The Ultimate Camping Checklist

Sometimes there’s nothing better than heading off on a spontaneous camping trip. You can decide the day before, round up all your friends in the morning, and set off on a road trip and spontaneous camping weekend getaway. However, this only really works if you’re going camping somewhere local, where you know the terrain, and perhaps with a group of people who don’t mind roughing it, or sharing a pillow if someone forgets. 

For planning a group camping trip in advance, especially if you’re looking to go camping with your family, planning rigorously is a necessity. Imagine a rainy camping trip if you’ve forgotten to bring a tarp or groundsheet, and you wake up in the morning with the rain soaking through the bottom of your tent. Or sitting out at dusk in summer, on long languid evenings, enjoying rolling conversations with friends: only to be attacked by a swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitos, without your trusty bug spray in hand. 

One of the best things about the great outdoors is that it’s unpredictable. Unlike the city, where you can just run into a man-made building if the rain starts to pour, out in the sticks it’s just you and nature. But to properly embrace the changing nature of nature, our key advice for you is to prepare. Follow our ultimate camping checklist to ensure you’re prepared for any eventuality!

 

Clothing

Planning which clothing you’re going to take with you on your camping trip can sometimes feel intimidating. Going out into the great outdoors is hardly ever predictable, so you need to make sure you prepare for any eventuality. 

And our biggest piece of advice in this regard is: check the weather forecast! This will help you to work out if you should be concentrating your efforts on light, breathable clothing, or layers that will stop you shivering when the chill sets in. 

When planning what clothing you’re bringing on your camping trip, you should also consider how often you’ll be able to, or you’ll want to, do laundry on your trip. Think about whether there are amenities in your campsite for laundry, or whether you’ll be hand washing your clothes and leaving them out to dry in the sun, especially if you’re going primitive camping. Adjust the amount of underwear and undergarments you’re taking accordingly. 

And our second piece of advice is to layer, layer, layer. Remember to bring with you lots of light undergarments and t-shirt layers, preferably out of ultra-light heat tech material, that will keep you cool and ventilated on hot hikes, but insulate you when the weather turns. Bringing lots of layers means you’ll be prepared for any eventuality, as you can either wear a single one or double or triple up! 

Lastly, never leave home without the right outer garments. There are many different options for these, such as waterproofs, but for optimum portability and to keep your backpack dry if you’re hiking in the rain, we would recommend getting a rain poncho. Check out our complete buying guide here. 

 

  • Hiking boots
  • Several pairs of warm socks (with one extra reserved for sleeping in)
  • Flip flops (for the showers)
  • Wellies (if you’re going on a really wet hike)
  • Sufficient underwear (think about how often you want to do laundry)
  • Sleepwear 
  • Swimsuit
  • Beach towels (you can get some super lightweight options that fold up small)
  • Dirty laundry bag (or zip-lock bag if you’re going hiking in the rain)
  • Waterproofs (we’d recommend a poncho)
  • Spare pants
  • Bandana
  • Warm fleece or jumper
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Hat (for protection from the sun or cold)
  • Scarf and gloves (for winter hiking)
  • Sunglasses (useful year-round)

 

Toiletries

Bringing the right toiletries can make or break your camping adventure. The two main things that you absolutely cannot forget on a summer camping trip are sunblock and insect repellent. There’s nothing worse than trying to hike the next day with a sunburn under your backpack on your shoulders, or not preparing for mosquitos and suddenly being swarmed by them. 

If you’re not camping at a campsite, or your campsite doesn’t have shower facilities, we would recommend taking with you a portable camping shower. These can really open up your camping experience, not just because you’re not restricted to staying in campsites will full amenities, but also because the feeling of showering out in nature is truly liberating. Think about taking with you a drawstring or hanging toiletries bag. With this, you can hang your toiletries from a branch of a tree as you clean, or in the shower rather than holding it, especially if there’s an attached suction cup. 

Don’t forget to take a full supply, and maybe some backup boxes, of all the medication you could need. Especially if you’re camping with a family, in the summer months, remember to bring bite cream and plasters. And if you’re looking for more of a glamping experience, and would like to take with you some of the appliances you use in your bathroom at home (for example a hairdryer or electric razor), then remember to check out what kind of electric hookup is available, and what kind of alliances you can plug in, at your campsite before you pack. 

 

  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes (and/or hand sanitizer)
  • Camping shower
  • Medication
  • Toothpaste and brushes
  • Shower gel or soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Insect repellent
  • Bite and sting cream
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Cosmetics
  • Small mirror
  • Hanging toiletries bag
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm
  • Towels
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush or comb
  • Hair ties and/or clips
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Sunscreen and after-sun

 

Shelter and bedding

With tents becoming more developed, and more all-inclusive products, it’s easy to assume that all you need to do is pick up your tent bag and you’ll be covered, right? Wrong! Yes, if you’re going camping on your own, or backpacking, in the summer and only need a one-step personal tent, then this may be all the kit you need. However, for more traditional tents, more challenging climates or weather conditions, or for those who want to design their own shelter, there are many other things you need to remember to bring. 

Every tent needs a groundsheet or tarpaulin. And, especially if there’s even a chance of rain, you should take extra to keep the base of your tent dry. Bringing extra tarps is also necessary if you’re wanting to build your own shelter. If you’re camping in a wood or a forest, we would always recommend bringing extra tarp and rope.

This way you can personalize your campsite, creating a little dry area for you and your group, to prepare food, socialize and keep your kit dry if it rains. Even in sunny weather, this is a great option, as it can offer that welcome bit of shade. There are a few things you must remember, especially for a more traditional tent, such as a mallet or something you can use as a hammer. No-one likes trying to push in tent stakes with their shoes if they forget a mallet, and this is also the best way to bend or damaged your tent stakes irreversibly. 

Also, consider the luxury items, or homely items you might want to add, especially if you’re camping for a longer period of time. These might include a blow-up mattress, a rug to keep out the cold on the tent floor, or extra pillows. Consider what you want to include in your home away from home, especially if you’re going camping as a family, or this is a celebration for your group. Personalized and homely touches can really make a camping experience that extra bit special. 

 

  • Sleeping bags and bedding
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent, poles and guy lines
  • Groundsheet or tarp
  • Flysheet
  • Camp bed or air mattress
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Doormat
  • Rug for tent floor
  • Hot water bottle(s)
  • Carbon monoxide alarm
  • Windbreak
  • Tent pegs (plus spare pegs)
  • Mallet

 

Playing cards.

Even something as simple as a deck of playing cards can keep you entertained while camping, especially on those rainy days.

 

Entertainment 

Considering entertainment is a necessity if you’re planning a family camping trip. Sometimes climbing trees and playing about in streams doesn’t quite cut it! Kids will need some extra planned entertainment, such as some ball games, a frisbee or a baseball bat and ball. If you’re going camping in a large car and have the extra room, consider bringing with you some of your kid’s favorite board games, which will come in handy, especially if there’s a drizzly evening, and you need to find something to occupy you for a while before the rain passes. 

Camping trips are also the perfect opportunity to get back to you. Being surrounded by nature helps you to feel humbled, and remember your priorities. It can make you feel spiritual and renewed. So remember to bring with you a novel you’ve been meaning to read for ages, or some poetry that makes your soul sing. 

And for groups of adults, never forget a pack of cards! It will take up hardly any room in your bag, and could just save the trip. Also, if you’re camping alone, or going on a long hike, add some of your favorite albums to your phone or other devices, so you can enjoy your favorite tunes. Then when you listen back to them at another date, you’ll always be reminded of the wonderful nature you experienced, and associate that album with the invigorating feeling. 

 

  • Local area guidebook
  • Board games
  • Puzzles
  • Pack of playing cards
  • Toys for children
  • Bikes
  • Frisbee
  • Sporting equipment
  • Books or magazines
  • Coloring-in books
  • Musical instruments
  • MP3 player and tablet
  • Camp chairs

 

Three orange tents in the snow.

Bringing along a proper flashlight or camping light is the key to good visibility especially during dark or harsh weather conditions.

 

Lighting

Lighting is often something that’s forgotten about when planning a camping trip. It’s great to be out in nature, and experience the feeling of real darkness that you never get in a city, especially with the star gazing that this can entail. However, you could trip over your tent ropes, or easily step in a hole or trip over a log after dark. So remember to bring a torch, or fully charge your phone so you can use it as a torch in the evenings. 

With big campsites, or in remote locations, it can also be difficult to find your tent when night hits. Also clambering into your tent after a long day can be difficult, and finding things even more so, if you don’t have the correct lighting. One of our top tips is to bring some battery-powered fairy lights.

These weigh hardly anything in your backpack but are a great addition to your campsite. You can leave them on if you’re going for a late hike, and easily find your tent after. And they also can add to the atmosphere in your tent, as you doze off in the great outdoors. 

To keep your lighting at the level you want it, make sure to bring extra batteries or a generator. And if you’re going camping in the summer, then a citronella candle could save you and your group from being eaten alive by mosquitos, as you sit around to enjoy your dinner in the evening. 

 

  • Battery-powered fairy lights
  • Headlamp
  • Citronella candles
  • Torches
  • Lanterns (battery/wind-up)
  • Spare bulbs and batteries

 

A wooden plate of crackers, meat, and cheese by a fire.

Of course, packing the best snacks to bring along will keep you healthy and energized while out on the trail.

 

Cooking

Cooking is another area that requires good preparation unless you want grumpy campers. Your cooking supplies list should include all the things you need to prepare food, keep things in your camp hygienic, and store leftovers. Consider taking with you a stove or disposable BBQ, if you’re going camping with a car. This is a great way to prepare food for the masses: but remember extra fuel or coal. 

If you’re planning on going primitive camping, or you want a more adventurous experience, then remember all the things you need to start a fire effectively. The basics you’ll need are some matches or some other kind of fire starter and rolled paper or kindling. For more detailed descriptions and recommendations on how to start your fire when camping, check out our recommendations here. 

You need to remember everything necessary for preparing, and eating your food in the great outdoors, and all you need for food storage. Basically, all you need for your camp kitchen. This includes cutlery, a tin opener and corkscrew, plastic bags, and trash bags. You could even bring some fold away picnic chairs to save your knees from eating on the floor or a nearby log. It’s also worth bringing with you some non-perishable food items that will keep your group energized on a long hike, such as nuts or health bars. 

 

  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Condiments
  • Stove with fuel supply
  • Pots and pans with lids
  • Potholder and oven gloves
  • Cooking utensils (including cutting board and measuring cups)
  • Water storage container
  • Water purification tablets
  • Scrubbing sponge
  • Bucket or camping
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Tupperware
  • Kettle
  • Peeler
  • Jug
  • Thermos flask
  • Folding table and chairs
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper towels
  • Napkins
  • Tablecloth
  • Bin bags
  • Tea towels
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Plastic crockery and cutlery
  • Mixing bowl and colander
  • Spatula
  • Coolbox and freeze blocks
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Barbecue and charcoal
  • Firestarters or newspaper
  • Cooking oil
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Marshmallows and cookies for smores!

 

A map and a road.

These days we tend to rely on our phones for any information but a good old fashioned map never hurt anybody.

 

Transport

Yes, it’s nice to have the feeling of spontaneity as you head out into the great outdoors, jumping into your car and heading off on an adventure. However, unless you know the terrain you’re visiting like the back of your hand, this isn’t always the safest approach. You should always set off with the right preparation, documents, and objects on hand. 

For many of us these days, it’s easy to assume that our phones will do everything. You can download maps onto your phone, and for some less out-back hikes and camping trips, you might be able to get enough signal to follow the map on your phone. However, you should never solely rely on this. Your phone could die after all, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get good enough reception in remote locations or on a hill or mountain. Remember to take with you paper maps and a compass: and know how to use them!

You should also prepare a copy of your breakdown recovery protection, and carry with you emergency maintenance supplies for your car or RV. Also, like always, remember to bring your driver’s license. If you’re going out to really rural locations, then we would recommend bringing with you extra fuel, as sometimes it’s hard to find a gas station and you definitely don’t want to be left, stuck, in the middle of nowhere with no gas!

 

  • Maps and directions
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Whistle
  • Extra fuel and a funnel
  • Compass
  • Sat nav
  • Insurance
  • Breakdown recovery details
  • Booking confirmation
  • Leveling chocks
  • Jump leads
  • Driving license
  • Child car seats
  • Travel candy and games

 

A person with a DSLR camera.

Cameras and binoculars can also make great camping check list additions. Especially, analog cameras that don’t need to be charged.

 

Miscellaneous items

When planning your camping trip, use the above categories to work out what you might need for each area of your trip planning. However, there are some necessary items that don’t really fit into the above categories. For example, as every good scout will know, there’s often a situation where extra string and rope may come in useful in the great outdoors. And you might want to consider extra things like how to wash your clothes if your campsite doesn’t have laundry facilities. 

Check out our list below to see if there’s anything extra you might need, before heading off on your next camping adventure: 

 

  • Sewing kit
  • Scissors
  • Small ax or saw
  • Trowel or folding spade
  • Clothesline and pegs
  • Safety pins
  • Notepad and pens
  • String
  • Earplugs
  • Binoculars
  • Fire extinguisher/blanket
  • Foot or electric pump
  • First aid kit
  • Tweezers
  • Camera
  • Multi-tool
  • Backpack
  • Electric hook up cable
  • Money (cash and cards)
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle
  • Duct tape
ultimate camping checklist

The ultimate camping checklist.

Final Verdict:

So there we have it: the ultimate camping checklist. In this list, you’ll find all you could need for emergencies or practicality in your camping trip. Here we have all the right camping gear, whether you’re going car camping, and thus can take some of the heavier kits, or you’re heading out with a day pack, we’ve covered here the necessities – and then some. All that’s left now is for you to read this list, check you’ve got everything you need, and then add some extras to personalize the trip for you and your group! Whether that’s some bunting or decorations to beautify your campsite or your family’s favorite board game, you decide!

 

Bonus tip: For some extra ideas on what some great camping items are to bring on your backpacking trip, check out this video below!

 

 

Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.