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!
Other packing list items for Camping:
Camping Toiletry Pods
Map (specific to the area you’re traveling to)
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
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.
You may also like these other packing lists…