Thinking of taking an adventure in the great outdoors? While specific gear will depend on climate, terrain, whether you’re car camping or backpacking, and your camp setup (e.g. tent or RV), these packing tips will help you cover all of the necessities — with specific recommendations on the gear we use on all of our camping trips.
Be sure to start compiling your own specific item list well ahead of time so you know you’ll have everything when the time comes!
The Ultimate Camping Checklist
Tent: If you’re packing a car, pack your tent last so it’s the first thing you’re able to set up. Double-check you have all your poles and stakes, a mallet, and your rain-fly (if applicable). We use this lightweight Marmot tent.
Sleeping Bags: Down or down-substitute sleeping bags are the lightest and easiest to compress.
Sleeping Pads: These Therm-a-Rest compact sleeping pads give you cushion and help radiate heat back to your body.
Clothesline: If there’s a chance you’ll get wet, bring an adjustable bungee clothesline and clothespins for drying.
Hammock: Hammocks are a great addition for relaxing if you have the space. This one is under $20!
Headlamp: Bring a headlamp for each person in your group and a few extra batteries.
Pots and Pans: Invest in one really good pot and one pan. We also keep a larger pot handy for camping with big groups. We love this tiny cookware set for backpacking trips because it’s extremely compact.
Camping Stove: These 2-burner stoves are great for car camping and they make cooking in the outdoors simple. For backpacking trips, this backpacking stove is tiny, weighs next to nothing and it heats stuff up fast.
Lighter/Matches: Make sure to pack a few of each! A waterproof case for your matches is also a must.
Dishes: One plate, 1 bowl, 1 mug and one set of utensils for each person. Don’t forget tupperware for leftovers!
Clothing & Toiletries
When you’re roughing it, it’s okay to wear the same set of clothes for a few days. Bring as little as you feel comfortable with, but be sure to have the necessary layers and fabric (waterproof, etc.) for the weather. To save space, wear your bulkiest clothing items on travel days.
Layered Clothing: Base layers are always a good idea when camping; they keep you warm at night by wicking away sweat and holding in your body heat. This packable jacket is another handy item to pack because it doesn’t take up much room and keeps you super warm on those cold nights by the campfire. And don’t forget a beanie to keep your head and ears warm!
Insect Repellent: We always keep a pen size spray pump of insect repellent in our camping gear, so we never have to worry about forgetting this very important item.
Toiletries: Depending on the length of your trip, you’ll want to bring the usual shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste and face wash. (TIP: Dr. Bronner’s All Natural Liquid Soap can be used as shampoo, body wash, mouthwash, shaving cream, or even dish soap or laundry detergent AND it’s free of chemicals, so it won’t harm the environment.) Take a toothbrush and some floss, too—those are one of the most frequently forgotten items.
If you’re only going day-hiking, a standard frameless backpack is fine. Fruit, nuts, and jerky will keep you sated and energized. For multi-day hikes, get a framed backpack, and make sure you pack no more than 20-30% of your body weight. Soft items like clothing should be directly against your back, while heavy items like cooking gear should be in the center of your pack for balance.
Water Filtration System: If you’ll be hiking or camping near a water source, we found this amazing water filtration system. It’s compact and it eliminates 99.9% of bacteria.
Shoes: It’s a no-brainer that shoes (and socks!) can make or break your hiking trip. I wear these women’s hiking shoes and I cannot live without these smartwool hiking socks — which provide cushion and keep my feet dry.
Daypack: I use this backpack for hiking. It has everything I need — including two large side pockets for water, an internal padded sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder, plenty of internal and external compartments, and an attached rainfly.
Bring as few as possible! But if you have a GPS device (including your phone), you can keep it charged with a rechargeable device.
Charger: This mini lantern doubles as a light source and an external battery charger. It provides up to 52 hours of light or back up boost to your phone.
Portable Camping Lantern: This small portable lantern is unlike any other lantern we’ve ever owned — it’s rechargeable, it can be used as an external battery to charge your electronic devices, it’s lightweight, and it’s 100% waterproof! Plus, it’s only $37!
Rechargeable Phone Case: While I love the above external battery chargers and always bring them on our camping trips, having a phone case with a built-in external battery means I’ll never be caught with a dead phone battery. This case has changed my life — not just for camping, but for long travel days.
Again, a lighter load is better. Limit yourself to two lenses and your lightest tripod (or a monopod that you can lean against something). A special camera backpack can keep your gear safe and dust-free, and you’ll want to keep your gear in the shade if you’re camping in hot weather.