Ready to go camping for the very first time?
It is vital that you bring the right camping gear and supplies with you.
Here is a list covering all of the basics that you need to have a safe, fun, and comfortable camping trip. And, if you aren’t quite ready yet, read our post about how to get started with camping.
Camping Gear Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Before I get into the list of camping supplies, I want to emphasize that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on camping gear.
Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and buy a bunch of cheap gear. That $20 tent from Wal-Mart isn’t going to keep you dry when it starts raining! But you also don’t have to drop $500 on the latest hi-tech camping gear.
The most essential (and expensive) camping gear is the: tent, sleeping bag, hiking or survival boots, and camp stove. These are also the items that weigh the most.
Spend some time researching these items to make sure you get something that suits your needs.
If you don’t have the money to spend right now, see if you can borrow camping gear. I know that I’ve got 3 tents and 7 sleeping bags, and I’m always glad to lend them to friends who want to go camping.
Be wary about buying used camping gear, though. Used sleeping bags are generally fine, but I learned the hard way that used tents often have tears (which let rain through) and broken poles.
ALWAYS TEST GEAR FIRST!
And a critical word of advice: always test your gear before taking it camping!
That means you should practice putting up your tent, take out your sleeping bags, try out your camp stove, and INSPECT EVERYTHING.
Even if something is brand new, you still need to test it. You might have gotten a defective product and could pay for it later on your camping trip.
Camping Gear Checklist:
- Tent: This must be waterproof. Even if it doesn’t rain, the condensation and dew will get you.
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad: Not absolutely necessary, but it adds comfort and will help you stay warmer by creating a barrier between you and the ground.
- Backpack (If you are driving to the camping spot, you won’t need this. You can just put all the gear in your car. But, if you need to hike a bit to the camping spot, all gear must fit in your pack!)
- Small backpack (for day trips)
- Rope/paracord: Many uses like hanging a bear bag, making an emergency shelter, fixing a broken shoelace, tying a clothesline….
- Flashlight, plus spare batteries
- Headlamp (ever try to poop at night while holding a flashlight?)
- Map of the area
- Multi-tool, like a Leatherman
- First Aid Kit: Read what to put in your first aid kit here
Camping Kitchen Supplies
- Camping stove – Read our guide to the best portable stoves
- Fuel for your stove
- Matches in a waterproof bag (do not rely on a lighter!)
- Camping cook set (pot with holder, plates, bowls)
- Mugs – plastic or metal
- Dish soap (in a small bottle)
- Dish sponge
- Water canteen or water bladder (You will need 1-2 liter minimum for each person)
- Water filter (If going to a campground, they should have drinking water available. I still bring a water filter, though, so I can filter water on day hikes instead of having to carry loads of it.) More on the best water filters.
- Trash bag (If you carry it in, you’ve got to carry it out!)
- Sturdy, waterproof bag for storing food (and hanging in a bear bag, if in bear country)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Bar of soap or small bottle of liquid soap
- Bug spray
- Toilet paper or toilet paper alternative
- Small washcloth
Deciding what clothes to bring camping can be tricky, especially if you don’t have fancy waterproof camping clothes. While these special camping clothes are nice, they aren’t necessary (for beginners, at least).
Just be practical. You aren’t going to be wearing high heels and a skirt while camping.
To determine which clothes you need for camping, first, calculate how many days you will be there. Then calculate how many times you are willing to wear each item of clothing.
I go backpacking – which means carrying EVERYTHING on my back – so I will cut weight by wearing jeans for 5 days straight and shirts multiple times (more on how to cut weight from your pack here). Yep, I do get stinky 😉
On longer trips, I might do laundry. If camping in a car, then you can bring as much as you’d like.
The best advice for choosing camping clothes is to DRESS IN LAYERS.
You don’t want to bring your winter parka with you when camping! You will start sweating, and then you will really be cold.
You want to bring a long-sleeve shirt, a soft-shell jacket, and an outer shell jacket. If it is autumn, you might bring some long johns to wear if it gets really cold.
Also, choose materials that are fast drying. Wool and synthetics are perfect for camping.
Finally, BRING EXTRA SOCKS. You can wear jeans 5x, but your socks will get sweaty and crusty quickly.
Wet, dirty socks will give you blisters – which will severely limit your mobility. Read our guide to the best outdoor socks.
- 1 pair of jeans (you can wear the same pair of jeans for about 5 days without it getting too stinky 😉
- Spare pants (in case your jeans get wet)
- Comfortable shirts
- Hoodie or fleece
- Outdoors jacket (it gets cold at night when camping)
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Hiking boots
- Camp shoes (sandals or flip flops – so you don’t have to put your boots on every time you get in/out of the tent or while walking around the campsite)
- Long johns in colder months
- Extra socks
- Hat with rim (the rim is essential for blocking sun, rain, and falling twigs)
If you drive to the camping spot, you can load up a cooler with meals or bring canned goods.
But this isn’t going to work when you are going backpacking (can you imagine carrying all those cans of food up a mountain?!). Backpacking foods must be lightweight, compact, and nutrient-dense.
You can also buy MREs from camping stores.
To calculate how much food to bring camping, I make a list of each day and the meals we will eat. And I also calculate about 1 CUP OF TRAIL MIX PER DAY/PER PERSON.
My menu might look something like this:
Oatmeal with dried bananas
Crackers with dehydrated hummus
Ramen noodle soup
Oatmeal with dried apples and cinnamon
Couscous with dehydrated vegetables and lentils
Instant mashed potatoes topped with dehydrated sauce and jerky + dehydrated mushroom soup.
Food Items You Shouldn’t Forget:
Here are a few random food items you will want to remember to bring!
- Coffee and/or tea
- Powdered energy drinks
- Powdered milk
Other Camping Gear and Supplies
Many items are nice to have while camping but aren’t absolutely essential. Some of these include:
- Solar chargers
- Camping chairs
- Shovel (for digging latrine)
- Hammer (for hammering down your tent pegs, but you can use a big rock)
- Camping toilets (for those of us who can’t squat)
There is a lot more which could be added to this list, too but start with the essentials. You don’t need that much to go camping!
What do you take camping? Let us know in the comments below.