The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

The Ultimate Camping Checklist: Must-Have Gear for Your Next Trip

Camping packing list
Rei camping checklist
Car camping essentials
What to bring camping
What to take camping
Must have camping gear
Essential camping gear 
Camping equipment list
Car camping checklist
Camping items
Camping supply list
Camping gear used 
Camping checklist PDF
What to wear for camping

These days, camping is the number one way to see the U.S. on a budget. In fact, it’s how I saw most of Colorado. On my camping trips to Salida, Gunnison, and Leadville. Sure, you can become an avid camper and invest in some expensive must-have camping gear. However, the majority of us believe that camping is meant for leisure rather than extreme sport which means that much of the “camping equipment” I’m about to share with you can be found around the house…The downside to camping is that it involves a lot more packing and preparation on the front end of your outdoor vacation. And while it can be difficult and overwhelming to decide what to bring on a camping trip, there’s very little harm in overpreparation. 

I’m the ultimate over-packer when it comes to camping and I usually start the process a few days in advance. The hardest part is working up the courage to get started. It can be easier to get over this first hump if you break things down into categories of essential camping gear. That’s why my FREE 4 Essential Lists to Pack for Camping, Even if it’s Your First Time is the perfect camping checklist. I broke it down into 4 lists of must-have camping gear including clothing, cooking, sleeping, and miscellaneous. 

This camping packing list is bare bones. It’s a solid camping checklist that provides a great place to start. It works best for car, tent, or RV camping. It is suited for the beginner or as a starting point for someone more experienced. I kept the amount of each item vague as your location and length of stay will obviously impact this. Keep reading here for specific camping items and brands that I like to use as they’re not included in the packing guide. Now, no more procrastinating… let’s get packing! 

What to Bring on a Camping Trip: Clothing

Here’s the thing, when considering what to wear for camping, remember that you’re outside the entire vacation. Pay attention to your weather app and focus on comfortable, functional, athletic clothing. Location matters too. My midwestern camping trips have had pretty predictable weather…hot and humid with cooler nights. However, the mountains can present unpredictable temperatures and precipitation which requires a bit more preparation in this category.

Typically, I think about layering when I pack for camping trips. Have your staple tanks, tees, and shorts to wear all day with warmer layers to throw over the top in the mornings and evenings. One thing you absolutely should not leave the house without is waterproof or water-resistant clothing. Whether it’s simply from the morning dew or an afternoon mountain shower, it’s essential to have clothing that keeps you dry. I typically bring my Teva sandals, waterproof hiking boots, and this L.L. Bean water-resistant jacket. 

What to Bring on a Camping Trip: Cooking

Camping meals and cooking is probably the most intimidating category on my camping checklist, but it doesn’t have to be. The thing is, people tend to complicate camping cooking and panic about how they’ll eat. My best advice is to keep it simple and plan ahead. If you are worried about cooking on a grate over a fire…then don’t. There are plenty of no-cook camping meal options that you can prepare ahead. You can also purchase a camping propane grill or stove, or use the charcoal grills provided at some campsites.

Whatever your method, there remain the cooking accessories that every camping kitchen needs. For your kitchen camping supply list visualize all the steps of cooking from prep, to cooking, to clean up. That will help you avoid forgetting that convenient, everyday kitchenware that you take for granted. Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Going Camping for the easiest camping dinner. 

What to Bring on a Camping Trip: Sleeping

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I encourage you not to overthink this category of must-have camping gear. Similar to clothing, you’ll want to consider the weather and location of your summer camping trip. This is also the category that you may have to invest in the most. Many of us don’t have tents and sleeping bags lying around the house. Before purchasing a tent, think about how much you plan to use it. If this is a one-time camping deal, there are options for renting camping gear that you might want to consider.

Tents are typically sold based on the type of camping, number of people, and weather (e.g. 3-season vs. 4-season). We bought a 3-season, 3-person tent on Amazon. Sleeping bags are sold based on temperature. For example, I have a 30-degree REI sleeping bag which means I’ll be warm until it dips below 30. Last on the camping sleeping gear list is a sleeping pad. While sleeping pads aren’t necessary they’ll definitely save your back and provide that extra bit of comfort for a good night’s sleep. 

What to Bring on a Camping Trip: Miscellaneous

What does miscellaneous even mean? It’s a catchall and maybe an uncreative way of saying…everything else. In a camping context, I included things like hygiene items, safety gear, and entertainment. My list is not exhaustive in this category and only contains essentials. This is the camping supply list that will most likely grow as you pack. Each item will jog your memory of another must-have camping item. The miscellaneous list is meant to keep you entertained while ensuring maximum comfort. Think camping chairs, firewood, hand sani., and flashlights. 

Camping feels intimidating, but it shouldn’t have to. As long as you bring the essentials, avoid procrastination, and fight perfectionism you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip. Also, there are almost always options if you forget things. Campgrounds usually have general stores and most of the time there’s a grocery around the corner or at least on the way. So, take a deep breath of that fresh outdoor air and relax. You’ve done the work and packed all of your must-have camping gear.

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