What should I bring for camping? Having proper tools and supplies can help you get the most out of your adventure.
Read on to find out what to bring in your camping kit starter pack.
Table of Contents
- 1 What do I need for first time camping?
- 2 What are the 10 essentials for camping?
- 3 What food should I bring for 3 days camping?
- 4 What should you not forget when camping?
- 5 What should you not bring to camp?
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Now you know what to pack
What do I need for first time camping?
Are you planning your first camping trip? If you are, having a camping checklist is an important part of your trip. In an ordinary vacation you’d need to pack more items. However, you only require a few things for your stay in the wilderness. Still, there is some essential camping gear you shouldn’t forget.
When you’re packing for a camping trip you should always be extra careful. When you forget to pack an item while on a road trip, you’ll likely be able to find it in a nearby store. However, realizing that your camping items are missing while in the wilderness is frustrating.
This camping checklist will help you pack all the camp supplies and gear you’ll need.
Your gear for camping checklist should include lightweight clothes made from moisture-wicking fabric. These are convenient because you can reuse them a few times before washing. Other clothing items to bring on your camping trip are,
- A light hat
- Woolen socks
- Breathable and waterproof jacket
- Sandals or good gripped water shoes
- Trail runners of hiking boots
- Long-sleeved shirts and pants, and storage compression cubes
Eating and drinking camping essentials
Because sit-down restaurants are rare in the wilderness, you’ll most likely be cooking your own meals on your outdoor adventure. For this you should include the following camping gear in your checklist.
- A camping stove with enough cooking oil. The stove you choose should be ideal for car camping or backpacking
- A reusable lightweight water bottle
- Eating and cooking utensils
- Water filtration option
- A small chopping board
- A food pack
- Soap and a lightweight towel, and
- A bear bin (a thick container that’s often made of plastic and used as a physical obstruction to safeguard scented camping necessities from wild animals)
Personal camping must-haves
Unless you’re using a glamorous camping equipment list, only carry the basic necessities as seen below.
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
- Lip balm with sun protection
- Itch relief and bug spray
- A first aid kit
- Hand sanitizer
- A toiletry kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and hairbrush
- Painkillers, and
- Any prescription medication you should take
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If your tenting camping itinerary involves moving to multiple spots, or hiking, consider purchasing the camp supply items below in advance.
- A portable GPS
- A map and compass to act as an alternative to the GPS
- Pencil and pen
- Chargers for your gadgets
- A guidebook or map
- Two-way radios especially if you’ll be traveling as a large group
- Travel lantern, and
- Headlamps or flashlights and extra batteries
Camping checklist for comfortable sleep
- A tent
- Tent stakes
- Sleeping bags
- Sunshade and tarp
- Mallet to secure poles in the ground especially if you’ll be car camping
- Travel pillows
- A light mattress or sleeping pads
- Pocket knife to help with cutting needs that may arise
- A folding table and chairs
One good thing about camping is spending extensive time with family and friends without distractions. To make the most of your time, make sure you’ve got the appropriate tools in your camping checklist to help you participate in a variety of activities.
- A camera with long lasting battery for recording videos
- Playing cards
- Kayaking gear such as paddles, life jackets, and a repair kit
- Fishing gear such as reels, poles, lines, tackle, and lures
- Bikes where possible and their locks
- Travel-friendly board games, and
As a first time camper, you can use this camping supplies list to give you an idea of what you should pack. You may not need all these items and most of the time what you pack depends on your trip. For instance, let’s assume your group will be hiking the entire day while pitching tents in different locations.
In this case, you’ll want to invest in good quality hiking essentials and tents. If you’ll be camping on one spot throughout, omit the bicycles and buy some board games instead to keep you busy.
What are the 10 essentials for camping?
People have been camping since ancient times. This is evident from the fact that The Mountaineers (an organization based in Seattle) compiled their initial camping essentials checklist in the 1930s for outdoor enthusiasts. It was meant to help people prepare for outdoor emergency situations.
Their camping checklist included:
- A compass
- Extra clothing
- First aid kit
- Fire starters
- Extra food
- Knives, and
- A headlamp or flashlight.
- Duct Tape
The camping industry has since evolved and become popular. We’ll discuss what the modern-day camping checklist looks like. Remember, you can customize your camping checklist to meet specific needs of your trip.
For instance, you may opt for a map, personal locator beacon or compass if you’ll be going for a short day hike.
An altimeter and GPS won’t be necessary in this case. If you’ll be camping for a long time however, you may need a combination of navigation tools to help you find direction in the wilderness. Before deciding what to pack for camping, you need to consider various factors such as duration, weather, distance, and complexity.
Here is a comprehensive camping checklist of what to bring.
1. Direction Tools
Modern-day direction tools include a compass, map, watch, altimeter, GPS gadget, and a personal locator beacon.
A compass is a crucial tool that can help you figure direction in case you’re stuck in an unknown place. Many GPS gadgets, smartphones, and even watches today come with an electronic compass.
However, you should always have a basic baseplate compass. This is because it’s lightweight and doesn’t rely on batteries. This means it can be a powerful backup. Remember, you can use a compass that comes with a sighting mirror to call for help or alert your rescuers.
You should always carry at least one topographic map especially when going for long term trips. Make sure you know how to read the map.
- Altimeter watch
This is an invaluable navigation gadget you may want to include in your camping supply list. It utilizes a barometric sensor to calculate GPS data or air pressure to estimate your elevation.
This information helps you to monitor your progress and find your location on the map. You’ll find these features in some G-Shock models.
- GPS gadgets
GPS gadgets help you to pinpoint your location accurately on a digital map. Specially designed GPS devices for outdoor-related activities are rugged and waterproof. You can also use the GPS option on your smartphone for more convenience.
However, you should beware that many smartphones are delicate and you’ll need to safeguard them. Further, understand that mobile phones can run out of batteries easily. For this reason, you’ll have to pack extra batteries and power banks.
- A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon (PLB)
These devices come in handy to alert emergency teams whenever you need help. Once activated in an emergency, they’ll establish your position with the help of GPS and send an alert through commercial or government satellites.
These gadgets can be an alternative backup if something goes wrong. The good thing is that they operate well in remote areas where smartphones may be ineffective.
Navigating your way in the wilderness at night is critical. To help with this you’ll need to make sure and have a good light source. In this case, a headlamp is an ideal choice for camper gear because it’s an hands-free option.
You can use it as you go about other tasks such as preparing dinner in the wilderness. Always have extra batteries to be on the safe side.
2. Sun protection
Short term exposure to the sun can cause snow blindness or sunburn. You could suffer skin cancer, cataracts, or even premature aging of skin from long exposure to the sun. To prevent these effects, you’ll need the following sun protection items when camping.
Good quality sunglasses are a must have camping essentials in the outdoors. They help in protecting your eyes from harmful radiation. Choose extra-dark glacier glasses if you’re preparing for a long trip on ice or snow. Ensure the sunglasses you choose can block 100% of ultraviolet rays.
Remember, ultraviolet rays can burn and damage your skin. They’ve also been said to trigger the development of cataracts. If you’re traveling as a group have at least a pair of extra sunglasses.
These will come in handy if someone damages or loses theirs.
- Sun-protection clothing
Clothes are an effective way of blocking away ultraviolet rays from penetrating through to your skin without using sunscreen. Some of the lightweight synthetic camping clothing comes with ultraviolet protection factor ratings. This is basically a scale to show how effective they’re against UVB and UVA light. Always wear a wide brimmed hat to enhance sun protection.
Being outdoors for long exposes your skin to ultraviolet rays. However, you can limit their effects by wearing sunscreen. Ensure the sunscreen you choose contains a sun protection factor (SPF) of around 15. For prolonged stay outdoors you should use a sunscreen with SPF 30.
Always apply your sunscreen generously on any parts of your exposed skin. Remember, you don’t have to be exposed to direct sunlight to suffer from the effects of ultraviolet rays. These can even reflect from water and snow.
Pay special attention to areas around the nose and chin. Apply your sunscreen twice a day or depending on the weather patterns and time of day. Ensure your lip balm is SPF rated too.
3. First Aid
Not only should you carry a first aid kit, but you should also understand how to use it. Today, you can access pre-assembled first aid kits to make your work easier. Still, some people prefer customized kits that meet their individual needs. Any kit you buy should include
- Blister treatment
- Gauze pads
- Adhesive bandages of different sizes
- Disinfectant ointment
- Adhesive tape
- Pen and Paper
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Nitrile gloves
The first aid kit you choose should cater to every camper’s needs. Include a compact guide for handling medical emergencies.
4. Knife / Gun
You can use knives to aid food preparation, gear repair, administer first aid, and firewood. If you’re traveling as a group every adult should at least carry a pocket knife.
A standard knife can have a single fold out blade while complex knives come with other features such as screwdrivers, a foldout scissors, and can opener. The knife you choose depends on how complex your needs are. It’s a good idea to keep a quality EDC knife on your person for daily activities or emergencies.
Make sure and carry a good survival rifle or handgun if you’re going to be around wild animals.
Reliable supplies will come in handy to help you start and maintain a fire in case of an emergency. Some people may choose disposable butane lighter but you can still use ordinary matches. Ensure that your matches are waterproof. If you can’t find these, you can store your normal matches in a waterproof container.
You’ll also need a reliable fire starter to help you during wet conditions. A good fire starter lights up fast and maintains heat for longer periods. Some options you may consider include,
- Firewood stored in a plastic or any other waterproof bag
- Heat nuggets
- Priming paste
- Lint trappings
Always carry an emergency stove if you’ve no access to firewood and aren’t sure of getting any at your camping destination.
Always pack an emergency shelter. This safeguards you from wind and rain especially in the unfortunate event that you either get injured or stranded. Some of the options you can choose from include,
- An emergency space blanket
- A bivy sack
- A massive trash bag
- An ultralight tap
It’s worth mentioning that your tent can only be termed as your emergency shelter if you’ll have it with you at all times. In many cases, you’ll leave your tent at your camping site. This is why it doesn’t fit the emergency camping essentials supplies.
6. Extra food
Always pack extra food to survive on in case of an emergency. Choose food items that come with a longer shelf life and require minimal cooking. Opt for energy bars, dried fruits, nuts, or jerky. Extra food in this case could be a day’s supply of food.
However, if you’ll be going for a multiple day winter or hiking adventure consider packing more food.
7. Extra drinking water
Water is critical for your survival and it’s always advisable to have enough water, and a reliable treatment method on your camping checklist. You can either pack a purifier, stove for snow melting, or a chemical treatment option.
What considerations should you make when deciding the amount of water you need? It’s important to understand that many people require at least half a liter of water per hour under moderate activity and temperatures.
Consider carrying more water when camping in higher altitudes or areas with adverse temperatures. Start by carrying at least one collapsible water reservoir or water bottle. Before starting your camping trip, fill your reservoir or bottle from a safe to drink source.
8. Extra Clothes
The weather can be unpredictable and friendly conditions can suddenly become windy, wet, or even extremely chilly. Again, an injury can force you to spend your night in the wilderness. This is why you should have more clothes than you need for the trip. These will sustain you until help comes around.
When determining your camping checklist, think about what you may need to survive prolonged inactive periods in case of an emergency. Some great common options include extra socks and gloves to keep you warm.
You’ll also need a synthetic vest or jacket and a layer of underwear, that is tops and bottoms. If you’re going out in winter, it’s a great idea to carry insulation for your legs and upper body.
What food should I bring for 3 days camping?
Food is an important consideration to make when you’re planning a camping trip. Let’s discuss some of the food options you should include in your camping packing list.
Choose something that doesn’t require complex preparation such as a power bar or muesli. Instant oatmeal with nuts, fruits, and honey is also a great choice to begin your day.
If you prefer a hot breakfast, a great option is instant pancake mix. With this, all you’ll need to do is add water, shake, and cook your breakfast in a matter of minutes. A cup of hot tea or coffee can ignite you for the day.
Other great breakfast food ideas you can try
- Energy or protein bars
- Powdered milk
Here, you’ll need something you can prepare fast that doesn’t require heating. Some campers prefer fast lunches that don’t interfere with the rest of their plans. This explains why they’ll be snacking throughout the day on wrap bread or crackers to maintain body energy. Vegetarians can pack sun-dried tomatoes, tahini, or hummus.
Non-vegetarians have numerous options to choose from. Cheese and salami or a packet of tuna for instance would be great sources of protein. All you need is to include your favorite flavoring and you’re good to go.
Easy lunch options to choose from
- Pita bread
- Biscuits and crackers
- Honey, jam, nut butter, chutney or relish
- Rye or other dense bread
- Dried meats
- Shelf-stable hummus or tahini
If you’re a gourmet eater and prefer making your own meals while camping you can pack staple carbs. These include
- Instant rice, and
Add protein options and dried vegetables before completing the meal with spices or sauces. In the end, you’ll have a tasty meal that will nourish your body with sufficient nutrients. You want to include variety rather than having to survive on similar meals for the entire camping period.
When creating your hiking menu, consider how long cooking of some foods will take. Remember, foods that require long cooking periods will need more fuel.
Quinoa for example may not be the best food option to pack for a hiking trip because it takes approximately 15 minutes to cook.
Interesting food ideas for a hiking dinner
- Fast cooking rice
- Tuna, salmon, or sardines in a packet (not a tin)
- Cheese such as gouda or cheddar
- Dried vegetables
- Jerky, salami, or other dried meat
- Instant mash potato
These come in handy after a long day when you feel too tired to cook. Freeze-dried meals are not only lightweight but they also require little preparation. There are various options to choose from such as desserts and meal sides.
These meals are usually made for camping, hiking, and emergency situations and contain a proper balance of sugar, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These are enough to cater for all your nutrition needs.
All you’ll need is to boil water, pour it on the pack, and allow it to stand for 10 minutes. Your meal is now ready for consumption. Freeze-dried foods can be costly but they’re convenient.
What should you not forget when camping?
Camping is all fun until you forget some of the most critical things. No matter how excited you’re to go camping, always ensure you’ve the following items in place.
You need water more than food to survive. Think about where you’ll be camping. Is there enough safe public water? Perhaps it’s a remote region near a creek or lake. What options will you have if your camping site has no safe drinking water? These are some of the factors you should consider before beginning your journey.
You should have a proper plan for a site with safe drinking water and a remote region in the desert. In any case, you can organize a large container on the site to ensure you’ve sufficient water.
Apart from drinking, you’ll need water for various tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and putting off the fire.
While this is a crucial camping essential, many people usually forget it. A cooler helps protect food from outdoor elements. It also maintains food freshness to protect you from food poisoning.
With a high-performance cooler, your food will remain fresh and cold for up to three days after opening. You can also use it to store and keep your beverages cold especially during hot weather. Remember to put enough ice in your cooler.
Sitting on the ground is neither fun nor is it comfortable. When going camping, you can create space for some chairs in your vehicle. If you’re a backpacker, however, chairs may be too heavy for you to carry.
Whether or not you’ll pack firewood will depend on your camping situation. Camping experts say that buying firewood locally at the campsite would be ideal. Again, transporting firewood in some regions can be illegal.
It’s always good to research and have a plan in advance. Campfires are some of the things that make camps unique. You don’t want to miss them for lack of firewood.
How long do you plan to be out on camp? If you’ll be out for some days, you’ll need to prepare some camping meals enough for you and the entire group. Remember, you’ll be in a wild animal habitat and it’s always advisable to never leave any food out.
This is where airtight containers come in. They are ideal for keeping bears and raccoons away from your cabin. Airtight containers are designed to stop any food smell and keep hungry animals at bay.
High-quality survival knife
While on the camp you may want to fillet fish, cut a rope, or trim a walking stick. This is where you need a high-quality knife. Invest in a good knife that can complete the chopping, slicing, and piercing tasks well. You can learn more about what knives are good for every day carry and self defense here.
Other important things you should always remember include
- A sleeping bag
- A tent
- Warm clothing, and
- A sleeping pad
What should you not bring to camp?
Read on to find out.
Leave your iPod, iPad, and video games at home for the ultimate summer camp experience. You can only get the most out of camp if you’ve minimal distractions. Further, many camping sites bar campers from bringing their mobile gadgets.
You’ve no reason to carry your valuables to camp. This isn’t because you could end up losing them, but you also don’t want to risk losing your most valuable belongings.
Leave your expensive diamond and gold jewelry because you won’t need them while hiking . This way, you’re guaranteed of having an enjoyable camping experience.
Certain food items
While you may be tempted to pack candy, doing so encourages ants to invade your tent. Some of the best summer camping sites provide you with enough well-balanced food.
If you or anyone in your group has special dietary requirements you can always inform the camp officials in advance. This will give them time to make the necessary arrangements to cater for people with special needs.
Still, some campers prefer cooking their own food. Always research and contact the camp officials for clarifications on what you should or shouldn’t carry.
Your valuable clothing
Unless an end of the summer camp dance party is organized, leave your glamorous clothes at home. You can always pack casual but smart clothes to wear just in case an abrupt event comes up.
Frequently Asked Questions
What shouldn’t you wear when camping?
Avoid sandals with socks. If you’ve got to keep your feet warm with socks, matching them with sneakers would be ideal. Any clothing with alcohol or drugs featured is also not allowed in many camping sites.
Some security guards will even deny you entry at the camping site. You also want to avoid poorly fitting clothing – especially swimwear – while at the camp.
What essential camping items are you likely to forget?
- A clothes’ line and hanging pegs
- Dishwashing tub
- Cutting board
- Plastic table cloth
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper or baby wipes
- Tent stakes
How do you sleep comfortably in a tent?
These campsite gear tips will help you get a goodnight’s sleep in a tent.
- Buy a good quality sleeping bag
- Use comfortable tent bedding
- Pitch your tent in the perfect location
- Earplugs will keep any noise away
- Stick to your normal sleeping routine
- Warm your sleeping bag
- Remain calm
What snacks are good for camping?
The good thing about these snacks is that you can easily make them at home.
- Homemade granola bars
- Gluten-free cheesy crackers
- Spiced and roasted almonds
- Chocolate chip skillet cookie
- Sweet banana bread, and
- Jelly and peanut butter granola
Now you know what to pack
With the right camping essentials, you’re sure to get the best camping experience. Always go through your camping checklist before leaving for camp to ensure you’ve everything you need. Use this guide to ease your preparation process.
More helpful reading on gears for camping: