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What to Pack for Camping

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February 27, 2015
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If you've never camped before, you may be worried you'll be missing something important when you arrive at your camping destination. To be honest, it happens to all of us sooner or later. We unroll our tent and find we don't have any stakes. The skillet we thought we packed is at home on the stove. The weather turns cold and we remember we should have brought extra clothes.

camp shopIf you're like me, there's only way to avoid such forgetfulness: make a camp list. Do this well in advance of your campout, assessing your needs and creating a list of things you want to be sure you take with you. Then, after you have gathered everything for your trip, check off the items you have and be sure nothing's missing. Then double-check the list again for good measure.

What you need will depend largely on what type of camping trip you're planning. If you're driving to a campsite, for example, you can take whatever your vehicle will hold. If you're backpacking to your camp, however, you'll have to limit the weight and volume of your gear.

Do some research ahead of time that will help you determine what items to pack. Does your campsite have running water? If not, you'll have to carry water or a means of making it potable. Going to bear country? You may need rope and a bag to hang your food out of reach of bruins. Will you be in tick and chigger country? Insect repellent should be on your list. What's the weather forecast? You might need rain gear or winter clothing. Get the idea?

The key is to be as thorough as possible, and err on the side of caution when trying to decide whether or not something on your list should be packed. Some items -- matches, toilet paper, a flashlight and rain gear, for instance -- should be packed for every trip, regardless of whether you think you might need them or not. Others such as fishing tackle, playing cards and binoculars may or may not need to go depending on your plans once you reach your destination.

To get you started, allow Old Forgetful Me to share portions of my own Camping Checklist, developed after many years of trial and error in the outdoors. I keep my list on my computer, print out a copy before every trip and examine it thoroughly to be sure I haven't forgotten anything I'll need. Use it as the basis for creating your own list that you can refine as time goes along.

Camping Essentials

The first items on my list are what I call "Camp Essentials." It's possible I might not need one of these items on a particular trip, but if I do (and chances are, I will), I'll have it. These are important things every camper will probably need sooner or later, including:

Personal Items to Bring on a Camping Trip

In this category, I include outdoor clothing, toiletries and other items each person in the group should bring. Everyone should pack the necessary number of items needed for the duration of the trip. The exact items will vary according to individual needs, time of year and other factors, but here are the items on my list:


  • clothing shop nowPants, shorts
  • Shirts
  • Underclothes
  • Shoes/boots
  • Socks
  • Belt
  • Jacket, coat
  • Hat, cap, toboggan
  • Gloves
  • Swimwear
  • Nightwear


  • Toothbrush, paste
  • Soap, shampoo
  • Mirror
  • Comb, brush
  • Deodorant
  • Washcloth, towels


  • Extra prescription glasses/contacts
  • Prescription medicines
  • Watch, alarm clock
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen, lip balm

Camping Gear

If you're camping in a trailer or RV, you may not need to worry about many of the items listed below. But in this article, we'll assume you're going to be tent camping. That being the case, some items you may want to bring include:

  • camp gear shop2Tent, tent fly, poles, stakes and ropes (set up the tent before leaving to be sure everything is there and you know how to put it up)
  • Hammer or hatchet (for driving tent stakes; keep it in the tent bag)
  • Ground cloth (to go under the tent and keep it clean and dry)
  • Sleeping bags
  • Ground pads for sleeping, air mattresses and beds and/or cots
  • Pillows
  • Tarp (has many uses)
  • Lantern (including fuel, mantles, funnel, batteries as necessary)
  • Folding camp chairs, stools, tables
  • Extension cords (for camps with electric hookups)
  • Coolers
  • Beverage/water jugs
  • Camping shower
  • Ax, hatchet and/or shovel
  • Broom

Make a List of Food Items

Plan your meals before leaving home, and make a list of all food items you'll need using your menus as a guide. Some campers like to have elaborate outdoor meals, while others prefer not to cook at all. Either way, here's a list to help you remember some of what you might need:

  • Meats (hamburger, hot dogs, steaks, bacon, sausage, chicken, etc.)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Bread, buns, biscuits, crackers
  • Vegetables (potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, salad dressings, syrup, BBQ sauce, etc.)
  • Drinks (coffee, tea, sodas, Kool-aid, juice, etc.)
  • Staples (flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, pepper, herbs, spices, butter, cooking oil, etc.)
  • Snack foods, dessert ingredients

 Camp Cooking, Food Service & Cleanup

The items you'll need for preparing meals, serving them and cleaning up will once again vary greatly according to your own preferences. Here are some to consider for your list:

  • camp grill stove shopCamp stove, fuel
  • Charcoal, lighter fluid
  • Firewood
  • Cooking Grill or camping grill
  • Portable propane oven
  • Camp skillet, pots and pans
  • Carving/cutting knives
  • Spatula, tongs, serving fork and spoon
  • Can opener
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plates, cups, bowls
  • Flatware (forks, spoons, knives)
  • Scouring pads, detergent
  • Zip-loc bags
  • Garbage bags
  • Paper towels, dish towels
  • Oven mitt, pot holder

Emergency Gear to Bring on a Camping Trip

"Plan for the worse and hope for the best." That old saying has merit when you're camping. Always be prepared just in case something unexpected happens by having on hand a tool kit that includes a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches; a repair kit that contains such things as duct tape, wire, nylon twine, superglue and rope; and a first aid kit like the top rated Bass Pro Shops Weekender First Aid Kit that includes all or some of the following basic items:

  • Band-Aids
  • first aid kit
    Bass Pro Shops Weekender First Aid Kit
    Gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Aspirin
  • Tweezers
  • Needle
  • Moleskin
  • Single-edge razor blade
  • Antacid
  • Ace bandage
  • Diarrhea medication
  • Cold medication
  • Laxative
  • Bandages
  • Sunburn relief
  • Thermometer
  • Sting kill swabs
  • Eye drops
  • Scissors
  • Cortisone (anti-itch) cream
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Antihistamine such as Benadryl

Amenities for Comfort While Camping

Finally, you should consider what items will keep you comfortable and amused on your camping trip. If you're car camping and have the space, you can make your campsite luxurious with such items as hanging camp lights and a hammock. Books, phone apps for camping, a radio, playing cards, your journal, art supplies, board games and musical instruments all add to a cozy domestic camping style.

What extracurricular activities will be part of your camping trip? List what you'll need: camera and film, field guides, binoculars, fishing tackle, hunting gear, bikes, kayaks. If you're leaving the campsite during the day, add a day pack or fanny pack to your list.

This list I'll leave entirely up to you. But don't forget to do it. Having fun and relaxing is what camping is all about. And now that you have a good idea what you need to pack for your trip, you can add those luxury items that are sure to help you enjoy the experience even more.


Tagged under Read 57668 times Last modified on August 21, 2017
Keith Sutton

With a resume listing more than 3,500 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country’s best-known outdoor writers. In 2011, Sutton, who has authored 12 books, was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a “Legendary Communicator.” Visit his website at

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