Ultimate camping checklist (the best things to take and what to leave at home); woman camping with picnic table and camp stove

Camping Checklist: The Best Things to Take (and 3 Things to Leave At Home)

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Planning a family camping trip? Get organized so you don’t forget any essentials at home with this ultimate camping checklist. It will tell you everything you need to bring, and what you should leave at home, for your next camping weekend. This camping list includes a camping gear list for beginners too.

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Camping Checklist for Your Next Camping Trip

When the snow begins to thaw, the sun starts to show its face longer and longer each day. Spring is finally here.

With this revitalization of the world comes our own sense of renewed energy and purpose. Have you noticed that random strangers you pass by on walks seem to smile more in the spring?

For many people, one of the first things they think of to celebrate the coming of spring is a long-overdue camping trip.

While camping is one of my favorite activities/trips (and I’m assuming yours too if you are reading this article) it is better – and safer- to be prepared.

Now I am a winging-it type of gal. But I do love a good list. And camping is not something I want to wing – especially camping with a kindergartener. So I put together this comprehensive camping checklist to make your next camping trip as smooth, safe, and fun as possible!

Also be sure to check out this very popular post: Frugal Camping Hacks From the Dollar Store That Will Blow Your Mind

Camping Checklist Essentials

Your camping trip’s success depends on your ability to prepare for the environment you are planning on visiting and the people you are going camping with.

The exact gear you need to take will be different for everyone and dependent on location and season.

Camping with children, backpacking solo, summer or winter, are all factors that must be taken into consideration when packing for your trip.

There are several things that you need to take on every trip.

Whether you’re on a day hike or a fifteen-day solo backpacking trip, this gear should always be with you. This mini survival kit can be packed compactly.

Some items will be used regularly and should be carried appropriately so that they are accessible. Many items may never be used and may be packed more permanently in a daypack or backpack; however, they could be essential to surviving a night or more in the wilderness and should always be carried.

Let’s get into the basic gear that you will need for a successful camping trip…

Related reading: Camping on a Budget: 5 Tips to Know to Save Money This Season

Camping Gear List for Beginners and Veterans Alike

For the typical camper, there are basic necessities that you will need. As your camping experience increases, you will find other things you wish you had brought and things that you never use and will eliminate from your checklist.

Your camping checklist will continue to grow and evolve with your outdoor experiences. You’ll need more camping gear for a backcountry multi-day camping trip than a weekend car camping or camper van trip.

Your permanent essential camping gear should include:

  • First-aid Kit
  • Waterproof wallet or waterproof bag with driver’s license, credit card, insurance information, emergency phone numbers, money, and coins for a pay phone or cell phone.
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp (my favorite brands for headlamps are this and this)
  • Compass and map (and the ability to use them)
  • Wristwatch
  • Fire Starter and waterproof matches (Waterproof matches can be made by dipping wooden matches into candle wax or nail polish)
  • Multi-tool or Knife
  • Emergency/Space Blanket (this is something you hope you never need to use, but should always take with you camping)
  • Emergency clothing (stored in a waterproof bag)
  • Emergency food and water (bouillon cubes, energy bars, etc.)
  • Whistle
  • Tinfoil (2 sheets at least 12 inches square can be used to make cooking and drinking utensils
  • Cloth adhesive tape and nylon cord
  • Backpack (if backpacking)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Foam sleeping pad (this one is good and inexpensive)
  • Ground cloth
  • Camping stove (stick with this tried-and-true brand)
  • Camping lantern
  • Fuel for the stove, lanterns, etc., if required
  • Food for the trip. Menu planning is essential to avoid over or under-packing food (here are our favorite easy camping recipes).
  • Food chest that includes salt, pepper, sugar, and other desired spices or special ingredients
  • Coolers and plastic food containers (screw-down lids) to store/carry food
  • Cooking utensils, pots, pans, cups, bowls, can-opener, spatula, tongs, oven mitt, etc.
  • Dish soap and scouring pad for kitchen cleaning. To keep our beautiful lakes clean, use this kind of camping soap.
  • Axe or hatchet and/or camp saw
  • Camping shovel
  • Sewing and repair kit that includes sewing supplies, wire, wire cutters, safety pins, rubber bands, super glue, patch kit, cloth tape, spare tent pegs, etc.
  • Appropriate clothing for anticipated environment and length of stay. Consider wool over cotton garments. Long underwear, gaiters, heavy coat, rain gear, gloves, swimming suit, and camp shoes as needed for the anticipated environment.
  • Sunglasses, regardless of what the forecasted weather is
  • Baseball hat or hat with a brim
  • Handkerchief or buff (this is the best brand, choose your favorite design)
  • Hiking shoes or boots (don’t skimp on hiking boots – get a good pair)
  • Sunscreen and sun-protective lip balm
  • Water bottles/canteen and adequate water for the length of stay (skip the plastic and get this)
  • Water purification tablets or alternate methods of purifying water. I personally have and love this water purifier bottle – it is SO easy to use and doesn’t taste icky like water that has purification tablets dissolved in it. I’m also planning to pick up a pack of LifeStraws. (edited 5 minutes later – just bought a multi-pack)
  • Toiletry bag to carry toilet paper, comb, toothbrush, biodegradable soap, tweezers, medicine, moist towelettes, etc.
  • Insect repellant
  • Nylon (parachute) cord or rope

Safety or specialty gear as required, such as larger first-aid kit, climbing rope, wrap-around/glacier glasses, ice axe, etc.

Related reading: Why I love Camping (+ What Huge Animal Was Right Outside Our Tent!)

Family Camping Checklist

There are some important considerations when you are family camping.

All the above items on the camping checklist apply to camping with kids but there are additional things to think about too.

Let’s go over what these are:

Cold Temperatures When Camping with Kids

If you are camping with small children, additional gear needs to be considered. In cold weather environments, extra care must be taken to keep children safe.

Babies are the most susceptible to the cold and must be appropriately dressed. Layered clothing is essential. A hooded coat, where the hood is attached to the coat, covering the neck, is better than a hat.

Frequent checking of body temperature will ensure your child’s comfort.

Warm/Hot Weather While Family Camping

Small children and babies are susceptible to sunburn and heat exposure in a warm or hot environment.

Use appropriate sunblock and dress them in light-colored polyester or cotton clothing to protect them from the sun. Protect their eyes as you would protect your own with child-sized sunglasses and a brimmed hat.

Tips for Rainy Weather

One piece clothing works the best for protecting toddlers and young children from inclement weather. This type of outfit provides an extra layer of protection around their mid-section for protection from the elements.

When packing for warm or cold environments, remember that the children have the same or greater needs than you do. Gloves, hats, rain gear, and layered clothing are all important.

One-piece rain suits are available for small children (my 6-year-old has one as do most of her friends). And I recently discovered rain mittens for kids which are so awesome. Kids can fully submerge their hands in puddles and they stay dry – an outdoor miracle!

The Usual Baby/Toddler Gear

Additionally, camping with infants and small children requires the same equipment they need at home for their comfort and survival. Enough diapers, formula, baby food, and bottles obviously need to be taken.

Baby backpacks, portable cribs, and toys are additional gear that may make the parent’s trip more enjoyable. Because happy baby = happy parents.

Camping Checklist Extras You Might Want to Add

Additional equipment may be required or desired depending on the goals of the camper and the type of camping.

Some of this gear includes:

Maybe we should move that last one to the essentials list…

What to Leave at Home: 3 Things to Leave Off Your Camping Checklist

1. Camping Mallet

Nobody wants to pull a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz in the middle of a windy night in a tent. But you can easily secure your tent pegs into the ground with a rock. They are everywhere. Don’t bother with a single use mallet.

2. Mirror

Comb your hair, brush your teeth, put on sunscreen, and let that be it. Camping is a time to let yourself relax. Let go of some of the ways you present yourself to the world. It’ll be more than okay.

3. Booming Sound System

Camping is no place for loud speakers to broadcast your tunes throughout the entire campground.

Some people enjoy recorded music by a campfire, some people prefer silence, talking, or live music like a guitar. Do you, but keep your recorded tunes low enough that people who prefer quieter camping can have that.

How to Use This Camping Checklist

Camping is a wonderful way for families to grow together and individuals to gain solitude.

Go prepared when you are called to the wilderness to experience all that it has to offer.

Use this camping checklist as a guide to creating your own individualized list that will allow you to enjoy camping, hiking, and all your outdoor activities safely and comfortably.

Now check out 25 best camping quotes that will get you excited about camping season.

Pin this Camping Checklist to save it:

Ultimate camping checklist (the best things to take and what to leave at home) with a deer lounging on the campgrounds.

What would you add to this camping checklist?


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2 Comments

    1. Thank you so much Bev for featuring my camping checklist post! I can’t wait for summer camping trips!!! xx

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