A Backpacker’s Guide: Must-Have Camping Essentials

Spending time outdoors with loved ones, friends, or even by yourself is enjoyable when camping. And there are a gazillion places (and ways) to do it. You can camp simply with a few necessities or spruce up your spot with pillows, blankets, hammocks, and other accessories. Many state and national parks, private campgrounds, the backcountry, and even your own backyard are suitable places to set up a tent.

The majority of campsites come with a picnic table, a spot for parking, and a place to set up your tent. Additionally, a lot of them have running water and shared bathrooms (though you should confirm this before departing).

The fact that you need very little gear to survive outside is part of the fun of camping. However, having a cozy, practical, and comfortable setup is also nice. Renting or borrowing some of these items might be the best option if this is your first time going camping. As you gain more camping experience, you might discover that deciding what to pack to suit your needs is half the fun.

Use this helpful camping essentials checklist as you pack to ensure you have everything you’ll need. Make sure you haven’t forgotten anything crucial. We don’t expect you to bring everything on this extensive list, but if you do, you are SET!

Camping Essentials: An Overview

Camping Essentials_ An Overview

Let’s cover some fundamentals first before getting into the camping checklist. The thought of camping is romantic; you don’t always consider the potential sources of discomfort, such as inclement weather or loud campers next door. Although purchasing equipment might seem like the most difficult task, you should first determine your camping location. Selecting an area is crucial because you want to be aware of the local wildlife and the type of weather you should expect. Once you’ve made that decision, it will be simpler to select your gear.

Spend some time reading consumer reviews before making a large purchase, such as a tent, hiking boots, camp stove, or a vehicle camping structure. Give retailers a call to discuss your options if necessary. Staff members typically have firsthand knowledge of different items of gear and will have opinions to share, especially at stores like REI that celebrate outdoor communities.

It’s advisable to consult individuals who have personally experienced the campgrounds if you have questions regarding amenities, as many of them have reviews on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. To get a better idea of what to expect, you can also search for the campsite on Instagram and browse through tagged photos.

Campsite

Campsite
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You’ll always need a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and shelter to set up your campsite. The sleeping pad will keep you off the ground and warm at night. Additional furniture, such as chairs and pillows, enhances the feeling of comfort. Prior to packing, check the amenities offered by your campground. The majority of drive-up campgrounds offer firewood for sale on-site in addition to a picnic table and fire pit. Here are the camping essentials to set up your camp:

  • Tent, with footprint and stakes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads or cots
  • Camping chairs
  • Headlamps
  • Lighting, like a lantern and string lights
  • Lighter
  • Pillow
  • Other Items
  • Camping table
  • Hammock
  • Games
  • Firewood (getting it from local sources will prevent invasive insects)
  • Duct tape
  • Extra batteries
  • Axe or hatchet (for chopping wood)
  • Multi-tool
  • Tent repair kit
  • Trowel

First Aid And Toiletries

First Aid And Toiletries
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It’s more important to pack toiletries for cuts, insect bites, and basic hygiene when going camping. You might even forgo taking a shower if you’re just going to be camping for a few days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t remain reasonably clean. After spending the night in a tent, a basic body wipe and a stick of deodorant work wonders. Try using quick-dry towels or a washcloth in place of paper towels (produce less trash!).

  • Biodegradable soap
  • Deodorant
  • Body or face wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Quick dry towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellent (plant-based Natrapel, $13, is a good DEET-free option)
  • First aid kit, which includes gauze, adhesive bandages, pain relievers, and tweezers in a weather-resistant bag.
  • Camp shower
  • Flip-flops (if you want a shower)
  • Clothesline

Clothing

Camp Clothing
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In the great outdoors, anything can happen at any time, so be sure to check the weather before you go and pack clothes that will keep you cool during the day and warm and dry during the winter. Here are some camping essentials in the items of clothing you might need:

  • Short- and long-sleeved shirts
  • Pants and shorts
  • Warm jacket for evenings
  • Boots or shoes for hiking
  • Socks
  • Sandals for lounging around the campsite
  • Sleep or loungewear
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • For emergency use
  • Rain jacket
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Swimsuit
  • Earplugs

Camp Cooking And Kitchen

Camp Cooking And Kitchen
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Yes, you could cook your meals creatively with just a campfire and a roll of tinfoil (think fire-baked potatoes). For those campfire pancake breakfasts and taco dinners, you will also want to pack a few more essentials for the camp kitchen for both cooking and cleaning up afterward.

Remember that you could bring an empty canister to store food if you’re camping in Bear Country (some coolers, like the Yeti Tundra, double as a bear canister). Nonetheless, drive-in campgrounds frequently offer metal lockers to protect your food from wildlife, including bears.

It’s helpful to make a grocery list and plan the meals you’ll cook while camping before you depart. Classic camp fare like freeze-dried soups, oatmeal, hot dogs, and sandwiches are always simple to prepare, but The Campout Cookbook has some amazing recipes that are perfect for a fun night outdoors, like a skillet pizza or a tinfoil shrimp boil.

Not in the mood to shop and prepare your meals for camp? Many companies offer low-fuss food options for a weekend away, such as dehydrated bean soups, dried fruit, and even canned mussels. Your camping essentials must contain easy-to-access food for when you are on the go.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to buying gear, we advise you to support your neighborhood gear shop whenever you can. These establishments serve as vital community hubs for outdoor enthusiasts, and the staff members are likely to be knowledgeable about the local wild areas. It’s also a good idea to see if there is a package or used gear store in your area. Giving equipment a second chance at life does not have to equate to a loss of quality, and it also keeps the equipment out of the trash.

If you have thoughts to share or questions to ask about camping essentials, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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Sarmind is a Writer and an aspiring Editor who has experience in various short and long-form niches. Her academic pursuits intensely mold her industry background in content creation. She holds a Master's degree in Literature, and when not writing for professional purposes, she can be found re-reading old classics of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. She is super fond of cats and enjoys hours of doom-scrolling through memes on social media while cuddled up with a cup of desi chai. She likes to think she is an intellectual badass (colloquial: nerdy bore), and now all she needs is a sewing kit to complete the look!

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