What to Pack for Camping
You plan on going camping, but have no idea what to take along. This is what we are here for today, to discuss the 20 most important things to pack for your next camping trip.
What to Pack for Camping
- Basic Clothing
First off, make sure to bring clothing that is appropriate for the season. Summer is not a big deal, and you should be able to get away with basic summer clothing, although long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a decent jacket for nighttime are recommended.
For the most part, in the summer, shorts will be adequate, along with some T-shirts or tank tops, and even bare feet. Just be sure to expect the unexpected. It might seem like a single T-shirt will last for 3 or 4 days, but you’re going to be outdoors, and this means that things can quickly get dirty, wet, and stinky, so it’s always a good idea to bring a spare.
Also, even in the summer, depending on where you are, it can get cool at night, not to mention that insects get hungry for human blood around the campfire, so long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover up would be in your best interest.
If you are going winter camping, be sure to layer up and to bring along waterproof and windproof clothing that is well insulated. Of course, winter is a different story, and winter is a much riskier time to go camping.
Remember that layers are very important, and most people who go winter camping recommend wearing 3 layers at all times.
An inner layer for warmth, a middle layer for more warmth and some waterproofing, and a thick outer layer that will retain lots of heat while simultaneously keeping wind and moisture at bay, is recommended. Don’t forget to bring multiple pairs of hats and gloves. You don’t want your ears or fingers developing frostbite!
- Rain Gear
Even if the weather forecast calls for sunny days, you never really know. Weather can change at a moment’s notice, and you therefore want to bring along rain gear. A raincoat, some rain pants, and even rain boots may come in handy.
The fact of the matter is that if it rains on you, especially if you only have a couple sets of clothing, camping for several days is going to become very hard.
Trying to dry wet clothing outdoors is not as easy as you might think. If you try to hang something up to dry in the afternoon, the moisture and morning dew will keep it wet all throughout the night. Rain gear is a big deal when it comes to camping, particularly if you plan on camping for many days at a time.
- The Right Footwear
You need to bring along the right footwear too. If you are camping in the summer, sandals and basic shoes might do fine. If you plan on going hiking, you probably want to invest in some decent hiking boots. If you are going winter camping, then you definitely want some high-quality winter boots.
However, if you plan on hiking, you probably want to invest in some decent hiking boots. Sure, hiking boots are heavy and take up space, but trust us when we say that you will be sorry if you have to walk for any prolonged amount of time in something like flip flops.
If you are going winter camping, you will want some high-quality winter boots. There’s nothing worse camping in the winter and not having the right footwear. Feet are the first things that are going to feel the effects of the cold, and losing some toes because you didn’t bother bringing waterproof and well-insulated boots would be a real shame.
- A Tent
No camping trip is complete without a tent. Sure, you can sleep in a hammock or under the stars, but tents are great for providing some protection from the elements, keeping insects away, and providing some privacy. A basic tent will do for summer, but if there is cold weather in the forecast, be sure to get a tent that can handle it. A good rainfly is always essential.
Mostly everybody camps in a tent, well except for those people who can afford an RV or a motor home. A basic tent will do for summer, but if there is cold weather in the forecast, be sure to get a tent that can handle it.
For the summer, a tent with a lot of mesh walls and windows will do. It can get hot and sticky, so having ventilation to keep the air flowing and keep you from boiling while you try to sleep is essential.
In terms of the winter, you will need to step up your game. You need a really high-quality tent that can keep wind and moisture out, and keep heat in, if you plan on getting a good night’s sleep
A good rainfly is always essential. Just like with raingear, a rainfly is important. A basic tent without a rainfly, even with just a small amount of rain, will get wet, and everything inside will get soaked. Once your belongings get wet, drying them becomes very hard, and it’s likely that you will spend most of your trip feeling uncomfortable.
Something else to keep in mind here is the size of the tent. Tents come in various sizes, but remember that they usually don’t fit as many people as advertised, at least not realistically. For instance, a 3 to 4 person tent is usually ideal for 2 people. Remember that you will probably be storing some of your camping gear inside of the tent, which is going to take up room as well.
- Floor Mats or Air Mattresses
A good floor mat that is 1 or 2 inches thick will provide you with a soft surface to sleep on; it will help insulate you; and it will keep you off the cold ground. These camping mats are great for comfort and warmth.
This is particularly important if you are going winter camping. A good heat-retaining foam mat can make the difference between a comfortable sleep and freezing your butt off.
Now, in terms of air mattresses, you can consider using one of these as opposed to a simple floor mat. The difference here is that while air mattresses tend to be more comfortable, and usually more portable too, they tend not to be as warm as foam mats.
It is much harder for the air inside of an air mattress to retain any amount of body heat than for a foam mat. Either way, you don’t want to sleep on the hard ground, and will therefore need something to sleep on.
- Sleeping Bags or Blankets
Unless it is deadly hot outside, you will want to bring a sleeping bag. If it’s summertime, a basic sleeping bag will do, just something to cover yourself with. However, for wintertime, if you plan on being comfortable during the night, a thick and well-insulated sleeping bag is called for.
More often than not, a sleeping bag in the summer will do nothing but make you hot and sweaty. A tip here is that if you are going summer camping, don’t think that a winter sleeping bag will work; it will just cause you to overheat.
Remember that it can get really cold in the winter, and sleeping is one of the most dangerous times when it is cold. For winter camping, keeping warm and dry all night is essential to your health and survival.
- A Knife and Hatchet
Every camper should always have a good camping or survival knife with them. These can be used to make traps and weapons, to hunt for food, to defend yourself, to make shelter, and more. Knives are not great for chopping wood, in which case, you may also want to consider carrying a small axe or hatchet.
The bottom line is that sharp edged tools always come in handy when camping, even for small tasks like cutting food or cutting a length of fishing line. A knife probably won’t do much good against a bear, but defense is not all that blades are good for. This is actually one of the No. 1 items we recommend that you take on your next camping trip.
It gets dark at night, and unless you have good night vision, you will need a good lantern or flashlight. Finding your way around when it is pitch black is not easy. Always bring a flashlight and/or lantern, and make sure to have spare batteries for it.
Instead of getting flashlights with batteries, you can always choose to go for solar powered options, as well as those nifty flashlights with a crank to manually charge them up.
These come in handy if you don’t want to have to deal with batteries, although they do also come with their own problems. Either way, sitting around at night in the dark is not enjoyable.
- Fire Starter
Starting a fire can be somewhat difficult, especially if you don’t have any dry kindling or newspaper. Bringing along some kind of flint fire starter will make life a whole lot easier when it comes to getting your fire lit.
This is especially important if you are going camping during a time when it is likely to rain.
If your kindling gets rained on, you will be in serious trouble. No camping trip is complete without a nightly campfire and marshmallow roasting, so not being able to make a fire would be a real shame.
We would recommend bringing some flint for one, but this is still only good if your kindling is dry. In case your burning materials get wet, having a bottle of lighter fluid or some small fire starter bricks on hand will come in very handy.
- Cooking Equipment + Camping Dishware
Unless you plan on eating everything raw or you have packaged food that can be eaten as is, you will need to heat up some of your food. This means having a couple pots and pans, as well as some cooking utensils.
This stuff doesn’t have to be huge or super special.
Even a single basic pot to heat up some beans will do fine. You may also choose to bring something like a metal grill grate along, so you can cook food right on the open campfire.
Unless everyone has their own pot to eat out of, don’t forget that you will need some dishware. Of course, we don’t recommend bringing along your fancy china for this one.
You can invest in some simple camping dishware, such as all-in-one sets that come with plates, bowls, and cutlery. If you want to keep things lightweight, those made of solid plastic or treated rubber tend to be best, although metal is generally more durable.
- A Burner or Charcoal Grill
In case you don’t want to cook on an open fire, or maybe if there is a fire ban in effect, you will want to have a small gas or propane burner to use — just something small that you can put a pot or pan on to heat or cook your food.
These are convenient because they usually come in small packages, complete with carrying cases, and there are plenty of dual fuel options out there. Many propane camping burners often come with the option of using butane as well. Being able to choose your fuel source can come in very handy.
That said, you might be more into grilling than just plain old cooking. If this is the case, you might bring along a small and portable charcoal grill. Of course, don’t forget that you will need enough charcoal to last for your camping trip. Also, although a charcoal grill is great for grilling up meat and veggies, it is going to be much more tedious to cook with than a propane or butane burner.
- Fishing Gear
No camping trip is complete without fishing gear. It doesn’t have to be anything special, but if you can manage to catch fresh fish for dinner, you are on the right track.
Bring along a decent rod, a good reel, some strong fishing line, and the right lures for your area.
Just remember that not all campsites allow for fishing, at least not when it comes to keeping and eating the fish. So, be sure to check the rules and regulations where you are going camping. You don’t want to get slapped with a hefty fine for keeping fish that you weren’t supposed to keep.
- First Aid Kit
One of the most essential things to pack for camping is a fully stocked first aid kit. Things can and do go wrong, and it’s always better to be prepared.
When you are camping, you will probably be a good distance away from real medical assistance, so having a first aid kit to temporarily patch up any injuries is essential.
It doesn’t have to be anything super special or expensive, but something is definitely better than nothing.
- Life Preserver
If you don’t plan on going on the water, then you can skip this step. However, if you plan on going boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or anything in between, never go out on the water without a life preserver.
However, this really only applies if you are bringing your own watercraft, whatever it may be. This is because if you rent a boat, canoe, or whatever else from your campground, they always supply the life preservers along with your rental. That said, if you are going backcountry camping, not at a campsite, then you will need to bring one along.
- Two-Way Radio, Flares, Whistle, and Mirror
You always want to have emergency signaling gear as well. If you get lost, stranded, or somebody is injured, you need to be able to signal for help. Light-reflecting mirrors, loud whistles, bright flares, and two-way radios should all be considered.
Of course, if you are at a popular and heavily populated campsite, then this is not overly important. However, if you plan on roughing it and making your own path through the wilderness, you definitely want to bring along everything possible to signal for help in the event that something goes wrong.
- Food and Water
Chances are that you cannot rely on nature to provide for you, and therefore you need to bring along enough food and water to last for the duration of the trip. It’s always a good idea to bring extra food and water to last for a few more days, just in case. Water purification tablets may come in handy.
In terms of kinds of food to bring along, if you have a car, you are in luck, because you can store everything in a cooler in your car. This will allow you to bring along meat and other things to grill. However, if you won’t have steady access to a vehicle, things get a little harder.
If this is the case, you will need solid lockboxes, potentially bear-proof food boxes, to keep critters away from your food. Many people also purchase rope, carabiners, and waterproof/smell-proof dry bags to hang food from trees.
If you plan on keeping your food outdoors during the night, whether in a tree or not, always remember that once any food is opened up and the seal is broken, it needs to be eaten, or else you will end up attracting animals to the campsite. Canned, dried, and vacuum sealed foods are best if you want to avoid having hungry animals searching for your food.
- A Hammock
In case you like your daytime naps, or if you want to sleep under the stars, a good hammock can come in quite handy as well.
Hammocks can be quite heavy and hard to set up, so we wouldn’t necessarily recommend bringing one along if you are just going for a few days, but if you plan on staying at the same site for multiple days, then it can make for a comfortable spot to nap in.
- A Shovel
You will need to dig a little hole for doing your business, or in other words, you need to dig a latrine. This is best done with a shovel, plus shovels can also be used for other purposes.
You can use a shovel to break down kindlin for burning, for leveling out your campsite, and if worse comes to worst, to bonk an aggressive animal over the head if it gets too close.
If you don’t want to sit in silence, a small radio may be a good thing to bring along, just so you can listen to some tunes while camping. You can also get weather alerts with a radio and emergency channels.
Just be sure to check the rules of your specific campsite, because some are radio free zones, which means not being allowed to have any sort of electronically amplified sound. Sorry folks, this means no shredding riffs on your electric guitar.
- Bug Spray
Nobody wants to spend the entirety of a camping trip being ravaged by mosquitos, flies, and other insects. Strong bug spray or insect repellant is essential for any camping trip.
If you think that one bottle of bug spray is enough, bring a second along!
There you have it — the 20 most important things to carry with you on a camping trip. Remember to be safe and to plan ahead!
Of course, there are many other things which you can choose to take along. Just keep in mind that you do have limited space.
Even if you are going camping with your car, you still need to consider how much room you have to spare. You don’t want to focus on beach toys, only to end up not having enough room for some of the important gear which we discussed here today.