Sometimes the best way to start a plan is with a to-do list. The camping checklist below was put together as a brainstorm tool. Depending on the climate and your circumstances, you may want to refine your list to better suit your planned trip.
Be practical. For example, it took me years to realize that my large Rambo-style knife and 5-pound folding shovel were not needed on the family weekend getaway. Sometimes packing too much can be more disastrous than not packing enough.
It’s important to note that your camping checklist will likely need to be customized based on the climate, duration, and area of your camping trip. If you plan on backpacking to your campsite, try on your pack ahead of time (loaded) and make sure that it’s manageable. Finding out that your pack is too heavy at the trailhead as you close the trunk of your car…could make for a less enjoyable trip!!
If your camping trip involves the use of close-by campground stores and other facilities, your camping checklist may look drastically different than the campers headed out to the middle of a State Forest.
The camping checklist is divided into the following categories:
Here’s the part of the camping checklist where a bit of planning can really pay off! Plan out the meals and snacks. Try not to skimp on the campfire treats. And look for food items that don’t require a cooler. Another consideration is trash. Cardboard and paper wrappers can be used to start the campfire. Plastic has to be carried out of the woods with you. Fruit comes in its own biodegradable wrapper…just some food for thought ;-).
What you wear in and out of the woods can play a big part into the success and enjoyment of your trip. For example, something as simple as a folded-up poncho can save a rainy day family feud in a 6’ x 8’ tent ;-)! Dress for the weather and the activities that you have planned. Polyester and breathable materials dry quickly on hot days and can help keep you cool. Ziplock bags can keep socks and underwear dry and clean. Dressing in layers is always a good idea and can help you stay comfortable from the hot afternoon sun to the post sunset chill.
A camping first aid kit is an absolute must. This is probably one of my over-pack items, as I thankfully haven’t had to use it much, but you’ll be glad that you have it for those few times you might need it! If you have any medications or allergies, make sure that you have the serums and prescriptions that you need. And to be on the safe side, pack an extra day or two of medications…just in case.
This is usually the part of the camping checklist where most people can get carried away. If you can drive your vehicle up to your campsite, then over-packing is not as big of a concern. However, if you need to carry the items into the woods…these items should get a closer look. Tents with fiberglass poles can save weight over metal poles. And a rock in the forest can drive tent stakes if you’d rather not carry a 2 pound hammer. Items like inflatable pillows and compression sacks for sleeping bags can also save a lot of packing space!
If you’re going to a campground with shower facilities, then your camping checklist should include the necessary towels, shower shoes, and other amenities. However, if you’re heading out to the middle of a State Park or other remote area, keep your list to just those things that will keep your tent-mates happy!
If you’re going to a KOA or similar campground, you may not need the ability to be self-sustaining in the wilderness! However, if you’re hiking the AT or backpacking in another remote area, these items could save your life. It’s important not to get carried away with making your survival kit, but simple tools can come in very handy if you find yourself out in the wild for longer than a weekend.