Although the specific gear depends on the climate and whether you’re camping or hiking, this camping packing list covers the necessities.
Thinking of going on an outdoor adventure? While specific gear depends on climate, terrain, car camping or backpacking, and your camp setup (e.g. tent or RV), this camping packing list will help to cover all the essentials – with specific recommendations on the equipment we use on all of our camping trips.
Be sure to start compiling your own checklist well in advance so you know you’ll have it all when the time comes!
Camping Packing List (Must Have Essentials!)
Tent: If you’re packing a car, pack your tent last so it’s the first thing you can set up. Check that you have all your poles and stakes, a mallet and your rain fly (if applicable). We use a Coleman tent.
Sleeping bags: Down or down substitute sleeping bags are the lightest and easiest to compress.
Sleeping mattress: These compact Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads provide cushion and help return heat back to your body.
Tarp: An extra tarp for the tent floor will keep you warm and dry at night, and if you get one with extra length, you can use it to wipe shoes outside.
Clothesline : If there’s a chance you’ll get wet, bring an adjustable elastic clothesline and clothespins for drying.
Hammock: Hammocks are a great addition for relaxing if you have the space. This one is under $20!
Games: Be sure to bring games like dice or cards.
Firewood: Collecting firewood is not allowed in some areas, so be sure to bring your own. Don’t forget a lighter and kindling!
Headlamp: Bring a headlamp for each person in your group and some extra batteries.
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Storage bin: Get a clear bin to store everything and group items into large clear bags.
Cooking tools: Utility knife, spatula, ladle, potholders, tongs and aluminum foil. Skewers are great to bring along for s’mores or kebabs.
Pots and Pans: Invest in a really good pot and pan. We also keep a larger pot on hand for camping with large groups. We love this little cookware set for backpacking trips because it’s extremely compact.
Stove: These 2-burner stoves are perfect for car camping and make outdoor cooking simple. For backpacking trips, this backpacking stove is tiny, weighs next to nothing, and heats up quickly.
Lighter/matches: Be sure to pack a few of each! A waterproof case for your matches is also essential.
Dishes: A plate, 1 bowl, 1 mug and a set of utensils for each person. Don’t forget the tupperware for leftovers!
To clean: Quick-drying microfiber towels, a roll of paper towels, unscented pure castile soap from Dr. Bronner and a foldable sink.
Clothing and toiletries
When you’re roughing it, you can wear the same set of clothes for a few days. Bring as little as you feel comfortable with, but make sure you have the necessary layers and fabric (raincoats, etc.) for the weather. To save space, wear your bulkiest clothes on travel days.
Layered clothes: Base layers are always a good idea when camping; they keep you warm at night by wicking away sweat and retaining your body heat. This packable jacket is another handy item to pack as it doesn’t take up much space and keeps you warm on cold nights by the campfire. And don’t forget a beanie to keep your head and ears warm!
Insecticide: We always keep a pen-sized insect repellent spray pump in our camping gear, so we never have to worry about forgetting this all-important item.
Solar cream: Another VERY important item to add to your list!
Toiletries: Depending on the length of your trip, you’ll want to bring the usual shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, and face wash. (TIP: Dr. Bronner’s All-Natural Liquid Soap can be used as a shampoo, body wash, mouthwash, shaving cream, or even dish soap or laundry detergent AND it’s chemical-free, so it won’t won’t harm the environment.) Take a toothbrush and dental floss too – these are one of the most often forgotten items.
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If you are just day hiking, a standard frameless backpack is fine. Fruits, nuts and jerky will keep you full and energized. For multi-day hikes, get a framed backpack and make sure you don’t pack more than 20-30% of your body weight. Soft items like clothing should be directly against your back, while heavy items like kitchen equipment should be in the center of your pack for balance.
Water: We always pack at least one bottle of water, and for longer hikes we bring a 3L bladder.
Water filtration system: If you’re hiking or camping near a water source, we’ve found this amazing water filtration system. It is compact and eliminates 99.9% of bacteria.
Shoes: It goes without saying that shoes (and socks!) can make or break your hike. I wear these women’s hiking shoes and can’t live without these smartwool hiking socks, which provide cushion and keep my feet dry.
Backpack : I use this backpack for hiking. It has everything I need – including two large side water pockets, a padded inner sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder, plenty of internal and external compartments and an attached rainfly.
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Bring as little as possible! But if you have a GPS device (including your phone), you can keep it charged with a rechargeable device.
Charger: This mini lantern doubles as a light source and an external battery charger. It provides up to 52 hours of light or backup to your phone.
Portable Camping Lantern: This small, portable lantern is unlike any other lantern we’ve ever owned – it’s rechargeable, it can be used as a power bank to charge your electronics, it’s lightweight and 100% waterproof! Plus, it’s only $37!
Rechargeable Phone Case: Although I love the external battery chargers above and always bring them on our camping trips, having a phone case with a built-in external battery means I’ll never be stuck with a battery discharged phone. This case has changed my life – not just for camping, but for long days of travel.
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Again, a lighter load is better. Limit yourself to two lenses and your lightest tripod (or a monopod you can lean against). A special camera backpack can keep your gear safe and dust-free, and you’ll want to keep your gear in the shade if you’re camping in hot weather.
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