Camping is a fantastic way to enjoy nature, but if you do not have your camping essentials, it can be a stressful time. What you need will slightly vary depending on the type of campground you will be at, and whether you will be hiking in, or driving in. The last thing you want to do is waste your precious time in nature by spending it backtracking to pick up some forgotten items.
This is the list of camping essentials that we use when packing for a camping trip. It is not just for first-time campers. Every time you take off to go camping, you should have a list to help you check your camping essentials before you leave on your adventure. It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new adventure, trust me. If you’re lucky, you may be at a public campsite that has a little store with some essentials, but this is not always the case.
These are the camping essentials that you will not want to leave behind. They will help to turn a mediocre camping trip into an amazing one and make it as comfortable and relaxing as possible.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but unless you’re sleeping in your vehicle, your shelter will be one of the top camping essentials you do not want to forget unless you want to be sleeping under the stars (which is not always a bad thing) and exposed to all of the elements all night (covered in mosquito bites, possibly?).
If you are a first-time camper, you may want to see if you can borrow one in case you do not love it. If you are making camping a regular getaway, you will want to invest in a quality tent. There are so many tenting options available that picking the best one can be very overwhelming.
We have had a few different tents over the years, and these would be our current top choices: A great budget camping tent is the Coleman Skydome. If you’re looking for a pop-up tent that you can simply throw in the air, and “poof!”, it is ready for you, try the Zenph 2-3 Persons Pop Up Tent. If you’re looking for a backpacking tent, try the REI Co-op Half Dome SL 2+ Tent with Footprint. If your family is expanding, you’ll love all the extra space in the large 8-person Coleman Elite Montana 8.
If you’re one who would rather sleep under the stars in nice weather, you could also opt to bring a hammock if your campsite will allow it. Plop in your sleeping bag, and you’re all set!
Related Post – Camping For Beginners – Tips To Enjoy Camping This Summer
We recommend keeping a Bivvy in your car at all times. If you happen to forget some essentials for a camping trip, or just get stuck in an unfavorable situation on the road, a Bivvy can really be a life-saver. It is a fantastic backup when you need protection from the elements.
A quality bivvy sack will help reflect up to 90% of your radiated body heat. It is waterproof, windproof, and light. It also comes with its own extra large-stuff sack that is excellent for keeping extra survival gear with you.
To stay comfortable when camping, getting a quality sleeping bag is important. If you get a cheap one, you’ll immediately regret it through the changing temperatures.
A good warm sleeping bag for camping is good even for summer camping. It may be hot during the day, but it sure can get cold at night. If you’re too hot, it can be extra padding for a comfortable sleep. When you wake up cold in the night, crawling into the sleeping bag to stay warm is easier than waking up those around you as you fumble around to add layers of clothing.
Sleeping on bumpy, hard, and uneven ground is a recipe for a disaster for a restful sleep. You would think that all of your adventures while camping would make you fall asleep as soon as your head ‘hits the pillow’, but that is not always the case.
You do not have to spend a fortune, but if you plan on putting the sleeping pad to good use, you will want to emphasize quality when choosing.
A quality sleeping pad for camping is also important not just for comfort, but for warmth, too.
Know what the water access is like before your trip. Water is absolutely essential for survival in the great outdoors. Find out if there is a public water source near you, or where to find water if you are on a remote trip.
We always take along a couple of water bricks. They are so helpful to leave at the campsite so we do not have to keep walking back and forth for more water when we are doing the dishes or want to easily extinguish the campfire at the end of the night.
These water bricks have 3.5 gallons of water, have handles for easy carrying, and can be stacked.
When you’re adventuring from your campsite, the last thing you want is to be stuck without fresh water. Whether you are at a drive-in campground, or farther off the beaten path, you’ll need to make sure that you have a supply of water. Carry a supply of water in a hydration pack, water bottle, or another large container. Also be sure to pack water purification tablets, since drinking from a lake or pond if you need to fill up, can cause illness from bacteria.
If you’re backcountry camping, a water filter or purifier may also be a good option for you.
First Aid Kit
Camping is a great way to get away from the busyness of life. It is so good for the soul to spend time in nature, but it also comes with being out of reach of some of the most important necessities like painkillers and bandages.
You can make a DIY first aid kit, or make a small and worthwhile investment in a quality First Aid kit that will get you out of some unfavorable situations. You never want to go on any adventures without being properly prepared.
If you choose to invest in a ready-made first aid kit, you need to check that the supplies are of good quality and that there is a range of supplies to help treat both small and large injuries. We also recommend that you take a basic training course. A first aid kit is of little use if you do not know how to properly use what is inside it.
First Aid is not something that you should take lightly!
For the best comfort around the campfire, you’ll need camping chairs. A quality camping chair should fold up easily for transport, be comfortable and supportive and be able to withstand the elements.
While nobody likes to put gross chemicals on their skin, we have tried several natural and not-so-natural methods of bug repellent, and we still keep coming back to Deet.
We still try to use it sparingly, but we have yet to find another solution that works as well. It is not enjoyable when you’re camping and covered in bug bites. We were especially thankful when we were chasing waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park as the bugs during our visit were out in full force. Thanks to Deet, we escaped relatively unscathed. Insect repellent is a must!
Don’t let bug bites be the reason why your trip ends early.
Camping Cookware and Utensils
Food really does taste better when it is made outdoors. To make and enjoy the best camping meals, you need the right camping cookware. It is hard to improvise if you forget your plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery.
It also just doesn’t feel like camping without being able to roast some marshmallows to make s’mores, or hot dogs over the fire, so do not forget your telescopic skewers!
For ease of preparing your meals without having to get the fire going every time, we recommend you take a camping stove. Plus, if there is a fire ban in effect, you’ll need the camping stove to cook your meals.
We love our Coleman propane stove and the delicious meals it has prepared for us over the last couple of years.
Thick Socks & Toque
When you go to bed warm from the hot summer day and wake up freezing in the middle of the night, you’ll be thankful that you brought along a toque (they are not just for winter!) and thick socks.
We also like to bring along socks that are long, as they help protect your feet and calves from bugs. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with your legs and feet all itchy from being devoured during the night.
It is never guaranteed that you will have a flushable toilet or outhouse, that is stocked with toilet paper. We always bring toilet paper with us; better safe than stuck in a gross situation.
You’ll also want to bring along the basics for good hygiene: toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, sanitizer, and shampoo.
Not everyone was in Guides or Scouts growing up, and not everyone cares to take the time to start a fire with two sticks. No judgment here on how you prefer to start a fire. More important, is that the campfire gets started safely, and quickly, so you can warm your bum by the fire sooner than later.
Using some campfire starter is an excellent way to get that fire going with ease. Don’t stress yourself out when you can be enjoying a campfire faster!
Also, to get that fire started, bringing a waterproof lighter will ensure that it will still work in wet conditions.
First of all, there are rules surrounding firewood. Sometimes you can pick some up at the gas station on your way to the campsite, or stacks of firewood are sold on-site. Other times, you cannot bring firewood between campsites to different destinations, and it can be illegal to do so.
The rules can vary between the location of one camping adventure and the next. Make sure you do your research. Know what the rules are before you take off on your trip.
You wouldn’t want to be left without firewood to roast those marshmallows!
A quality axe will help you split up that firewood into tidy fire-sized pieces in no time. You’ll want to look for an axe that has quality materials and construction, is stainless steel, has a sticky grip, and a good balance between the head and shaft.
A good camping lantern is an important essential. It is great when you need to light the night to wander to the outhouse in the middle of the night, during nightly card games, to make some late-night snacks, and to free up your hands.
You’ll need to choose between electric and gas-powered. Electric lanterns are light and safe to use in a tent. If you’re away on multi-day trips, the batteries may be a pain in cold weather. Always make sure you have extra batteries, or if you are using rechargeables, a power source to charge the batteries.
Gas-powered lanterns work well in cold temperatures. The burn lasts a long time, but because it is a live flame, they can get extremely hot. Also, they require ventilation and must be kept away from flammable materials. Bringing it in the tent is a HUGE no-no.
When we camp with the kids, we opt for the electric lanterns as it feels safer to have around our young kids.
You’ll want to consider the weight and size of the lantern you choose.
If you find yourself wandering around a lot after dark, you may want to also consider a headlamp for those middle of the night bathroom trips. It is always helpful to be hands-free and to not have to find somewhere to put a lantern that won’t gross you out.
Quality sunscreen is always a must when you’re outdoors. Even on a cloudy day, if the UV rays are high enough, you can still find yourself with a sunburn if you do not use sunscreen.
We are very active when we are camping. We spend days hiking or cooling off at the lake. This also makes waterproof sunscreen a must. It is also important to consider the impact that the sunscreen will have on the environment around you. When possible, opt for eco-friendly options.
You’re getting into nature to enjoy the wild. That does not mean that you want to invite the wild into your campsite. All of your food should always be secured. You never want to leave any food unattended or out while you’re sleeping.
These airtight containers will keep your food safe from animals, and trap the food smells to ensure that you aren’t waking up a bear enjoying itself at your campsite.
You’re packing a lot of delicious food to make the ultimate camp meals. Having a cooler will ensure that your food is kept cold, and will keep your camping crew from getting sick from improperly “refrigerated” food.
It is also good practice to plan your meals so the perishables will be consumed first. A quality cooler will keep food for about three days after you first open it.
There is nothing worse than waking up to a crick in your neck from a bad sleep the night before. We usually bring a pillow from home that we know we can get a good night’s sleep with.
However, there are also other great options if you’re trekking into the backcountry. You won’t want to lug a memory foam pillow with you for that. The Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow packs down small and is one of the comfiest we have tried and comes in a variety of sizes.
If you’re concerned with space and weight, the Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight packs right down to fit into the palm of your hand.
Car Jumper Battery
We learned the hard way last summer a new car can all of a sudden stop working. There were no previous problems until we were camping and the car wouldn’t start. We lucked out the first night with having a fellow camper help us out. Not everyone will be so lucky.
Our vehicle had a faulty battery that needed to be replaced, and we have had no problems since. But, that experience taught us a valuable lesson. Jumper cables may not be enough; keep a Portable Power Station Jumpstarter in your trunk. If you are in an unfavorable position, you can jump your own car and get out of there. Our jumper also doubles as a charging device, though I would only use it as such in an emergency.
Even though we are escaping the city for the wilderness, I like to feel safe. I like to charge my camera batteries and keep my cell phone charged in case of an emergency. Every cell phone is able to call 9-1-1, even if you are not in service. However, it is nice to have that added security of safety when you have a power bank to charge your devices mid-trip.
The weather can change in what feels like an instant. We have left for camping trips that forecast sunshine and have ended up in a downpour through the night. In those situations, it is helpful to have a tarp for a little bit more shelter from the rain. The last thing you want is to wake up sleeping in a puddle. Nobody wants to be wet and miserable for the remaining nights of your trip.
Not all campsites (especially if you’re in a remote camp) will have a shower accessible. It always feels good to be able to freshen up. An easy way is to bring some biodegradable unscented baby wipes. You will have to pack them out, so remember a zip lock bag if you’re without access to a garbage can. You’ll want to use a wipe for your face and neck, and then one for your underarms and groin area. It is amazing how great a little refresh feels!
Weather Appropriate Clothing & Rain Gear
Camping trips are more enjoyable when you’re dry and warm. Pack clothes that you can layer. That way, you will never feel overheated, or too cold. You can simply just remove or add a layer as needed.
You’ll want to look for rainproof, but breathable options. You especially will not want to bring a heavy jacket. Make sure your hiking rain jacket is able to protect you from the elements while being comfortable.
From preparing the night’s campfire dinner to trimming a rope or cutting a fishing line, a pocket knife is a great multipurpose tool. Bringing one along will help alleviate unexpected headaches, giving you the ability to accomplish simple fixes.
Like most other essentials, the camping knife comes in many shapes and sizes. There are a few things to consider when choosing the right pocket knife for your adventure style. Quality is important; a bigger blade is not always better. A quality knife will stay sharper longer, have a better design with good balance and grip. Also, it has the potential to last a lifetime.
Cell Phone, Whistle, Pocket Mirror
If you run into an emergency, you will want these three things. They are especially important if your campsite is in a more remote area. All cell phones are capable of calling 9-1-1 with or without a coverage plan.
The whistle will allow you to bring attention to yourself, while the pocket mirror can reflect light to show your location. Everyone has a cell phone with them these days. However, a whistle and reflecting light from a pocket mirror can help direct emergency services to you.
Map, GPS, Or Compass
Ensure if you take off on a hike that you have a method to find your way back to camp. The woods can seem unfamiliar as the sun changes, so having a map, GPS, or compass will come in handy. Even if you’re camping with kids and it seems like a quick jaunt, make sure there is a way to return safely.
Before You Go…
Make sure you do your research. Find out what the campground offers, as one campsite is not the same as the next.
Having a great trip depends on how well you prepare. Bring along your camping essentials and you’re setting yourself up for a fabulous adventure. Remember, when you’re in nature, you’re only as strong as the essentials in your arsenal.
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