A camping packing list was one of the first packing lists I wanted to create – camping road trips are the very best of the breed to me. My favorite road trip of all time was one I took when I was twelve with my family driving down from Connecticut to North Carolina and back. We camped almost every night (one night we stayed in a hotel simply because there wasn’t anything nearby and it was late). It was so much fun staying at a different site every night and exploring it, much better than a boring hotel!
You’ll need a whole different set of things for this type of road trip (hence this camping packing list), but you won’t be as dependent on what you pack as someone setting out into the wilderness with a backpack and no stores for miles. In my experience, most drive-up campgrounds have a little store, and, of course, while you’re on the road you can always stop along the way to pick things up.
Camping road trips give you the joys of sleeping under the stars surrounded by the beauty of nature combined with the comforts of fresh food instead of powdered things, bought (dry) firewood when it’s been raining and the safety of your car if a horrendous downpour threatens your tent.
So what should you be packing for your camping trip? There are plenty of things you’ll really need and you shouldn’t wait to get them on the road – they may be hard to find, of inferior quality or too expensive. This camping packing list will make sure you have everything you need:
- A tent, tarps, and everything you need to set up (mallet, pegs). Most people already know this, but there are plenty of newbies out there that hear “sleeping under the stars” and think that they don’t need a tent. Don’t believe me? I’ve met these people!
- If you don’t want to make a fire at every site, pack a camping stove and fuel. Coleman grills and stoves are the best quality – don’t skimp with this, you get what you pay for. Also, don’t forget to bring lots of matches in a zip-lock baggie. Think you’ll just pack those matches loosely in your bags? I thought so, too, once. When my bag had a bottle of water leak all over it, I found out that it’s impossible to light a soggy match!
- One large saucepan with a lid and one medium frying pan usually work out to be all you need as far as pans go. You’ll also need a spatula, tongs, and a spoon. If you’re into steaming things, bring one of those small fold-up steamer baskets to put in the saucepan.
- You’ll also need plastic cups, paper plates, and plastic silverware. If you’re going green, bring the real thing and wash them. In that case, you’ll need a large soup pot for dishwashing, dishwashing liquid, sponges, and some dishtowels.
- Some campgrounds have picnic tables you can use, but not all. Bring an extra blanket to spread out for those times – ideally, one that has a waterproof side that you can lay on the ground, the alternate side being soft. I have one of these and love it because no matter how wet the ground is, I’m dry.
- Flashlights for everyone and one lantern for your site.
- Bar or liquid soap and towels for everyone.
- Cooler for keeping food.
- Food, but only enough for the first day or so – you can buy food on the road and have fresher stuff that hasn’t been crammed in your car for days. Same goes for water, you can pick up more jugs along the way.
- Maps that include campgrounds – check before you buy. These will be helpful if you decide to go off your original route and need a nearby site for the night. Beware! Some campgrounds book solid, so don’t assume – call and reserve a spot.
- Sleeping bags and pillows plus blankets for colder nights. Some people love an air-mattress, too.
- String or clotheslines to hang things up to dry. Your stuff will inevitably get wet, and you’ll be grateful to have this with you. As it doesn’t take up much room, there’s no reason not to pack it.
- Bug spray and sunscreen. You will definitely need both, but just bring one of each. If you need more, they’re both easily found in any store.
- Toilet paper and paper towels. Don’t bother bringing napkins unless you’re really fussy (though I wonder why a fussy person likes camping). You can just use paper towels as napkins. Once again, you don’t need to bring enough for the whole trip, pick extra up when you grocery shop every other day or so.
- Can-opener – this is something people often forget. Other tools that you’ll need are on the general list that should be used as a companion to this camping packing list.
- Potholders or mitts.
- Large plastic or stainless steel bowl – you can use this so many ways (like a little sink, for serving, to mix things), you might want to bring two.
- Cutting board and a sharp knife.
- If you’re going green, get a Brita or other brand of a water-filtering pitcher and refill your plastic water jugs with your self-filtered water using a funnel.
One last tip that’s not on the camping packing list above: before you go, find out about the wildlife that will be in the various camping areas where you will be staying. You will want to be prepared for that bear going after your food, or that scorpion waiting in your shoe!
See The List to help round out your packing and you’ll be truly ready to roll.