Camping is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors. But, camping and backpacking are also gear-intensive activities, so it can be hard to know what to bring on your first trip.
We know how tricky it can be to pack for a camping trip. That’s why we’ve created this complete camping checklist with everything you need to get out on your next outdoor adventure.
Up next, we’ll walk you through the most important pieces of gear that you should have on a camping trip. At the end, we’ll even offer up some of our top tips so you can feel prepared and organized before you head out.
The Complete Camping Checklist
Here’s our complete camping checklist, crafted with both car campers and backpackers in mind.
How exactly should you use this list, you might ask?
Well, the items we’ve listed here are general categories, like “hiking boots.” Of course, everyone and every camping trip is different, so we can’t tell you that one specific pair of hiking boots is guaranteed to be perfect for your feet on your next adventure.
Instead, we recommend that you read through the list and take note of the different items you’ll need. Then, check out our top tips, which will help you think about your upcoming trip’s individual camping needs.
Once you have an idea of what conditions and situations you’ll face in the outdoors, come back to this list, read through it again, and think about the ideal gear you’d want in each category before you buy new gear or rummage through your closet.
Let’s get to it!
- New! If you prefer to print out or save the list on your device, you can download a PDF version of it here.
NOTE: Every object marked with an asterisk (*) is generally optional. But, you may find that bringing these objects makes your camping trip fun and comfortable.
- This is a smart list! Meaning all items you checked off will be saved in your browser and remain checked on your next visit. Pretty cool, right?
Campsite & Shelter
A comfortable campsite and shelter system is essential for any enjoyable camping trip. Each of these items will help you create a home away from home in the mountains.
If you’re new to sleeping under the stars, it can be hard to imagine that you can sleep as well outside as you do at home. Thankfully, with the right gear, you can get your beauty rest, even when you’re far from your cozy bed.
Enjoying a home-cooked meal in the backcountry is one of the best parts about camping. To ensure that you can show off your masterchef skills in the woods, you’ll need a fully stocked outdoor kitchen for your next camping trip.
Eating & Drinking
While we don’t necessarily recommend packing your fine china on your next camping trip, you’ll definitely need some tools to eat and drink with. If you’re backpacking, you can likely do just fine with only a bowl, spook, and water bottle. But, for car camping, feel free to bring an entire outdoor cutlery set.
Clothing & Footwear
Proper clothing is a must while camping. In fact, having the right clothing can be the difference between a cold, wet trip and an adventure to tell your grandkids. When in doubt, pack more clothing, not less.
Although efficient packing is more critical for backpacking, it’s important for car camping, too. Keeping your gear organized and protected from the elements as you hike is the key to a happy camping trip.
Personal Tech & Gear
On any camping trip, there are plenty of smaller bits of gear that play a major role in your adventures. From maps and compasses to headlamps, here are some of the often-overlooked pieces of gear you should never leave home without.
Tools & Repair
Hopefully, your camping trip goes off without a hitch. But, things can and do break, especially if you spend a lot of time in the mountains. In these situations, having the right tools and repair supplies is essential.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is absolutely critical if you’re adventuring far from medical care. The following supplies should be part of any medical kit during a camping trip. But, it’s important to note that knowing how to use these supplies is just as important as having them. Consider taking a wilderness first aid course to learn more!
Hygiene & Washing
People often think that being outside means you can slack off on your personal hygiene. But, just because you’re covered in dirt, it doesn’t mean that you have to be dirty. These supplies can help ensure that you can stay clean and hygienic while roughin’ it in the great outdoors.
A roaring campfire is a fan-favorite activity during any camping trip. Whether you’ve made hundreds of fires before or you’re looking to start your first ever bonfire, you’ll want to be sure that you have the following gear on hand.
NOTE: Most campgrounds require that you purchase firewood locally to stop the spread of invasive species. Check in on local rules and regulations before your trip!
Fun & Entertainment (Optional)
Who says you can’t have some lighthearted fun while outside? Consider packing any of these optional items on your next camping trip for a bit of entertainment in the outdoors.
Extras For Car Camping (Optional)
When you’re car camping, you often have plenty of space for luxury items that can turn your campsite into a glorious outdoor abode. All of these items are completely optional for camping, but many car campers find that they greatly improve the quality of their experience.
Tips For Building Your Camping Gear List
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s no one-size fits all camping gear list. In fact, your camping checklist will depend greatly on your personal camping style and what you like to do when you’re outside.
With that in mind, here are some of our top tips for creating your ultimate camping gear list based on your unique needs.
Know Your Objective
Any good camping checklist starts with a thorough understanding of your objective. Before you head outside, ask yourself the following questions:
Where am I going?
Is your trip at a comfortable, frontcountry campground with all the amenities? Or, perhaps you’re heading on a backpacking trip to a remote destination in the mountains. As we’ll discuss in a bit, where you’re going will affect what gear you’ll bring and how much you can reasonably pack.
What is my camping style?
Everyone has a personal camping style. This can range from minimalist “survival” style camping all the way up to glamping (glamorous camping).
While some people find that they’re more than comfortable with getting by on the absolute minimum in terms of gear, others prefer more creature comforts. Thus, it’s important to know your camping style as it will dictate the type of gear you’ll bring.
What is my experience level?
It’s fairly common for less experienced campers to pack more than they need to for their first few outdoor adventures. This is completely normal and expected, as it takes time to work out what you need to feel comfortable while outside.
With that in mind, recognize that your personal packing list will change with time and experience. In the beginning, you may find that you pack a whole lot of gear that you never use. Over time, you can whittle away at your gear list and fine-tune it so that you only have what you need.
Consider The Weather
No one likes to be cold while they’re camping, so it’s important that you plan ahead for the weather. Although the forecast can certainly change, you’ll want to get a good understanding of the conditions that you’ll face before you head outside.
The weather conditions mostly affect your clothing and sleep system choices.
When it comes to clothing, you’ll want to pack enough layers so that you’ll be warm during the coldest possible nighttime temperature that you’ll face. Then, to ensure that you’ll stay cozy even if the temperatures are colder than forecasted, pack an extra layer or two, just in case.
For your sleep system, the temperature rating of your sleeping bag and the R-value of your sleeping pad are important.
With a sleeping bag, opt for a model that’s rated to 10º-15ºF (5º-9ºC) warmer than the coldest temperatures you expect at night. You may want to consider a sleeping bag liner for added warmth on particularly cold nights.
For more information, check out this video on how sleeping bag temperature ratings work:
Your sleeping pad is also an important, yet underrated piece of gear. It’s designed, not only to keep you comfortable, but to insulate you from the ground. So, opt for a model with an R-value (a measure of insulation in sleeping pads) of greater than 2 for summer use and greater than 5 for winter trips.
If you want a bit more information on how R-values work, check out this video from Thermarest:
Keep Your Pack Weight Low
If you’re planning to camp close to your vehicle, then the weight of your gear isn’t too terribly important. For backpackers, however, keeping your pack weight low is of the utmost importance.
A good way to do this is to find and pack multi-purpose gear. For example, while having a cup, mug, bowl, plate, and full cutlery set might be nice for car camping, you can normally do just fine with only a mug, bowl, and spoon during a backpacking trip.
As you prepare your personal gear list, consider ways that you can cut down on repetitive gear, to keep your pack weight at an absolute minimum.
At a campground, garbage isn’t a huge issue because you’re often within walking distance of a trash can. However, you may want to bring trash bags for use in your campsite during the day so you don’t have to walk back and forth to the garbage bins whenever you have something to throw out.
For backpacking, garbage is a bit more of a nuisance. When planning a backpacking trip, be sure to remove all excess packaging from your food supplies and gear and dispose of this before you leave home. Have spare plastic bags on hand for packing out all of your trash and a trowel for using the toilet while outside.
Additionally, check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for more guidance on disposing of waste properly while camping.
First Aid Supplies Are Essential
When you’re far from medical help, having your own first aid kit is a must.
We’ve listed a selection of critical items that everyone should have while camping for you to pack as these can handle everything from a minor scrape to an upset stomach.
With your first aid supplies, it’s a good idea to pack everything into a small, waterproof drybag that you keep at the top of your pack. That way, it’s always accessible when you need it in an emergency.
Keep in mind that knowledge of how to use first aid supplies is important, too. If you’ve never taken a wilderness first aid course before, we highly recommend signing up for one as you’ll learn information and skills that are invaluable during an emergency.
Packing for a camping trip can seem like a daunting, impossible task. But, we hope that our complete camping checklist made it easier for you to understand what you need to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share with your friends so they, too can get the gear they need for their upcoming adventures!