The Essential Camping Checklist

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A camping checklist is a great tool for novice and experienced campers alike.

As a new camper, I wanted to make sure that my family and I had everything we could need to get by on a camping trip. The list below is a representation of my research and lessons learned along the way.

Many camping checklists I found online while doing my research specialized in specific forms of camping ranging from ultralight camping through to glamping (glamour camping).

I found it difficult to find a balanced camping checklist that introduced flexibility to add or remove items from the list, tailored to the type of camping trip I was going on. For example, when we go RV camping, I know I am able to take more amenities and extras than if I were backpacking and setting up camp along the trail.

Download the full checklist here and be sure to scan each section below for added notes and comments.

Table of Contents

Camping is very unique to the camper, and you must use this camping checklist not as a definitive guide, but rather as a foundation for you to build on and create your own unique experience with.

Campsite

When it comes to your campsite set up, some items are an absolute necessity to pack. These items are shelter (tent), and a sleeping bag with a sleeping pad to help keep you warm at night. 

Other items on this list add some comfort to your camping trip. 

  • Essentials
    • Tent (including tent footprint and stakes)
    • Sleeping bag
    • Sleeping pad(s)
    • Camping chair
    • Camping table (some sites may not have a picnic table)
    • Camping pillow
    • Clothesline
      • Note: You may want to use your paracord to make a clothesline instead of packing extra stuff!
    • Flashlights, headlamps, and extra batteries
    • Lantern
    • Firewood
      • Note: Ensure the firewood is local to your campsite area so you do not introduce new insects, pests, or diseases to the local ecosystem.
  • Extras
    • Tarp or sunshade
    • Hammock
    • Sleeping bag liner

Be sure to check your campground amenities before you pack for your trip. Many drive-in campgrounds have picnic tables, a firepit, and sell firewood that is local to your campsite.

Included amenities will change how you plan your camping checklist.

Camping Tools and Repair Kits

Having the right tools and repair equipment ensures that you can handle any bumps in the road as you set up camp and embark on day trips from your base camp.

  • Duct tape
  • Multi-tool
  • Axe or saw
  • Paracord
  • Tent pole repair sleeve
  • Sleeping pad/air mattress repair kit
  • Mallet or stake hammer

Cooking

You must use this section as a guide only, as much of the campsite cooking experience revolves around your desires and food plan! 

If you are happy to wrap their food in tinfoil and drop it on the grate above the fire? Well, you’ll need a lot less than what is on this list.

Want gourmet prepared foods while camping? You may find yourself adding to this list. 

When camping with my family, we find ourselves enjoying more than the basics, but by no means am I a gourmet campsite chef. These items are the bare requirements that get us by! 

  • Essentials
    • Camp stove and fuel
    • Matches, lighter, or other fire starters
    • Wash bins (or a camping sink)
    • Cooking pots and pans
    • Pot scrubber
    • Cooking utensils
    • Can opener
    • Sharp knife
    • Cutting board
    • Plates and bowls
    • Eating utensils
    • Mugs and cups
    • Dish towels
    • Large water jug (some campsites do not have potable water)
    • Cooler
    • Ice
    • Trash bags
    • Biodegradable soap (Coghlin’s Camp Soap is a great option at under $10)
  • Extras
    • Portable fire grill
    • Dutch oven
    • Charcoal
    • Portable coffee maker and mugs
    • Food storage bins and aluminum foil for leftovers

A note about food planning: It is extremely helpful to plan your meals ahead of time, create a shopping list, and get it done before hitting the road. Staples like oatmeal, sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs are great to have. 

If you are looking for more inspiration, most of my favorite recipes were pulled from The New Camp Cookbook which I bought on Amazon for less than $20 at the time.

Clothing and Footwear

After my first camping trip, I learned that it is always a good idea to pack extra clothing and footwear. It wasn’t the rain that caught me off-guard, my rain gear kept me dry during the storm. It was the melted marshmallow and baby spit up that made for dirty clothes.

While looking ahead at weather reports can help guide what you will need to pack, it is important that you are expecting the unexpected.

  • Essentials
    • Moisture-wicking short sleeve shirts
    • Quick-drying pants and shorts
    • Long sleeve sun shirts
    • Lightweight jacket
    • Warmer jacket or sweaters for evening
    • Synthetic or wool socks
    • Boots and/or shoes suited for the terrain
    • Sandals
    • Sleepwear
    • Sunglasses
    • Hat
  • Extras
    • Swimsuit
    • Water shoes
    • Earplugs
  • Rain and Cold Weather Camping Gear
    • Rain Jacket
    • Rain pants
    • Long underwear
    • Fleece pullover
    • Gloves or mittens
    • Warm hat
    • Insulated jacket

Hygiene Items

Personal hygiene while camping is not so much about ensuring you are clean-shaven and smelling of lavender and camomile. Rather, when you are packing your toiletries, you want to ensure that you meet basic levels of hygiene, and are prepared for cuts, scrapes, and bug bites.

Helpful hint: a stick of deodorant is not a bad thing, and goes a long way if you are camping in close quarters with others.

  • Deodorant
  • Feminine products
  • Prescription medications and supplements
  • Shower shoes
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Quick dry towels and washcloths
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent 
  • Camping shower (can be solar or pressurized)

Personal Items

For the organizers amongst us, this list will seem obvious, though it is prudent to ensure that you have everything listed below.

  • Campsite registration
  • Cell phone
  • Credit card
  • Cash
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Identification
  • First-aid kit

What to do next?

Review the camping checklist, and as you begin organizing and packing for your trip, double-check your gear before packing it to ensure that everything is in good working order.

If you are finding that some gear needs updating, or you need to purchase items you did not previously consider, head to our camping gear review section to find gear for any budget and experience level.

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AUTHOR

Whether travelling with the family in his RV, exploring the backcountry, or a day by the beach with the family, Mike has a passion for all things outdoors. In summer you will find him exploring the wilds near the camp, and in winter, Mike loves getting on his freestyle snowboard and hitting the slopes.