Bring All the Things: An Expert’s Camping Checklist

Years back, I went on an impromptu camping trip with a few friends. We randomly decided after work one day that we’d head up into the mountains and pitch a tent.

None of us bothered to make a camping checklist or even check what the others were bringing. We didn’t have much experience but assumed we had enough common sense to bring what we needed.

Wrong.

We had the longest, coldest, and most uncomfortable weekend of our lives.

Your Camping Checklist

Car camping is a fantastic way for people from all walks of life to get away from their day-to-day lives and enjoy the wonderful nature around them. However, when you’re new to the game, you may not know exactly what pack.

Fortunately, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need and want while car camping. A major benefit of this style of camping is that you can afford to bring nearly anything you want without the chore of packing it up a mountain.

Follow along for the complete list.

1. Your Car

First, if you’re going to go car camping you’re going to need a car that can get you places. You don’t need to go off-roading clear up into the mountains, but there are a few things you should put into consideration.

Size

If you and perhaps one or two other people are planning on sleeping in your car, you’re going to need space. Whatever car you drive up to your camping spot needs to have plenty of room for you to lay down and sleep – at least if you want a comfortable night’s sleep.

Crossovers, SUVs, and pickup trucks with an open bed are some of the best choices. However, vans and hatchback vehicles also work well.

Capability

Next, you need to consider your cars ability to make it to the campsite. Most vehicles are fairly hardy. However, you may want to think twice about taking a low-riding sports car into the mountain. However, this also doesn’t mean you need to buy the best off-roading vehicle on the market!

2. Sleeping Bags

An absolute essential on your camping checklist is your sleeping bags. You will be 100% miserable without one. However, just like your car, care needs to be taken when deciding upon your sleeping bags.

One-Person/Two-Person Bags

If you’re going car camping with your significant other, you may consider getting a two-person sleeping bag. This will allow you to sleep close to your loved one with the bonus of increased body-heat!

Temperature Rating

Regardless of if you choose a single or double sleeping bag, you need to make sure it’s rated for the temperature you intend to use it in. Sleeping bags are rated for mild summer nights to below-freezing winters.

However, realize that one brand’s 10-degree rating may be another brand’s 20-degree rating. Your safest bet is to buy more than you need and not take any chances. There’s nothing worse than freezing your butt off all night.

Alternatively, since you’re car camping and don’t have to worry about packing things up a  mountain, you can also bring extra blankets to stuff inside your sleeping bag.

3. Sleeping Pads/Pillows

Many-a-camper has made the mistake of skimping on a sleeping pad and assuming they don’t need a pillow. Don’t miss these on your camping checklist, your body will thank you for taking the extra effort.

Pads

You may think that sleeping on the floor of your house is relatively comfortable. However, your house doesn’t have uneven ground, bumps, lumps, and random seams where the seats fold over. Do yourself a favor and bring some form of a sleeping pad, you’ll be grateful you did.

Pillows

Additionally, trying to sleep without a pillow is a good way to wake up with a stiff neck. In a pinch, you can stuff a coat or sweatshirt full of other clothes for a makeshift pillow. However, this creates a lumpy and somewhat disappointing solution.

4. Food and Cooler

One of the biggest perks about car camping vs backpack camping is being able to pack a cooler and whatever food you want. This can include your favorite wine or beer – a luxury most backpackers must go without.

Food

However, be sure to pack more than just alcohol. Pack all the food necessities to keep you and your group well-nourished. Plan to make sure you have enough cooler space and ice.

Bear Safety

You must also consider bear safety. Bears can smell food from miles away. You need to make sure your food is locked up in your car, secured in bear-proof containers, or hung high in the trees.

Never leave food scraps lying around, regardless of how insignificant you think it is.

5. Water/Water Filtration

Water is an essential part of human life, survival, and your camping checklist. Without water, you will die within three to four days.

Containers

When car camping, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to bring enough water with you. You can use water jugs, disposable bottles, etc. Just make sure you dispose of plastic bottles and jugs responsibly.

Filtration System

However, if you want to be ultra-prepared, you can also choose to bring a means of filtering water. You can do this through water tablets that dissolve in the container or actual water filtration pumps.

6. Clothing

Bringing the right clothing is a huge factor in determining how well you will enjoy your trip. Take a look at the basic rules of packing clothes for camping.

Layers

You’ll want to dress in layers. This way, you have varying levels of warmth without ever having to change. Bring warmer clothes than you think is necessary, people are never quite prepared for how cold the nights get in the mountains.

Rain Gear

Mountainous areas tend to be rainy. You need to have a poncho or raincoat and maybe even water-resistant pants. Otherwise, you may be confined to your car for hours at a time.

Shoes and Socks

While cold and wet feet don’t cause colds, they can be a nightmare when it comes to blisters and other painful tears or cracks. Make sure you bring several extra pairs of socks and at least one extra pair of shoes.

Extras

Finally, you may want to consider bringing extra clothing amenities. These include hats, sunglasses, bandanas, watches, etc.

7. Personal Products

Just because you’re going to be out in nature, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself. Personal hygiene products are essential on any camping checklist.

Hygiene

Think about everything you’ll need to have basic human hygiene. This includes:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Menstrual products
  • Deodorant
  • Medications
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Soap

Extras

There are a few other personal products that can make your life a lot happier when you go camping. This includes things like sunblock, insect repellant, and lip balm.

8. Cookware

Next on your camping checklist is everything you’ll need for making your food, coffee, tea, etc.

Here’s a quick list of suggestions:

  • Stove and fuel (if you don’t plan to cook over the fire)
  • Campfire grill rack
  • Pots
  • Pans
  • Kettle
  • Eating utensils
  • Plates and bowls
  • Mugs for tea or coffee
  • Oven mitt
  • Washrag or scrubber
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Tinfoil
  • Plastic baggies
  • Garbage bags

9. Campfire Essentials

Unless the area you’re in forbids it, no camping experience is complete without a warm and inviting campfire. However, you’ll need to be able to start a fire to enjoy it.

Fuel

Depending on where you camp, you may have to bring your firewood. Regardless, it may also be a good idea to bring some extra kerosine, gas, or even a dry fire starter.

Ignition Source

You’ll also need a way to start the fire. We recommend bringing various forms of lighters and waterproof matches. Always have a backup and a backup for your backup.

Of course, you can always learn how to start a fire the primitive way.

10. Tarp and Rope

No camping checklist is complete without a tarp. A tarp is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment and can be used to keep your firepit, firewood, chairs, and table out of the rain. It can also be strung up a little hire to provide shade.

A rope can be just as handy. For example, you can use it for stringing up food in the trees, hauling firewood, tying up a tarp or stringing up a hammock.

11. Tools

While camping, you’ll need various tools. These include edged tools such as a hatchet, saw, machete, and knife for cutting firewood, sharpening skewer sticks, and more.

However, you’ll also want to bring some other useful tools such as ducktape, a hammer, a multitool, and extra cordage.

12. Fishing Gear

If you’re planning on doing any fishing while camping, make sure you bring the appropriate fishing gear. Here’s a basic checklist:

  • Fishing poles
  • Bait and lures
  • Extra fishing line
  • Hooks, sinkers, bobbers
  • Fillet knife
  • Multitool (removing hooks, cutting line, pinching sinkers, etc.)

14. Walkie Talkies

Another fun and convenient item to add to our camping checklist are walkie talkies. Once you’re at your camping destination, it’s unlikely you’ll have cell phone service. Bringing walkie talkies will not only add some fun to your trip, but it may be a life-saver.

It’s a good idea to send someone with a walkie talkie anytime they go off on their own.

15. Camp Chairs and Table

Many car camping sites have a metal fire pit and a picnic table set up and ready to go. However, you never know until you get there. Even if you have a spot in mind that you’ve been to before, you don’t know if it will be available.

Play it safe and pack a few camping chairs (which you can also use around the fire) and a fold-up table. It will be much better than sitting cross-legged on the ground trying to eat your food.

17. Pet Supplies

If you choose to bring your pet with you, pet supplies are essential on your camping checklist. For example, if you’re bringing your dog, you need to bring his/her leash, their food, and a food and water bowl.

It may also be a good idea to bring an extra line of rope. You can string it at shoulder height between two trees and use it as a zipline for your dog. Attach your dog to the leash and the leash to the zip line; your dog will be able to run up and down the line and not get tangled up.

18. First Aid Kit

An absolute necessity on your camping checklist is a first aid kit. Accidents happen far too often, especially while camping. People are chopping firewood, sharpening sticks with knives, climbing over uneven terrain, etc.

Being prepared to handle cuts, scrapes, rolled ankles, snake bites, and allergic reactions are vital to having peace of mind on your trip. Hopefully, you won’t need to worry about it, but it’s best to be prepared.

Make sure your first aid kit has the following:

  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Gauze
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Snakebite/Bee Sting/Allergen kit
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Burn cream/ointment
  • Blister treatments
  • Scissors/Tweezes
  • Safety pins
  • Aspirin
  • Latex gloves
  • Ace bandages
  • Medical Tape

23. Entertainment

Finally, while you’re definitely in the mountains or woods to enjoy nature, it can get boring. Make sure you add entertainment items to your camping checklist. These items depend on you but common ideas include:

  • Board games
  • A deck of cards
  • Football, Soccerball, Frisbee
  • Portable speaker for music
  • Mountain bikes
  • Books
  • Sketchpad

Think about the things you enjoy doing that won’t take away from your camping experience. Remember, you’re there to get away from your day-to-day life, not bring it with you.

Good Luck

Now you should have everything you need for an amazing camping trip, just remember to be safe and have fun! And if you need any reminders about what to bring, be sure to refer back to our ultimate camping checklist!

Check out the rest of our articles for more helpful information and don’t forget to check out some of our camping gear before you go!

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