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38 Top Camping Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

38 Top Camping Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring
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Camping is one of the best ways to connect with your surroundings and explore our natural world. Getting out of your comfort zone will help you experience some of the most incredible places in a way that staying in a hotel never will.

How you pack for camping can very much affect your comfort and your ability to enjoy your trip to the fullest extent. If you bring the wrong gear, you can easily have a miserable time! And could end up in a dangerous situation.

Below, you’ll find our top recommendations, including a section on what to wear while camping, along with a list of what NOT to bring and other important FAQs based on my 30 years of experience of camping in the great outdoors.

asher and lyric camping
Lyric and I camping on Molokai (a remote island of Hawaii)
See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for Camping – 38 Essentials

  • 1. Solar Charger & Power Bank

    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. I don’t recommend being without a backup power source in the wild.

    Solar Charger & Power Bank

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  • 2. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    Camping travel towels (like the one pictured) are a must because you won’t be able to rely on room service! These towels are ideal after showering or maybe even taking a dip in a lake or stream, but not all towels are created equally. This microfiber towel is compact and quick-drying, so you don’t have to worry about carrying around a smelly towel while camping. It’s sand and dirt-resistant, meaning the towel is free of debris with a quick shake, making it perfect for the outdoors.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 3. Emergency Paracord Bracelet

    This nifty little invention is essential whenever you venture into the wilderness. In addition to the 12-foot-long paracord, it’s got an emergency whistle, small knife, compass, and built-in fire starter. It’s also adjustable for any size wrist and very inexpensive. I would never go camping or hiking without one.

    Emergency Paracord Bracelet

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  • 4. Cooling Towels

    A cooling towel is truly a heaven-sent when trying to stay comfortable in the summer heat. All you have to do is wet the towel, squeeze out the excess water, and then enjoy 30-degree cooler temperatures around your neck, shoulders, and face. Once you try it, you won’t want to be without it. When you’re ready for more relief, all you have to do is wet it again, and it’ll continue to work its magic.

    Cooling Towel Pink and blue

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  • 5. Portable Coffee Maker

    Java is a way of life! Wake up to fresh ground coffee every day of your adventure. This self-contained mug is perfect for a cup of joe, and you can pre-load it with beans for the new brew. If you’re used to having coffee most mornings, don’t skimp on travel days.

    Portable Coffee Maker

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  • 6. Travel Insurance for Camping

    Things can go wrong in the great outdoors, and one of the most important items to have on any vacation is reliable travel insurance. Both for peace of mind and in case of emergency, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered and not paying out-of-pocket for hefty hospital bills or helicopter medivacs that will charge you an arm and a leg.

    We always use Faye because they are revolutionizing the insurance world! They offer affordable plans that cover the costs of lost or stolen luggage, flight cancellations, and medical expenses or hospital visits. They even process claims through their easy-to-use app, so you’re not dealing with endless paperwork to receive a reimbursement. Note: you can only use travel insurance if the destination is 100+ miles from your home.

    Faye Travel Insurance

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Bear-Proof Food Canisters

    Bear-proof containers are a matter of safety for those camping with or around you (and in many national parks, they’re actually required). The BearVault will keep out bears but also be hugely helpful against moisture, bugs, rodents, and anything else that you don’t want getting into your pantry stash! You’ll be protecting your food from creatures with varying degrees of dexterity. Better safe than sorry. It will help prevent a scare, attack, or ransack!

    Bear-Proof Food Canisters

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  • 8. Travel Sleep Set

    Sleeping under the stars will be a lot more comfortable if you’re in a waterproof sleeping bag. This one is super compact and folds to almost the size of your hands when closed in its carrying case. You can go for a more high-quality sleeping bag, but this option is very practical and affordable.

    You may also consider a mattress pad for a little support against the rocky or unstable ground, as well as travel sheets which could be useful for hostels, public transit, etc. And this memory foam pillow is the comfiest travel pillow I’ve ever used!

    Travel Sleep Set

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  • 9. Packing Cubes

    If you want to be able to find things in your backpack, tent, or car, you will absolutely want a set of quality packing cubes and organizers. Instead of digging through every suitcase and backpack pocket to see find one clean pair of underwear, just pull out the labeled cube you’re looking for – TOTAL CAMPING GAME-CHANGER!

    Available on with an exclusive 15% discount using the coupon code “HERO”.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 10. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    Keep your phone free from water or dirt damage with a waterproof phone case. Whether or not you plan to camp by water, storing your phone safely in a waterproof case will be essential in case of any unexpected mishaps or inclement weather. I’ve scratched my lenses on sand and now see the importance of protecting against all elements. It also allows you to bring your phone wherever you may roam, so you can take plenty of pictures and document your unforgettable camping trip!

    waterproof phone pouch

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  • 11. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Camping can offer you an array of bathroom situations like – a portapotty, a squat hole, a shared facility, or most commonly, NO bathroom at all. Since you won’t have countertop space or anywhere to put your toiletries, this hanging toiletry bag is a godsend! It hooks on any branch, car door, or pole and you can unfold it to display 4 giant compartments that work like a built-in shelf, plus 3 external pockets for your jewelry, bobby pins, and knick-knacks.

    This is what we call vertically optimizing your life – since it can hold our entire family’s toiletries, including skincare, haircare, and dental products, as well as makeup, accessories, medication, etc. It has elastic bands to hold the bottles in place. I never travel without it and I definitely wouldn’t camp without it.

    hanging toiletry bag

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  • 12. Flotation Straps

    Don’t neglect to attach a flotation strap to your precious devices. I was out fishing on a lake a few years ago, taking a picture of a water lily, and literally dropped my phone into the foggy depths. Devastating, I KNOW! I tried to find it, but it was instantly gone and sunk further than I could see it. I regretted not having a flotation strap on it, so please learn from my mistakes and ensure your valuables like phones and keys are buoyant!

    Flotation Straps

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  • 13. High-Quality Filtered Water Bottle

    It’s crucial to bring a reusable, high-quality filtered water bottle when camping. You can refill it at your campground’s water spigots without worrying about how clean the source is because it removes waterborne bacteria, viruses, microplastics, sediments, and more. It’s a little pricey, but if you have to fill up in a lake or river, it’s better to have an effective purifier for clean water that could save your life. You may also consider a Brita if you have access to clean water or the LifeStraw as a smaller backup.

    High-Quality Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 14. Coleman Dome Tent

    Choosing the right tent is like choosing the right partner – it’s important! A good tent is weatherproof, spacious, and easy to set up. The size and type of tent you choose will depend upon how many people are in your group or how long you’ll be traveling, but this is a reliable and well-ventilated model for most party sizes. It’s also one of the most affordable quality tents on the market and will last for countless camping trips to come.

    Coleman Dome Tent

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  • 15. Set of Locks

    Whenever you leave the campsite for long hikes or adventures, we would recommend locking and securing your items. While most of the camping fanbase is super chill and honest, you never know who will have sticky fingers or sheer curiosity when things are left unattended. Not to freak you out but once, a man opened our tent while we were going to sleep! Now, we always lock the tent from the inside zipper for safety. Bring a couple of sets for lockers, suitcases, backpacks, and more.

    luggage locks

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  • 16. Hiking Boots

    A solid pair of hiking boots is non-negotiable. Whether you’re hiking national parks or slippery terrains near waterfalls and rivers, you’ll need a strong boot that can withstand water and slick surfaces. This pair by Columbia is made to last with a seam-sealed design to ensure no water gets in. The rubber traction will keep you on your feet, and the toe/heel areas are reinforced. Here’s a pair of hiking boots for men. The link below is for women.

    Hiking Boots

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  • 17. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    There is nothing worse than being caught in a rainstorm while camping without the proper protection. But if you bring a quality windproof travel umbrella, you’ll be sure to be prepared no matter the conditions. This one weighs under one pound, is super compact at only 12 inches when collapsed, and it comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee. You can easily fit 2 people under it for downpours, but it’s also useful for shade on a sunny day.

    travel umbrella

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  • 18. Dry Bag

    While a regular backpack is great to have, a dry bag takes it a step further so you have a safe place to store all of your essentials. You don’t want to watch your bag slosh around a wet canoe or see your cash crumble into nothingness. Even for rainy afternoons, it’s wise to have a bag for your phones, money, books, medication, or anything else you want to keep 100% dry!

    Dry Bag

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  • 19. Mosquito-Repellant Wristbands

    Most camping sites are notorious for creepy crawlers and flying vampires! Bring along some mosquito repellent to protect you and your family. This brand is kid-safe since it uses essential oils like Citronella to mitigate bug bites. Plus, they are wearable wristbands, which is way easier (and safer) than respraying toxic fumes all day! If you would like a spray, just ensure it’s DEET-free.

    Mosquito-Repellant Wristbands

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  • 20. Biodegradable Soap

    Reducing toiletries is usually my number one issue when packing for the outdoors. I try to consolidate with something like this biodegradable soap that serves many purposes – it can be used as a shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and dish wash. The formula is very concentrated, so it will last for a long time.

    Biodegradable Soap

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  • 21. Convertible Hiking Pants

    Convertible hiking pants are a revelation! If you want shorts, you got ‘em. If you want longer pants with heat insulation, you got those too. This pair is made to reflect UVA/UVB sunlight, disperse heat using a silver fiber material, dry quickly, and be convertible if you want to remove the pant leg. I find this instant-shorts design very useful when the lower half of my pants get muddy or wet. Here’s an equally awesome pair of hiking pants for women.

    Convertible Hiking Pants

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  • 22. Waterproof Pocket Blanket

    The perfect travel blanket for all of your adventures! Instead of folding up a giant blanket to tote around, this one is literally pocket-sized and compresses down into a small carrying case. It’s waterproof and comes with stakes to make it wind-proof too. You’ll love having it for beach days, festivals, hiking, and sprawling out across your campsite.

    Waterproof Pocket Blanket

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  • 23. Luggage Straps

    Similar to rope, adjustable straps are a camper’s best friend! And you’ll always find a million uses on an outdoor adventure since their infinite use is only limited by your creativity. Not only can you cinch-in any bag to shrink the size so it takes up less space (which is a huge perk when dealing with the small capacities of a car or van) – but you can also secure suitcases so they don’t break mid-transit, tether bags together for easier maneuvering, create a make-shift handle if anything breaks, or basically fix anything that a rope would mend.

    You can also strap your tent to a checked luggage or a rolling cart, OR use these belts to hang things at your campsite (getting them off the insect-covered ground!) If you’re flying anywhere, these bright straps will be easier to spot at the arrivals terminal and you’ll know immediately which bags are yours.

    luggage straps

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  • 24. Binoculars with Phone Adapter

    You’ll love having a pair of binoculars to spot the wildlife and look out along the vast landscapes of nature. This pair is super cool because it has a phone adapter so you can stream and photograph what you’re seeing through the lenses onto your laptop. It also weighs less than a pound and can see up to 650-feet away! With a tripod included, the price really can’t be beaten.

    Binoculars with Phone Adapter

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  • 25. Camping 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, simple to clean, and quick-drying. All you have to do is find the perfect trees to hang it on, and you’ll be set up in no time.

    Camping Hammock

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  • 26. Wool Socks

    Warm wool socks are a treat! If you’re camping anywhere a little chilly, your toes and fingers will be the first things to get cold. Wool is fantastic for the outdoors since it’s a moisture-wicking material but still breathable, warm, and cushioned. I’d also recommend these hand & foot warmers as a delightful insulator that can be put in your gloves or shoes, keeping you toasty for up to 10 hours.

    Wool Socks

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  • 27. Blister Balm

    While camping, you will be on your feet a lot and will likely do some hiking that puts extra pressure on your heels. To prevent the misery of blistered feet, bring this amazing blister balm and you won’t have an issue. It glides on quickly and lasts most of the day simply by stopping the excess friction that causes blisters. Your feet will thank you!

    Anti-blister balm

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  • 28. Solar Lantern

    You’ll need a light at your campsite, period. This is especially critical during fire bans when the only things lighting your way are the moon and stars. A solar lantern is ideal because it requires no battery changing or electrical source. This collapsible one is my favorite – small but mighty and super bright. I carry it with me for bathroom runs and it can be hung in your tent for some “indoor” lighting.

    Solar Lantern

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  • 29. Outdoor Cooking Supplies

    If you’re looking for the real experience, bring your own cooking supplies and prepare a truly rustic meal. It’s incredibly rewarding and somehow tastes better (maybe it’s the mesquite wood chips!) We like this foldable camping stove that is a convenient way to cook meals, especially if there’s no grill at your campsite. It’s super affordable, lightweight, and made of high-quality materials.

    You may also need fuel, stormproof matches, a collapsible kettle, metal tongs, a foldable spatula, and utensils.

    Outdoor Cooking Supplies

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  • 30. Natural Hand Sanitizer

    When camping, you may not have as much access to running water as at home, but it’s still just as necessary to keep your hands clean, especially when cooking with meat. You’ll want to bring hand sanitizer along so you are able to clean your hands no matter how remote your adventure is. This hand sanitizer does a great job at killing 99% of germs while smelling amazing and keeping your skin moisturized. It’s also safe for children.

    Baby Bum Hand Sanitizer

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  • 31. Quality Cooler

    The trickiest part of camping is deciding what to eat and how to keep your food from perishing. If you’re bringing a gas stove or have a fire pit on-site – bring hot dogs, burgers, or anything else you might like to grill up for dinner. For breakfast, bacon and eggs or yogurt with granola are some simple combinations. This cooler will keep your food and drinks insulated for up to 5 days on ice. You can’t go wrong with Coleman.

    Quality Cooler

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  • 32. Clothesline

    This contractible clothesline is a gem – we used it recently on a weekend camping trip and it’s wonderful for the outdoors, but can also be useful for cruises, trips to Europe and Asia, or for places where electric dryers won’t be readily available. Simply find two trees, extend the line, hook each end, and attach your garments using the included clothespins. You won’t have to deal with soggy towels or stinky items on your camping trip, only fresh linens that smell like pine and sunlight!


    View on ➜

  • 33. Biodegradable Bathing Wipes

    As you detach from the modern world, you may not be able to shower as frequently as you do at home. Not to mention, you will likely be active, sweaty, and stinky! Instead of worrying if your fellow campers will notice your odor, simply carry a few of these little wipes. They’re full-fledged bathing wipes for your entire body in case you can’t access a shower, just use them in the restroom or your tent for a quick refresh. They come in single packets and are biodegradable, alcohol-free, and scent-free.

    Biodegradable Bathing Wipes

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  • 34. Bear Spray

    Bears roam many of North America’s best camping destinations and national parks. Therefore, carrying bear spray while camping is a no-brainer. Again, you’ll want to bring bear-proof containers for your food so that a bear doesn’t try to break into your car or tent at night. Additionally, research suggests that bear spray can also be a good defense against mountain lions who roam much of the same bear territory but can be even more aggressive.

    Bear Spray

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  • 35. Biodegradable Toilet Paper

    Having TP on hand is no joke when you don’t have facilities available. Biodegradable toilet paper is perfect for camping in case you have to do your business behind a bush or tree, the material will rapidly disintegrate when wet, leaving zero waste. You may also want disposable bags for when you have to pee during long road trips or late at night when you don’t want to walk around the woods in the dark!

    Biodegradable Toilet Paper

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  • 36. Outdoor Bathroom Set

    Additionally, you can take it to the next level with a full-blown bathroom set. If you’re not prepared for the true wilderness, compromise with this foldable toilet that uses garbage bags for waste. You may also consider a collapsible shovel for burying your business. And if you’re a woman, don’t be shy about bringing a female urination device – it will allow you the ability to pee standing up! Which is very useful in places with scary bathrooms (or no bathrooms at all).

    Outdoor Bathroom Set

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  • 37. Hydration Daypack

    If you’re going to have any secondary backpacks – this is the one! It’s smart to stay organized with a solid daypack that won’t hurt your back. This one by Camelbak is extremely well-designed for day hiking when you want to be minimalist and just carry the water you need. It’s super lightweight and holds 50 oz, that’s enough to keep you hydrated for several hours.

    Hydration Daypack

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  • 38. Headlamp

    Don’t go off exploring at night without a headlamp. There are no street lights and you could end up in all sorts of trouble! Like walking into a bed of spiders, stepping on a snake, tripping on a rock, and falling over a stump… hopefully not in that order. Overcome the sheer lack of visibility since many camping areas will truly be in the middle of nowhere. This headlamp is a convenient way to wear the tool that lights your path while also keeping yourself hands-free.


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What to Wear Camping

Camping-coffeeDefinitely 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.

Camping-groupClothing 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 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!

  • 3.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.

  • 4.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!

  • 5.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!

  • 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?

    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 rainfly, 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?

    Do all campgrounds allow campfires?

    No. During the 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?

    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?

    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.