I do a fair bit of camping. Two or three times a year I will plan a big camping trip – preferably somewhere abroad but if not then somewhere in the country I’ve never visited before. In between those big camping trips I love to organize as many smaller camping trips I can fit into my schedule – all with the help of my camping checklist!
I started camping because I needed to unwind; I need to escape from the reality and the pressure of my job and my busy life. Funnily enough, when I started going on my camping adventures I would set myself up for failure – no relaxation, just endless frustration and pissy mood.
Why, I hear you ask?!
Because I would regularly forget half of the things I had to pack! Casual campers tend to do that, and I was very casual at the beginning. I figured that as long as I have my tent and my sleeping bag I would be more than ok.
Boy was I wrong!
A few camping trips in, I got a little smarter. Now I have a camping checklist that I consult every time I’m planning to set out on a trip. It doesn’t matter that I know it by heart at this point, there’s always something on there that I would have missed. To be totally honest, I still forget a tidbit or two occasionally, but those are usually things I can manage without.
Since I know that many of you are faced with the same issue, I’ve decided to share my camping checklist here. I’m also adding links to reviews on this site as well as links to Amazon for products I didn’t have the time to write up just yet (yep, I have a LOT of writing to do in the future – it’s coming so bear with me). My camping buddies and I personally use pretty much everything that’s on this list – either I own it or they do, so you can rest assured that everything has been tested thoroughly.
I’ll try to make the list as comprehensive as possible and include items you need for solo camping, group camping, or family camping trips. That means there will be several similar items in every sub-category – just pick one that’s best suited in your case.
IMPORTANT: I’ve marked every item with a number from 1 to 10 (except items in the fun category – they are all a standing 11 in my opinion). The number represents my personal opinion about how important it is to pack that item – 10 being essential and 1 being you can probably leave it at home. As I’ve said, this is my personal take so we can definitely agree to disagree.
Ok, so much for the intro. Let’s take a deep breath and dive into the ultimate 2017 camping checklist!
The Ultimate 2017 Camping Checklist
First thing’s first – we have to discuss your shelter. The truth is, I have yet to forget a tent when I go on a camping trip but stranger things have happened. Of course, your tent is probably your most important investment so it’s only natural we talk about it first. While you might not forget it, there is a possibility you pack a wrong tent – bad for winter, not enough sleeping space, leaky or punctured – or something similar. While it’s true that you’ve never gone truly camping until you’ve slept under the open sky, I prefer to do it planned instead of forced. Roughing it out in the forest on a rainy night isn’t all that appealing!
- Solo Tent – 10
Eureka Solitaire – a perfect tent for a solo hiker. Durable, weather-proof, and easy to carry, this bivy-style tent weighs about 2.6lbs when packed and it’s easy to carry around with you. The tent is beginner-friendly and easy to set up and take down so you won’t lose too much time on that. If you’re going on a solo camping trip and looking for a solution that won’t break the bank, Eureka Solitaire should be your number one pick!
- Family Mid-Sized Tent – 10
Coleman Sundome 4 Person Tent – the truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of Coleman’s tents. This one, in particular, is my favorite. It gets a bit crowded with four people so I generally recommended for a small family (two adults and a kid) but if you’re willing to keep your backpacks in the care (or if you have a shelter set up for the rest of your equipment) four people can fit in comfortably. It’s a bit on the heavy side and weighs close to 10 pounds when packed but you can still do a fair bit of hiking with it if you’re going off the beaten track.
- Large Family Tent – 10
Mountain Trails Grand Pass 10 Person Tent – this one is a whopper and I generally recommend it only to large families and large groups who don’t mind snuggling and don’t have to carry it to their camping site. The weight of Grand Pass is just shy of 22lbs – you’re going to be beat if you have to carry it up the hill! That said, this tent is a house! The space you’ll have at your disposal is nothing short of amazing – there are two separate rooms, enough space to store all your gear, head room just right, and that’s just the beginning. If you’re going on a group or family camping trip and you will be driving right up to your campsite, pick this tent – you can’t go wrong with it!
- Tent Repair Kit – 8
While not absolutely essential, a tent repair kit is something that I whole-heartedly recommend you make room for on your next camping trip. It’s relatively cheap but the items in it may very well mean the difference between waking up dry and cozy or waking up completely drenched because you tried to patch up that hole with a plastic bag – trust me, they never get the task done!
- Tent Mat – 8
A nice mat (or a rug) gives you some extra clean, leisure space in front of your tent on a dry day. I always pack one – if I don’t have enough space I pack a small one. Why? It’s not only about the extra space. Clean area in front of your tent will prevent you dragging in dry leaves, mud, and dirt in general.
- Tent Tarp – 8
Most tents have a strong, protective tarp sawn on these days. Still, nothing beats a sturdy, standalone tarp. It’s going to protect your tent from sharp rocks and pointy sticks and you might even get back home without any damage to your tent – it’s never happened to me, but it’s always a possibility!
- Dust Pan and a Brush – 3
In case you do drag in dirt from the outside, it’s always nice to be able to sweep it up. If you have room, throw them in – it definitely beats tilting your tent to get rid of the garbage that collects inside after a few days.
- Stake Hammer and Extra Stakes – 5
These two items are entirely situational. To avoid taking extra stakes make sure you know the terrain in the area you’re camping in. If your regular stakes will do, then you don’t have to take extras – extras are only needed if you are camping on a rough terrain and you need sturdier stakes than the ones your tent is packing. Personally, I always make sure all my stakes are unbent and ready to go. Same goes for the stake hammer – if you’re certain you can make do with a rock you find in the woods, there’s no need to take one.
Even summer nights get chilly, depending on the location you’re camping in. Your sleeping essentials will make sure you’re warm and cozy – forget something small, like a pillow, and you’ll end up tossing and turning through the night and that’s not a pleasurable experience. Memorable yes – pleasurable no.
- Light Sleeping Bag – 10
Depending on the circumstances you might not need an extremely bulky or weather-resistant sleeping bag. If that’s the case, I suggest packing something light that will keep you warm in 50 F temperatures. These light sleeping bags are usually easy to carry and pack – my personal recommendation is Naturehike Envelope.
- Winter Sleeping Bag – 10
On the other hand, if you’re expecting cold weather or you’re camping in the mountains it’s better to go prepared. Temperatures can drop substantially and I don’t recommend setting out without a sleeping bag that can keep you warm at lower temperatures. Take a look at Coleman North Rim Sleeping Bag – it got me through the worst nights on Iceland, it might do the trick for you too.
- Double Sleeping Bag – 10
If you’re camping with your significant other, a double sleeping bag is a great way to keep warm during cold nights and to feel a bit more intimate. Ohuhu Double Sleeping Bag will definitely fulfill all your expectations but it is a bit bulky so keep that in mind.
- Sleeping Pad – 8
Sleeping pads are not a must-have if you don’t mind roughing it – I do. For a comfortable night, consider investing in a sleeping pad. It can be inflatable, if you have the room. Klymit’s Sleeping Pad is a great choice, both price and comfort-wise.
- Air Mattress – 7
Air mattresses are more of a luxury. Taking one with you is going to depend on whether you have room in your car and whether or not your tent can accommodate it. I’d definitely recommend it for longer camping trips. This Intex Airbed fits two people and it will fit into most tents, except for single hiking tents.
- Pillow – 8
You can definitely go without a pillow but having one is much more comfortable. Plus, most of these pillows are inflatable and add 0 weight to your backpack so it doesn’t hurt to pack a few, just in case.
- Blankets – 5
Some nights, you won’t need your sleeping bag but it’s always nice to wrap yourself into a cozy blanket. Pack one if you have the room.
- Ear plugs – 3
Chirping of crickets can drive a man insane. I’m all for nature sounds but I do have my limits. That’s why I always pack ear plugs – grab a pair on your next flight and put them in your backpack when you head out to camp.
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of camping forgettables and that’s your gear. This is a category that has a lot of items, half of which I used to regularly forget so I’m talking from experience. A lot of stuff here is pretty essential so make sure you run down this list at least twice to be on the safe side.
- Backpack – 10
I’m pretty sure that this is one of the items you won’t forget but still, it bears mentioning. You’ll want your backpack to be light and distribute weight well. Look for something that has a lot of easily accessible pockets and water bottle holders – this Teton Sports Scout Backpack is a great choice.If you’re not hiking that much and need something that will keep your essentials safe, Outlander Backpack won’t break the bank.
- Water Bottle – 10
Personally, I always carry two Nalgene Tritan bottles with me because you never know. It’s just one of those essential items you can’t afford not to have. It will keep your beverages cold (or warm) and the wide top is great for adding in ice cubes or a water filter.
- Water Filter – 8
Great for emergency situations, this LifeStraw water filter will fit into just about any water bottle and can also be used independently. I seriously hope you’ll never have to use it and that you’ll have plenty of fresh, clean water, but hey – better safe than sorry.
- Flashlight – 10
Pack two of these, just in case. I personally use J5 Tactical Flashlight, but just about anything would do in a pinch.
- Insect Repellant – 8
Guess what – there are plenty of mosquitoes and flies out in the forest and they are all itching to bite you. ThermaCell Repellent Outdoor Lantern Creates a zone that’s completely bug-free.
- Bug Spray – 10
In case you don’t want to use an electric insect repellent, make sure to pack a spray-on one, especially if there are kids camping with you. If you don’t, you can expect a lot of bites accompanied by whining and crying – and sometimes it’s going to be you doing the whining and crying.
- Rope – 10
The most versatile piece of equipment you’ll be carrying with you. You will use it to secure your tent, as a clothes line, a skip rope, whatever. Of course, chances are you’ll take it and you won’t need it at all. Still, if you do forget it I guarantee that the need for it will arise at one point.
- Pocket Knife – 10
I suggest getting something similar to a Swiss Army knife. A small knife and assorted tools that come with it will definitely come in handy plenty of times during your trip.
- Drysack – 9
Rivers, creeks, rain – they are all beautiful but potentially dangerous to your electronic equipment, smartphones, and dry socks. Pick up a waterproof drysack and make sure you’re essentials are protected at all times.
- Head Light – 8
If you don’t want to carry around a lantern or a flashlight during evenings and need your hands free (and you usually do during those, hmm, short night strolls), make sure you pack a headlight. They are relatively inexpensive and you will glad you packed one when nature starts calling late in the evening.
- Solar Charger – 6
If you’re packing a lot of electronics (smartphones, tablets, laptops) you’re going to need a source of power to power them all up. Anker Solar Charger is a great portable choice that’s going to ensure that you have enough power to charge two of your devices at the same time, at least during those times when there’s plenty of sunshine around.
- Hammock – 6
Hammocks! I always bring a hammock with me when I go camping. There’s something special in putting one up between two old trees and staring into night sky when you’re done for the day.
- Folding Table – 4
This is slightly clunky to carry around with you usually, but if you have the space pack one. Sometimes is nice to gather around the table to share a meal.
- Folding Chairs – 3
If you have room for a folding table, I’m sure you’ll be able to fit in at least one folding chair. It’s going to come in handy for eating, doing a bit of work on your laptop if something comes up, or simply relaxing in your favorite fishing spot a fishing rod in your hand.
- Umbrella – 3
Sometimes a raincoat just won’t do it.
I enjoy nothing more than making simple and delicious meals while I’m out camping. Occasionally I will go for something more complicated but that’s going to depend on the food I’ve packed and whether or not I have the time. That being said, there will be no cooking whatsoever if you forgot to pack your cooking essentials. This list, while far from being totally complete, will give you a good idea of the must-haves and the good-to-haves if you’re planning to dazzle everyone with your cooking skills.
- Top Propane Stove – 10
A basic propane cooker is a must-have on every camping trip. Even if you have a more elaborate system (like the one I’m talking about below) you still might want to pack a Coleman Top Stove because of convenience.
- Cooking System – 8
If you’re looking to cook more elaborate meals, you are going to need something with a bit more oomph than a top stove. A standing cooking unit with two burners is the way to go – it’s going to fit different sizes of pots and pans and all your cooking will be done a lot faster. I don’t own one of these but I did get a chance to cook a few meals on the Camp Chef Explorer and it’s a great (and safe!) cooking system that I can confidently recommend.
- Cookware – 10
When getting cookware make sure it’s something compact that packs well. Tons of pans, pots, and skillets are going to be difficult to lug around. Something similar to this MalloMe Camping Cookware Set – this baby has served me (and a lot of other people, I’m not shy about lending it around) well and it keeps remarkably well for its price tag.
- Utensils – 10
Eating with your hands gets messy sometimes – soup is particularly troublesome. Pack a lightweight set of utensils when you’re heading out and you’ll solve all your problems. I suggest this titanium set from Fitness City – it costs a bit more but pays for itself in the long run.
- Cooler – 10
There are virtually tends of different ways to go when it comes to picking a cooler. One thing that’s certain is that you will need one to store all your perishables. I usually pack a larger one because I like to keep one compartment stocked with ice and other with my food and drink. If you’re taking a large cooler such as this Rubbermaid Ice Chest, make sure it has wheels on for easier transportation and handling. If you don’t need one this large, I suggest opting for a carry on cooler bag pack that’s going to be easier to handle and carry, especially if you’re trekking or hiking.
- Cups and glasses – 10
In addition to water bottles, make sure you pack a few glasses or plastic cups as a bare minimum.
- Propane Bottle – 9
Take one small propane bottle extra with you, just in case. Before you leave the house make sure the bottles that you did pack still have sufficient juice in them.
- Cooking Oil – 10
Everything tastes better with oil – trust me. Always carry a tightly sealed oil bottle with you and put a fresh one in your (cleaned) cooler after every camping trip.
- Condiments – 10
Salt, paper, sugar, and everything else you’re used to using in the kitchen. Make sure you take small amounts of it with you on your camping trip.
- Zip Lock Bags – 8
These bags will come in handy in a lot of situations. You can use them to store food, nature samples, and even to protect your valuables if you didn’t remember to bring a drysack with you.
- Water-Proof Matches – 10
- Paper Towels – 10
- Trash Bags – 10
- Aluminum Foil – 10
One of the most important things to think about when going camping is how you’re going to stay warm and dry. Your shelter comes into play here but so does your clothes. Pack lightly but make sure to cover your bases.
- Windbreaker – 9
A nice, good quality windbreaker will eliminate the need for a lot of long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts. It’s going to protect you from the wind and the cold – make sure it’s waterproof as well, in case you forget to bring a raincoat. Try this Free Soldier jacket on for size.
- Rain Jacket – 9
That said, don’t forget to bring a raincoat! The weather is fickle and summer showers are not an exception. If you don’t have a raincoat you will be forced to spend your entire trip in the tent if the weather turns bad.
- Long Pants – 10
Regardless of how nice it’s outside, always pack a few layers of clothes. Long pants are going to protect your from insect bites and the nipping cold late at night.
- Hiking Shoes – 7
If you’re planning on hiking regularly, make sure you pack a decent pair of footwear. Hiking shoes (like there from Merrell) will prevent most mishaps on a rugged terrain and keep your feet cozy and dry.
- T-Shirts – 10
- Long Sleeves – 9
- Shorts – 8
- Sneakers – 8
- Sandals – 7
- Hat – 9
- Bathing Suit – 8
- Beach Towel -6
- Underwear – 11!
Forget underwear – I dare you!
I’ve clumped these two categories together for one good reason – no matter how many people are going with you to that camping trip, there are things you can definitely not have too much of. You’ll find a list of those things right here. For safety items, I recommend having a pre-pack bag that you’re going to check and restock every time you’re heading out camping.
- First Aid Kit – 10
You don’t need hospital-grade equipment but don’t think about heading anywhere without packing at least an emergency first aid kit. This small bag from Protect Life contains everything that you might need in case of small accidents, cuts, and bruises.
- Bug Bite Ointment – 10
You’re going to get molested by mosquitos and insects, and that’s a fact. Pack an ointment that’s going to help you get through the worst of it.
- Over-the-Counter Medicine – 10
Nothing overly excessive but some pain killers and pain relief gels might be a good idea in case of unwelcome events.
- Sunscreen – 10
- Soap – 10
- Shampoo – 10
- Toiletries – 10
- Toilet Paper – 12!
If you’re not having fun on your camping trip, you’re doing it wrong. There are plenty of outdoor activities you could be enjoying such as hiking, bird-watching, swimming, or simply observing the nature. However, I suggest packing a couple of things as well in case you run out of ideas or the weather goes south.
Is there a point to camping if you don’t take as many photos as you can? Of course there is, but that shouldn’t stop you from capturing those breathtaking moments anyway. I use a Nikon CoolPix that I got recently but if you have a decent smartphone you can definitely do without the extra expense of purchasing a camera.
- Card Games
- Board Games
- Footballs and Frisbees
And there you have it! The most comprehensive camping checklist you’re going to find on the Internet! There are so many items on there that I think I might have gone a bit overboard, frankly. Still, there’s a real possibility that I’ve missed something – if you notice that something that should go on the list but it isn’t there right now, please leave a comment and I’ll make sure to add it! Hope you all have a great camping year and be sure to share your adventures and experiences with the rest of us!