Are you planning a camping trip soon? Check out my guide on how to find free camping in the US & Canada. And whether it’s your first time camping or you are a seasoned adventurer, having the right supplies is key.
This camping checklist is from my 15 years of camping experience with family, so I prefer to keep everything organized and lightweight in 2 boxes – One for Gear and one for Cooking.
I’ve also sorted all of the essential supplies into 2 sub-categories – must-haves and optional extras. This way, you can easily decide what items to bring along with you depending on how long your trip is and how many people are coming.
Table of Contents
Essential Camping Gears:
Tent (Instant tent preferred) + extra tent stakes
Instant tents are great for campers who want to set up quickly and easily. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can find the best one for your needs.
Tarp can be used as a top cover for the tent when heavy rain or the bottom layer to prevent cold and humidity at night, and even alternative shelters.
Down Sleeping bag
Down sleeping bags are lightweight, compressible, and provide great warmth for winter camping (or cold weather). They also pack down small so they won’t take up too much space, unlike the traditional blanket-type sleeping bag, it’s super easy to tuck back into the storage bag.
Forget about the cheap folding camping chairs and invest some money in durable options. Personally, I love the low-profile camping chair, it has better spine support and a more relaxed position.
Some camping chairs even come with a foldable table, which will be useful if no picnic table available at your campsite.
Camping lanterns & headlamps
The classic propane lanterns are my favorite, super bright, and create heat to keep warm at night, last decades even without proper care. My father’s propane lantern is almost 25 years old!
Cooler & ice
Usually, I fill always get my ice at the last gas station before entering the campsites.
Axe or folding saw
Wine and beers 🤩
Portable water tank with wheels
If you’re going to be camping for more than a few days or more than 2 persons, it’s worthwhile investing in a portable water tank with wheels, it’s way easier to carry water back from the water source.
Umbrella or rain jacket
Portable power banks
Toothbrush & paste
When choosing an outdoor knife for camping, you should look for a few key features. First, make sure the blade is made of high-quality steel that won’t chip or break easily. It should also be sharp, with a serrated section for sawing and a flat edge for slicing. In addition, the handle should be comfortable and provide a secure grip. Finally, ensure that the knife has a protective sheath to help prevent accidents. With the right knife in hand, you’ll be ready for any outdoor adventure!
Bug protection spray
Bear spray is necessary for camping in bear country. It can be used as a deterrent and will help keep you, your family, and your campsite safe if you encounter a bear. Bear spray is also much more effective than firearms in deterring an attacking bear. Make sure you carry bear spray and know how to use it before heading out on your camping trip.
Before heading out on your camping trip, wrap duct tape around a few pencils or pens. This will make it easier to keep with you and will come in handy for all sorts of tasks such as patching up tents, fixing broken zippers, and hanging tarps.
Sleeping pad or air mattress
The most comfortable sleeping pad thickness is above 3.9 inches ( 6cm ).
It’s great to have a hammock when camping alone, you can enjoy the night sky without worrying about bugs and other critters.
Climbing ropes are perfect for helping to secure or tie down your camping gear. Also great for tying up hammocks and other accessories.
It’s great for camping with kids, you can turn any spot into a comfy seating area.
If you’re camping in cold weather, these can be a lifesaver. Simply shake the pouch to start the heat and slip it in your pocket or sleeping bag for extra warmth.
If your campsite offers plug-in or you have a solar-powered generator, an electric blanket brings your experience to the next level.
A 100w or 200w in total should be good for 2-3 days.
Solar-powered generator / gas generator
The gas generator is quite useful if you’re car camping, most tent campsites have restrictions for the gas generator.
Make sure that it’s rugged and waterproof and look for a speaker that has long battery life and can be charged using a USB cable or solar charger. Ensure the speaker has plenty of power to help with audio quality and to ensure that your music does not distort or lag. Finally, make sure the speaker has a convenient carrying strap or handle, so you can easily tote it around with you. With the right speaker in hand, your camping trips will be even more enjoyable!
Playing board games is one of the best ways to keep everyone entertained while camping. Some of my favorite board games for camping are Monopoly, Uno, Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Checkers.
Camp Kitchen Essentials:
Lightweight camping cookwares are perfect for those who want to keep their camp kitchen light and easy to carry. The best camping cookwares are light and durable, allowing you to enjoy your camping trip without having to lug around a bulky, heavy cast-iron set.
I always bring a complete set of utensils to make sure I have the basics covered.
Seasoning, especially salt, pepper, and cooking oil
I have missed one of these items many times in the past. Buy a small set and leave it in the box for backup.
Fire starter fluid
Camp stove and gas cans (butane cylinder)
There are two types of camp stoves, one is for regular households (portable gas stoves) and another is for outdoor specific. The propane bottles work well at high altitudes and in cold weather (40 F / 5 C) without freezing. If you camp above 40F, the regular butane cylinder works well enough.
Knife & cutting board
Eco-friendly dish soap
Yes, you can find some eco-friendly soaps that are specifically designed to help you keep your dishes clean while camping. They’re usually made from natural ingredients and can be used for washing dishes as well as personal care items. Look for biodegradable and non-toxic soaps that are designed to be gentle on the environment. They’re also good for use in streams, lakes and rivers where you won’t be polluting the water.
Cast iron cookware such as dutch oven
I recommend bringing a cast iron dutch oven to your camping trip. Not only is it an efficient way to cook and bake food over a fire, it also helps you make delicious campfire recipes like soups and stews. It’s also great for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs. Plus, a cast-iron dutch oven is virtually indestructible, so it will last for many camping trips to come. Be sure to bring along some oil or wax to season your cast iron dutch oven before using it, as this will help keep it from rusting.
Portable electric freezer
Yes, there are portable electric freezers that you can bring to your camping trip. These freezers come in a variety of sizes and styles, depending on your needs. They are great for storing food, drinks, and other items that need to be kept cold during a camping trip. You will need to make sure that you get the right size for your needs and that it is compatible with the power source you have available wherever you are camping.
Tin foil can be great for wrapping food and keeping it together when cooking at a campsite. It also helps keep food warm by creating an insulating barrier. It also helps keep food from sticking to the cooking surface, making clean-up easier. On the other hand, tin foil is not very eco-friendly and it can be difficult to control the temperature when cooking with tin foil. Additionally, food that is wrapped in tin foil can take longer to cook, so it’s best to use it for short-term cooking. Additionally, tin foil can be dangerous when exposed to fire, as it can melt and stick to pots or pans. It is best to avoid tin foil for long-term cooking on a campfire.
Camp coffee maker
Essential Camping Foods:
Bread / Toast
Peanut butter / strawberry jams
Easily peeled fruit such as bananas, oranges, etc.
Whatever you like to eat
Optional Miscellaneous Items
Binoculars or night vision binoculars
Both are great tools to have along on your camping trip, especially for kids. They can help you spot wildlife or stargaze in the dark while staying safe and comfortable. Night vision binoculars come in a variety of sizes and styles, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Some night vision binoculars are also waterproof and shockproof, so they can handle all of your outdoor activities.
It’s also important to be mindful of the environment and only gather what you need from fallen branches and trees that are already dead. Doing so will help preserve the beauty of nature for years to come. Be sure to check with the local fire department or park rangers on any regulations about gathering firewood in the area.
The bottom line
So, this is my ultimate camping checklist to make your adventure fun and safe. I’m sure you’ll find all of these essential items useful during your camping trip!
Hope this also helps you to plan the next camping trip! Let me know if I missed anything important in the comments below and share the checklist with your friends. Have an amazing time! 🤗🏕️
Good luck and happy camping! ✌️