If you are planning to go camping regularly, you are going to need camping gear that allows you to be moderately comfortable out in the wilderness. While there are a select few who prefer to actually “rough it,” taking a minimalist approach to this recreational activity, most people tend to lean towards comfort and convenience – still enjoying the wilderness, but with the ability to cook food, sit comfortably and sleep indoors, on a soft mattress.
That’s why knowing what to bring on a camping trip is essential, and having a list of things to bring camping already prepared will allow you to do your shopping more quickly, and be certain that you aren’t forgetting anything.
Camping gear can be expensive, particularly if you buy everything at once, but most people buy gear a little at a time, and some items can be found secondhand for a great deal less than what they would cost new. It also depends upon what store you buy your gear from. A department store, for example, may not have the selection that an outdoors specialty store does, but they will almost always have lower prices.
Your camping gear list will differ slightly depending upon whether your camping trip is a couple’s retreat, a solo adventure or camping with the entire family. However, most of the gear listed below will be necessary no matter who is going. Let’s take a look at the camping gear that you’ll need to start collecting.
The first item on our list is the camping bed. There are a couple of different options out there when it comes to camping beds. The first is the basic camping air mattress, a rubber mattress filled with air that is fairly comfortable to sleep on.
These mattresses have the advantage of being lightweight and taking up very little space, but they do tend to pop easily which can be a problem in the woods. The other basic type of camp mattress is the cot.
These are generally made of lightweight aluminum and fabric and while they are a little less comfortable than air mattresses, and weight more, they are also much sturdier for camping. You might also need to bring things like a foam sleeping pad, an air pump and a repair kit for the air mattress.
You are also going to need a camping tent of some kind, in order to protect yourself from the elements, insects and small animals. A tent is one of the biggest expenditures, but it is also one of the most important pieces of gear that you will take camping.
You can have a great sleeping bag and still be miserable if the wind is too strong, if it rains, or if the mosquitoes are active at your campsite. Choosing a tent is one of the biggest parts of collecting your gear.
When it comes to the size of your tent, the number of people sleeping in it will dictate what you choose. The tent style is also important, but is more of a matter of personal preference. Tents are generally marked by how many people they can hold.
A two-man tent will fit two people semi-comfortably but you probably want to go larger if you want everyone to have enough space. If you don’t mind snuggling up with your tent partner, you can make do with a smaller tent.
In addition to the tent itself, and the accessories that are very likely sold with it, you might want to bring some additional supplies. For example, bringing a tarp to cover your tent in case of a sudden rain shower is a very good idea. It will keep you dry and protect your tent from the dampness.
You may also want to bring some extra tent stakes in case some get broken, additional tarps to set up mini shelters over your camp chairs to protect from the sun or the rain, a mini broom and dustpan for cleaning up the floor of the tent and a hammer to make sure that your tent stakes are pounded into the ground solidly.
Another big item that you will want to carefully consider is your camping chairs. Camp chairs allow you to enjoy your campsite in comfort without having to sit on stumps, sharp, jagged rocks or on the ground.
A camper who is intent on “roughing it” may not make camp chairs a priority, but if you are just planning to enjoy nature and still be moderately comfortable, camp chairs are vital to your trip. There are a couple of different types of chairs intended for camping that you can pick from.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you can find camping chairs in other categories. For example, some of the patio furniture out there can make really great camping chairs. The main thing is that they are portable and lightweight and can easily be transported to your camp site. Of course, the more comfortable they are, the better, so you want to take that into consideration as well.
You might also want to consider a camping hammock in your gear list. The great thing about hammocks is that they are extremely lightweight and only require a few ropes to put up. A hammock is an extremely comfortable way to spend an afternoon, and can use the shade of the trees that it is tied to as protection from the sun.
You can also use a hammock as a place to sleep, but generally, you want to avoid making a hammock your only option for sleeping because it doesn’t offer much protection from the wind, rain or insects.
Another piece of important gear is the camping backpack. Your backpack will hold your supplies when you are hiking, keep everything important all in one place, and protect your food, medication and personal items from animals. But choosing a backpack is the first step.
Things to keep in mind as you are shopping include the amount of space that the backpack has available, how much the weight is going to be (before you fill it with your stuff) and how durable and weatherproof the pack is.
There are definitely some great backpacks out there but they can get expensive. Your best bet if you don’t have an unlimited budget is to decide what is most important to you. Do you need extra storage space or is it more important that your backpack be light enough for you to easily take out on the hiking trail?
Are you going to be camping or hiking in the winter or where it is likely to rain? These are all things that must be taken into consideration when choosing a backpack for camping.
If you are planning on spending more than a day or two camping then you might want to consider a camping shower. While showering is not as important when you are roughing it in the wilderness, the fact that you are going to be sleeping with other people in a small tent, possibly in very warm weather, may make showering a necessity.
If you are a campground, you might already have shower facilities included in your camping fees, but if not, there are portable shower units that you can use to get clean.
A camping table is another item that while not absolutely necessary, makes your camping trip much more pleasant and easy to manage. A folding table that you can set up near your camp site will allow you to prepare food and keep items out of the reach of small animals and many insects.
Folding tables are inexpensive and can actually be very lightweight and small, but sturdy enough for a variety of items. If you are planning on using a camping stove or charcoal grill to cook food rather than the open fire, a camp table might be a requirement.
When you are camping in the winter or any time of the year that it gets cold at night, a camping heater may come in handy. Although a fire will keep you warm most of the time, many people prefer to run battery-operated, gas or electric heaters (with a portable generator) at their campsite to keep their tent and common areas warm.
There are a number of heaters out there that are intended for camping and with this particular gear item, safety is a top priority. Setting the wrong heater inside of a tent and falling asleep with it on could end up very badly if it falls over and catches on fire. Make sure that you carefully read the manufacturer’s description and customer reviews on heaters before you buy.
You are also going to need a comprehensive list of supplies for cooking – not just cookware but a whole list of items that will allow you to cook and store food so that you can feed your family during your camping trip. Obviously, it starts with camping cookware. You need pots, pans, skillets and griddles, or some combination of these items, in order to cook your food, whether you are using a portable stove or cooking over the open fire.
Camping cookware is different than normal cookware. It requires added durability and a resistance to scorching, such as cast iron cookware. In addition, you want food to cook evenly over a fire and that can be challenging without the right pots and pans. Finally, you want all of your camp cookware to have lids, to keep debris and insects from getting into the food, as well as preventing the smell from attracting animals.
Here is a list of some of the other cooking supplies that you might want to have with you when you go camping:
A camping stove can be a very useful item. A camp fire can be used to cook on, but it is difficult, and you aren’t going to be able to cook everything. A camp stove, on the other hand, is convenient and allows food to cook easily and evenly within the pots and pans that you use.
There are several different camping stoves out on the market, and the style that you choose will depend upon what you want to cook. Some of them are distinguished by the fuel that they use – such as charcoal or propane, and some by the method of cooking such as a Dutch oven.
You are also going to need coolers to store your food if you are camping for more than a single day. According to the FDA food safety guidelines, perishables such as eggs, meat or milk need to be stored below 40 degrees (F) if they are going to be at room temperature for more than a couple of hours, or even less time if the temperature is above 90 degrees.
This makes a cooler a necessity if you are carrying these items. If all you have is canned food that doesn’t require refrigeration a cooler may not be as important, but there is more that these insulated coolers are used for than just food storage.
Many people bring beverages – alcoholic and nonalcoholic – on their camping trips. These items do not require refrigeration but they are difficult to drink without storage in a cooler. On a hot day, you will be glad that you have an ice-lined cooler to get drinks from.
Plus, if you are on a camping trip that lasts more than a day or two, you probably want to bring meat anyway. Living on canned goods for an entire week isn’t all that exciting and your camping trip is supposed to be fun.
Another thing that you will need to pack is some camping clothes. Camping clothes are a little different than regular clothes. Remember – you will not have the protection of your furnace to keep you warm at night, nor will you have air conditioning, unless you happen to be camping in an RV.
Make sure to bring appropriate clothing to keep you warm at night and cool during the day. In the case of winter camping, you are going to want to dress even warmer, because the temperature is going to drop at night and even in the daytime, when you are on a hike or gathering wood for a fire, you are going to want to be warm.
Here is a short list of clothing to bring with you on your camping trip. This is a basic checklist and you may think of things to add that surpass these items here. The best thing to do is to make additions beforehand so that you remember everything you meant to bring, rather than trying to remember everything on the day you pack up your clothes for camping.
Unless you are camping at an actual campground, you are probably going to have limited access to water; that’s why bringing your own water is a smart idea. Not only should you bring at least one large water-jug that will last you the entire camping trip, you should bring a bucket that you can use to fetch more water if there is some nearby.
You will also very likely have ice in your coolers, which can be used to put out camp fires at the end of your trip so that you don’t have to save your drinking water for that purpose. Also, bring any thermoses or other beverage containers you’d like to have on hand.
One of the things that you might not have considered is a camping water filter. A portable water filter will allow you to get water from the creek or a nearby water source and ensure that it is clean and safe to drink.
Even water from campsites may not be as clean as you would like, and a water filter will come in handy in countless ways. There are some really good portable water filters out there that can be transported in the back of a vehicle and then set up to filter your water in seconds.
Lighting is something else that people often miss when planning for a camping trip. Normally, they will remember a couple of flashlights, but if you really want to make your campsite safe and offer the conveniences of home, you may want to consider camping lanterns or other stationary light sources.
There are various types of letting depending upon the fuel source that you want to use and what your budget is. Of course, you should also bring along several flashlights to be used in tents and for emergencies. Lanterns can be hung around the campsite to illuminate the way when you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but it usually makes more sense to use a flashlight instead.
You are also going to need some camp tools like a camping knife, a hammer and a camping hatchet, just to name a few. A knife will allow you to cut rope, help you prepare food and serve a large number of functions out in the wilderness. According to camping and canoeing expert Cliff Jacobson, who has published a number of books on the subject, a good sharp knife (and sharpening tools) is the most important tool that you have out in the wilderness.
A hatchet is also a vital instrument for camping because you will probably need to cut firewood and create kindling for starting the fire in the first place. A hammer will allow you to pound in tent poles, secure lines for hanging a hammock or shelter from the shade and many other tasks. Other items you might want to consider include a shovel, a saw, an axe and miscellaneous screwdrivers or socket wrenches if your tents or tables require those tools.
You are definitely going to need bedding if you are going camping. A tent does not offer the greatest protection against the cold so you are going to need sleeping bags, blankets and pillows for your camping trip. There are lots of sleeping bags out there including those rated for extreme cold and sleeping bags that are intended for more than one person.
The sleeping bags that you choose will depend upon your budget, what time of year you are planning to go camping and how warm you prefer to be at night. However, in general, your list should include the following:
One category of items that is rather separate from all of the other camping gear that you will be collecting is the vehicles and trailers that you need for camping. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are thinking about camping vehicles or trailers.
Decide whether or not you are going to be sleeping or actually doing your camping out of the vehicle or trailer. This will affect your gear list considerably. For example, if you have a vehicle that you will be sleeping in, you can skip items like a tent, air mattress and many other gear items that are on this list.
Determine if you are able to take the vehicle to your camp site. This is one of the disadvantages of camping in a large trailer or RV. You aren’t able to reach the actual wilderness sites that let you be close to nature because the vehicle simply won’t fit. Most people make use of campgrounds when they have vehicles.
Decide whether or not a vehicle is even in your budget. An RV or camping trailer may offer a great deal of convenience, but they are also expensive.
If you cannot afford an actual camper or recreational vehicle, you might want to think about a small trailer instead that will allow you to carry more gear. You can be almost as comfortable in a tent if you have the right camping gear.
Another item that you might want to consider is a camping generator. A generator will offer you a number of benefits, bringing electricity to your camp site and allowing you to run lights, cook easier, charge your phone or tablet devices and even watch movies or play games that can be fun for the whole family. Some people feel that a generator defeats the purpose of camping, but others find it a very comfortable way to spend a week in the wilderness.
There are a few options out there when it comes to generators. Many of them run on gasoline but there are also units that run on propane and still more that are battery operated. The type of generator that you get will depend upon your preference and budget, as well as how many items that you want to power at your campsite.
Medical supplies are going to be one of the most important gear categories that you bring on a camping trip. This is especially true if you are up in the woods with no hospitals or doctors close enough to render aid if you have a medical emergency. That’s why nearly every single item on the following list of supplies is vital when you go camping.
First up are personal and over-the-counter medications. If you take prescription medication, you want to not only have enough to last you the duration of your camping trip, but also enough to last you several days (or possibly weeks) longer just in case. If you happen to get lost or stranded, it is always a good idea to have more medication on hand, particularly if your life depends upon that medication.
As for over-the-counter medication, there are lots of hazards out in the woods that could result in minor injuries. Having medication on hand like Aspirin or Tylenol, as well as cold medicine, anti-acids, feminine hygiene products, topical cream and other medications just makes sense. Here is a list of things that you should have on hand if you are going camping.
You are also going to need to keep a first aid kit on hand and it should be fully stocked. Although you can usually find first aid kits that already have a full complement of supplies fairly cheap, you might be better off just putting together your own first aid kit with the following components.
One of the most important parts of your first aid kit is the bite and sting portion of it. Bee stings can be annoying if you don’t have any allergies to them, not to mention painful, but for those who are allergic, they can be deadly and even if you don’t think anyone on your camping trip is allergic to bee stings, you should still bring along a kit just in case.
As for snake, scorpion and other insect bites that contain venom, you should have an extractor pump to get rid of the poison and various medications to counteract the venom. In addition, you should have a guide that explains exactly what to do in a first aid situation involving a venomous creature and information on the kinds of venomous snakes, scorpions and other animals that are out in the wilderness where you plan to camp.
Having a snake and scorpion bite kit is essential in areas where poisonous animals can be found.
Finally, just in case of any sort of an allergic reaction, an epi pen should be included in your first aid kit, as well as an albuterol inhaler if at all possible.
Finally, the last part of your first aid supplies should be some useful items that can come in handy in an emergency. For example, you should definitely carry an emergency mobile phone with you in case your have a dead battery (or perhaps an emergency charging unit) and a notepad and pen for making signs or notes.
You should also have contact information for friends and family, including an emergency contact and a list of allergies and medical conditions that all members of your camping party has. Twine is another very useful item as it can be used to tie up limbs in a medical situation and has many first aid uses. Finally, keep some road flares and an airborne flare gun on hand in case you or your party suffer a major injury or get lost and need to signal for help.
You are also going to want to carry some personal items with you when you go camping. Hygiene items are the first up on the list. If you have the ability to shower (such as bringing the aforementioned camp shower with you) then you are going to want soap and shampoo with you, not to mention a towel and washcloth, and various other hygiene necessities such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, razors and shaving cream.
In addition, you are going to want to have a pair of shower shoes on hand, particularly if you are camping at a campground that includes a communal shower. For females, you are going to want various feminine hygiene products on hand and toilet paper is an absolutely necessity unless the campground you are staying at provides it.
Finally, one of the biggest aids you can have when it comes to camping out in the wilderness and getting your hands clean before eating is hand sanitizer. Here is a checklist for you to use when you are packing up personal items.
There are a number of miscellaneous camping supplies that you probably want to take with you as well. For example, you might be needing batteries or light bulbs for the various electronics or lighting systems that you have set up; you probably also want to have extra gasoline, not just for your vehicle, but also for your generator.
You’ll also need various safety items such as a standard compass or a GPS to prevent you from getting lost. You might be relying on your smartphone for maps and GPS function, but if you can’t get much of a signal (particularly your 4G or 3G internet) you are going to benefit very little from it.
Instead, make sure that you are prepared by having backup GPS or at the very least, a compass, as well as actual paper maps that you can use to refer to if you get lost and cannot get a cellphone signal.
You may also need something to occupy your time such as a radio (battery operated would be ideal) or books, magazines or a Kindle. The new Paperwhites last for weeks without needing to recharge the battery and are perfect for camping. In addition, make sure you have things like chapstick, sunglasses, tissues, candles for emergency lighting, binoculars and duct tape.
If you are planning to do any fishing you want to make sure that you bring your fishing gear as well as some bait to use and your fishing licenses, should you get stopped by a ranger while you are fishing in the creek. If you plan to do any hunting, you may want to bring various hunting items such as your guns, skinning knives and hunting vests.
Even if you aren’t hunting, you may want to consider bringing along some guns or another weapon for protection from large animals while you are camping in the wilderness.
Here is a checklist of the miscellaneous items that you should have with you when you set out on your camping trip.
If you are bringing children on your camping trip, you may have to make a whole new list of things to bring with you. Kids get bored easily, so it is important to give them something to keep them occupied. This is especially true with younger children.
Plus, you want to remember that they are in an unfamiliar place and may be a little frightened, especially at night. That’s why kids camping expert Helen Olsson recommends that you bring glow sticks with you on your camping trip. She says that glow sticks can illuminate the way around the campsite before bed and then put them in the mesh tent pocket to work as a nightlight.
She also recommends caution when bringing toddlers and infants on a camping trip, making sure that you baby proof and toddler proof your campsite. “Babies aren’t mobile, so you can be assured a level of containment, Olsson says. Toddlers are constantly on the move, and they love to put rocks in their mouths. You have to watch them every minute, especially around hazards like fast-moving water.”
Here is a short list of some things you might bring when taking kids camping. Your actual list will depend upon the ages you are bringing and your own personal preference.
Obviously, you are going to want to bring food to cook on your camping trip, and what you bring is entirely a matter of what you and your family likes to eat. However, here are some suggestions to get you started.