Ready to go camping for the very first time?
It is important that you bring the right camping gear and supplies with you.
Here is a checklist which covers 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 which weigh the most.
Spend some time researching these items to make sure you get something which suits your needs.
If you don’t have the money to spend right now, then 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 one important 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 Supplies 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 adds to 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 will 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 clothes line….
- 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 Gear
- 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
- Dishsoap (in a small bottle)
- Dish sponge
- Water bottle or water bladder (You will need 1-2 liter minimum for each person- Read how much water to carry when hiking)
- 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
- Sun block
- Bug spray
- Toilet paper
- Small wash cloth
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 obviously 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.
What you do want to do is 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 in case it gets really cold.
Also choose materials which are fast drying. Wool and synthetics are particularly good 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 important for blocking sun, rain, and falling twigs)
If you driving to the camping spot, then 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
There are a lot of items which are nice to have while camping, but aren’t absolutely necessary. Some of these include:
- Solar chargers
- Camping chairs
- Shovel (for digging latrine)
- Hammer (for hammering down your tent pegs, but you can just 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 really need that much to go camping!
What do you take camping? Let us know in the comments below.