October 13th, 2015

The Ultimate Packing List For Camping Beginners

Don’t get caught in the great outdoors unprepared. Here’s everything you need for a successful first camping trip.

 

Going on your first camping trip? Let’s talk about packing. Sure, a stay in the wilderness typically requires much less in the clothing and shoe departments than other vacations, but there are a few essentials you won’t want to forget. On most trips, if you forget to pack something, you can probably grab it at a nearby store. In the wilderness, though, it’s a different story. If you’re out on a camping trip and realize your backpack is missing something crucial (say, your water filtration), there’s not much you can do about it  So, before you head out, consult our and checklist to make sure you have everything you need for a successful camping trip.

  1. Clothes

If you’ll be backpacking during your trip, every ounce counts. When it comes to clothes, choose lightweight fabrics that are moisture-wicking so you can reuse the same top and bottoms a few times. Other pieces you’ll want to bring:

  • Lightweight hat
  • Packable waterproof and breathable jacket
  • Wool socks
  • Hiking Boots or Trail Runners (Not sure what to get? Check out the Best Travel Shoes)
  • Sunglasses (Polarized shades are ideal for blocking the bright sun)
  • Long pants & long-sleeved shirts (Even if the forecast looks warm, chances are the nights will be cool)
  • Water shoes or sandals with good grip
  • Swimsuit
  • Specter Packing Cubes (to organize all of your items)
  1. Eating and Drinking Essentials

Chances are you’ll have to prepare your own meals (there aren’t too many sit-down restaurants in the woods), so save some real estate in your bag for a portable kitchen. These items include:

  • Camping stove with fuel make sure you pick on appropriate for backpacking or car camping
  • Cookware
  • Utensils (Both for cooking and eating)
  • Lightweight, reusable water bottle
  • Water filtration (You may need to source water from nearby lakes or ponds, and you’ll need to filter it first.)
  • Lightweight Towel and soap
  • Small cutting board
  • Food (Pack some pre-packaged snacks—like bars and trail mix—as well as freeze-dried camping meals you can cook on the trail if backpacking)
  • Bear Bin if backpacking (check with the local forestry department) 
  • Check out The Essential Packing List for a Traveling Kitchen for more info
  1. Personal Items

Unless you’re going “glamping,” plan to be selective with your personal care items and bring only the basic necessities:

  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Bug spray and itch relief (like topical anti-histamine)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletry kit (with a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, soap etc.)
  • Prescription medications you need to take
  • Pain killers (like ibuprofen or aspirin)
  1. Navigational Tools

If you’ll be traveling to multiple spots, or plan to hike during the day, it’s important to have tools that’ll help guide you and ensure a safe trip. Here’s what to pack:

  • Portable GPS
  • Compass and map (It’s a good back-up for the GPS)
  • Chargers (If you’ll be near any charging stations on your trip. Regardless, make sure all of your devices are fully charged before you leave.)
  • Maps or a guidebook
  • Pen or pencil
  • Two-way radios (If you’ll be in a larger group)
  • Flashlights or headlamps (And extra batteries)
  • Travel lantern
  1. Camp Necessities

Here’s what you’ll need to sleep as safely and comfortably as possible:

  • Tent (Double check you have all the necessary poles and stakes)
  • Mallet (For securing the stakes in the ground, if you’re car camping)
  • Sunshade or tarp
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads or a light air mattress
  • Travel pillows
  • Folding chairs and table (if car camping)
  • Pocket knife for any quick cutting needs
  1. Entertainment

One of the best things about camping is spending uninterrupted quality time with friends and family, without the common high-tech distractions. Maximize the fun with these things:

  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Travel-sized board games
  • Playing cards
  • Fishing gear (Poles, reels, line, lures and tackle.)
  • Kayaking gear (Life jackets, paddles, and repair kit)
  • Bikes (Don’t forget locks!)
  • S’mores ingredients (You didn’t think we’d let you go camping without the most quintessential outdoor treat, did you?)

This is a comprehensive list, and you may not need it all — it just depends on what type of trip you’re going on. If you plan of hiking most of the days and pitching a tent in different locations each night, for example, leave the board games at home and stock up on hiking essentials instead. If you’re sticking to one spot, throw the bikes on the bike rack and pile on the games for a fun weekend in the woods.

What are your must-have camping items? Let us know in the comments below!

Related links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Minimalist Camping: How to Pack for a Weekend in Nature

Gift Guide: For Camping

Camp Safely: 5 Dangers to Avoid

by Colleen Travers

Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, and women’s lifestyle for various publications.

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