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It’s late, but you’ve finally made it. After finishing work, loading the car, getting the kids into their seats, and driving for hours, you’ve arrived at the campsite. Needless to say, you’re ready for a relaxing weekend of fishing, walking, toasting marshmallows around a campfire, and spending quality time with your family. But wait…where’s the tent? And the sleeping bags? And, come to think of it, who packed the cooler full of food? If this unfortunate situation sounds all too familiar or you’re desperate to avoid it on your upcoming trip, having a camping checklist at your disposal should make a difference!

Family having snacks and coffee outside the tent at campsite.
Photo credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.

In this post, we’re going through all the camping essentials you should take on a trip to the great outdoors. Let’s dive in.

Camping Essentials: The Basics

No matter where you’re going or what type of trip it is, whether you’re going with friends or family camping, there are certain items you’ll always need on a car camping checklist. Of course, backcountry hike camping is a whole different story! Here’s a selection of the main car camping basics to take along:

1. Tent

Top Choice: Coleman 4-Person Dome Tent

  • Rating: 4.6/5
  • Pros: Affordable, 1-year limited warranty, dark-room technology, simple setup
  • Cons: Unsuitable for seriously wet or windy weather

2. Tent Stakes and Mallet

Top Choice: Prime 1 Galvanized Steel Tent Stakes with Rubber Mallet

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Heavy-duty, non-rusting stakes with a sharp point
  • Cons: Rubber mallet is less durable when hammering stakes into hard ground

3. Tarp

Top Choice: Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Rip-stop design, reinforced corners/edges, and multi-purpose design
  • Cons: Waterproofing might fail over time

4. Camping Pillows

Top Choice: Klymit Drift Camping Pillow

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Memory foam adds comfort, reversible shell, expands to full-size pillow
  • Cons: Costly versus other models

5. Sleeping Bags

Top Choice: Teton Sports Celsius 0 Degree Sleeping Bag

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Ideal for cold weather, roomy, compression sack included, anti-snag zipper
  • Cons: Quite bulky and heavy

6. Sleeping Pads or Inflatable Mattresses (Plus Pump)

Top Choice: Powerlix Sleeping Pad

  • Rating: 4.2/5
  • Pros: Best-selling inflatable sleeping pad, super small and lightweight, waterproof
  • Cons: Some past customers note durability issues

7. Blankets

Top Choice: Arcturus Military Wool Blanket

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Super soft and warm, fire-retardant, natural materials, machine washable
  • Cons: It may smell like chemicals out of the packet

8. Hot Water Bottle

Top Choice: Samply 2L Hot Water Bottle with Cover

  • Rating: 4.6/5
  • Pros: Budget-friendly, durable, transparent to see the water level, 1-year warranty
  • Cons: Unlikely to keep water hot throughout the night

9. Earplugs and Eye Mask

Top Choice: Wonderfoam Contoured Sleep Mask and Earplugs

  • Rating: 4.6/5
  • Pros: Cheap, memory foam mask for comfort, adjustable clasp
  • Cons: Memory foam can feel hot on your face when it’s warm

10. Headlamp

Top Choice: Energizer LED Headlamp (2-Pack)

  • Rating: 4.4/5
  • Pros: Lightweight, batteries included, IPX4 water resistance, very affordable
  • Cons: Basic headlamp; quality matches the price!

11. Lantern

Top Choice: MPOWERD Luci Solar Inflatable Light

  • Rating: 4.8/5
  • Pros: Highly popular, great reviews, super lightweight, no batteries required
  • Cons: A few reports of durability issues

12. All-Weather Matches or a Lighter

Top Choice: UCO Stormproof Match Kit

  • Rating: 4.7/5
  • Pros: Waterproof and floating case, extended match length
  • Cons: Expensive versus ordinary matches

13. Campfire Supplies

– Top Choice: Eco-Stix Fatwood Fire Starters

  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Pros: 100% pure, natural, and sustainable; hand-chopped from damaged trees
  • Cons: Some sticks will have more resin than others

14. Cooler with Ice

Top Choice: Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler

  • Rating: 4.8/5
  • Pros: Good weight-to-capacity ratio, durable and sturdy, highly effective cooler
  • Cons: Expensive
Group of friends camping.They are sitting around fire camp.
Photo credit: Day Of Victory Studio/Shutterstock.

Useful Tools to Take Camping

Whether an emergency strikes or you’re struggling to open a can of beans inside your campervan, a range of gadgets and tools will make life much easier when you’re camping. Here’s what we suggest you pack, just in case you need them:

  • Mobile Phone, Charger, and Power Bank
  • Penknife/Backpacking Knife
  • Backpacking Axe and Handsaw
  • Multi-Tool
  • Duct Tape
  • Paracord
  • Trowel
  • Portable Shower
  • Portable Toilet

Key Camping Furniture to Pack

No camp’s complete without a bunch of portable, durable, and weather-proof outdoor furniture. It makes your time away more comfortable and practical. Here are a few suggestions for what to take:

  • Camping Table
  • Camping Chairs
  • Marquee/Pop-Up Pavilion
  • Hammock

Camping Clothes and Shoes

We don’t have to tell you that packing clothes and shoes is somewhat essential for your camping trip. But you might need some tips on exactly what to take. Here are some particular clothing items that are always worth having (just remember to always take the weather forecast and local climate into account, too):

  • Moisture Wicking T-Shirts
  • Mid-Layers
  • Warm Layers
  • Raincoat
  • Merino Wool Socks
  • Moisture-Wicking Underwear
  • Shorts
  • Pajamas

  • Gloves and Hat
  • Hiking/Walking Shoes
  • Flipflops or Sandals
  • Rain Boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Swimsuit
  • Mosquito Net for Your Head
Car camping place near mountains river copy space
Photo credit: Vera_Petrunina/Deposit Photos.

Must-Have Cooking/Kitchen Utensils for Camping

You can’t beat sitting around the campfire eating a nice warming meal and campfire apple crisp in the evening. Or waking up early to fry up a storm! Hence why you need certain camp cooking utensils to call upon. Here are the main ones:

  • Grill or Camping Stove
  • Grill Set
  • Coffee Maker
  • Metal Grate for Campfire Cooking
  • Dutch Oven
  • Oven Mitts
  • Campfire Kettle
  • Cutting Board
  • Shatterproof Cups, Mugs, Plates, and Bowls

  • Cutlery
  • Frying Pan
  • Spatula and Wooden Spoon
  • Sharp Knives
  • Can and Bottle Openers
  • Kitchen Scissors
  • Bear-Proof Food Vault (If Necessary)
  • Tablecloth and clips

Awesome Food Items for Camping

What food should you cook/eat on your camping trip, though? In this section, we’re running through a number of tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner options (plus some sauces and seasonings) to consider taking:

  • Salt, Pepper, and Other Seasonings
  • Cooking Oil
  • Ketchup, Mustard, Mayonnaise, and Other Condiments
  • Potatoes
  • Cans of Beans
  • Eggs
  • Pasta and Sauces
  • Dehydrated Meals
  • Sausages, Burgers, Steaks, and Other Meat
  • Sliced Cheese for Burgers
  • Beef Jerky

  • Trail Mix
  • Energy/Protein Bars
  • Chips and Dips
  • Bread
  • Nut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Cereals and Milk
  • S’mores Kits (Chocolate, Graham Crackers, and Marshmallows)
  • Bottles of Water
  • Alcoholic Beverages

Bathroom Essentials for Camping

Staying clean on a camping trip isn’t always easy – especially when you’re in the backcountry instead of a serviced campsite. Nevertheless, having some basic toiletries will help you stay relatively clean and sweet-smelling:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • 84. Biodegradable Baby Wipes
  • Hand Soap
  • Body Soap
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush

  • Toilet Paper
  • Skincare Items
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Razor and Shaving Cream
  • Menstrual Products
  • Towels
  • Toiletry Bag to Carry Everything

Key Cleaning Essentials for Camping

So, you’ve got what you need to keep yourselves clean. But what about the campsite and all your equipment? They’ll also need to be looked after and kept in good condition. With that goal in mind, here are some critical camp clean-up items to take:

  • Washing-Up Bowl
  • Dishcloths and Dishtowels
  • Eco-Friendly Dish Soap
  • Drying Rack for Wet Dishes
  • Trash Bags
  • Sponge for Doing Dishes
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • Clothesline for Hanging Wet Clothes
  • Plastic Bags for Dirty Clothes
  • Dustpan and Brush

Recreational/Leisure Equipment to Take Camping

The best part of going camping is the fun activities you do on the trip. That’s why it pays to a) think about the recreational activities on offer where you’re going and b) take the equipment required to partake in them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Fishing Poles, Tackle, and Bait for Fishing
  • Canoes or Kayaks and Paddles (and Lifejackets)
  • Daypack for Hiking
  • Hiking Poles
  • Binoculars
  • Badminton Rackets
  • Frisbee
  • Camera and don’t forget to use use camping captions!

  • Volleyball Net and Ball
  • Playing Cards and Board Games
  • Wireless Speakers
  • Books/Kindle
  • Bikes, Scooters, and Rollerblades
  • Guitar, Harmonica, and Other Instruments to Play around the Campfire

Safety Items and Equipment for Camping

Some types of camping are more dangerous than others, and you’re unlikely to get seriously injured wherever you go – especially when you’re planning a casual family trip to a popular site. However, there’s always some potential to get hurt when you’re spending lots of time outdoors, so it pays to take some safety equipment, just in case the worst does happen:

  • Portable Fire Extinguisher
  • Water Filter or Water Treatment System
  • First-Aid Kit (Fully Stocked)
  • Painkillers
  • Water-Resistant Sunscreen (Preferably High SPF)
  • Map and Compass
  • GPS System
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Whistle
  • Bear Spray

Don’t Forget This Camping Checklist

Camping trips are hard to beat if you love spending time in nature, unplugging from the daily grind, and filling your days with fun, wholesome outdoor activities. However, they can also be a challenge to pack for. With so much to think about and plan, it’s easy to forget something important.

With any luck, this comprehensive camping checklist will stop that from happening. Keep this long list of camping essentials nearby to speed up the packing process and ensure you have everything you need.

Wondering where to go on your next camping trip? Check out these incredible beach camping destinations.

This article originally appeared on Savoteur.

Danny Newman

Danny Newman is currently writing and traveling around the world to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing.

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