When my family goes camping, it’s my job to make sure that all of the camping supplies and camping gear are packed into the car. After a few seasons of trial and error, overpacking and underpacking, I have come up with a Camping Checklist that covers all of our basic needs… with some wiggle room for extras.
Now, this is not a list for people who hike in the back country, carrying only a spoon and 3 matches. This is camping with a family, in a campground. National Parks are our favorites, so we generally don’t spend a lot of time in places with loads of amenities. (So, I can’t expect a fully stocked grocery store, hardware store or drugstore… and you can forget Costco.)
Save time and money by bringing along what you need. Shopping on the road can get expensive… especially if you already have the item at home!
Take a look at my Camping Checklist… compare it to what you and your family might want to take along. I’ve organized it in sections… sleeping, eating, clothing, activities etc., where each section describes the item. Consider using it as a guideline for packing for your next camping trip.
Tent, Sleeping Bags and Something to Keep You Off the Ground….
Tent – The size of the Tent depends on the size of your group… and how much you like each other… and how much you want to like them AFTER the trip. Remember, you will need room for everyone to have a sleeping bag, and a space for everyone to have a bag of clothes and basics. The tents that have a vestibule or outer area are wonderful… they give you a transition between outside and inside, and keep dirt to a minimum.
Ground Sheet– I like to put a ground cover under my tent… in case of stray rocks or sticks that you miss during set up, but could concievably tear the bottom of the tent. It also acts as a moisture barrier….
Stakes for the tent (if you happen to see extra in the store, grab a few, couldn’t hurt).
Hammer– for pounding the stakes.
Sleeping Bag – One per person. Take note of the weather before leaving. If you are high country camping, you might need the down bag. If you are somewhere warm… take a lighter weight bag.
Pillow– Space is at a premium.. take a small pillow per person, or a pillow that can squish down.
Camp Cot – After the great Mouse-In-The-Tent Incident of 2009, I still have a hard time relaxing entirely when sleeping on the ground. A cot keeps you up, and if you have room in your car.. why not?
Camping Lanterns and Flashlights
Let there Be Light!
It gets dark at night… really dark… scary dark.
And it turns out, you can’t do much in the dark, if you can’t see.
You will need a lantern or two on the table, a light in the tent, and flashlights for potty runs.
Now, some people like gas powered lanterns, others like battery operated…. I like the battery operated, since fussing with a mantle and matches is too fiddly for me.
What You need for Your Camping Kitchen
Setting Up a Kitchen in a Campground
Setting up a campground kitchen can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. I tend to let the complexity level go along with the length of the stay (o point in going overboard on a two night trip… ) Basically, you need something to store your food (a cooler and/or drybox), something to cook your food, things to eat your food off of, and cleaning supplies. From there you can get elaborate…. tables, grills, stoves, dishwashers, and candelabras….
Stove – If you are car camping, you might as well take along a stove that is more than one burner. I like the one with a burner AND a grill (covers all food production needs). A stove should have a wind screen around it, and work on gas.
Gas– Get the kind that works with your stove. A few bottles is a good idea. You can find them in most hardware or grocery stores. If you plan to stay in one place for a long time, consider getting an adaptor for a LARGE container of gas. Saves time and money.
Camp Grill– Campsites often have fire rings for your campfire, but they don’t always have a grill for cooking. I like to bring my own. This way I’m certain I will have space to cook.
Ice Chest– Keep foods that need to stay cold in your ice chest. Replace the ice regularly.
Dry Box– For foods that don’t need to be kept cold, like bread and cookies. I find that a lidded plastic box works well for this.
Camp Table– Yes, many campsites have tables… but we eat on that table, and so having the cooking gear on the table gets crowded. A table for your stove, that can also be used for washing up or prep might be a good idea.
Cookset – Pots for cooking. You want a set that can nest in itself. Don’t worry about having your asparagus steamer along… one size fits most will have to do.
Chef’s Tools– Basics should cover it… spoon, spatula… ladle if you make soup or stew. I like a big fork too. Make sure they can take heat (in case you are like me, and accidentally leave the spoon too close to the fire….)
Cooking Knife– I like a knife with a sheath… keeps my hands safe when rummaging around the box
Can opener– If you are bringing any canned food.
Plates and Utensils – Just the basics… plate, mug, bowl, knife, fork, spoon. Easy care and sturdy is best.The ability to handle heat really helps (for that time you set your mug on the edge of the campfire…)
Tablecloth– One of those tablecloths with a plastic side so it’s easy to wipe off….those outdoor tables are never really that clean…. also, clamps to hold it in place are a good idea.
Washing up Stuff – Pan, sponge, soap… decide if you need a special dish pan for washing, or if a simple plastic box will cover it
Napkins– Coth or paper… cloth is eco friendly, but needs washing, paper can be used to light fires….
Dishtowel– for drying, holding hot pots or use as an apron
Marshmallow Roasting Fork Set – Because who ever heard of a camping trip where you don’t roast marshmallows? Coat hangers and perfect roasting sticks aren’t thick on the ground in most campgrounds… so bring a set.
Salt and Pepper– and any spices you can’t live without… put them in plastic containers with tight lids.
Waterproof MATCHES– Unless you are a boyscout, starting a fire is much easier with matches.
Chairs are important. But what KIND of chair is up to you.
Some chairs have too many bells and whistles in my opinion… but if you really feel you need a footrest, side table, and sun shade… go for it.
Many campsites have a picnic table and benches, so you may not need a table… unless you want an extra one along.
Clothing Checklist for Camping
Remember, Camping is not a fashion parade… You don’t need 12 pairs of shoes, and 2 outfit changes every day. Think layers, think rugged, think about things that go together (my youngest daughter loves her sparkle shirt so much she wore it every day… could have left the rest of her clothes at home).
I usually issue everyone a packing list that looks like this for a week- Feel free to adjust it according to your destination.
2 pairs Jeans
3 pairs Shorts
5-6 short sleeved shirts
3 long sleeved t shirts (cool mornings and evenings)
2 Sweatshirts (cold nights)
1 rainproof windbreaker with hood
7 pairs underwear
5 pairs of socks
3 pairs shoes (sneakers, water shoes/flip flops, hiking shoes)
I like to bring sweatpants
If it’s going to be cold- Gloves, a Hat and a heavy Jacket
Other Camping Supplies…Emergency Things, Extras
Rope– I love rope, you can use it to hang laundry or hold wild children captive (kidding)
First Aid Kit– Never fails, boo boos happen, someone WILL need a bandage.
Ziploc Bags – Those plastic freezer bags and sandwich bags. With ZIPPERS. I use them for everything from wet bathing suits to pretty sea shells to leftovers.
Sharpie Marker– You always need a sharpie marker. I have a compulsive label habit… Sharpie works for everything.
Folding Shovel – Never know when you want to dig a hole.
Citronella Candle – Keep bugs at bay…. (maybe bug spray too…)
Travel Games to Pack on a Camping Trip
Deck of Cards– Play Poker, Blackjack, Crazy Eights, Slap Jack or Go Fish
Farkle– A Dice Game for as many people as you want to let play, and it takes up very little space.
Qwirkle– We love this game… Carry it in the included bag to save space.
Uno– A classic card game that is great for all ages.
Rummikubs– We love this game, it’s like Gin Rummy, but with tiles.