The Ultimate Camping Checklist for Beginners

You’re going camping!

Maybe you’ve committed to your first ever overnight camping trip, or perhaps you’re looking to reconnect with the outdoors after an extended campus hiatus. In any case; congratulations! You’ve taken your first step towards a rewarding and rejuvenating experience in the outdoors.

Camping is all about stripping away the unnecessary luxuries in order to take in the natural world that exists all around us. However, camping is an industry in itself; it’s easy to get lost amongst all the how-to articles and must-have gear reviews on the internet.

That’s where we come in.

We’re here to help strip away the luxuries with our ultimate camping checklist. We know that you want to spend less time reading guides and more time enjoying the outdoors, so we’ve compiled a thorough yet simple checklist to help you prepare for your nature weekend.

The following checklist can be used during the planning stages of your trip to ensure your preparedness. In addition to this list, We highly recommend that you consider factors like trip length, climate, amenities, and group size; thorough plans will help you to make more informed packing decisions.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what to bring in order to maximize the pleasure of your camping trip!

Shelters and Comfort

While you may be dreaming of nights under the stars and immersed in the outdoors, you’ll want to make sure you have access to safe and comfortable protection from whatever nature throws at you. The following will help you plan for the worst so that you can enjoy the best that camping has to offer.

For Sleeping

❒ Shelter (tent, tarp, hammock, or bivy)*
❒ Shelter stakes
❒ Sleeping bag or quilt
❒ Sleeping pad
❒ Pillow(s)
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

For Campsites

❒ Camping chair(s)
❒ Portable table*
❒ Portable awning
❒ Bug tent
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

*Pro Tip: Research your location ahead of time! Campgrounds offer amenities like fire rings, tables, showers, bathrooms, and sometimes even shelter structures like lean-tos. Primitive sites, however, offer little to no amenities and therefore require more planning. Knowing your destination ahead of time will allow you to make more informed packing decisions.

Kitchen & Food

No matter where your adventure takes you, you’ll need to plan on fueling yourself with something. Food is typically stored in vehicles or hung in trees while camping to avoid attracting unwanted wildlife, so plan on some sort of storage option ahead of time and stick to it! Otherwise, camp cooking isn’t nearly as intimidating as it seems. To make the most out of your experience, you’ll want to make sure you have at least the essentials listed below.

For Cooking & Eating

❒ Food list*
❒ Camp Stove
❒ Fuel (depending on stove type)
❒ Lighter or matches
❒ Pot & Lid
❒ Plate(s)
❒ Bowl(s)
❒ Eating utensils
❒ Cooking utensils
❒ Knife
❒ Utility tool (can opener, bottle opener)
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

For Storage & Cleaning

❒ Cooler
❒ Ice or ice packs
❒ Paper towels
❒ Dish cloth
❒ Water container(s)
❒ Eco-friendly soap
❒ Trash bag(s)
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

*Pro Tip: It’s important to make food choices ahead of time so that you can plan your gear accordingly. Simple food preparation allows for less gear, while more complex meals require more tools. If you’re a beginner, you may find that a simple food list requiring only basic kitchen items is the best option.

Health, Hygiene, & First Aid

Just because you’re looking to forgo the comfort of everyday life doesn’t mean you should neglect good hygiene! Practicing good hygiene and sanitary practices is especially important while camping; staying healthy will allow you to maximize the enjoyment of your camping trip. The following are some basics that you should consider packing:

For Hygiene

❒ Toothpaste
❒ Toothbrush
❒ Floss
❒ Eco-friendly soap
❒ Towel
❒ Toilet paper
❒ Menstrual products
❒ Hair brush or comb
❒ Other: ______________

For General Health

❒ Sunscreen
❒ Insect repellent
❒ Antibacterial wipes
❒ Hand sanitizer
❒ Prescription Medications
❒ Other: ________________
❒ Other: ________________

For a First Aid Kit*

❒ Antiseptic wipes
❒ Antibacterial ointment
❒ Bandages (all sizes)
❒ Gauze
❒ Ibuprofen
❒ Aspirin
❒ Oral rehydration salts
❒ Antihistamines
❒ Tweezers
❒ Emergency Heat Blanket
❒ Other: ______________
❒ Other: ______________

*Pro Tip: Most First-Aid kits available for purchase will contain sufficient supplies for a beginner’s camping trip. That being said, have an emergency plan prepared before you leave! Plan on packing for minor injuries, but know your options for evacuation and nearby medical facilities. Life threatening accidents are rare, but you must have a plan in place just in case!

Clothes, Shoes, and Layers

We’re leaving the city life behind; that includes the business attire and designer jeans! Since relaxation and physical activity will be your main activities on your camping trip, you’ll want to plan accordingly. For the campsite, look for comfortable insulating clothing that will keep you warm and dry. For hikes and day activities, plan on packing breathable activewear that wicks moisture and doesn’t retain odors. Your footwear, meanwhile, will depend on the terrain, climate, and planned activities.

For Clothing

❒ Underwear
❒ T-shirts
❒ Shorts
❒ Pants
❒ Long-sleeve shirt
❒ Sleeping clothes
❒ Bathing suit
❒ Other: ______________

For Footwear

❒ Hiking Boots
❒ Shoes
❒ Camp shoes
❒ Sandals
❒ Socks
❒ Other: ____________

For Layering*

❒ Baselayer top
❒ Long underwear
❒ Insulating hat
❒ Insulated jacket
❒ Rain jacket
❒ Midlayer (sweatshirt or pullover)
❒ Other: ____________

*Pro tip: Outdoor enthusiasts highly recommend packing a layering system for extended outdoor trips. Because you’ll be subject to changes in weather and temperature, layers allow you to safely adapt to these changes. A typical layering system will include a baselayer, midlayer, and an insulating/weather protection layer.

Helpful Tools

Even the best gear will break eventually, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw it away! Including some basic tools and repair supplies can greatly extend the life of your gear while also allowing you to get creative at your campsite.

For Repairs

❒ Multi-use tool
❒ Sleeping pad repair kit
❒ Tent repair kit
❒ Duct tape
❒ Needle & thread
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

For the Campsite*

❒ Small hatchet
❒ Extra cord
❒ Lantern
❒ Headlamp
❒ Storage bags
❒ Portable power bank
❒ Mirror
❒ Other: ____________________
❒ Other: ____________________

*Pro tip: Get creative! Having a small set of miscellaneous supplies may be helpful when setting up your campsite. If you’ve forgotten something, you may find that your extra supplies can be used for creative problem solving.

Necessities & Luxuries

Once you’ve packed for safety and comfort, you can now focus on the luxuries that will make your camping trip even more enjoyable. Luxuries may not be as necessary as the other items on this checklist, but that’s the point; you have the ability to customize your experience!

For Necessities

❒ Identification
❒ Credit and/or debit card
❒ Cash
❒ Cellphone
❒ Campsite reservation
❒ Directions
❒ Other: ___________________

For Luxuries

❒ Earplugs
❒ Sunglasses
❒ Candle(s)
❒ Binoculars
❒ Book(s)
❒ Notepad
❒ Pen and/or pencil
❒ Music player
❒ Speaker
❒ Headphones
❒ Board games
❒ Lawn games
❒ Music instrument
❒ Trekking poles
❒ Camera
❒ Other: ___________________
❒ Other: ___________________

Conclusion

Beginners often seem daunted by all of the planning that goes into a safe, successful camping trip, but it shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Remember, your end goal is to spend time outdoors without all the distractions and conveniences that drain your energy, hours, and bank account.

This list provides a helpful overview of the various gear considerations to maximize your experience. Start small and simple, and you’ll find that each trip is unique; each trip will provide you with invaluable experience that can be used to plan longer and even more ambitious adventures.

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