No other outdoor activity allows you to get up close and personal with Mother Nature more than spending a day and a night (or two) camping in the wilderness. Aside from being surrounded by nature’s splendor, you also get to enjoy being away from all the hustle and bustle of the city life – an experience that many busy and stressed-out folks are clamoring for but aren’t able to pursue. However, such a dreamy experience can quickly turn into a nightmare if you aren’t fully prepared for the challenges and demands of the outdoors. So as you plan for your next camping escapade, go over our camping checklist to make sure that you have got a good idea of what to bring camping and more for a successful camping adventure.
One of the first things you need to worry about when you go camping is shelter. Unless you’re camping with an RV, then you’ll have to bring the following for shelter.
- Camping Tent. Over the years, camping tents have become synonymous with camping itself. In fact, the very thought of camping would immediately evoke an image of a camping tent pitched in the wilderness. Camping tents come in a wide array of styles and designs, ranging from traditional teepee tents to the more modern dome versions. In any case, you’ll have to make sure that you choose a tent that is suitable for the climate of the area you are camping in since some tents fare much better than others in certain conditions.
- Tarps can be used to provide additional shelter or shade at the campsite. Although a large umbrella may provide the same convenience, it is rather large and bulky and thus be more challenging to carry from the car to the campsite. A tarp on the other hand is foldable, making it much easier to store and transport.
When choosing a camping tent, you may want to consider paying a little bit more for quality. Poor quality tents often result in a variety of issues like difficulty in setting up, ineffective waterproofing, and easily damaged fabric and materials.
Aside from a good and reliable shelter, you’ll also need to bring along some form of bedding and other accessories.
- Sleeping Bag. Choosing the right sleeping bag can spell the difference between a restful night’s sleep and a sore back in the morning. This is why you’ll need to choose your sleeping bag carefully. There are quite a lot of things that you’ll need to consider when looking at different sleeping bags like the size, insulation and temperature rating, zipper quality, and more. Also, if you’re camping with kids, you’ll want to get sleeping bags made for kids. These sleeping bags are more appropriate for children since letting them use an adult sleeping bag will mean that they will lose a lot of heat and warmth because of all the dead space inside (which can then result in a cranky kid in the morning).
- Sleeping Pad. A sleeping pad is a mat that goes under the sleeping bag, thus creating a barrier between the sleeping bag and the ground. There are different types of sleeping pads available like air-filled and closed-cell foam pads. One is not necessarily better than the other since both work pretty well under different conditions.
- Some sleeping bags come with a headrest which allows you to place folded clothes inside it, thereby turning it into an instant pillow. However, if you find that rather uncomfortable, then you’ll want to bring your own pillow.
- More often than not, a good quality sleeping bag with excellent insulation is enough to keep you warm while you sleep outdoors. However, in cases where the weather is extremely cold (or when your sleeping bag has poor insulation but you’re not ready to buy a new one yet), having a blanket can be a real life-saver.
As with camping tents, you’ll want to spend more on quality sleeping bags and pads. Sure, you’ll be spending more upfront, but you’ll be able to get more use out of them in the long run. Besides, the more expensive sleeping bags and pads are made from high-quality materials that can enhance your comfort levels while you’re sleeping in them.
We all know that whipping up a gourmet meal while you’re roughing it out in the wilderness can be very challenging and nearly impossible, which is why you’ll want to settle for camping food ideas that are much simpler but still tastes great and more importantly, able to provide you with the energy you need to make it through your camping adventure.
- Freeze Dried Food Packs. These food packs are rather popular in the emergency preparedness world because they last for a very long time and are easy to prepare. These features, along with being lightweight and flavorful, makes them perfect for any camping trip. Plus, the manufacturing process helps the food to retain much of its nutrients so you’re getting enough fuel that your body needs for your camping activities.
- Canned Soups and Stews. These are perfect for when you’re camping in cold-weather regions. They take only a few minutes to prepare and taste great as well. If you want to, you can add a few veggies and spices to make your meal more delicious.
- Energy Bars. Energy bars are a staple in many camping food checklists. They also come in different varieties, from endurance bars that provide a good source of carbohydrates and electrolytes to meal replacement bars that contain high amounts of calories and various vitamins and nutrients.
- Bagels and Jams. Bagels make a good alternative for ordinary loaves of bread because they tend to last longer. They also contain higher amounts of carbohydrates which will give you plenty of energy. As for the jams, choose one that doesn’t need to be refrigerated after opening. That way, you can be sure that they won’t spoil even if you spend a whole weekend out in the wilderness.
- Fruits are perfect to snack on and need very little to no preparation. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals which you’ll need when exploring the outdoors.
- Instant Noodles. Instant noodles have always been a popular food for college kids because they’re easy to cook and taste good, too. They’re not as filling as a complete meal, but they should suffice for most camping trips.
- Instant Coffee, Tea, and Juices. Sipping a hot cup of coffee or chocolate while sitting around the bonfire telling stories is one of the best parts of camping. Given the variety of options available, you should have no trouble choosing which ones to bring.
This list is by no means complete since there are a plethora of other foods which you can bring camping, but we strongly suggest that you consider bringing along the ones mentioned above. Whatever food you decide to bring along to the campsite, just make sure that they are easy to prepare and don’t spoil easily.
4. Navigational Tools
Getting lost in the wilderness can be a scary thought, so if you’re thinking of exploring an unfamiliar territory without a guide, then you’ll definitely want to bring along several tools to help you navigate and get yourself back on track. Nowadays, there are a variety of navigational tools available to hikers and campers. As much as possible, you’d want to carry along all of the following in your hiking backpack or pockets since leaving them in the safety of your tent basically defeats the purpose of bringing them along.
- Portable GPS. A handheld GPS receiver is an essential navigational tool for many hikers and campers, allowing them access to a variety of information in a single unit. Aside from the preloaded and downloadable maps, GPS units can also have a host of other features like a barometer/altimeter, waypoint recording, geocaching, and others. Oh, be sure to bring along some extra batteries as well.
- Analog Compass. Many GPS is equipped with an electronic compass. Yet, you’ll want to bring along an analog compass with you just in case your trusty GPS runs out of batteries or fails.
- Map or Guidebook. Digital maps are certainly convenient, but as mentioned earlier, you’ll still want to have a backup plan just in case your GPS device fails. In this case, a paper map or a guidebook is still relevant and more dependable since they don’t run out of batteries and they certainly don’t need an internet or satellite connection.
More important than having these in your backpack or pocket is knowing how to use them properly. So be sure to read the instructions and user’s manual of your GPS unit and brush up on your compass and map reading skills. Also, consider taking some classes about various techniques for outdoor navigation. Here you’ll learn how to use natural indicators like the sun, wind, plants, and others to determine location and direction. Not only is learning these skills vital for any explorer, but they can be a whole lot of fun, too.
5. First Aid Kit
This is one item that you should never go camping without. Considering that you’ll be spending time in the wild outdoors, you’ll never know when an emergency may arise. You can buy pre-packaged first aid kits or make your own using a sturdy, waterproof case and filling it with the items below:
- Disinfectants like ethyl or isopropyl alcohol
- Various sizes of gauze pads
- Adhesive bandages or medical tape
- Blunt tip scissors or a scalpel
- Cotton-tipped swabs
- Sunburn relief spray
- Antihistamine or anti-allergy medications
- Diarrhea medications
- Antacid tablets
- Ibuprofen or other pain-relief medications
- Prescription medications
More important than carrying a first aid kit is knowing how to use them correctly. It will also be beneficial for you to learn some first aid skills just in case an emergency strikes.
6. Personal Care Items
Being out in the wilderness and roughing it out doesn’t mean that you can forget about personal care. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to bring your whole bathroom vanity top. Personal care items are, well, personal, so just bring the bare essentials that you like using and perhaps a few extra items to account for the fact that you’ll be using a communal bathroom. So, what personal care items should you bring?
- Hand sanitizer. Many campers prefer hand sanitizers since they’re pretty easy to carry about and don’t require water.
- Toilet paper. Keep your toilet paper in a zip lock bag to keep it from getting wet.
- Biodegradable Soap and Shampoo. These soaps and shampoos (mostly organic) are generally made from eco-friendly materials and are safe to use outdoors.
- Despite being surrounded by tall trees, you’ll still want to wear sunscreen while camping. Fortunately, you won’t have to keep reapplying sunscreen since you’re mostly under the shade.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Maintaining dental hygiene is just as important when camping as it is in ordinary everyday life. If you don’t like the thought of toothpaste chemicals negatively affecting the environment, you can bring baking powder instead.
- Lip Balm. If you’re camping in colder regions, you’ll want to bring along a lip balm to help combat chapped lips. It may not sound like a serious issue at first, but you’ll want to treat them right away before your lips start to crack and bleed.
Again, this list should be personal and tailored to your specific needs. You’ll also want to throw in several other items like a razor or sanitary napkin or whatever, as long as you think you’ll need it.
7. Cooking and Eating Utensils
Many campers would agree that one of the best parts of camping would be cooking and eating. Although you won’t be whipping up gourmet dishes in the outdoors, you’ll still need to bring along a few essential cooking and eating utensils with you.
- Portable Stove. Cooking over wood can be fun, but it can also be challenging and it limits the type of food that you can cooks. Thus, it would be more convenient to simply bring along a portable stove. These stoves are compact and lightweight so lugging them from your car to the campsite and back shouldn’t be a problem.
- Stove Fuel. Two of the most popular types of stove fuel nowadays are propane and butane. Each of these has its own pros and cons, but no matter which one you choose to bring with you, just make sure that you bring more than you think you’ll need.
- Matches or Lighter. Even if your portable stove has a built-in igniter, it’s still a good idea to pack some matches or a lighter just in case of equipment failure.
- You will mostly only need two types of cookware for a successful campout: a skillet for frying and a pot for your soups and stews.
- Cooking Utensils. As with other camping gear and equipment, you’ll want to keep this at the bare minimum: a spatula, a ladle, a can opener, a sharp kitchen knife, and a cutting board are usually more than enough.
- Eating Utensils. Some campers prefer using disposable plates and plastic spoons for convenience. However, using reusable plates and spoons and forks are much better for the environment for obvious reasons. Don’t forget the bowls and cups, too.
- Plastic Containers. Choose plastic containers with rubber gaskets. These do a much better job of keeping your food fresh and free from contamination.
- Coolers are great for keeping your drinks cold and refreshing and can also serve as food storage.
As with other items in this article, you can add several other items to this list (throw in a nice tablecloth if you want to). However, to minimize the preparation and cleaning, you may want to consider sticking to the bare essentials.
8. Camping Tools
If you’re headed for the outdoors, then you’ll need a couple of tools and other items with you so you can make quick repairs when necessary. This is especially true if you’re camping in places where the nearest help is quite far from your campsite.
- Multi-tool. Multi-tools are the Swiss-army knife of many campers. They allow you to carry along an assortment of tools right in your pocket or backpack, all of which may prove useful at some point during your camping trip. Sure, they may not contain all the tools you have in your garage or toolbox, but the ones available are usually more than enough to get menial tasks in the campsite done.
- Knives used for camping come in an assortment of sorts. There are smaller foldable knives that you can fit inside your pocket, as well as larger knives that you’ll need to carry around in a sheath fastened to your belt. Most experts would agree that you carry around one of each because there are certain things which a small knife can do better than a large knife and vice versa.
- Small Axe or Hatchet. There are certain activities that your trusty camping knife can’t handle, and in such circumstances, having a small ax or a hatchet can be really helpful. From chopping firewood to clearing dead branches blocking your path, these tools are pretty much a necessity when you’re exploring the wilderness.
- Duct Tape. Duct tape is probably one of the most useful items you’ll bring on any camping trip. They can be used to patch up rips and tears in your camping tent or tarp, seal a broken zipper, mend a broken fishing pole and conduct a variety of other repairs.
9. Miscellaneous Items
Aside from the camping essentials mentioned above, there are several other things campers ought to bring to further enhance their comfort and enjoyment at the campsite like the following:
- Camping Chairs. Choose a camping chair that is extremely portable and compact like an ultra-light foldable fabric chair. However, if you’re camping and not carrying your gear too far, then you can opt for a camping chair with more features like recliners, storage pockets, or even canopies. Aside from portability, be sure to take into consideration durability and comfort as well. There’s no point lugging around a camping chair if you don’t like using it.
- Camping Lanterns. There are still gas-powered lanterns available in the market today. However, it might be a better idea to use electricity- or battery-powered camping lanterns instead since they don’t emit toxic fumes and are much safer to use. Solar-powered lanterns are also worth considering, but you may want to avoid them unless you’re camping in really sunny places.
- Phone with Portable Charger. Although most camping experts would recommend that you put your phone away while camping, it can’t be denied that smartphones can be quite useful even in the wilderness. From taking photos or videos of memorable moments to playing music while fishing and even serving as a songbook for your campfire sing-along, a smartphone can be essential camping equipment so long as you use it right.
- Activity Gear and Equipment. Many campers don’t just head to the outdoors thinking about campfire cooking and sleeping under the stars. Many campsites nowadays offer a host of activities for campers, from hiking to kayaking and more. If you’re planning to engage in such activities, then make sure that you bring the gear and equipment necessary. You can also check with the campsite operator and ask if they rent out any equipment so you can properly plan what items to bring.
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Camping is certainly so much fun, but not so much when you realize that you’re missing something when you start unpacking at the campsite. To ensure that you don’t forget anything when you go camping, be sure to have a list of what to bring camping at hand while you pack. The camping checklist above is by no means complete and you can always add or remove a few things as you see fit. Nonetheless, bringing the items mentioned above should be enough to ensure that you get to enjoy a worry-free and successful camping trip.
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