Top 17 Camping Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2019 Update)

Updated on April 13, 2019 by Asher Fergusson

What do I really need to take with me on my camping trip?

Camping is one of the most fun ways to connect with your surroundings and to explore a natural place. It can allow you to explore some of the most incredible places in a way that staying in a hotel or hostel simply can’t, but it can also expose you to some of the more dangerous aspects of nature.

How you pack can very much affect your comfort and your ability to enjoy your camping location to the fullest extent. Below you’ll find my top recommendations for what to wear while camping along with a list of what you should and should NOT bring. See the frequently asked questions for more guidance, and have fun camping!
 


1) Weather-ready clothing – Stay warm in cold weather, and cool on sunny days by wearing moisture-wicking or dri-fit clothing. Dressing in layers (and staying dry!) is key to a comfortable camping experience.

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2) Sleeping bag – Sleeping under the stars will be a lot more comfortable if you’re in a waterproof, season-appropriate sleeping bag. In fact, sometimes it’s downright dangerous to try to camp without one that will give you adequate warmth. This one is lightweight, durable and easy to clean – check out the temperature specs and plan to stay cazy and safe.

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3) Tent – Choosing the right tent is important. A good tent is totally weatherproof and easy to set up. The size and type of tent you choose will depend upon your group size and space needs, but this is a reliable and well-ventilated model.

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4) Solar lantern – This is especially important during fire bans, when the only things lighting your way are the moon and stars. A solar lantern is great because it requires no battery changing or electrical source. This collapsible one is my favorite – easy to pack and super bright, plus it’s light enough to carry with you and hang in your tent for some inside lighting.

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5) Hammock – There’s nothing like relaxing in a hammock under a shady tree at the end of a long hike. This hammock is portable, lightweight, easily cleaned, and quick-drying.

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6) Water bottle – It’s so important to bring a reusable water bottle when camping. You can refill it at your campground’s water spigots, or bring extra gallons of water if necessary. This water bottle is my favorite because of its sip-friendly spout and spill-proof locking mechanism.

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7) Trail snacks – Keep up your energy with yummy snacks on the trail. This mix of peanuts, yogurt chips, raisins, dried cranberries, almonds, cashews, and dates will make you a happy camper!

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8) Dinner/breakfast supplies – The trickiest part of camping is deciding what to eat. If you’re bringing a gas stove (or if there is a fire pit on-site), bring hot dogs, burgers, or anything else you might like to grill for dinner. For breakfast, bacon and eggs or yogurt with granola are some good combinations. Make sure you metal bring tongs and spatula, and pack perishables in a cooler filled with ice.

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9) Camping stove – Bringing a camping stove is a convenient way to cook meals, especially if there’s no grill at your campsite. This one is lightweight, easy to set up, and made of super high-quality materials.

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10) Solar charger – Needless to say, you won’t find many power outlets in the great outdoors. A solar charger with a USB hookup can charge your phone, camera, kindle, or any other device just through the power of the sun! This waterproof one clips onto your backpack so you can let it absorb sunlight while hiking.

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11) Portable water-resistant speaker – Whether you’re camping solo or with a big group, playing music will set the mood for a good time. This one will let you play music from sunrise to sunset after one three-hour charge! Perfect for the outdoors.

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12) First Aid Kit – A lot can go wrong on a camping trip. Be prepared for blisters, splinters, cuts, and other blunders with a well-stocked first aid kit. Keep this one in your daypack so that you can whip it out in case of emergency.

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13) Bug spray – Don’t let bugs ruin your fun. Keep away those mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers with long-lasting bug spray. This one provides up to 8 hours of protection against mosquitoes!

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14) Wool socks – For maximum cushion and temperature control, always hike in wool socks. They’ll keep you comfortable on the trail, and warm at night in your tent.

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15) Hiking boots – A good pair of shoes is absolutely necessary on camping or backpacking trips whether you’ll be hiking much or not. It’s definitely possible to find great hiking shoes online (that’s where I have to do a lot of my specialty shopping for trips). Just be sure to order them well in advance in case you need to exchange sizes, and to leave yourself time to break them in for your camping trip. This way you won’t be hiking in brand new shoes, suffering blisters and foot-ache.

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16) Swimsuit – On camping trips, it’s a good idea to come equipped with a swimsuit for those lake dips or outdoor showers. This one is cute, comfortable, and stays put!

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17) Hydration Daypack – It’s important to stay organized with a solid daypack that won’t hurt your back. Camelbak makes well-designed, technically aesthetic daypacks that great for a full day out on the trail. It’ll also keep you hydrated!

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Other packing list items for Camping:


 

What to wear Camping:


Definitely do your research prior to packing for camping. This is one of the few travel types where it’s better to be a little overprepared than to be underprepared.

With that in mind, be sure that every item you pack can be used repeatedly without having to be washed or wearing out. Convertible pants, a light multi-use jacket (rain and windproof, warm but not too warm), well-broken-in hiking boots, a dependable hat, and appropriate cold weather gear are must-haves. Beyond that, be sure that your clothes are easy to layer and can be added or removed when needed without taking up too much room in your pack.

Clothing should also be moisture-wicking when possible (no cotton – this takes FAR too long to dry and can keep dampness near your skin which is never a good thing). You can certainly pack rugged sandals (think Chacos, Keens, Tevas, etc. that have traction and good straps) if the area you’re in will be warm enough. Sandals give your feet much-needed air and can offer a break from the hiking boots you’ll be wearing for the tougher hikes. I personally bring my Chacos on every trip I take because I can hike in them and they’re amphibious – I can creek-stomp one hour and hike up dunes the next if needed, and they’ll dry quickly without any damage.

Above all, remember that you’re carrying your gear in and out.
Don’t bring excessive amounts of anything, because each item adds to your overall haul. Bring enough to be prepared for anything, but not too much.
 

What NOT to take Camping


1) 🚫 DON’T PACK denim: Don’t encumber yourself with stiff, inhibiting jeans. Denim and camping don’t mix well, especially since wet jeans are the worst and they take days to dry! Opt for rugged quick-dry fabrics instead.
2) 🚫 DON’T BRING jewelry or nice clothing: Style points don’t count for anything out here, and these items can get lost or damaged easily when you’re roughing it. Leave them safely at home!
 
3) 🚫 DON’T TAKE unnecessary electronics: You DEFINITELY don’t need your computer, tablet, or iPod when trying to appreciate the outdoors. You DO need your phone and a GPS device in case of emergencies, though!
4) 🚫 DON’T PACK anything with a strong perfume or odor: Do your part to keep bears and other wildlife away from humans (to protect yourself and the animals) and don’t bring anything too smelly!
 
5) 🚫 DON’T TAKE white clothing: If you do, you’re just begging to fall in mud, brush up against tree sap, or squirt hot dog condiments on yourself. Dark colors are best, but they absorb the sun (and therefore heat you up) much more than lighter colors, so keep that in mind! It can help or hurt your case based on where you’re camping.
6) 🚫 DON’T BRING anything you’re not willing to carry back out with you: The cardinal rule of camping is that everything you pack in, you MUST pack back out. No unnatural trace of your stay should be left behind, so bring a trash bag or two to collect any waste that you may have, and carry it all back out when you’re done.
 

FAQs about Camping:


1) How can I find out if there will be potable water at my campsite?

Always check the website of the park that you’ll be camping at. Most, but not all, campgrounds have a water source like a spigot that can be used to fill up your water bottles.
 
Look online or call the park ranger service to check for specifics about your campground. You should also always plan to bring a filtered water bottle in case you get stuck somewhere without potable water. A LifeStraw is also an extremely good idea.

2) How do you deal with inclement weather?

As stated before, always dress in layers. Make sure you bring a rain jacket or poncho, your tent’s rain fly, and some in-tent games to stay entertained during a freak rainstorm!

3) Can I expect to shower while camping?

Some campgrounds have showers. They might be relatively nice indoor hot-water showers, or they could be an exposed water spigot outside. Look online or call the park ranger service to check for specifics about your campground.

4) Do all campgrounds allow campfires?

No. During dry season, many campgrounds will have a fire ban. Make sure you check online or call your local park ranger service to find out. If you cannot make a campfire, make sure you bring a gas stove to cook with, and obey all fire safety regulations!

5) How can I cook while camping?

Many fire pits come with an iron grill that goes on top to cook with. You can use this with or without tin foil, pots and pans to cook on. It’s also a good idea to bring a camping stove.

6) How do I find a campground near me?

You can find a campground through this website. You can even search for specific dates and group sizes! Another great resource for finding legal and safe campsites is the National Park Service site where they offer a similar search tool.

7) What sorts of activities can I do while camping?

Depending on where will be, you can likely hike, climb, swim, fish, slackline, do yoga, cook, read, and just plain relax! It’s all up to you.

8) How do I choose the right gear for my camping trip?

Stores like REI have professionals who can help you find just the right gear. If you’re shopping online, make sure you read lots of reviews (and double-check dimensions) before ordering anything.

9) Do I need to plan on hiking to and from any campsite?

This depends entirely on the kind of campsite you’ve chosen. I’ve camped in sites that were a two-hour hike from my car, ones that I could park my car 10 feet away from, and everything in between. Whatever your situation, just be sure you know the route to and from your campsite, and that you bring along a map or GPS just in case. Even the simplest routes can look very different if weather changes, and you don’t want to be stuck without a way back to civilization.

10) What kinds of safety precautions do I need to take when camping?

Camping is inherently a little risky, but it’s not as dangerous as it seems. Most camping trips are fun and uneventful, but you should always be prepared in case something bad should happen. Too many tragedies have arisen from individuals taking unnecessary risks and being utterly unprepared for even the most basic of mishaps.

  • Know the area. Know your route, bring navigational tools like a compass, a map, and a GPS, and be sure you’re familiar with alternative routes just in case.
  • Tell someone where you’re going. This may seem silly, but telling someone exactly where you’re going (specific camping location) and when you expect to return can make the biggest difference if something bad happens. If something were to happen and this person didn’t hear from you, they’d be your best chance of getting help.
  • Bring emergency gear. A first aid kit, emergency energy bars (Snickers are actually ideal for this!) and a LifeStraw can mean the difference between success and tragedy should something terrible happen!
  • Don’t bring gear you haven’t tested or broken in. Knowing your gear is important if you’re going to be relying heavily on it. Things like tents and cooking gear are not such a big deal, but shoes and any climbing or rappelling gear should be completely tested in familiar conditions before you trust your safety to them in the wilderness.
  • Familiarize yourself with local wildlife. Know whether bears are an issue so that you’re prepared to store your food accordingly. Likewise, preparing for the possibility of aggressive or venomous animals like moose and snakes is wise – you should know what to avoid to keep yourself and your camping party safe.
  • Be respectful. Respect the regulations and respect nature! Also, be sure to respect any nearby campers, as they’re there to enjoy the wildlife just as you are.

 
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