Camping is for the nature-enthusiasts and outdoor wilderness lovers. But it’s also a budget-friendly way to spend quality time with your family! If you’re planning a camping trip and don’t know where to begin, here are the camping essentials that you’ll need to pack for your first camping experience.
A few noteworthy things first
- Reserve your campsite in advance, because spots fill up quickly during peak season.
- Make sure that your campsite has a picnic table and access to a bathroom. Most basic/beginner spots will have these elements.
- Most campsites provide a fire pit, although you must provide your own wood.
- Always check the weather in advance!
As you can imagine, a tent and sleeping bag are essential for every camping packing list.
Tents should come with a footprint (a tarp that lays between the tent and the ground) and spikes to keep the tent from blowing away. Some also come with an additional piece to protect your tent from rain or extreme sun.
- Make sure that your tent is large enough to sleep each person in your group, and purchase a larger tent if you plan to have extensive luggage (or a pack-and-play for little kiddos).
- If you’re built on the taller side, take note of the height to see if you can easily stand up inside.
- Two doors are nice if you don’t want to step over people in the middle of the night for a bathroom break, or early in the morning.
- Don’t forget to always take off your shoes before entering the tent to keep it clean, and keep the zippers closed to avoid bugs!
- Buy (or borrow) and camping lantern to hang inside of your tent at night.
Speaking of sleeping, every person will need both a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad. The pad keeps you off of the ground and provides an extra level of comfort. (Nothing is worse than sleeping on a bumpy rock or ice-cold patch of grass!)
- The most important factor regarding sleeping bags is the temperature rating. If you plan to camp on the shoulder seasons, ensure that your bags will keep you warm enough. If you mainly plan to camp during the summer, consider purchasing a lightweight sleeping bag sheet liner.
- Rectangular bags offer more room to move around in the middle of the night, while mummy-styled ones will keep you as snug as a bug.
- Consider how thick, long, wide, and well-insulated your sleeping pad is; try to have it match your body type and camping terrain.
Tip: Can’t afford to buy a tent and sleeping bag for your family? Borrow from someone else. That way you can save money, try out different products, and have your friend teach you how to use them properly. Don’t know anyone who likes to camp? Head to your local outdoor store to rent the equipment.
Cooking over a fire is one of the unique things about camping! Especially when you can roast s’mores, cook a baked potato, or sizzle fresh bacon.
- Purchase camping pots that can be placed over a campfire, or a basic two-burner propane camp stove.
- Bring along a cooler for perishable items like meat and eggs.
- Don’t forget to pack collapsible bowls and cups, plus handy sporks. Fabric napkins can be reused the entire weekend to reduce your waste.
- Note: Pack a small sponge and bottle of dish soap to wash your dishes in the sink.
- Bring along a few trash bags to contain your garbage (please don’t litter), and as a back-up storage method.
Tip: Keep all of your cooking supplies together in a plastic tote. When it’s time to cook a meal, all of your supplies are gathered together in one place.
Tip: If there isn’t a picnic table at your campsite, bring along fabric camping chairs. These often have cup holders so you can conveniently eat in them. Plus, the fabric dries quickly from a rain shower or morning dew.
Every vacation requires you to bring along your personal toiletry items. In addition to your basic hairbrush and toothbrush, here are a few items you’ll want to pack:
- A first aid kit, including bandages and Benadryl.
- Sunscreen and aloe.
- Bug spray, and DEET insect repellent.
- Toilet paper (in case the bath house runs out, or if you need to use it while hiking)
- Towels for yourself, and for drying dishes.
Don’t bring anything nice on your camping trip. You’ll be living in the great outdoors and possibly getting dirty. Although there are specific articles that make camping easier, don’t go buy a whole new outdoor wardrobe. Like the camping supplies, borrow a few pieces from a nature-loving friend first.
Tip: Purchase activewear on sale after the season. For example, buy a new tank tops and shorts when they are on sale at the end of the summer; or purchase quality base layers at the end of the Winter season.
- Avoid cotton, which leaves you wet and miserable. Moisture-wicking or wool items are best. (By the way, merino wool keeps you cool when it’s hot and keeps you warm when it’s cold!)
- Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots with moisture wicking socks.
- It’s always smart to bring a hat, sweatshirt, and leggings in case the weather turns cold.
- Flip flops or slip-on shoes are perfect for a midnight bathroom run, or taking a shower in the public bathrooms.
- Discover 5 days of perfect camping outfits.
- Packing cubes are perfect for keeping your clothes compact while camping.
Tip: This is the best way to remove the smell of campfire from your clothes!
Hit the trail
Always try out your gear first at home! It’s terrible to be in the campground and have no idea how to use the materials that you packed.
Once your campsite is set up (preferably before dark), enjoy an evening around the campfire, or a sunrise hike.
Happy packing (with this personalized list) and happy camping!