional tools for inside the tent.
A Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
When you’re spending time in the wild, you have to prepare for unforeseen incidents. A well-stocked first aid kit can be invaluable for insect bites, scratches, and minor emergencies. If you suffer from allergies or other health concerns, make sure that your first aid kit is equipped to handle them.
While a life-threatening injury during a camping trip is extremely rare, you might still get cuts, scratches, or blisters while hiking. If left unattended, small wounds or injuries can quickly become infected and cause undesirable complications.
Generally, a first-aid kit should contain the following items:
- Gauze roll
- Medical tape
- Different sizes of adhesive bandages
- Antiseptic ointment/cream
- Cotton balls
- Sterile wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Allergy medicines, if necessary
- Duct tape
- Diarrhea medicine
Also, carry sunscreen and ORS (oral rehydration solutions) to keep yourself safe from dehydration and the sun’s harsh rays.
Socks and Underwear
What to bring camping? When it comes to clothes for camping, never forget extra pairs of socks and underwear. If by chance it rains and you get drenched, you’ll be glad to have a spare set of socks and underwear!
For a one-night camping trip, carry at least two extra pairs of socks with you, or three if you have the space.
When it comes to underwear, purchase some made from moisture-wicking and quick-drying materials like synthetic fabric. Polyester and merino wool are ideal materials to consider.
Regardless of where you’re camping, mosquito repellants are good to have when you’re thinking about what to bring camping. When it comes to mosquitoes, you never can tell if they’re going to be there and since repellant doesn’t take up much space, you’ll be glad to have it along.
Omitting this from your what to bring camping checklist can mean days of unnecessary itching. The fact that some mosquitoes can be carriers of disease only makes mosquito repellant more essential for your camping trip.
Clothes for Layering
During a camping trip, you need to be ready for changes in temperature. Despite checking the weather forecast, you can never guarantee what the actual conditions are going to be. Layering lets you prepare for sudden shifts in temperature and weather conditions while still saving precious backpack space.
There are three main layers that you need to take care of: base layer, mid layer, and outer layer.
The base layer is the primary layer that comes in contact with your skin. It should provide a comfortable and snug fit. You need a base layer to keep you warm and dry. It should wick away sweat and keep you warm.
The mid layer provides ample insulation so you can retain body heat. Fleece sweaters and puffy jackets are common mid-layer clothing.
The job of the outer layer is to protect you from natural elements. There is a variety of outer layer clothing, from windbreakers to mountaineering jackets, that you can choose from.
Depending on the weather conditions, you can add or subtract an extra layer to suit the temperature. On a hot day during your summer camping trip, you can strip down to your base layer while on colder nights, you can put on your mid layer for additional insulation and heat. Keeping these three layers in mind will give you the flexibility to deal with your environment with a few key pieces of clothing.
Waterproof Jacket, Ponchos, and Pants
Weather-wise, you need to be prepared for the worst. While we try to plan our camping trips when it isn’t raining, we need to be ready for it nonetheless with suitable clothes. When thinking about what to bring camping, be ready with protective rain gear.
Your camping attire should include waterproof rain jackets, a poncho, and rain cover pants just in case. Though they may make your backpack a little heavier, you’ll at least have peace of mind that you can deal with rain if it shows up. Here are more tips for camping in wet weather.
Hiking Boots or Shoes
Hiking boots or hiking shoes are another necessity when it comes to what to bring camping. There have been too many hikers who regretted not getting proper footwear for their outdoor excursions. Having the wrong pair of hiking boots can mean blisters and injury, especially if you’ll be traversing challenging terrains.
Consider durability, comfort, fit, traction, and weight when shopping for shoes. Ideal hiking shoes are usually heavier and stiffer than running shoes because they provide more protection. If you’ll be hiking in a wet region, you’ll also need to get shoes that are waterproof.
A Comfortable Camping Chair
At the end of a strenuous day outside, you’ll want to sit back and rest on a comfortable camping chair. You’ll want to add camping chairs to your camping gear list because they make sitting by your campsite more comfortable and convenient.
If you’re thinking that a chair will be bulky to bring around, camping chairs are usually lightweight, foldable, and compact. To make these outdoor chairs as light as possible, most camping chairs are made from corrosion-resistant aluminum and lightweight fabric like nylon and foam fabric.
What You Shouldn’t Bring When Camping
Just as important as what to bring camping is a camping list of items you shouldn’t bring. Unnecessary baggage will weigh you down, especially if you have to hike to your campsite. It can fill up space in your pack that could’ve been better used for something else.
Here’s what not to bring:
Lots of Gear/Materials
Make a detailed camping checklist of gear and materials you’ll need to prevent carrying unnecessary items. If it’s not on your camping checklist and isn’t something you’d like to carry back with you, leave it at home.
While random small things may not weigh that much individually, they can quickly add up and you’ll soon have a bunch of items that you probably won’t have time or the opportunity to use during your camping trip. It’s better to realistically plan for the activities you’ll have time for and only carry the absolute necessities.
A Camping Trailer
A camping trailer may seem like a relatively luxurious way to enjoy your camping trip but it’s an expensive item that you don’t really need. Lugging a trailer around gives you one big thing to take care of and secure.
If you’re staying in a tent anyway, you should be able to follow hiking trails and set up camp in designated spots that may not accommodate trailers. Since you’re camping to enjoy the outdoor experience, a camping trailer will require that you plan your trip around it, including where you camp, which can significantly limit your options.
A New Tent
Yes, tents are necessary when you’re considering what to bring camping, however, you don’t need a new tent each time as long as the tent you have is made for the weather conditions you’ll be facing.
If you do purchase a new tent, take it for a trial run by setting it up in your backyard. This will give you ample time to learn how to set it up, check for any defects, and ensure that you bring all the necessary tools to pitch it. By the time you get to the campsite, you should be familiar enough with what to do so you can set it up before darkness falls.
A Ton of Food
While you need to make sure that there’s enough food for everyone at the camp, never overpack perishable food unless you have proper storage for it. Not only can it go bad, but it may also attract wild animals to your camping location, especially if you’re in Bear Country. Non-perishable packed camping food is generally your best option for a camping trip.
An Electric Heater
You can keep warm without risking your tent catching fire! Electric heaters are notorious for accidentally igniting burnable or flammable objects near them. It may also be hard to find access to electricity that’s a safe distance from your sleeping area.
Opt for appropriate thermal clothing, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad to keep yourself warm.
An Entire Kitchen’s Worth of Utensils
Having a cookout at the camp is a fun idea, but you don’t need to carry every kitchen utensil you own to cook at a camp! There are other novel ways of cooking at a campsite that you can learn beforehand to ensure you don’t carry more utensils than necessary.
Pots and Pans
If you plan your meals carefully and opt for the bare minimum, you can still have a sumptuous meal on-site. Pots, pans, and utensils are bulky and take up weight and space that could’ve been better used for more essential camping gear.
Instead of pots and pans, you can heat up food in heavy-duty aluminum foil or cook meat on a preheated slab of rock. A camping stove is also unnecessary if you’re planning on having a campfire.
Having your phone around in case of an emergency is fine. However, you’re on a camping trip to unplug and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Bringing internet access with you defeats the purpose. Connect with nature, not social media.
We know you want to capture your camping memories in the best way possible. But unless you’re there as a nature photographer, we suggest leaving your camera behind. Besides, phone cameras have improved by leaps and bounds and are generally sufficient for capturing high-quality photos.
A Down Blanket
Many people bring down blankets for additional warmth while camping, however, if they get wet or become damp, they’re no use to anyone. They also take a while to dry. We suggest looking at other camping gear like synthetic insulation, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and bringing mid-layer clothing for warmth.
Deciding on what to bring camping will significantly affect your experience. If you bring the right essentials, you’ll enjoy your camping experience and have your plans go without a hitch. If, however, you bring the wrong things or just too much stuff, it will significantly hamper your night spent outdoors and you may find yourself doing without necessities you should have planned for.
Use our camping checklist as you prepare for your outdoor adventures. It’s a great way to ensure you have everything you need while minimizing non-essentials.
Looking for the best sleeping bag for the season, we have listed the best options here on Beyond The Tent.