The ultimate packing list for your camping trip

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With numerous travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, more people have been taking advantage of spending time in the great outdoors. For some, camping trips are a regular tradition every summer. For others, the idea of sleeping in the woods, while exciting, is also a bit daunting. The good news is that given the right planning, a night (or a few nights) outside, under the stars, is manageable — even those who are new to the idea of swapping out the Four Seasons for a four-season tent. 

Camping essentials

When deciding what to pack for your camping trip, it’s best to start with the essentials. This way, you can be sure that you include these in your packing list. Your camping essentials are the items that you’ll absolutely need for every trip. Regardless of how long or where you are going, these are the items you will want to bring with you: 
  • Water – The golden rule is one gallon of water per person per day. This doesn’t include the additional water that you will want for cooking, cleaning, washing off the dirt that might have accumulated from setting up your campsite, etc. One gallon per person is the bare minimum. 
  • Tent – Unless you plan to do some winter camping, look for a three-season tent that will hold the number of people in your party. 
  • Stove – When it comes to a stove, there are many different styles and sizes to choose from. Think about how much weight you can carry when deciding which stove to bring.
  • Lantern or light – This is crucial in case of an emergency or even just for those nights when nature calls. 
Depending on where you are camping, you might want to add (or exclude) a few items to this list. For example, if you are camping in a designated campsite, you might have access to running water and shared bathroom facilities. Many campsites are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings, too. Be sure to confirm what amenities are and aren’t available at your campsite to best prepare for your adventure.

Gear for long camping trips

The idea of spending time in nature and away from civilization sounds like the perfect remedy for…almost anything. If you are planning an extended camping trip where you’ll be backpacking into a more primitive campsite, here are some of the items to add to your camping packing list: 
  • A water filter
  • A good pair of hiking boots
  • Wool socks to help keep your feet comfortable and dry 
  • A backpack that can comfortably carry at least 40 pounds 
  • A waterproof cover for your backpack
  • A headlamp with extra batteries
  • A portable phone charger 
  • Bear spray 
  • A bear-proof food container 
If you are planning to camp in the wilderness, check to see if there is a GPS mapping app that you can download before you lose cell phone service. Tools like this can be incredibly helpful when it comes to navigating your way to the campsite.

Extra gear for games & activities 

One of the best aspects of camping is that you get to relax, uninterrupted, in nature. After you’ve unloaded your car or backpack, set up the tent and sleeping bags and put together your camp kitchen, it’s time to play! Here are some extra, albeit nonessential, items you can bring along:
  • If you’re camping near the water – fishing gear, a kayak, stand up paddleboard 
  • If you enjoy bird watching – binoculars, field guide, camera
  • If you’re looking to check out – a book or journal, a comfortable camping chair or hammock
  • For family fun night – board games and puzzles, collect sticks for roasting marshmallows, a star chart to identify constellations
  • If you want to be active – a mountain bike, hiking boots or trail running shoes, a day pack, extra water bottles

Gear for convenience and comfort

Camping starts to sound even more fun when you begin to think about the items that you can pack for extra comfort. A camping trip can be as luxurious or as minimalist as you like. From a deluxe camping kitchen to a relaxing lounge area, here are some the items that make camping a genuinely relaxing experience:
  • A travel hammock – Find one that’s easy to string up. Spend the day reading a book and taking it easy. 
  • A waterproof travel speaker – Thes are great for playing relaxing music or initiating a campfire dance party. 
  • S’mores – A favorite snack for those camping with kids. 
  • String lights – Battery operated string lights are a festive way to decorate your tent or the trees around your campsite. They are also an excellent option for lighting if you are camping in an area that has a fire ban. 
  • A double burner stove – If weight isn’t an issue, consider bringing a double burner stove on your trip so that you can boil water and saute veggies at the same. 
  • A folding table (or two) – Having space to both prep and serve food makes your camping kitchen feel almost like home (with a stellar view). 
  • Camping chairs – Sitting around the campfire is a bit more enjoyable when you’re lounging in a camp chair. If you have the room to pack these, it can make a big difference. 

Bottom line

With the right preparation, a camping trip can be an exciting adventure for families, friends or solo travelers. Putting together your list of camping essentials is the first step towards spending time outside, relaxing at your campsite and enjoying the summer. Once you create your camping checklist, you can reuse and modify it for future trips. So get out your notebook and get started, you’re just a few steps away from camping bliss. Featured image by anatoliy_gleb/Shutterstock.

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