By: Ash Merscher
When you prepare for a camping trip, it’s important to bring all the camping essentials, right? But amid that preparation, do you ever find yourself questioning what those essentials are? Do you second-guess yourself, wondering if you really need a camping stove or what’s the best upf fabric for sun protection?
Well, wonder no more! I’ve created the ultimate list so that you know exactly what to bring camping. From hemp products to breathable underwear to tools, sleeping bags, food prep, and more, this camping list has you covered.
WHAT TO BRING CAMPING
It’s best to follow a strategic camping packing list that’s adjustable to your style. Camping can take on many forms, ranging from comfy glamping in a yurt to a multi-night backpacking adventure deep in the wilderness. And this favorite family pastime is only getting more popular— from 2015-2020, the campgrounds and RV park industry grew annually by an average of 6.4%. RV ownership alone increased by more than 60% since the 1980s!
So whether you’re a newcomer following the trends or an established camping buff, this comprehensive list will help you ensure you’re never without the essentials.
It’s helpful to break a camping checklist into categories. Below, I’ve detailed what to bring camping into the following:
- Clothing and Footwear
- Campsite Setup
- Food and Cooking
- Personal Health and Hygiene
- Tools and Extras
CAMPING ESSENTIALS: CLOTHING & FOOTWEAR
When it comes to a camping packing list, being picky with your clothes might feel frivolous at first. But trust me: the right clothing can make or break a camping trip. Not only does it help you feel more comfortable in unexpected weather conditions, but it also keeps you safe.
UNDERWEAR & BASELAYERS
To start, think about the first layer that touches your body. Even in the summer months, nights can get chilly, so you need layers and fabrics that can help regulate your body temperature.
For women’s underwear styles, I prefer boy shorts underwear or high waisted underwear to keep everything well covered and comfortable when moving. And don’t forget a hemp bra! The racerback bralette is versatile, as it’s great for physical activity and when sitting around the campfire.
3. Hemp Base Layers. Once again, opt for hemp fabric for those initial layers, like long johns or thermals.
4. Breathable Shirts. If it’s too warm for a set of thermals, then just bring t-shirts or long-sleeved shirts. But, opt for breathable materials like hemp, so you stay cool.
TOP LAYERS & JACKETS
If base layers keep your body temperature regulated and your skin dry, top layers are the protectors. They allow those baselayers to do their job correctly. If it’s cold, you’ll need a few additional layers, plus an insulating jacket. If it’s hot, you probably just need something light, plus rain and wind gear.
5. Pullover. Stay away from cotton if you plan to do a lot of activity, as cotton absorbs moisture and doesn’t keep you warm if your skin is damp. But it’s always nice to have a cozy pullover or sweater for when you’re just relaxing.
6. Shorts or Long Pants. Shorts are great for warm-weather camping or physical activity, but it’s essential to protect your legs from bugs, sun, and scratches. Bring both so you can adjust to different circumstances. What fabric should you choose? You guessed it—hemp, of course! There are some great options out there for both hemp shorts and hemp pants.
7. Wool or Fleece Jacket. Pack a warm top layer for cooler temperatures, like a wool or fleece pullover or zip-up.
8. Insulating or Softshell Jacket. When it’s chilly at night, or you’re winter camping, you’ll need an insulating jacket to stay warm. I opt for a soft-shell jacket—it'll keep your body heat in and protect you from wind chills during more mild weather.
9. Rain and Wind Gear. Even if the forecast doesn’t mention rain, raingear is at the top of the list for camping essentials. Luckily, both rain jackets and windbreakers are typically lightweight and stuff easily into your backpack or overnight bag.
If you plan to just sit around the fire eating s’mores (I don't judge!), your footwear will be different from those trekking through the mountains. But no matter what you get up to, footwear is vital for staying safe and comfortable, making it one of the most important items on your camping checklist.
10. Hiking Boots or Sneakers. Opt for sturdy boots with ankle protection and arch support if you’re planning to hike a lot or walk on unstable terrain. Sneakers work for more mild activities or short hikes. For a versatile pair, consider hemp shoes, as they’re naturally antibacterial, breathable, and sturdy. Some are even waterproof!
11. Sandals. After a long day walking in sneakers or hiking boots, you’ll want to give your toes a break, especially when hanging out around the camp. I always make sure to pack a pair of sandals or something comfy to keep my feet happy and relaxed.
12. Slip-Ons. Likewise, grab a pair of slip-on and hard-soled shoes or slippers for when you’re toasting marshmallows or going on a bathroom run.
There are a few additional clothing items that should always make a camping list. They involve those little extras that you always seem to forget!
13. Hats & Accessories. Pack warm extras like a beanie, scarf, and gloves for colder temps. For sunny and warm days, don’t forget a sun hat and sunglasses.
14. Swimsuit and Water Shoes. Don’t forget these camping essentials if you’re pitching your tent near a beach, lake, or river and want to take a refreshing dip.
15. Sleepwear. Your sleeping bag should be insulating enough to keep you toasty, so sleepwear is somewhat optional. You can bring a set of PJs or just sleep in panties, boxers, or thermals.
CAMPING ESSENTIALS: CAMPSITE SETUP
When it comes to camping essentials, your shelter and sleeping arrangements top the list. There are so many different camping styles, so consider the weather and circumstances, and choose what’s best for your situation.
SHELTER AND SLEEPING
What you sleep under and in can make or break a camping trip. You want to be safe and comfortable, so whether you’re car camping or sleeping under the stars, make sure you have a sturdy shelter and warm sleeping bag.
16. Tent or Shelter. Your shelter can be a tent, car, RV, yurt, or even just a wooden roof. What’s most important is that it’s sturdy and keeps you protected from the elements. If you opt for no shelter or just a roof over your head, then read on to make sure you have the right sleeping equipment.
17. Sleeping Bag, Pad, and Pillow. Sleeping bags come with temperature ratings, so bring one that fits the forecast. Add a sleeping pad to your camping checklist because it helps you sleep more comfortably and protects you from the cold ground. And hey, don’t forget a camping pillow! You’ll thank yourself later.
EATING, RELAXING, AND GETTING AROUND
If you're anything like me, one of the best aspects of camping is hanging out at the campsite! If you’re backpacking up into the mountains, you probably can’t bring a lot of additional supplies. But if you’re car camping, then take advantage of the extra space.
18. Camping Chairs and Table. Camping chairs are typically foldable, so they’re easy to pack and carry. Sitting on the ground gets old fast, so even an old-school Crazy Creek works wonders. And if you’re going somewhere without a picnic table, a fold-out table helps you cook and eat.
19. Lantern, Flashlight, Headlamp. Don’t forget that you’re at nature’s whim when you camp, which means you lose light when the sun goes down. You’ll need a lantern for when you’re roasting mallows, plus a flashlight or headlamp for bathroom runs and finding firewood.
CAMPING ESSENTIALS: FOOD & COOKING
Of course, food and cooking equipment make your camping packing list—you gotta eat! This category can take up a lot of space in your backpack or car, so use this camping list to guide your decisions.
PREPARING, COOKING, AND EATING FOOD
First, decide how you want to cook—a cooking stove or on the campfire? Then determine what you can cook with your equipment. If you’re backpacking, you probably just need a boiler and dehydrated food. If you go car camping, you can get a little fancy.
20. Stove and Fuel and/or Firewood and Matches. If you bring a stove, don’t forget the fuel. Otherwise, you’ll need plenty of firewood and matches or a lighter.
21. Cooking Supplies. Think of what you can prepare with your setup, and then bring the supplies you need to make your meals. Think pots and pans, a cutting board, knives, pasta strainer, etc.
22. Food. Dehydrated meals and granola bars are great for backpacking, but you can eat things like sandwiches or breakfast burritos if you’re car camping. I like to prepare as much as I can ahead of time, like slicing fruit and veggies, boiling eggs, or shredding cheese before I go. Don’t forget a cooler and ice if you bring perishable ingredients.
23. Eating Supplies. Bring something compatible to eat with, like a fork/spoon/knife combo or foldable bowls that turn into plates. Don’t forget a water bottle, a mug, and a reusable straw.
Cleaning can get a little tricky when camping. You want the right supplies to make this process as easy as possible, so be sure to add these to your camping list!
24. Cleaning Supplies. Pack biodegradable soap (like hemp soap), reusable cloths or scrubbers, and a bin for cleaning dishes and cooking equipment. A small broom and dustpan help keep dirt out of your tent and may come in handy for accidental spills.
25. Water. If you’re not at a campground with a water source, you’ll need water for cleaning, cooking, and drinking, so make sure you bring enough for the length of your trip.
Sometimes, even the little extras make the essential camping packing list. To truly be prepared, you need to think a little beyond the basics.
26. Coffee Maker or Water Boiler. If you’re a don’t-talk-to-me-until-I’ve-had-my-coffee type of person, you need to bring something to brew the java. This can be as simple as a French press or Aeropress. For backpackers, a water boiler is perfect for camping, as it’s lightweight and only requires one or two small cans of fuel.
27. Storage. Don’t forget some reusable storage, beeswax wraps, or sealable bags to keep food fresh and organized. Put your food in a sealed container away from your tent or tied to a branch to avoid attracting animals.
28. Treats! Did you even camp if you didn’t roast marshmallows? Don’t forget to treat yourself to some treats, like chocolate, wine (remember the corkscrew), or craft beer, while camping.
CAMPING ESSENTIALS: PERSONAL HEALTH & HYGIENE
When planning a list of what to bring camping, you’ll need to consider personal hygiene and medications. Your trip might take an extra day or two due to traffic or weather conditions, so it’s always best to prepare.
Start with your toiletries. Many brands now offer travel-size versions of your favorite products so that you can get small, lightweight options. There are also lots of products, like foldable toothbrushes and multipurpose soaps, that make packing even more manageable.
29. Toiletry Kit. Pack lightly, but don’t forget the essentials, like hair wash, face wash, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, comb, lotions, etc. If you don’t have your car with you, a compact mirror will also come in handy.
30. Sunscreen and Insect Repellent. Keep bugs at bay with repellents or essential oils, and always wear sunscreen, even on a cloudy day. Remember, the sun is more potent at higher elevations.
31. Quick-Drying Towel. Standard towels are too big, bulky, and take too long to dry for camping excursions. Instead, invest in a thinner, quick-drying towel that you can use after bathing or swimming. Bring an extra one for drying the dishes!
Even if you’re camping at a busy campground with people around you, bring emergency equipment and medicine. Medicine and other supplies come in handy even for minor issues, like scrapes or sunburns.
32. First-Aid Kit and Extra Medicine. Always bring extra medication—you might need to prolong your trip by a few days. A first-aid kit should have basic medicine, bandages, ointments, scissors, disinfectant, cold pack, etc.
33. Emergency Supplies. You may need emergency help when you’re out in the wilderness. Be sure to bring supplies like a flare, bear spray, whistle, emergency blanket, etc.
CAMPING ESSENTIALS: TOOLS & EXTRAS
Lastly, your camping list should include helpful tools and any personal extras to make your experience more enjoyable.
When nature calls out in nature, what do you do? Many campgrounds have facilities, but you need to take certain precautions if you’re out in the woods.
34. Toilet Paper. Bring toilet paper with you even if you’re camping at a campground with bathrooms. If not stocked with paper and soap, you’ll want to bring your own. Opt for sustainable hemp toilet paper.
35. Small Shovel. If you’re not going on the toilet, then you need to dig a hole. According to Leave No Trace principles, make sure you’re at least 200 steps from any water source and dig 6-8 inches deep. Pack out any used toilet paper (unless it’s hemp because then it’s biodegradable).
CAMPSITE SETUP TOOLS
When you set up your campsite, you’ll need a few tools to keep it comfortable, safe, and stable. These tools can also help with starting a fire or for emergencies.
36. Repair Kits. If your tent, sleeping pad, or sleeping bag gets a hole in it, you’ll want a repair kit to patch it up quickly. Or, you can throw in some duct tape.
37. Multi-Purpose Tools. You’ll want something with many different options, like a few sharp knives, scissors, a file, pliers, a can opener, etc. This tool can come in handy for cooking, setting up the campsite, building a fire, or even emergencies.
38. Mallet and Saw. A small mallet or hammer will help you secure your tent, while a small saw is helpful if you need to cut firewood. Both are also useful in emergencies.
Are the little extras essential pieces of a camping list? Absolutely! Some items are beneficial, while others are just fun.
39. Dry Bags. Dry bags are lifesavers if you’re trekking through rivers or get caught in the rain. They keep everything dry, so you don’t have to worry about your supplies or food getting wet or damaged.
40. Navigation Tools. A compass is handy, but you could also bring a GPS device. If you’re backpacking out in the wilderness, then navigation tools are critical.
41. Entertainment. Bring books, games, puzzles, star-gazing charts, music (with headphones), journals, binoculars, or anything else that will keep you entertained and making the most out of your camping trip.
CONCLUSION: YOUR ULTIMATE CAMPING CHECKLIST
Camping is a popular pastime around the world. You can relax in your cozy RV or have an adventure on top of a windy mountain peak. Whichever route you prefer, don’t leave without checking your camping list and bringing all the camping essentials. These items will keep you safe, comfortable, and having fun.
Do you like camping? Where’s your go-to camping area? Let me know in the comments!