Consulting a packing checklist before venturing into the great outdoors can mean the difference between a memorable weekend getaway and a miserable, potentially even dangerous, camping experience. Do your research in advance to make an informed decision on what necessities you’ll need to bring along with you. While some campgrounds offer perks like restrooms and showers, more primitive sites may not. Have added peace of mind by consulting camping apps like The Dyrt, which features campground reviews and can recommend campsites based on your preferences, such as family camping or off-the-grid destinations. Here are some of the top essential items you’ll want to pack for a camping trip:
— Sleeping bag(s)
— Sleeping pad(s)
— Sleeping bag liner(s)
— Camping chair
Clothing and Gear:
— Rain jacket
— Moisture-wicking clothing
— Socks and underwear
— Hiking shoes
Personal Care Items:
— Wet wipes
— Bug spray
— First-aid kit
— Mess Kit
— Coffee maker
— Cast iron skillet
— Filtered water bottle
— Portable charger
— Playing cards
Some things you’ll want to keep in mind while shopping for the perfect tent include: how much living space you’ll need, how easy the assembly process is and what weather conditions you’re expecting at your campsite. A three-season tent like the reliable REI Co-op Grand Hut 4 is a great option, thanks to its bug-proof mesh wall panels, waterproof fly, two large doors and dual vestibules for extra gear storage. If you’re looking to save some coin, opt for the Coleman Sundome 4-Person Camping Tent, which features large windows, a rainfly, a ground vent and welded floors for added water resistance.
It should come as no surprise that one of the keys to getting a good night’s rest while camping is a quality sleeping bag. But before you make that critical purchase, you’ll need to know what type of sleeper you are. Mummy bags taper at the bottom and offer more warmth, while rectangular sleeping bags are roomier and are best for side-sleepers. For ultimate comfort and durability, try the REI Co-op Siesta Hooded 25 Sleeping Bag, which features an insulated hood big enough to hold a regular size pillow, a muffler and draft tube to contain warmth and keep drafts out, drawstring cinches and polyester synthetic that will keep you cozy in temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gone are the days where camping meant sleepless nights on cold and uneven ground. With a sleeping pad, travelers can bring comfort back into camping, without the need to inflate an air mattress. The foam NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad is an affordable and lightweight option for travelers, with a plush hexagonal nesting pattern and heat-reflecting film that prevents the cold from creeping up from the ground. Meanwhile, couples or families needing more space should consider the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad, a durable sleeping pad that offers nearly 4 inches of added support and comes in both a medium double and a long wide double size.
Sleeping Bag Liner
One item that should be on every traveler’s camping checklist is a sleeping bag liner. Designed to be able to slip right into your sleeping bag, liners offer a layer of added warmth and help keep your sleeping bag free of the dirt and oils that occur naturally on your skin. They come in a variety of fabrics such as fleece, polyester and silk.
Made from excess sleeping pad foam and recycled polyester, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow features a green design that is fitting for your next venture out into nature. It packs down small and expands big when you need it, making it the perfect travel pillow for when you need to pack light.
A tarp is a highly functional, multiuse accessory that you shouldn’t forego on your next camping trip. Tarps like the Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp can be used as protection against the rain and wind, as a shade source on sunny days or as a makeshift blanket for picnic lunches. Tarps can also be used to prolong the life of your camping tent. Simply place one under your tent before assembly to avoid getting holes and tears along the bottom of your tent.
With a fully cushioned seat and back, this comfortable camping chair is an excellent place to take a load off after a tiring day of camp activities. Featuring a built-in cooler in the armrest that is designed to hold up to four cans, Coleman’s Cooler Quad Chair comes equipped with a mesh side pocket for storing personal items, adjustable arm heights and a carry bag for convenient transport.
When the sun sets on your campsite, the last thing you’ll want to have forgotten is a lantern. Not only are lanterns essential for keeping travelers safe out in the wilderness, they also can be used to light up the inside of a dim tent on dark or rainy nights. The waterproof Vont 2 Pack LED Camping Lantern comes equipped with 30 LEDs and can collapse or expand depending on how much light is needed.
Although a hammock may not be a camping necessity, it’s certainly one you’ll wish you brought along when you need a break from the confines of your cramped tent. Bring a book and the Sea to Summit Pro Hammock Set for peak relaxation vibes.
Let’s face it, wet and dirty clothes are one part of the camping experience that we could do without. Rather than throwing your sweaty clothes into a pile after your hiking excursion, rinse them with some soap and water and hang them up on a travel clothesline to keep your tent floor clean.
Clothing and Gear
While you can’t control the weather, there are ways to learn to live with it. When you find yourself in the middle of a downpour, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket is a tried-and-true staple made with three layers of waterproof yet breathable material to keep you dry. For a more affordable option, check out the REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket.
Durable, Moisture-Wicking Clothing
When it comes to finding the best camping clothing, brands like Patagonia, Marmot, Columbia and Arc’teryx hit the mark with their bounty of comfortable, moisture-wicking options. For a breathable outfit you can wear all day long, check out Patagonia’s Capilene Cool Daily Shirt (available in men’s and women’s styles) and Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pants.
Socks and Underwear
Don’t underestimate the importance of high-quality socks and underwear when it comes to camping. Skip the scratchy and ill-fitting skivvies in favor of something with a non-irritating waistband and breathable fabric, such as polyester. As for socks, the fast-drying Darn Tough Micro Crew Midweight Hiking Sock is highly rated for its odor-resistant merino wool and sturdy design.
An essential for any camping trip, a good hiking backpack should be comfortable, durable and come with plenty of organizational space for all of your travel necessities. The Osprey Farpoint 40 is highly rated for its roomy interior and load-bearing shoulder and hip straps, and also includes a locking zipper to keep your belongings secure. Meanwhile, budget-conscious campers should opt for this lightweight travel backpack from Venture Pal, which features a large main compartment space, a padded laptop sleeve and a stowaway back panel. For additional options, check out the U.S. News recommendations for the best travel backpacks here.
A good rule of thumb when preparing for any overnight stay outdoors is to make sure you have multiple light sources on hand. Although lanterns are useful for lighting large areas of space, their bulky nature makes them difficult to transport and they offer less precise lighting than headlamps. Plus, headlamps free up the use of your hands, making them a convenient alternative to standard flashlights. Choose one with an adjustable headband and a red light setting, such as this one from GearLight. To be safe, consider bringing an extra set of batteries with you as well.
Camping on rough and uneven terrain calls for a solid pair of hiking shoes. Merrell’s Moab 2 Ventilator shoes are equipped with breathable mesh lining, a contoured foot bed and slip-resistant rubber soles, giving them excellent traction on wet and slippery surfaces.
Personal Care Items
Camping doesn’t mean sacrificing your skincare routine. If your campsite offers restrooms and showers, a stocked toiletry bag should be all you need to maintain good hygiene while out in the wilderness. This will include essential items like shampoo, conditioner, body and facial cleansers, deodorant, toothpaste and micellar water, which is an effective way of removing dirt and oil from your skin when you are on the go. You can also avoiding hunting around for mini bottles of your favorite skincare brands by purchasing a set of leak proof travel bottles for your trip. If your campsite doesn’t offer running water, consider investing in a portable camping shower.
In addition to your normal toiletry bag, biodegradable wet wipes are a must-have on your next camping trip. If you don’t have access to running water or are going to be away from your campsite for an extended period of time, these Surviveware Biodegradable Face and Body Wet Wipes can be used in a pinch as a makeshift shower, gear cleaner or even toilet paper.
Itchy and painful bug bites can be a nuisance when trying to enjoy the great outdoors. For protection against pesky insects like mosquitos, ticks, biting flies and gnats, add OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent to your packing list.
Nobody likes a sunburn. Protect your skin from damaging UV rays by choosing a sunscreen with a high SPF, such as the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen. If you’re setting up camp near the beach, opt instead for an oxybenzone-free and octinoxate-free sunscreen like this Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion to help protect ocean reefs from pollution.
In addition to any prescription medications your family may be taking, a well-stocked first-aid kit is an essential camping accessory in case of emergencies. A top-notch first aid kit will include staples like adhesive bandages, alcohol wipes, non-latex gloves and gauze, but travelers should feel free to adapt their kit to fit their needs. For a comprehensive first-aid kit, check out this one from Surviveware.
If you’re planning on eating anything on your camping trip other than dry, packaged foods, you’re going to need a camp stove. For this, the Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove, 2-Burner fits the bill for your camp kitchen. This dependable model receives high marks from travelers for its sturdy construction and affordable price point.
Opting for reusable utensils and plates on your next camping trip will cut down on the amount of trash your campsite generates, while also helping to keep plastic waste out of landfills. Campers can get the most bang for their buck with this mess kit, a convenient apparatus that acts as a bowl, a plate and a meal storage container when the two are combined. It also comes with a double-sided 3-in-1 spoon, fork and serrated knife.
Campers who have ever stayed overnight in bear country will tell you the importance of bringing along a high-quality bear-proof cooler. Not only does the cooler’s thick insulation keep your food and beverages at an ideal temperature, but its rotomolded construction also makes these types of coolers virtually indestructible. Note: Many bears can recognize coolers as places where food might be stored. For the best protection, coolers should be kept out of sight.
Don’t sacrifice your morning cup of coffee just because you’re off the grid. With the AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Maker, campers can enjoy their favorite brew anywhere they please. In one press, this handy tool can brew up to three shots of espresso-style coffee or up to one 8 oz. mug serving of regular coffee.
Cast Iron Skillet
Prized for its even heat distribution and sturdy design, this versatile Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet can be used in your camp kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whether you’re whipping up pancakes or campfire nachos, a trusty cast iron skillet (along with a pair of heat resistant oven mitts) is a must-have on any camping checklist.
Filtered Water Bottle
While those embarking on short weekend trips at populated campgrounds may be able to get away with only a large drinking water storage container, anyone about to set off on a backcountry camping adventure should come prepared with a filtered water bottle. The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle makes dirty water drinkable by filtering out bacteria, chlorine, parasites, microplastics, sand, dirt and organic chemical matter, ensuring that you have access to a safe water supply anywhere you go.
Be prepared for anything by including a multitool in your camping gear. This useful tool contains a hammer, an ax, pliers, a knife, a saw, wrenches, a Phillips-head screwdriver, a bottle opener, a file and more.
Although many of us go camping in search of a technology-free experience, it’s important to have a reliable power source available in case of emergencies. For a portable battery source that will charge devices like your phone and laptop, the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger receives numerous positive reviews. However, for a power station that also serves as a jump starter for your car, check out this one from DeWalt.
A portable speaker can instantly upgrade any outdoor getaway. Anker’s Soundcore 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker features a 24-hour playtime and an outdoor-proof design that guards it against rain, dust and snow. Meanwhile, if you’re planning a camping trip where you’ll be tubing, boating or kayaking, you may want to consider the Soundcore Motion Boom Speaker, a waterproof speaker that floats and offers extremely clear sound quality. Just remember to stay mindful of the volume when camping next to other groups.
Waterproof Playing Cards
While the great outdoors offers a plethora of natural activities to enjoy, it doesn’t hurt to have some reinforcements on hand for when your crew is spent from a day in the sun or if the weather keeps you inside your tent. These waterproof playing cards are an essential travel accessory the whole family will enjoy. Play a round of crazy eights, go fish, rummy or poker without worrying about ruining your favorite deck of playing cards.
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