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.
If 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.
They Key to Packing for Camping
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?
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.
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:
- Pants, shorts
- Shoes & Hiking Boots
- Jacket, coat
- Hat, cap, toboggan
Tip: Bass Pro Shops has a nice selection of hiking boots for men and a great selection of hiking boots for women too. A couple of boot recommendations are: Cabela's Rimrock Mid GORE-TEX Hiking Boots for Men. These boots have all weather protection and comfort, moisture-wicking linings, removable cushion footbeds. You'll love the phenomenal traction, even when you're hiking through extreme elements. For the ladies, the same Cabela's Rimrock Mid GORE-TEX Hiking Boots.
Toiletries for Camp
- Toothbrush, paste
- Soap, shampoo
- Comb, brush
- Washcloth, towels
Miscellaneous Personal Camp Items
- Extra prescription glasses/contacts
- Prescription medicines
- Watch, alarm clock
- Sunscreen, lip balm
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:
- Tent, 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). The Bass Pro Shops Eclipse Voyager 6-person tent is a comfortable family tent with roomy screened porch sporting a roomy and easy-to-setup design. The vestibule front porch can be used for bug-free relaxing or sleeping and protected gear storage.
- 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 are a must comfort. A do-it-all solution for year-round camping is the Cabela's 5-in-1 Sleeping Bag System. You have 5 sleeping configurations in 1 sleeping bag. And, for those rainy nights durable polyester shells with water-resistant bottoms.
- Ground pads for sleeping, air mattresses and beds and/or camp cots
- Tarp (has many uses)
- Lantern (including fuel, mantles, funnel, batteries as necessary)
- Folding camp chairs, stools, tables
- Extension cords (for camps with electric hookups)
- Beverage/water jugs
- Camping shower
- Ax, hatchet and/or shovel
Make a List of Camp 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.)
- 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 camp kitchen items to consider for your list:
- Camp stove, fuel
- Charcoal, lighter fluid
- 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:
- Gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Single-edge razor blade
- Ace bandage
- Diarrhea medication
- Cold medication
- Sunburn relief
- Sting kill swabs
- Eye drops
- Cortisone (anti-itch) cream
- Antibiotic cream
- Antihistamine such as Benadryl
Amenities for Comfort & Outdoor Games While Camping
Finally, you should consider what items will keep you comfortable and amused on your camping trip. If you're car camping or tent camping and have the space, you can make your own DIY glamping campsite with such items as hanging camp lights, luxurious cozy bedding, an airbed, chunky or doubled sleeping pads or camp cots (don't forget the pillows). You're only limited by your imagination and how much you want to carry.
Campers, get active in the outdoors
We get it, you want to enjoy some fresh air and relaxation at the campsite, but you don't want that space and comradery go to waste.
Get active in the outdoors with outdoor games like KanJam's Outdoor Game Set or with the Poleish Sports Bottle Bash Outdoor Game that requires throwing, catching, strategy, teamwork, offense, and defense.
Tip: Watch video below to see exactly how you score points when playing KanJam.
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 and canoes. 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.