Camping Essentials 101: What to Pack and Why

Published Monday, Jun 21

It’s finally summer and you’re ready to go on an epic camping trip! The fresh mountain air is calling your name and you can practically taste the ooey-gooey goodness of a hot s’more fresh off the fire. You’re dying to get outside!

Once you’ve picked your location (and maybe a few close buddies to go with you), all you have left to do is pack for your adventure!

This camping checklist will give you an idea of what you’ll need and help ensure that you don’t forget anything essential- no matter where in the world you plan on exploring.

You might even pick up a few camping tips and tricks along the way!

1) Sleeping Bag

If there’s one thing that can make or break a night of sleep while camping, it’s not being comfortable (or warm) enough to drift off into dreamland.


That’s why it is important to bring a good quality sleeping bag with plenty of insulation, so that every night spent under the stars feels like home away from home.

Choose from different sleeping bag styles like mummy bags or traditional rectangular sleeping bags.

Some might even have a small built-in pillow for added comfort.

You can also choose between down or synthetic insulation, just be sure to check the item weight if you’re going to be hiking a long way with all your gear.

2) Tent

There are very few things worse than being outside in the rain or snow without a tent- it could make your entire camping trip a little soggy!

So unless you plan to rough it and sleep under the stars (make sure to check the weather forecast first), a tent should be included on any camping packing list.

It’s important to not only have the shelter necessary to protect yourself from the outside elements, but also a place for everyone in your group to sleep- especially if you’re going on an exciting overnight expedition.

There are a lot of different styles and sizes of tents.

The tent you choose should be selected based on size, convenience, and number of people who plan to use it throughout your camping trip.

Tent styles range from dome tents that are easy to set up to “bunker” style shelters for those who want their camping experience as authentic and rustic as possible.


3) Camping Chair

Camping chairs are great for sitting by the fire and relaxing in the great outdoors.

They’re also perfect for fishing by the water or singing songs around the campfire.

Either way, you’ll be happy for a nice place to sit after a long day of hiking and exploring.


There are many different camping chairs that could fit your needs.

You can choose a smaller, lightweight chair for easy carrying or if you’re just going to be sitting around the campsite most of your stay, you could invest in a nicer rocking camping chair.

It all depends on what your wants and needs are for your trip.

4) Flashlight

It can get pretty dark in the wilderness as soon as the sun goes down, so you’ll want to be prepared with a flashlight or two (and some extra batteries just in case).

If it gets dark before your campsite is all setup, you’ll need a light for things like setting up your tent or cooking dinner.


Flashlights also come in handy for those middle of the night bathroom runs.

You can find flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.

Just be sure to bring a light that is both easy to carry and gives off an ample amount of light so that you don’t have a hard time seeing.

5) First Aid Kit

Even if you’re the most outdoorsy person in the world, accidents happen!

It’s always a good idea to bring along a first aid kit so that when things go wrong, you’ll be prepared and able to take care of any injuries.


A few basics that a first aid kit should include: gauze bandages for cuts, blisters, or other wounds;

alcohol wipes (or soap) to clean minor scrapes and burns; antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or bacitracin for infections;

assorted over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen;

eye wash solution for eyes irritants such as dirt and smoke particles;

antihistamine cream for insect bites/stings; tweezers;

and any other ouch go-to’s you usually use.

6) Camping Knife/Multi-tool

A camping knife or m ulti-tool will come in handy for all your little odd jobs around the campsite.

The camping knife should be lightweight, strong, and easy to grip (without slipping).


You might even choose a multi-tool that can function as an eating utensil if needed.

A good quality survival/camping pocketknife with these features would make an excellent choice for your tool kit!

7) Hatchet

A hatchet can be used for splitting firewood, shelter construction, and even self-defense.


Although you may not use this during every camping trip, it’s good to have in case you didn’t bring enough firewood or in any other emergencies.

8) Backpack

With all your camping gear, snacks, and change of clothes, you’ll need somewhere to put it all.

That’s where a quality camping backpack comes in.

You’ll want to choose a bag based on what kind of camping you plan to do.


If you’re simply driving up to a campsite and pitching a tent not too far from the car, you’ll likely be fine with a basic backpack or duffel bag to carry your things.

However, if you plan to head out on a 3-day backpacking trip full of rocky terrain, steep hikes, and waterfalls, you’ll want to find yourself a quality lightweight backpack that will better suit your camping gear (and your tired shoulders).

9) Fire Starter

You’re going camping because you want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but it’s time for dinner and you left your microwave at home…

good thing you have plenty of fire-starting options at your disposal!


You can use matches and newspaper, flint and steel, friction, a magnifying glass, a battery and steel wool, and more.

Just be careful not start a forest fire! If you make a fire, it’s always your job to ensure it’s 100% out before moving on to your next adventure.

10) Camping Cot or Sleeping Pad

Although this isn’t a necessity for everyone, some people simply don’t love sleeping on the hard, rocky ground.

If that sounds a lot like you, it might be worth a good night’s sleep to pack some type of sleeping pad or camping mattress.


There are plenty of options to choose from including fold-up cots, outdoor mattress pads, hammocks, or even an inflatable air mattress.

11) Sunscreen

Sun protection is important for everyone, no matter the time of year.

But when you’re camping outdoors in hot weather with little to no shade available, it becomes even more crucial.


After all, if you neglect your skin and happen to get sunburned while enjoying a hike or relaxing by the lake, that could lead to some major discomfort!

12) Insect Repellent

Bugs, bugs, and more bugs!

The great outdoors is notorious for its creeping, crawling creatures and their itchy bites.


That’s where insect repellent comes in! Keep those pesky bugs at bay and you’ll have a much more enjoyable camping experience.

13) Water

Hydration is key! Plan ahead and make sure to bring adequate water for your trips so that you don’t get dehydrated.

You might not always have access to fresh water sources where you’re camping at, so think ahead and do your research.


You might consider bringing a portable water filter. Carrying a lightweight insulated water bottle is a good idea as well.

14) Food & Snacks

It’s important to pack some nourishing food and snacks that will help keep you happy and energized.


You might be planning to catch your dinner and cook it over an open campfire, but you never know how long that could take.

It’s always a good idea to pack some power foods to eat along the way.

15) Clothing

Think about the type of climate in which you’ll be camping- is it hot? Cold?

Or somewhere in between?

Pack accordingly! Will there be rain or snow? The right clothes are essential for a comfortable stay outdoors.


Consider packing a sweatshirt, rain jacket, and extra socks just in case. Hiking in soggy, wet clothes is no fun.

16) Toilet Paper 

Nature calls! Literally. Unless you plan on using leaves to wipe your sensitive areas (watch out for poison ivy), you’ll want to bring some tissues or toilet paper with you.


It could save you (and your fellow campers) from some uncomfortable situations among the trees!

17) Trash Bags

Trash bags are like the jack of all trades! They can be useful in all sorts of situations. For example, they’re great for keeping dirty clothes separate from clean ones and for containing wet things.

They can be used to line the bottom of a tent, which will keep dirt out of your bedding if you happen to set up camp on some damp or muddy ground (although a tarp works great for this as well). You can also use them as a makeshift waterproof poncho.


As the name entails, you can use them for picking up trash around your campsites! From paper plates to candy wrappers, be sure to collect it all when it’s time to pack up camp. Camping 101: if you haul it in, you should haul it out. Mother nature and future campers will thank you!

18) Hiking Boots

A good pair of shoes, particularly hiking boots, should be worn when camping to protect your feet.

A major benefit of wearing hiking boots is that they provide maximum traction and stability on slippery or uneven surfaces like rocks, roots, snow, and mud.


They also help with shock absorption which can prevent injuries and sore feet during long walks or hikes.

A few quick camping tips: be sure to test out and break in your boots before you go camping.

You don’t want poor fitting shoes or fresh blisters to ruin your trip- but good thing you’ll have your first aid kit with you just in case you do get a blister.

19) Map & Compass

If you’re not familiar with the area you’ll be camping in, and even if you are (your surroundings can look mighty different in the dark), it’s always good to be prepared with a map and compass.


A fully charged GPS can be used as well. Whatever method you choose to help you find your way around, just make sure you understand and know how to read it before you go!

20) Games

Great for kids and adults alike, games are always a popular item to bring along when you’re out camping.

Playing a card game in the shade during the heat of the day is a great way to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air.


Even more, you’ll love the memories you create as you play and laugh together in the orange light of the campfire.

If you’re not big on games, you could always pack a good book to read instead.

Ready To Go Camping?

Now that you’ve got your camping 101 checklist, you’re off to a great start for your next outdoor adventure!

With these essential items and a can-do attitude, you’ll be ready in no time to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. The fresh air awaits!

Destinations Travel Guide has your camping guides

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