It makes sense that this year’s hot vacation trend is camping. It is easy to see the attraction of the great outdoors, remote spaces, the fresh air of the wilderness, the option for a road trip, and in many cases, low-cost or free campsites.
As a novice, however, thinking about camping gear and what to pack can be daunting. Beyond the tent, camper, RV or sleeping bag under the stars, our outdoor experts put together a basic camping checklist, plus optional extras for those who want to take the experience to the next level.
12 Must-Have Camping Supplies:
Not just any ol’ backpack will do for a camping trip. We recommend a bag that is lightweight, durable, comfortable and weatherproof. The final destination should help guide the style. A larger hiking pack is great for those who need to carry most gear on their backs, whereas a smaller waterproof dry backpack should work for shorter treks and fishing trips. Either way, bring extra dry bags inside the backpack to house important items like phones, lighters and clothes.
First and foremost, check whether fire is permitted, as some parks and drier areas restrict open flames. It is useful to bring at least two forms of fire-starters. Budget and space will help determine the best method, but practical options include a lighter, strikers, matchsticks and ignitor. Depending on the access to materials, bringing firewood or charcoal can also be beneficial.
- Tools and repair items
A multi-tool and a good knife are must-haves for any camping trip. If space allows, a mallet, hand-saw, duct tape and tent or mattress repair kits can make camping life a bit easier. Camping should be a way to disconnect, but an extra battery pack or solar-powered phone charger are good backups for safety reasons, no matter how remote the location.
Water is a must. Jugs of water will do the trick, but for campers who have access to a freshwater source, pairing a travel Berkey water filter with a reusable water bottle can take the load off since water can be pretty heavy. If caffeine is required to get moving in the morning, don’t forget to pack a small packet of instant coffee.
When it comes to food, plan ahead. Consider packing a cooler with prepared meals wrapped in aluminum foil to heat over the fire, or bring along ingredients for one-pot meals. Pack some healthy snacks and easy-access food like apples, bananas, protein bars and instant oatmeal. Keep it stored properly so food does not go to waste or get discovered by the new furry “neighbors.”
And let’s face it … if you don’t have roasted marshmallows, did you even go camping? To take s’mores up a notch, sub graham crackers for Oreos or opt for chocolate-filled marshmallows.
Camping-friendly cookware and utensils
Whether roasting over a fire, serving as chef in the RV or going all-out grillmaster, campers need the right tools to cook and dine in their own personal camp kitchen. A grill rack, skillet or Dutch oven – with a necessary pot holder – usually does the trick for campfire cooking. Depending on meal options, consider roasting sticks, serving spoons, a can opener and a cutting board. A trusty camp stove is always good for a quick boil or skillet meal.
Now it’s time to eat. Bring lightweight bowls and cups or lunch boxes, plus portable bamboo utensils, which can be found at most zero waste shops and sporting goods stores. Sanitary cleanup is important too, so pack a sponge and biodegradable dish soap to get ready for the next meal.
- Bedding and seating
If glamping or RV-ing it, bedding is likely already set. In most other cases, a sleeping bag, hammock, sleeping pad, waterproof blankets and/or pillows are the least required items for comfort. For a better night’s sleep, an air mattress or cot is ideal, especially if the terrain is questionable.
Extra seating may seem like luxury for some who prefer to rough it with a log around the campfire. For a more comfortable setup, pack a portable folding chair; some even recline to transform into a bed! Looking for that Instagram-worthy campsite? Add some cushions and floor pillows for a cozy yet stylish atmosphere á la Coachella.
Baby wipes, toilet paper, hand soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreen are the bare minimum for a short camping trip. A portable outdoor shower and a quick-dry towel come in handy when bathroom facilities are not available.
From citronella candles to ward off insects to the Bug Bite Thing suction tool for post-bite or sting relief, protection from bugs is crucial on camping trips. Bug Bite Thing is so small that packing two is a good idea in case one gets lost along a hike. If the campsite is in a mosquito-ridden locale or is prone to ticks, a screened sun shelter can provide an extra layer of protection.
- First-aid kit
Do not skimp on the first-aid kit. Antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, sterile bandages, gauze, fever-reducing medication, tweezers, cotton swabs and antihistamine for allergic reactions are some of the basic needs. The longer the trip, the farther from a hospital and the more dangerous the terrain, the more items that are necessary to bring.
There are a number of lighting options for camping trips. Flashlights or headlamps and extra batteries are essential for a backpacking trip. Lanterns are great to illuminate the campsite and some options have a built-in fan. To really set the mood, fairy lights add some twinkle inside the tent or around the campsite.
Enjoying the surrounding environment is often enough, though family vacations or longer trips may require some extra entertainment support. Fishing gear is perfect for spots near lakes, rivers and oceans (bonus: catch dinner at the same time). Books, Bluetooth speakers and star charts can add to the ambiance, and Uno is a fan-favorite game because it’s so compact.
- Trash bags
When camping, it is critical to leave the site the way you found it in order to create a minimal footprint on the Earth. It’s best to limit waste in general while experiencing the outdoors, but bring a couple garbage bags to pack any trash before heading out.
A packing list for camping is ultimately dependent on the location, mode of transportation, lodging, experience and budget, but we hope these ideas serve as a guide to knock out the basics. More is usually less when it comes to living that tent life, but luxe camping with all the glamorous gear is pretty fun, too. For more camping hacks, travel ideas and adventures, follow Bug Bite Thing on Pinterest.