We used to have this chant in Boy Scouts: Flashlight water bottle, toilet paper flashlight. Water bottle toilet paper, flashlight water bottle. Our own little camping checklist. You can repeat those three things in pretty much any order while clapping, and you’ll be glad you memorized them when enjoying the outdoors.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a new or inexperienced camper who’s getting ready to set out on one of their first camping trips. You’re going to bring your cell phone charger, your credit card and secretly hope there’s a picnic table near your campsite. No shame! As far as we’re concerned, that’s great news! Outdoor adventure is for everyone, no matter their background, and there’s no better time to take your next camping trip than today.
We know from experience how intimidating those first nights under the stars can be. Figuring out what camping gear to bring on your first trip can be particularly frustrating. That’s why we’ve thrown together this list of everything you need to have a great camping trip.
Just remember, no matter who you are or how many times you’ve gone camping, you’re probably going to forget something. To top it off, different types of camping trips often require different things. What you’d bring on a backpacking trip isn’t necessarily the same as what you’d include when car camping. Meanwhile, RVing is in a league of its own.
Below you’ll find a collection of useful things you’ll be glad you brought on any trip. They’re listed in no particular order, so don’t think of it as a ranking. Ultimately, any one of these things can make or break your mood on a camping trip.
Wide Open Roads’ Camping Checklist
1. Water Bottle
If you don’t want to drink water out of a makeshift duct tape mug or your own cupped hands, don’t forget to bring some vessel for water. Collapsible plastic cups and water jugs are also an option, but believe us when we tell you that you’ll want to be able to keep whatever you store your drinking water in tightly shut.
2. Multiple Layers of Clothing
Whether you pack a stack of ultralight t-shirts, a set of thermal underwear, or one of those nifty 3-way rain jackets, be sure you bring something for every type of weather expected. If you’ve got room, also pack clothing for the weather you aren’t expecting. While it might be nice to lounge around in your swimsuit while the sun’s out, when night falls, you can never be sure what you’re getting into.
3. Sleeping Bag
Along with your sleeping bag, feel free to bring a sleeping pad or air mattress. Nothing wrecks a camping trip faster than lack of sleep caused by hypothermic nights and uncomfortable terrain. Consider also packing extra sheets or a wool blanket if you don’t want to end up using your tablecloth for insulation.
Not that we would know from experience. Ahem. Anyway, back to the camping checklist!
News flash: The outdoors are dark at night.
Even with a full moon and a sky full of stars, if you aren’t a cat, you’re going to have a hard time finding your way around. While a flashlight is a good start, also consider other convenient measures like a lantern or headlamp. Things like these help you keep your hands free for whatever proverbial (or literal) fire you’re trying to put out.
Oh yea, and while we’re at it:
5. Extra Batteries
For your flashlight, for your GPS, for your own sake. If you have anything that requires batteries, bring extra. If you’re RVing or car camping, you can always bring rechargeable batteries and juice them up with a charger.
Just don’t drain your vehicle battery or run out of gas in the process. It’s not worth it.
There’s something about packing for a camping trip that seems to cause temporary amnesia. As such, expect to forget obvious things like your toothbrush and toothpaste, not to mention handy salves like lip balm.
Where soap is concerned, please note that some forms are bad for the environment. Just so, consider packing biodegradable soap that won’t harm the ecosystem or hand sanitizer that evaporates, leaving little residue.
As ever, for the love of all that is good in nature, don’t forget toilet paper. And, if you’re camping someplace without a toilet of some sort, everyone will appreciate it if you pack your trowel. Can you dig it?
7. First Aid Kit
Ideally, you won’t need to use your first aid kit. However, experience says you just might. From blisters and bug bites to minor burns and abrasions, you’ll be glad you packed one.
Also, if your first aid kit doesn’t already include sunscreen and insect repellent, don’t be shy about adding them.
8. A Whole Kitchen
Don’t be insulted by these seeming no-brainers. Seasoned campers forget these things all the time.
Food: In addition to those hotdogs you brought, do you also have buns and condiments? What will you cook them with? Did you bring some firestarter to get that stack of logs going? Do you have a rod to roast them with? If you don’t, how are you going to toast marshmallows for s’mores?
Cooking Implements: While your camp kitchen will undoubtedly be a magical place, it probably won’t be able to summon up supplies out of nowhere. In addition to all the food you intend to pack, don’t forget everyday items like cutting boards, dish towels, and can openers, to name a few.
Drinking Keys: Similarly, if you plan on partaking in some adult libations, don’t forget your bottle opener and corkscrew. Now that we think about it, this tip probably belongs closer to the top.
9. Pocket Knife
When in doubt: pocket knife. These multi-tools are outdoor lifesavers, often doing the jobs of several forgotten camping checklist items at once.
10. Camp Chairs
You brought the tent. You’ve got the hammock. You’re all set to lay back and relax.
But really, all you want to do is sit next to that mesmerizing fire. Do your eye deceive you, or are there no fallen logs or comfy rocks lying around? What is this? Does nature expect you to sit on the ground like a caveman?
Consider packing camp chairs. You-on-a-camping-trip will thank you-planning-a-camping-trip later.
Camping Checklist Bonus Item: Trash Bags
This bonus is the most important part of any camping checklist. Campers and outdoors enthusiasts who genuinely care about the splendors of nature live by this creed: Leave it better than you left it.
Please heed this call by bringing plenty of trash bags with you to carry out your waste and any other bits you come across. When leaving any camp, it’s always good to parse it out in a mental grid and slowly walk back and forth, north to south, east to west, looking for stray trash.
What do you always bring on your camping trips? Let us know what we’re missing on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!