30 Must-Have Items for Your Camping Packing List

30 Must-Have Items for Your Camping Packing List

Are you planning your next adventure and compiling your camping packing list? Striking a balance between over-packing and under-packing for a camping trip can be a daunting task—after all, you want to be adequately prepared, but you also don’t want to have to lug around unnecessary gear. 

To help you out, I’ve rounded up the top camping essentials for tent camping, cabin camping, and RV camping so you can check the items off your list and set off on your adventure with confidence. 

Top Ten Items for Your Tent Camping Packing List

A person sits at the opening of a tent at a campsite with a fire, fire grate, cooler, firewood, and chairs.

Tent camping is the most “rugged” form of camping and requires well thought-out, efficient packing. This is especially true if you’re backpacking and need to carry your gear with you. Appropriate supplies will ensure a comfortable and safe adventure. 

Packing your tent might seem obvious, but you never know what supplies might get lost in your packing shuffle! Your tent will be your home for the duration of your camping trip, so make sure to bring it. No one wants to make their way out to their site, only to find out that they have nothing to sleep in at night. 

  • Tent Footprint
  •  Stakes

2. Sleeping Bag

If your tent is your house while you’re camping, then your sleeping bag is your bed. Make sure to add a sleeping bag to your camping packing list since a miscellaneous assortment of blankets won’t cut it in the cold. 

  • Sleeping pad 
  •  Camping pillow

for camping trip

3. Fire Starter

A fire starter is an absolute must for camping, especially in a tent. Fire will allow you to keep warm, cook food, and even signal for help in the case of an emergency. Remember, a fire starter is not the wood itself, so you’ll need to bring wood, purchase wood onsite, or gather wood where it’s permitted. Many campgrounds do not allow you to bring your own firewood, so always check ahead of time. 

I personally bring multiple types of fire starter, including a Bic lighter, fireproof matches, and a little flint kit. It might seem like overkill but since I always keep them in my hiking pack anyway, and because they are lightweight, it doesn’t burden me in terms of pack weight or convenience.

  • Duraflame Log—this is the easiest way to get a nice hot fire started in my experience. I don’t go on a single trip without one!

Read Next: How to Build a Campfire

4. Pocket Knife

A pocket knife or multitool like a Swiss Army Knife will always come in handy when you’re on a camping trip. They can be used for nearly anything, including tent repairs, opening food supplies, and collecting kindling. 

5. Cooking Set 

While you can live on trail mix, canned beans, and assorted pre-packed snack foods, camping in a tent is much more enjoyable with good food. Bring a cooking set designed for tent camping so you can enjoy hot fireside meals that provide more sustenance than a pack of Pringles. 

Also Pack: 

I’m a camping cooking minimalist and like to prepare potatoes or fish by wrapping them in tinfoil and throwing them on the fire. I promise, it’s delicious!

6. Lighting 

I never realize just how dark nighttime is until I’m gracelessly tripping over tree roots and rocks at oh-dark-hundred on a camping trip. Pack a flashlight with extra batteries on your next camping trip to avoid any unexpected trips, falls, and tumbles. 

  • Lanterns 
  • Head lamp 

7. First Aid Kit 

It goes without saying that a well-stocked first aid kit is essential to tent camping, or any camping trip at all. There are prepackaged first aid kits at outlets like REI that include coagulation medicines (to promote blood clotting), antiseptic ointments, anti-inflammatory pills, and more. It is always better to be prepared in the case of an emergency. 

8. Water Bottle 

Water bottles are essential to bring on your tent camping trip, whether your campsite has running water or not. If you’re camping at a site that doesn’t have running water, you’ll want to fill your water bottle with the larger containers of water that you bring with you. 

  • Water filtration system if you plan on drinking creek water
  • Thermos for tea or coffee
  • Coffee making setup (if you’re a caffeine fiend like me)

9. Hiking Pack

It’s safe to say that if you’re going on a tent camping trip, you’ll probably be doing some hiking too. Bring a hiking pack that’s been professionally fitted to your torso and waist. This will make sure it is comfortable for you to wear and use. It also does double duty by holding some of your other essential camping supplies. 

10. Weather-Appropriate Clothing

We’ve all driven out to a campsite wearing sweats, hoodies, and fuzzy socks, but these clothing items aren’t the only ones you’ll want to pack for your trip. Make sure to bring weather-appropriate clothing, both for the temperature itself and any forecasts calling for rain, snow, or unusual heat. 

  • Base Layers 
  • Hiking Socks

Read Next: Camping 101 for Beginners Guide

Top Ten Items for Your Cabin Camping Packing List

A log cabin with a small front porch surrounded by trees.

If you’re planning a cabin camping trip, chances are you’re looking for comfort levels that fall somewhere between tent camping and glamping. It’s one of my favorite ways to camp when I’m looking for the benefit that only four walls (and a space heater) can provide.

Because cabin camping is more accommodating than tent camping, you’ll want to bring some extra supplies to make the most of your trip. 

1. Bedding Linens

Cabins have at least one bed frame and mattress set up, and some even include  extra bunk beds. What they don’t provide are clean linens, so bring your own sheets, pillows, comforter, and blankets. 

2. Toiletries

Cabin campsites also have showers included in either the cabin itself or in their communal bathrooms, so make the most of this opportunity for hygiene by adding basic toiletries to your camping packing list. Soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste are basic necessities you won’t want to forget, and I like to bring dry shampoo in place of liquid shampoo and conditioner to quickly freshen up my hair. I hate having a cold, wet scalp while out camping. 

Also pack: 

  • Your own towels and washcloth

3. Chargers for Your Electronics 

If your cabin has outlets, you’ll want to bring chargers for your cell phone, tablet, or laptop (if you bring them and there is Wifi or you’re using a hotspot). 

  • A portable charger bank 

4. Entertainment

Camping in a cabin has its perks, including a sheltered space to enjoy some games after the sun has set. Pack board games, books, and even a laptop that has pre-downloaded shows and movies, in case your campsite doesn’t have a data signal you can use with a hotspot. 

5. Lanterns and Flashlights

Even if your cabin has indoor lighting, it’s still a good idea to bring lanterns and flashlights on your trip. They will provide lighting at your fireside picnic table and on your way to the nearest restroom facility if you need to leave the cabin for that

6. Wood and Fire Starters

Wood and fire starters aren’t as essential to cabin camping trips as they are to tent camping trips, since the cabins naturally provide insulation and shelter from the elements. However, they’re still very helpful to bring with you for staying warm after dark and for cooking. 

  • Cooking Grate

Pro Tip: Some campgrounds will already have cooking grates. Be sure to check before you head out. 

7. Kitchen Tools and Utensils 

Some campgrounds have  communal outdoor cooking stations that provide stovetops and outlets for your kitchen gadgets. Check for your campsites amenities before you embark, and even if your campsite doesn’t have a cooking station, still bring basic cookware. You’d be surprised how much you can cook over a campfire!

Items like a cast iron skillet, dutch oven, spatulas, and tongs will be very handy. Also bring bowls, plates, and basic utensils. 

8. Food and Drinks 

Your options for food and drink are expanded when you’re camping in a cabin. Take the opportunity to pack delicious, cookable food in a cooler and get to cooking. You can also bring chilled drinks of your choice, which I highly recommend. 

  • S’mores supplies 

9. Storage and Disposal Items 

The rule “leave no trace” applies as much to cabin camping as it does to tent camping. Bring trash bags, Ziplocs, and a cooler to ensure that all your belongings stay contained and are properly disposed of before you leave the campsite. 

Cash is king in the camping world. It’s  especially useful when you’re staying at a campground.  Often there is a general store onsite where you can pick up any supplies you forgot, snacks, and even movie night admission out on their lawn.

Top Ten Items for Your RV Camping Packing List

A group of campers roast hot dogs over a fire pit in front of an RV.

When it comes to packing for an RV camping trip, you won’t necessarily have the amenities of a cabin campsite, which will warrant you bringing some tent camping supplies, but you will have the comfort and protection similar to a cabin. Another complicating factor? Your RV is a home-on-wheels with needs both similar to and different from your family vehicle. Be sure to pack the following:

1. Drinking Water Hose

A drinking water hose is a must-have for RV camping. It allows you to connect to potable water sources and have running water in your RV. This will be what you drink, cook, and bathe with, so be sure you don’t leave without yours. 

2. Surge Protector

Safeguarding the electronics in your RV is a good idea, especially when you’re out in a rural area on a camping trip. Bring a surge protector to guard against any unexpected power surges from your RV’s power source—phenomena such as lightning strikes can cause a surge that damages your RV’s electronics. It’s a preventable way to prevent any shocking accidents on your camping trip. (Pun intended!)

3. RV Bathroom Supplies

One of the perks of camping in an RV is that you have a built-in bathroom—no need to trek out in the dark to use a Port-A-Potty in the middle of the night. Bring toilet paper that is septic tank friendly, a sewer kit, and appropriate RV toilet chemicals to keep your bathroom running smoothly. 

4. Tire Pressure Gauge

You never know what could happen when driving your RV out to your campsite, so bring a tire pressure gauge to keep an eye on your tires. Whether it’s a nail on the road  or cold weather causing a decrease in pressure, your tire pressure gauge will alert you to any complications so you can drive with peace of mind. 

  • Tire Patching Kit
  • Spare Tires
  • AAA card 

5. Motor Oil and Transmission Fluid 

It’s also a good idea to bring some extra motor oil and transmission fluid. After all, your RV is a recreational vehicle and benefits from practical car supplies like your everyday vehicle at home. 

6. Kitchen Essentials

Because your RV is like a home on wheels, you can expand your camping trip kitchen pack list to include all the goods. Skillets, saucepans, cutting boards, cutlery, utensils, dishes, and a water pitcher, are all items that you might want to bring. 

You can also pack perishable foods (hooray!) since your RV likely has a built-in fridge.

7. Cleaning Supplies

RV’s are confined spaces and can quickly get dirty while on the road. Bring general cleaning supplies to keep your RV neat. Trash bags, all-purpose cleaner, toilet bowl brushes, and a dustpan all come in handy when you’re out at a campground. 

8. First Aid Kit 

First aid kits are essentials on my list for all different types of camping, but it’s worth noting that you’ll want to pack a couple extra items if you’ll be camping in an RV. 

A fire extinguisher is a must-have for kitchen fires and electrical fires, so pack a miniature one designed to fit under a kitchen sink when you set out on your adventure. I also recommend more intensive items like splints, saline solution, and thermometers—all items you might leave behind if you were tent camping or cabin camping.

9. Tool Kit 

In addition to a first aid kit, you should also bring a tool kit with you while on an RV camping trip. 

Basic tools allow you to repair small issues in the RV and are also multipurpose when hiking and exploring. Consider packing a hammer, nails, screws, screwdrivers, an Allen wrench, and duct tape on your next trip.

10. Bedding and Clothing 

RV camping is the type of adventure where you can bring a range of comfortable clothes. 

In addition to bringing your favorite PJ’s and lounge clothes for relaxing inside the vehicle, you should also pack hiking clothes (including good base layers, outer layers, and socks), swimsuits for any campsite swimming pools or nearby designated swimming areas, and even fancier clothes for taking photos while you’re sightseeing.

Whatever way you decide to set up camp on your next adventure, use these items to create your camping packing list and rest assured knowing you have the essentials that will keep you comfortable, safe, and equipped for whatever your trip may bring. 

Read Next: RVing: The Best Way to Experience National Parks

Hannah McKelson is a content writer and California-based adventurer hiking and camping her way across the West Coast. She loves tracking down the best-kept secrets of the beaches, forests, and mountains in her home state while sharing her adventures through her writing. You can follow her travels on social media @hannahmckelson and on her website at hannahmckelson.com.

Photo credit: Tyler Way

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The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 84 Things You Need (+ Our Advice on the Best Brands)

Wanderlust got you pining for mountains and valleys? Are you looking to escape to the forest or desert? It sounds like you have camping on the brain. Whether it’s your first camping trip or you’re hundredth, anytime you plan an outdoor adventure, you want to plan and pack accordingly. Sounds stressful? Don’t worry. I’m here to make it easier on you.

When you’re camping, the last thing you want is to forget something. After all, the squirrels and bears don’t exactly run Walmarts for forgetful travelers. But, you also don’t want to overpack and make setting up camp and hauling supplies a nightmare. So here’s my no-frills tent camping packing list for families – it’s easy peasy to use, and it’ll make planning your next camping trip ten times easier. 



Whether you’re camping at a designated campground or roughing it off a forest road, getting your camping site set up correctly is the first and most crucial step to a fun and successful trip. 

  • Tent . You can’t go camping without a tent. It has to be at the top of your camping packing list! If you want my advice, make sure you have a decent quality one. I always inspect my tent for rips, tears, and holes before packing, in case it needs repairs or replaced. (Nothing ruins a camping trip like a ripped tent roof on a rainy night.) On that note, ensure that your tent’s windows and bug screens don’t have any tears, or you may end up sharing your tent with mosquitos and flies.Also, don’t forget to pack the ground tarp, poles, stakes, and rain cover – again, a soggy tent is a sad tent.

I wanted to share our tent with you, but looks like they aren’t making it anymore. It’s been a while so we’re looking at a new one and this is on my wishlist. It’s the Marmot Tungsten 4P Tent great for backpacking with the family.

Per person:

  • Dan and I have used Kelty bags for years and years – snow or burning heat. They pack small, they are light weight. We wouldn’t dream of using anything else. Our kids just outgrew their kiddo bags and we bought them the same ones. This is the link to the newest version our bags… Women’s Kelty / Men’s Kelty
  • Sleeping pad . Want a more comfortable sleeping arrangement? Pack a sleeping pad; it’ll do your back a favor. Pro tip: Unless your kids are very young (like under 3 or 4 years old) skip the kiddo sleeping pad and go for the adult. I know it costs more, but you’ll be better off because they will be happy. Young camper? This one is the best one on the market: REI Co-op Kindercamp Sleeping Pad – Kids’
  • Pillow . You can pack a normal pillow, but keep in mind that if it floods or bugs get into your tent, your pillow can quickly go from cozy to a soggy, bug-infested mess. I recommend bringing an inflatable or waterproof camping pillow or getting waterproof and bug-proof pillowcases for your normal pillows. I bought this larger pillow without telling the kids, thinking I was pulling a fast one on them. Karma got me. The Sea to Summit is waaaay better, even though it’s smaller. Why? because it fits within the headspace of your sleeping bag. You know the little “hoodie” art at the top…so it’s not slipping and sliding everywhere all night. Now I try to offer the boys the bigger one and they smirk. Like I said…karma.
  • Headlamp . Having a headlamp around for midnight bathroom runs and emergencies will make getting in and out of your tent easier and reduce the chances of stepping on your camping buddies.


Just because you’re camping in the wilderness doesn’t mean you can’t turn your tent into a comfortable haven! Not only are these supplies a recipe for a cozy tent, but they’re also a good idea for making your camping trip more comfortable in the long run.

  • Lantern. Nothing says camping like a tent lit by lantern light. Plus, having lanterns on hand can help with those late-night bathroom trips (no one wants to trip on a root or step in poison ivy on a nighttime bathroom break). I recommend bringing electric or solar-powered lanterns to reduce the risk of fires in the tent. Just make sure to charge them, and bring extra batteries.
  • Hammock . If you want the ultimate chill camping experience, bring a hammock to sling up at the campsite. Just remember your tree straps! These seriously are game changing in the hammock world! Once, when we were leaving a backpacking site, a guy from a 100 yards over came and offered to buy ours from us on the spot. Here are the Eno straps we use.
  • Tent rug . Who says you can’t have a rug in your tent? Make sure you get one that the sand will filter thru. Put it right outside your door when you are taking on and off shoes to keep your tent clean. We don’t take once backpacking with us, but if you’re car camping then it’s a must. We use CGear brand , for camping and RVing. 
  • Tablecloth and clips . If your campsite has picnic tables, pack a tablecloth . (I recommend a waterproof one, in case of spills, rain, etc.) First off, eating on a tablecloth is preferable to eating on a table that critters may use for a bed when you aren’t there. Second, it adds to the cozy factor of your trip. ( Don’t forget clips )
  • Kindling . You can’t light a long-lasting campfire without kindling! If you don’t pack any, you can usually find some around the campsite in the form of dry sticks, leaves, etc.
  • Firewood . Double-check that your campground allows outside firewood and if there are fire restrictions in the area. Some national parks and forests implement fire restrictions during the dry season and only allow fires in designated areas. Campgrounds and sites may also require you to purchase firewood from owners instead of chopping or bringing your own. 
  • Because we try to be frugal, we only have backpacking chairs. But these are comfy enough that we even pull the Helinox Chair Zero out at our house – and the only weigh one pound so we can take them anywhere. I will admit that we have a small hole in one of them, but we’ve had them for 7 years and we have lugged them all over the country.


Packing the correct tools will not only keep your campsite functional but safe. Double-check your supplies before leaving for your trip – you don’t want to forget one of these:

  • Knife. I actually recommend packing more than one knife. For example, bring a utility knife for cutting rope, sticks, etc., and at least one knife with a sheath for use opening food supplies, cutting up meat, etc.
  • Clothesline cord . If you plan to swim or play in the water, pack a clothesline cord for optimal clothes drying conditions. I pack one for every trip, just in case my clothes get muddy or wet.
  • Multi-tool. I mean, it’s a knife, file, screwdriver, and more. You can use it for almost anything.
  • Paracord . Paracord is great for an emergency clothesline, for hanging a tarp, for various knots, etc. Wear it as a bracelet for portability.
  • We’ve used the Schrade Full Tang Hatchet  for over a decade. Once a year we take it to the farmers market to get it sharpened, but I bet we have it a lifetime. Love it.
  • First aid kit. I usually pack two, one for my hiking bag and one for the campsite. In addition, I recommend packing an extra ankle brace and ibuprofen in case of sprains or injuries from too much outdoor fun.
  • Cell Phone battery pack . You’re camping – skip social media and connect with nature! But, just in case, keep a cell phone battery pack on hand for emergencies and for taking photos.
  • SOS Flashlight . I recommend every member of a camping party have a small flashlight capable of flashing SOS on their person during trips. Lanterns are great, but flashlights are more portable and can be used to signal for help in emergencies.


One of my favorite parts of camping is the cookouts. There’s nothing like baked beans over the fire or pancakes made on a camp stove! Here’s what you need for a complete camping kitchen.

  • An MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove is the only way to roll here, in my opinion. Works for camping or backpacking, and it’s very reliable. Here’s the fuel you’ll need to go with it (and very easy to find at any camping store.)
  • Lighter. Unless you can start a fire with just kindling, flint, and steel, you’ll want to bring a lighter. I recommend bringing an extra in your camping gear, just in case yours runs out of lighting fluid.
  • Collapsible Shovel . The National Parks Service recommends individuals have a shovel to cover campfires with dirt when extinguished. Plus, they’re handy if you need to dig a firepit or dig out a stuck tire from mud or snow..
  • Pot and Pan . Camp cooking is hard without at least one pot and one pan (also on the list). If you have to choose between a pot and pan, I usually recommend the pot – you can use it to purify water if needed, and can fry up eggs, bacon, etc., in it, too.We have this set from GSI Outdoors , but we typically use just the medium post and the frying pan (especially if we’re backpacking.) The removable handle makes it easier to pack, for use. They are non stick and easy to clean, too.
  • Cooking utensils . Cooking utensils every day and camping kitchen essentials. Bring a spatula, spoons, and kitchen mitt or potholders along.
  • Plates/Bowls . Bring camping plates and bowls. (I don’t recommend glass, bring the metal camping ones if you can.) Or bring biodegradable paper plates and bowls. 
  • Eating utensils . Again, you can bring your classic metal utensils or go for recyclable forks and spoons. Avoid plastic, especially if you aren’t staying at a regularly maintained campsite with trash cans.
  • Coffee pour-over set. Your Keurig can’t make the trip, but a coffee pour-over set can! The Stanley Camp Pour Over Coffee Set is the best. Amazon’s price is a little better on this one, but not by much.
  • Water bottles . Unless you’re backpacking in to a spot where you know there is water (and you pack your filter) then bring filled water bottles and/or jugs to your campsite. Ensure you bring enough for everyone to have at least 100 oz. a day, especially if you’re being active, plus more for cleaning dishes. Some campsites have running water, but some don’t.
  • Cooler . You’ll want one for your meat and produce.
  • Wash bin . You’ll need one to clean your dishes.
  • Sap (biodegradable fire starter.) Collect your own at the campsite, or buy pine resin , which is the same thing.
  • Rags for washing/drying . You’ll have some dishes to do, even out in the middle of nowhere.
  • Water filter . Having a reliable water filter on hand in case you run out of clean H20 is a must. I recommend the LifeStraw for each person if it’s just for emergencies. If you want to leverage a water source nearby for a a few days then consider using the MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter . Ours has lasted for about 4 years now (and going strong) with FREQUENT usage. We just bring this and an empty jug with our water bottles.
  • Water storage jug . In case you need to collect water, pack a plastic or metal jug.
  • Trash bags . As the National Park Service says, “Leave No Trace.”
  • Ziploc bags. Purchase waterproof, freezer-safe bags for storing leftovers. Resealable bags also help prevent animals from getting into the leftovers. 
  • Bottle opener
  • Corkscrew . Essential if you plan on packing wine for the camping trip.
  • Bear canister (if required) . If you’re in an area with bears, mountain lions, or other large predators, pack a bear canister to store your food in so they don’t steal your food. Some campgrounds and many backpacking destinations require it. If the area you’re in requires a bear canister, you might read that a hard canister is required ( like this one ) but you should be aware that a lot of places will say that because it’s easier than saying “Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Certified” Every hard canister is IGBC certified, but the only soft-side certified is an Ursack. We prefer a soft-side canister because it’s easier to cram things in, and it’s easier to carry, and highly recommend it: Ursack AllMitey Bear and Critter Sack 
  • Sponge . For cleaning purposes.
  • Salt and pepper.  
  • S’mores Fixin’s. No camping checklist is complete without s’mores supplies. Enough said. So, grab the grahams, chocolate, and marshmallows!
  • Cutting board . It makes prepping food a whole lot easier than trying to slice up dinner on a log.
  • Food. Unless you’re backpacking, pack extra food, just in case. I recommend enough food for an extra two days’ worth of meals or at least extra canned goods in case of emergency.


I’ll admit I tend to over-pack clothing for camping, but only because I have a tendency to fall in the mud, water, or bushes. So, I’ll give you a minimum recommendation, but know you aren’t alone if you want to pack a few extra articles of clothing to be safe. (And if you’re camping with kids, definitely bring extras!)

  • 2 pairs of shorts or pants (for every 3 days of travel) . Pack according to the weather and terrain. Pants are best for areas with ticks or poison ivy, even in the summer.
  • 2 shirts (for every 3 days of travel) . Unless you plan to change shirts daily, you can usually get away with one for every 3 days of travel.
  • Undies (enough for every day of travel) . Undies are one thing I tend to pack a few extras of, just in case. 
  • Bra(s). Pack at least one for a 3-day trip, two if you want to play it safe.
  • Jammies (according to season.) If you’re sleeping in the mountains, pack warmer jammies like flannel or sweatpants.
  • Swimsuit/coverup/water shoes (if there is water play) . Pack your swim gear as needed.
  • Socks (for every day of travel) . Changing your socks daily will help prevent blisters and infections.
  • Sneakers/Hiking Shoes. Pack your shoes based on terrain – if you plan on hiking, don’t forget to bring your sturdier shoes!
  • Hoodie or sweatshirt . Packing extra layers will keep you prepared in case of extreme weather.
  • Hat . Pack a hat that will keep the sun off you in the summer and will warm your head in the winter or fall.
  • Rain Jacket or coat. Pack your coat according to the season – rain jackets or windbreakers for warm weather, heavier coats for colder weather.

Packing the right toiletries will keep you feeling clean, fresh, and prepared even in the middle of the woods. 

  • Lip balm . Avoid chapped lips and sunburns with UPF lip balm.
  • Brush or comb . Combs are great for getting twigs and debris from hikes out of your hair.
  • Hair elastics (hair ties). Pack extras in case you lose a hair tie on the trails.
  • Deodorant . You should always pack this for any trip. 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste . Dental hygiene is important even in the woods.
  • Sunscreen . Pack sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 to prevent sunburns. 
  • Medicines. Pack your regular medication in addition to your first aid kit.
  • Feminine Hygiene . Pack your hygiene products as needed.
  • Bug spray . Pack a quality bug spray. Note: if you’re in an area with ticks, get a tick-specific spray. If you can’t use bug spray, get the bug-repellent bracelets.
  • Anti-itch cream. Preferably one for poison ivy, allergies, and bug bites.
  • Toilet paper . Preferably biodegradable options safe for septic tanks (to be gentle on any public facilities available at your campground).
  • Bath wipes. These guys are on my “camping essentials” list. Camping can get muddy and sweaty, and you’ll get dirt in strange places. So pack the bath wipes, even if your campsite has showers. Just trust me on this.
  • Hand sanitizer . In case no facilities are available.
  • Wag bags and/or a small trowel. For use when facilities are unavailable. This is the wag bag brand we use .


Add some fun and adventure to your trip by including some of these extra accessories – totally optional, of course.

  • Cards/other games
  • Star-reading app
  • Trekking poles
  • Fishing pole + tackle
  • Guitar or speaker
  • Glow sticks
  • Book of scary stories



The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 84 Things You Need (+ Our Advice on the Best Brands)

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The Ultimate Camping Packing List

From essential gear to accessories and apparel, here’s everything you need for a camping adventure.

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In This Article

  • Packing Checklist
  • What to Know

Frequently Asked Questions

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Travel + Leisure / Brian Kopinski

Whether to spend quality time with family and friends or just be immersed in nature, camping is a popular pastime for many. While packing is hardly the highlight of a camping trip, bringing the right gear, accessories, and apparel can ensure you are a happy camper and keep safe in the great outdoors.

Figuring out your camping style: backpacking expeditions, drive-in campsites, canoe camping, or a combination of camping types, is a useful place to start. It’s also important to consider your local climate and any specific outdoor activities you’ll need to pack for like hiking or kayaking.

As a lifelong camper and writer specializing in outdoor gear and apparel, I’ve tested a wide range of camping equipment across the trails, lakes, and campgrounds of Upstate New York. From waterproof apparel to tents and cooking equipment, I’ve tested and vetted these camping products firsthand so you can prepare for your trip with confidence.

Camping Trip Packing Checklist

Whether you’re new to camping or a more experienced camper looking to fine-tune your packing style, this camping checklist is a great place to get started. We’ve compiled our top picks for essential camping apparel, footwear, gear, and accessories to enjoy the great outdoors.

Essential Gear

No matter your experience level, there are essential items like tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment that you’ll need for a safe and fun outdoor adventure. I prioritize durability and performance when choosing my gear, as these items will endure the most frequent use and need to withstand variable weather conditions. I also factor in comfort and weight into my decision making to ensure I’m creating a home away from home that’s enjoyable and easy to transport.

Besides experience level, consider your camping style, location, and personal preferences when selecting your essential gear. Living in New York State, many of my favorite camping spots involve boat travel, so gear that’s lightweight, packable, and multipurpose is always a plus. And being 6 feet 4 inches tall, some of my essential gear picks reflect my height. For more compact tent dimensions, the REI Co-op Base Camp 4 Tent is great for car or boat camping, while the Nemo Dagger Osmo 2P Tent is a lightweight choice for backpackers. The Jetboil Flash Stove is another favorite of mine that I reserve for backpacking trips.

MEC Cabin 2.0

The dual doors, ample headroom, and plentiful pockets add convenience and comfort to tent cohabitation.

The spacious design means a heavier weight that’s best suited for camping by car or boat.

Being 6 feet 4 inches tall, I’ve longed for a tent with ample headroom for quite some time. The MEC Cabin 2.0's ample height means I no longer have to stoop or crouch while moving around and get in and out the tent. Height aside, the 8.5 x 9 foot floor area affords ample space for several campers with room still for pets and gear. There are also eight storage pockets to keep valuables and essentials in quick and easy reach. When nature calls, I appreciate having the option to exit the tent from either side without disturbing fellow campers. On warmer summer nights, I love unzipping the mesh flaps on the dual doors to create a cross breeze. Meanwhile, the denier polyester canopy and rain fly have reliably withstood rainstorms and strong winds.

Best Sleeping Bag

Nemo riff endless promise down sleeping bag.

Its designed for enhanced temperature regulation and extra wiggle room for side sleepers.

Its temperature rating is intended for three-season use.

The Nemo Riff Endless Promise Sleeping Bag boasts a range of comfort and sustainability-oriented features that make it easy to sleep at night. While I appreciate the swaddled comfort of a mummy-style sleeping bag, the extra width in the Riff’s lower half and footbox allows me to effortlessly stretch out my legs. The hourglass silhouette of Nemo’s Spoon bags is cut wider near the elbows, too, to allow side sleepers like myself to shift sleeping positions without hassle.

I’m also a big fan of being able to control temperature with the Thermo Gill vents rather than fussing with the main zipper. The hydrophobic down in the sleeping bag performs well even when wet, plus it’s PFAS-free and Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified. When the sleeping bag is nearing its end of life, Nemo can recycle 100 percent of the materials. The Riff is available in men’s and women’s models, as well as regular and tall sizes— all weighing in the vicinity of two pounds. It comes with both a stuff sack for compact transport and storage bag to keep the down from compressing between uses.

Best Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-rest mondoking 3d sleeping pad.

  • Durability 5 /5
  • Comfort 5 /5
  • Portability 5 /5
  • Effectiveness 4.5 /5

It delivers plush padding, warmth, and a spacious sleeping surface.

The packed size and weight aren’t ideal for backpacking.

The Therm-a-Rest Mondoking 3D Sleeping Pad offers ample thickness and insulation to rest easy, regardless of temperature and the terrain underfoot. The pad measures 4.25 inches thick when inflated and boasts an R-value of seven for all-season use. Its StrataCore construction integrates a continuous layer of thermal foam to maintain warmth and support along the sleep surface. The vertical sidewalls make a noticeable difference in preventing sagging and maintaining the pad’s full size. The TwinLock valve system makes set up a breeze thanks to its self-inflating capabilities and clear distinction between the “in” valve for inflation and “out” valve for deflation. I find the large (77 x 25 inches) to be sufficiently sized for my tall frame, though it’s also available in XXLarge (80 x 30 inches).

Best Camping Pillow

Hest camp pillow.

  • Quality 4 /5

This compressible pillow packs comfort in a travel-ready design.

Though compact, its weight and volume make it a bit bulky for space-conscious backcountry campers.

To ensure a good night’s sleep while camping, I turn to the Hest Camp Pillow for its ergonomic support and plush size of 22 x 15 inches. The exterior is equipped with a soft stretch nylon that keeps cool, while the interior features a blended polyester and memory foam core that adapts to your sleeping position. The curved, dog bone-like shape cradles the neck and helps keep the pillow in place — solving a persistent issue I’ve had with other camping pillows.

In place of a stuff sack, the Hest Camp Pillow folds into itself, and zips shut for transporting in a more compact 14 x 9 inch package. I find this design feature incredibly helpful for keeping things clean when sharing a tent with dogs (or other untidy campers) prone to tracking in dirt and debris. And whatever happens, the water-resistant cover is machine washable.

Best Water Bottle

Hydro flask 24 oz. wide mouth with straw.

It’s easy to carry, well-insulated, and can be configured with different lid designs.

The stainless-steel design isn’t the most lightweight.

The Hydro Flask Wide Mouth is an all-around performer that I use for camping, flights, and office days alike. The vacuum insulation holds up longer than it takes me to deplete whatever I’m drinking. With a 0.7-liter capacity, the Hydro Flask requires refilling at least a couple times a day, but the wide bottle opening promotes easy refilling, whether pouring from a water jug or kettle. The Hydro Flask weighs 0.8 pounds (when empty) and neatly tucks into most water bottle sleeves or car cup holders. I opt to use it with the Flex Straw cap to have the option of one-handed use if I’m on the go.

Best Camping Stove

Coleman cascade classic camp stove.

It offers durability and solid cooking power at an affordable price point.

The temperature control knobs aren’t the most precise.

The Coleman Cascade Classic Camping Stove is a great companion for group camp trips. The 21-inch two-burner cooktop affords plenty of space for me to cook with a pot and frying pan side by side. I appreciate that the grate design is easy to remove and clean around, as well as sufficiently level for accommodating a griddle across both 10,000 BTU burners. Even on windier days, the twin wind guards, and top lid shield the burners from flickering out. While I’m broadly supportive of the shift to sleeker, lightweight gear, the Cascade Classic’s vintage aesthetic has a nostalgic feel amid modern camping essentials.

Best Cook Set

Gerber compleat cook set.

This all-in-one cook set covers the camp kitchen essentials and stacks together for compact storage.

Camping cutlery doesn’t come included.

As someone whose first camping cook set consisted of mismatching plates, cutlery, pots, and pans in an open storage bin, the compactness and uniformity of the Gerber ComplEAT Cook Set is a game changer. The 16-piece set has everything you’ll need for a group camping trip — and nothing you don’t. This includes a sauté pan with detachable handle, hot pot, 1.4-gallon stock pot, two lids, four bowls, four plates, and a mixing bowl. I love that the lids include strainer holes, and that plates and bowls have different colors to easily distinguish whose is whose. The full cook set stacks together like nesting dolls to fit neatly in a carry bag with a drawstring closure. Though it’s fairly intuitive to reassemble, I appreciate that Gerber added a diagram to the bottom of the carry bag showing how to repack the set.


After taking care of essential gear, it’s key to leave room for accessories. Whether to explore the outdoors, stay entertained, or provide some creature comforts, these items are meant to enhance your camping trip.

The Wonderboom 3 Bluetooth Speaker is my go-to choice for campsite tunes for its compact, waterproof design and quality sound. The lightweight Helinox Table One is another campsite staple for its cup holders and folded packability. I also prioritize accessories that help keep me organized, including the Radius Outfitters Large Camp Kitchen Organizer for storing kitchenware and the Stansport Collapsible Camp Sink for collecting and washing dishes.

Best Binoculars

Celestron nature dx ed 8x42mm roof binoculars.

These binoculars offer solid performance and a lightweight design that’s backed by a lifetime warranty.

The clarity becomes a bit blurred toward the edge of the lens.

I always pack binoculars to take in the scenery and in the hopes of spotting wildlife (at a safe distance). The Celestron Nature DX Roof Binoculars offer an ideal combination of durability, compactness, and clarity at a moderate price. The multi-coated lenses and phase-coated BaK-4 prisms enhance the light transmission for vivid images, even at dawn or dusk. As a novice user, I appreciate how the focus knob locks in place once you stop moving it. The Nature DX binoculars are waterproof and come with a neck strap, making them well-suited for paddling excursions.

Best Lantern

Luminaid packlite titan 2-in-1 power lantern.

This lightweight and versatile solar lantern doubles as a charger for electronic devices.

The battery may be depleted if charging multiple devices per day.

I always try to find multipurpose gear to simplify my packing list, so I love that the LuminAID 2-in-1 Power Lantern serves as both a lantern and charger for my portable speaker and phone. The self-inflating lantern weighs just 0.78 pounds and packs flat for easy storage when not in use. It delivers 300 lumens of light and multiple brightness settings, including a red-light mode for enhanced night vision. I’m a big fan of the adjustable strap, which effectively makes any tree branch or tent loop a suitable location for hanging the 2-in-1 Power Lantern. I also appreciate that it can be pre-charged by outlet at home, and then recharged by solar panels while camping off the grid.

Best Headlamp

Black diamond spot 400 headlamp.

Its lightweight design and long-lasting performance deliver a high-value experience.

The rechargeable battery is sold separately.

A trusted headlamp is key for hands-free navigation in the dark, whether collecting firewood or searching for the privy. The Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp is a well-rounded design, boasting 400 lumens of brightness, waterproof construction, and up to 200 hours of battery life. It includes multiple light settings, including proximity which I use for washing dishes and red LED night vision that’s perfect for using in the tent before turning in for the night. Between the comfortable strap and 0.17-pound weight, I hardly notice it’s there while wearing it.

Best First Aid Kit

Breakwater supply waterproof marine first aid kit.

Breakwater Supply

The waterproof kit includes first aid essentials and on-the-water emergency gear.

Some of the water-based emergency items might not be useful for desert campers.

The Breakwater Supply Waterproof First Aid Kit has been my go-to for preparing for the unexpected. Since I primarily camp by boat in the Northeast, the dry bag’s waterproof protection is a must in case of capsize or rain. The kit contains everything you need for treating cuts and more serious trauma, plus a range of supplies like rope, emergency blanket, whistle, and light sticks to be ready for an emergency on the water. I love that the dry bag is bright red and comes with a handle so it’s easy to find and grab when needed.

Best Camp Chair

Helinox chair two.

It’s lightweight, incredibly portable, and takes under a minute to assemble.

Though minimalist, it’s a bit too bulky to fit in the ultralight category.

While many campsites provide picnic tables, I much prefer the flexibility and comfort of a camp chair outside mealtime. The Helinox Chair Two is a favorite for its ergonomic support, stability, and packability. The high-back design offers both head and neck support, and I love that the carry bag doubles as a pillow. Simply stuff it with a sweatshirt or fleece and attach it to the headrest. The Chair Two’s three mesh panels provide air flow while the recycled 600D polyester seat material delivers lasting durability and weatherproofing. Assembly is incredibly intuitive — just pop the legs in the hubs after the shock-corded pulls lock into place. Then, slip the cover over the frame, starting with the top of the chair and then pulling tight to secure the seat. The 2.6-pound chair has an impressive weight capacity of 320 pounds. It measures 18.1 x 4.7 5.1 inches when packed, so it’s easy to tuck away in a backpack or gear storage.

Best Sunscreen

Thinksport mineral sunscreen.

  • Transfer 4.5 /5
  • Opacity 5 /5
  • Water Resistance 5 /5

It delivers lasting protection that’s resistant to sweat and moisture.

It leaves a white cast behind, even when fully rubbed in.

More time outdoors calls for top-notch sun protection. I’m a fan of Thinksport Clear Zinc SPF 50 Sunscreen for its lasting performance and suitability for sensitive skin. It offers continued water-resistant protection for up to 80 minutes, allowing plenty of time for paddling and swimming before needing to reapply. The formula is vegan and dermatologist recommended for those with sensitive skin. It rubs in quickly without any oily residue or grease, though it leaves a fairly noticeable white cast.

Best Bug Spray

Sawyer insect repellent.

It protects against a range of insects that can suck the fun out of camping.

It’s more expensive than some other popular bug sprays.

After relying on DEET repellent for two years during my Peace Corps service in Cambodia, I’m a late convert to picaridin repellent for its odorless and less greasy application. Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent uses 20 percent picaridin to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other biting insects. It provides up to 12 hours of protection, so a little bit goes a long way. The spray pump bottle is easy to use and effective at applying repellent without over spraying. I also appreciate that picaridin doesn’t damage synthetic materials, such as nylon and spandex, which is another drawback of DEET bug sprays.

Best Portable Coffee Maker

Gsi outdoors 30 fluid-ounce javapress.

  • Ease of Use 5 /5
  • Ease of Cleaning 3 /5
  • Portability 4 /5
  • Brew Quality 3 /5

This insulated French press makes 30 ounces of coffee and keeps it hot for hours.

It’s a bit bulky and on the heavier side for backpacking.

I take the GSI Outdoors Java Press on all my car and boat camping trips for its ease of use and ability to make four cups of coffee in one go. The French press comes with an insulated nylon sleeve that aids in heat retention and provides a handle for easy pouring. The pour-through lid offers further insulation with its double-wall construction. The silicone ring plunger fits very snug to the press, which helps separate grounds from the brew, though it took some getting used to. I thought it might have been stuck during my initial uses before learning that the plunger works best with a slow, steady push. Weighing 0.64 pounds, it’s not the lightest design, but I store my ground coffee bag in the press to optimize storage.

Best Cooler

Yeti roadie 48 rolling wheeled cooler.

This durable cooler keeps provisions cold and safe with ample storage for multi-day camping trips.

The cooler is leak resistant but not leakproof.

When I need to keep drinks and perishables cold for days, I turn to the Yeti Roadie 48 Wheeled Cooler. It has 45 liters of interior capacity, or the equivalent of 76 cans or 54 pounds of ice. Even when I pack the Roadie to the brim, the puncture resistant NeverFlat wheels and Telescoping Periscope handle make it easy to transport it across tough and bumpy terrain.

The length of the extendable handle is a major plus, as I don’t have to stoop while wheeling the cooler along. And when the Roadie arrives at the campsite, the handle neatly tucks away. Both sides have indented handles if I need to shift it around or tilt it to drain melted ice. The interior of the cooler measures 14.5 x 11.4 x 15.8, which can accommodate most food and drink items, including a wine bottle. I typically add in two dry good baskets (one comes included) on the top for storing butter, lemons, and smaller items I use frequently or don’t want to get wet.

Best Gear Storage

Yeti loadout gobox 60 gear case.

This durable gear box keeps camping equipment protected and organized for easier packing and unpacking.

It doesn’t compress or pack down — a potential downside for campers with limited storage space at home.

Perhaps better known for their insulated coolers, Yeti translates the durability and quality construction they’re reputed for to the LoadOut GoBox 60 Gear Case. The Wildproof design is fully submersible and dust-proof, adding assurance that gear and equipment is protected from the elements and critters alike. The 60-liter case can accommodate three removable cargo trays (two come included) and two removable dividers to partition the main compartment. Though the dividers work well, I’ve taken them out to fit larger gear like camp chairs, folding tables, and cooking equipment. Campers with storage needs beyond 60 liters should note that the GoBox is designed to be stackable with other Yeti gear boxes: either three LoadOut GoBox 15s or one GoBox 15 and one GoBox 30 .

Shoes and Apparel

It’s important to account for the local climate and seasonality of your camping trip when selecting shoes and apparel to pack. Regardless of what the weather forecast shows, I like to be prepared for unexpected rain and cooler temperatures. I also prioritize apparel and footwear that I can wear multiple times to leave space for other camping gear and accessories. For clothing, I also opt for items containing merino wool, which has natural odor resistance. For footwear, I seek out waterproof and quick-drying materials that’ll perform well for hiking and water sports alike.

I love wearing the Bedrock Cairn Evo Sandals in summer for their solid traction and breathability. For kayaking and paddle boarding, the Patagonia Quandry Shorts , are a favorite for their quick-drying abilities, UPF sun protection, and zippered pocket.

Best Hiking Shoes for Men

Salomon x 360 ultra pioneer.


They deliver waterproof protection and excellent traction on varied terrain.

The fit can run a bit narrow.

Unless you’re backpacking or taking extensive day hikes, a hiking shoe offers about the same level of protection with less heft. The Salomon X 360 Ultra Pioneer ClimaSalomon Waterproof Hiking Shoes handle wet and slippery conditions like a pro. The All Terrain Contagrip outsoles are equipped with aggressive lugs that provide excellent grip. On a recent trip to Curacao, they performed incredibly on the loose rocks leading to the summit of Mount Christoffel. I love the simplicity of the Quicklace closure system, which effectively lets me tighten the laces with a single pull. While the lower part of the shoe is waterproof, the synthetic uppers cut down on weight and enhance breathability. Campers will also appreciate that the X 360 Ultras employs recycled materials in its construction.

Best Hiking Boots for Women

Merrell men’s speed eco hiking shoes.

They’re lightweight, breathable, and incorporate recycled materials.

They aren’t waterproof.

The Merrell Speed Eco Hiking Shoes offer ample cushion and support for active days in the outdoors. We love their breathability and how they don’t require a break-in period. The outsoles are fitted with durable lugs to grip slippery and loose surfaces alike. The trail-ready shoes also boast sustainability credentials, namely recycled materials used across the uppers, laces, webbing, mesh lining, footbed covers, EVA foam, and outsoles. The Speed Eco Hiking Shoes are also Cleansport NXT treated for lasting odor resistance.

Best Rain Jacket

Patagonia torrentshell 3l jacket.

Dick's Sporting Goods

  • Water Resistance 4.5 /5
  • Design 4 /5
  • Comfort 4 /5
  • Breathability 5 /5

It’s waterproof, yet breathable, and packs into its own pocket.

It only has two pockets.

The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket delivers reliable protection from the elements. The jacket’s three-layer shell uses recycled ripstop nylon, a polycarbonate polyurethane membrane, and a tricot backer. It’s treated with a PFC-free durable water-repellent coating to shed precipitation. Materials aside, I find that the jacket's multiple adjustment points and storm flaps along the zippers and pockets are where it stands for keeping moisture out. The hood, cuffs, and hem can be easily adjusted for a secure and snug fit. If things get steamy, opening the underarm zippers affords excellent ventilation and temperature regulation. Though it only comes with two pockets, they’re plenty roomy and ideally positioned for warming hands. Between uses, simply stuff the jacket into one of the pockets (once dry).

Best Base Layer

Smartwool thermal layer crew.

This 100 percent merino wool base layer is designed for warmth, breathability, and odor resistance.

Though eight ounces, the base layer is suited for multiple wears.

My mom instilled in me the old adage “cotton kills” to stay safe on childhood camping and cross-country ski trips in the Adirondacks. Once wet, cotton becomes a poor insulator, whereas wool keeps your warm even when wet. Thus, the Smartwool Thermal Merino Base Layer became a mainstay for its 100 percent merino wool construction. The interlocking knit design offers both breathability and next-to-skin comfort.  I love that it’s formfitting but offers ample stretch and mobility for hiking, kayaking, and other activities. The Thermal Merino Base Layer is great to wear on its own during milder temperatures, though it excels as a base layer within a winter wardrobe, too.

What to Know Before You Pack for a Camping Trip

Research environmental risks.

Being mindful of environmental risks, such as wildlife and natural hazards, is key when packing for camping and setting up camp. If camping in an area with bears, a secure cooler is a must to safeguard your provisions and yourself. In terms of weather-related risks, packing a waterproof tent, extra layers of clothing, and an insulated sleeping bag is recommended to protect yourself from the elements.

Carefully check campground regulations

Campsites often have regulations about what you can bring and the activities you can do. For example, sites in areas prone to wildfires may prohibit campfires, so packing a camp stove or portable grill will be required for cooking. Campgrounds may also institute bans on generators or quiet hours that limit their use, so being prepared with battery chargers and packing equipment that can run without power may be necessary.

Leave no trace

As we enjoy the outdoors, it’s important to be conscious of where we set up camp and our impact on the environment. Cutting down on the number of disposable items you pack can help minimize waste and the risk that anything gets left behind. Setting up your tent and campsite on durable surfaces where there’s no vegetation is another best practice to avoid harming ecosystems and species that can take years to grow.

The type and amount of food you pack should reflect the duration and rigor of your camping trip. For instance, I lived on oatmeal and dehydrated meal packs that required just adding boiling water on a five-day backpacking trip along Sweden’s Kungsleden trail. But when I have access to a cooler, I bring provisions to cook homestyle meals. To save space and cut down on campsite waste, I typically measure and portion out my perishable ingredients like meat and vegetables instead of bringing them in store-bought packaging.

To avoid attracting wildlife, it’s important to never leave food out and unattended or store it in your tent. At minimum, food should be stored in coolers and gear boxes with secure latches. At night, tuck your food storage in your car or place it at a distance from your tent. If camping in bear country, make use of bear boxes if provided on-site. Alternatively, you can use ropes to hang it from a free or store it in a bear canister for safe keeping.

The combination of an insulated sleeping pad and three-season sleeping bag is typically enough to sleep comfortably in temperatures down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit when tent camping. If adding extra camping bedding or blankets, look for wool or insulated synthetic materials for warmth and weather resistance.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Kevin Brouillard is a contributing writer at T+L, specializing in outdoor gear and apparel. His work has been published in TripSavvy, Jetsetter, and Oyster, and he served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia for two years. He used his first-hand experience with outdoor adventure in compiling this list of essential camping gear.

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Three friends sitting on camping chairs and looking at a view of the mountains

The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 29 Essentials

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Caroline Morse Teel

Caroline Morse Teel is the Managing Editor for SmarterTravel Media. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline .

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack : "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience : Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto : "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat : "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at [email protected] .

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Unlike other vacations where you can just run out to the nearest store if you’ve forgotten something, you’re solely dependent on your packing skills when you’re out in the wilderness. This camping packing list has all the essentials you’ll need for a safe and comfortable trip.

Download Our Ultimate Camping Packing List

Be prepared for the great outdoors with the editable version of our Ultimate Camping Packing List .

Camping Packing List: Gear

View from inside of a tent

Sleeping Bag: A sleeping bag is the most essential piece of camping equipment—without the right one, you’ll be in for a cold and uncomfortable night. Many sleeping bags are “mummy style,” which can be way too claustrophobic for a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re a side or stomach sleeper.   Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed 700 / 20 Degree sleeping bag has a unique design that feels more like sleeping with a comforter on your bed at home than a sleeping bag. It doesn’t have any zippers; instead, there are insulated hand and arm pockets to help you completely cover yourself, plus a self-sealing foot vent so you can regulate temperature. The bag has an minimum temperature rating of 16F, which is very impressive considering that it only weighs 2.5 pounds.

Sleeping Pad (Backpacking): Thermarest’s NeoAir XLite is a favorite of many through-hikers, and it’s easy to see why. This three-season air mattress will keep you warm and comfortable even on the rockiest ground, yet it packs down to the size of a water bottle and weighs a mere eight ounces. I love that this mattress doesn’t skimp on comfort despite the light weight—the fabric is super soft, and it uses a patented reflective ThermaCapture technology to trap your body’s warmth and minimize heat loss.

Sleeping Pad (Car Camping): If you’re not hauling all your camping supplies on your back, comfort is more of a concern than weight, and you can go for a plush model like Sea to Summit’s Comfort Deluxe S.I. Sleeping Mat , available in a double size that’s perfect for couples camping together. This mat has an R-value of 5.2, so you can use it even in the winter, and it has 10-centimeter vertical side walls that make it feel like a real mattress. Best of all, this sleeping mat is self-inflating, so you don’t have to waste your breath trying to blow it up before you can finally go to sleep.

Pillows: After a long day in the woods, you’ll want to rest your head on something soft. Short on space? Sea to Summit’s Aeros Pillow Ultralight lives up to its name, clocking in at 2.1 ounces, and is small enough to fit in a pocket when deflated. The pillow is covered with a polyester stretch knit fabric that’s cozy enough that you won’t miss a pillowcase. Got a little extra room in your pack? For just 0.5 ounces more, the Aeros Pillow Premium uses an even more plush fabric covering and is extra comfortable. Both pillows have a thin synthetic fill layer that wicks away perspiration, as well as a curved design that cradles your head. Each pillow inflates in just three breaths and deflates in under a minute.

Tent: Unless you truly want to sleep under the stars (and deal with any inclement weather that comes your way), you’ll need a tent. An easy-up tent, like this one , is quick to assemble or to tear down.

Chair: Relaxing, eating, and sitting around the fire are all better when you’re not on the ground. The CLIQ Chair packs down small for easy transport, but assembles into a comfortable seat in seconds.

Light: Goal Zero’s Crush Light runs off of solar power and can last for up to 35 hours on one charge. It collapses nearly flat, so you can use this on backpacking trips—hang it from your tent as a reading lamp or carry it to light your way on a dark trail.

Solar Charger : If you can’t bear to completely disconnect in the wild, pack a solar charger ( like this small foldable one ) to power up your phones and other gadgets. Even if you don’t plan on using your phone, this is good to have in case of emergency, as it has a built-in LED flashlight, compass, and whistle.

What to Pack for Hiking: 38 Essentials

Camping Packing List: Food and Drink

Camping cooking set

Bear Bags: If you’re bringing food, you need to also bring a way to protect that food from wildlife. Even if you’re not in bear country, you’ll still have rodents and other animals after your stash. A bear-resistant bag, like this one by Ursack , is made from a bulletproof fabric that can withstand a bear attack and doesn’t need to be hung off the ground (but must be tied to something secure, like a tree trunk). Or go for a lighter-weight odor-barrier bag like this one from Base CampSource, which eliminates any food smell and won’t attract animals to your camp. These should be hung off of the ground in bear country.

Cooking Set: Unless you’re doing ready-to-eat meals, you’ll need to bring utensils and pans for cooking. This one from Bulin has everything you need, from pots and pans to a dish sponge for scrubbing, for an affordable price.

Camping Stove: This gas camping stove from Coleman packs down small when not in use and is lit with the push of a button so you don’t waste time fumbling with matches. The cover unfolds into a set of wind-blocking panels to keep the flames alight.

Instant Coffee: If you’re used to starting off your day with a nice hot cup of coffee, don’t deprive yourself of that in camp. Instant coffee, like these sachets from Tandem Coffee Roasters , are easy to pack and prepare in minutes.

Cups: These collapsible cups are made from a food-grade silicone that is lightweight and packs down small, but can hold hot beverages without scalding your hands.

Water Bottle: If you’re staying at a campground with potable water, where keeping your drink cold is more of a concern than water quality, pack an insulated bottle like this one from YETI . Headed to the backcountry? The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle will give you safe drinking water fast.

Meals: Don’t feel like cooking while on vacation? There are plenty of tasty ready-to-eat meals these days that just need boiling water to eat. Check out our editors’ taste test of Good to Go meals here .

The 5 Best Lightweight Hiking Boots for Travel

Camping Packing List: Hygiene

Person rinsing their hands in fresh water from an outdoor pipe

Wet Wipes: If no shower is in sight, these Surviveware biodegradable wet wipes are designed for “no rinse bathing and showers.” Thankfully, they’re unscented and hypoallergenic.

Dry Shampoo: Similarly, a small container of dry shampoo can help remove sweat, smells, and oil—no water required.

Hand Sanitizer: Hygiene is really important while camping, especially if you don’t have a clean water source for hand washing. Use hand sanitizer before eating, before preparing food, and after using the bathroom.

Camping Shower: Can’t go that long without a shower? A small solar shower bag can be filled up and heated by the sun to give you a quick hot shower.

Quick-Dry Towel: This microfiber towel dries up to four times faster than a regular cotton towel, and packs down very small.

Biodegradable Soap: Coleman’s Camp Soap comes in spill-proof sheets that are biodegradable and can be used for hand washing, showers, and dish washing.

Biodegradable Shampoo & Conditioner : This eco-friendly 3-in-1 conditioning shampoo and body wash from Stream2Sea is biodegradable, eco-friendly, and reef safe.

Toothbrush and Paste: Make sure you use potable water when brushing your teeth, and pack a small toothbrush and toothpaste set like this one .

The Best Travel Swimsuits for Any Type of Vacation

Camping Packing List: Miscellaneous

Three friends laughing around a campfire

Trashbags : Always pack out what you pack in (even trash), so don’t forget the trashbags .

Sunscreen and Bug Repellent : Badger offers both sunscreen and bug repellent made from natural ingredients in easy to apply packaging.

First Aid Kit: Don’t go camping without a first-aid kit —even if you just use the bandages for blisters, you’ll be glad you have it.

Caroline Morse Teel is still working on her camping packing list. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from camp.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Planning a Camping Trip: The Complete Guide

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Planning a camping trip begins with the desire to get outdoors. Once you have the itch, you'll only need to pick a date, find a campground, choose a route, prepare your gear, go grocery shopping, and head out.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? It actually is and it gets easier with each trip to the campground. Whether you're a new camper or a veteran, let's review some tips for planning your next outdoor adventure.

Where to Go

There are two types of campgrounds: Private and public. Both have their advantages but finding a good one can be hard. That is why it's a good idea to use campground reviews and ratings to guide you. Resources like AAA and Trailer Life compile all the information you need to see if a campground is right for you.

Take into consideration if you're staying in a tent or a camper or RV. Some campgrounds are more tent-friendly than others. Likewise, some have all the amenities and hookups necessary for campers.

Do you care if there's a shower and flush toilets or are you okay with roughing it for the weekend? This is a big factor for many campers and a campground guide includes this type of information. You can also choose public parks which tend to be rustic and offer a variety of outdoor recreation options or opt for modern campgrounds that may have a game room, store, or pool.

Be aware that some campgrounds require reservations, others offer it as an option or are first-come-first-serve. If you know it's going to be a busy weekend—Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, in particular—be sure to get a reservation or show up early.

Another option is to head out to a festival that's centered around camping . They're great fun and offer music and other activities just outside your tent.

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Top Destinations

Campers love the great outdoors, pristine natural environments, and the adventures that inspire in the wild. While it's likely that there's a great campsite nearby no matter where you live, if you're looking for a destination to travel to, we have some ideas.

Every state has its fair share of national and state parks and these really do offer some of the best camping opportunities. Yet, some states are better known for having really great campgrounds to choose from . Also, if you have not camped at any of the  top national parks , add them to your bucket list. You won't regret it.

Glacier National Park in Montana is a favorite for many campers. Lake Tahoe is another camping destination to consider, and you can find some ​ nice spots along California's coastline .

Gather Your Gear

Do you need a checklist to make sure you've packed all your gear? While you might decide to bring along a few extra things, there are some items that are absolutely essential.

As far as camping gear goes, you will need three basic things . A place to sleep is most important, so grab a tent. Something to sleep on and keep you warm is good as well, which is why sleeping bags are necessary. Also, a few things to cook your meals will help out tremendously. 

Gear in hand, now you need the supplies . Food and water are essentials for obvious reasons. You might also want a backpack cooler , camp stove, some rain gear for everyone, a knife, and a lantern or flashlight (or both).

Don't forget the first aid kit , either. You'll be miles away from town and you never know when someone will get a cut, bee sting, or some other injury that needs a quick fix.

No shower house at your campground? There's no need to go without bathing, all you need is a camp shower that's allowed to warm in the sun while you're busy with the day's activities.

When you get to the campground, you'll need to check in at the office or camp host. Find a good site that looks like a place you could hang for the weekend. The campsites with the most shade are prime real estate, so try to get there early.

From there, you'll set up your camp . Select the site for your tent, set out your cooking supplies, and settle in.

One thing you'll quickly learn is that there are annoying campers. Don't be one of them and learn what not  to do on a camping trip . This includes many common sense things like respect your neighbors, keep the camp clean​ and understand that wildlife will be around.

When you're ready to leave and head home, be sure that your site looks how it did (or better than) when you arrived. The common phrase is "leave no trace" and that means you should take your trash with you, dowse your fire properly, and pack up all your gear. When you get home, unpack everything and let it dry and air out before storing it permanently.

Plan a Backcountry Trip

​Backcountry camping, or backpacking, is essentially the combination of hiking and camping in the wilderness. Don't let the unfamiliar landscape or worries of being in the wild keep you from going backpacking. It's a lot of fun and a real outdoor adventure.

If you've not backpacked before , it's a little different than grabbing a campsite at the state park. You'll be in a remote area without your car to rely on, so it's important to take only the essential gear you'll need. It's also important to choose the right campsite, though some popular backcountry destinations offer designated sites along the way.

Also, you should be fit enough to handle the hike and understand who to call or how to get to help in case there's an emergency. Check with the park ranger in the area about any important details like that and other tips they can give you.

Tips for RV Camping

Your RV is your home away from home. It is also the most convenient way to go camping because your RV has everything you need. Just hook it up to the truck or hop in the cab and you're off to a new adventure .

While RVing is a more luxurious way to camp, it does have its own concerns. First of all, you most likely need to reserve campsites to ensure you get the electrical hookups you need. You'll also want a dump station nearby.

Along the way (and before you go) you'll want to keep up on maintenance and do some routine safety checks . RVs are great, but they are one giant vehicle with a hundred things that can go wrong. Yet, if you know what to look for and how to maintain it, it can offer years of great fun.

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Camping Checklist for 2023

We cover everything you need for a successful camping trip, from essentials like a tent and camp stove to extras like sunscreen and firewood.

Campsite scene (group prepping meal)

Switchback Travel ( Jason Hummel )

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us . 

Whether it’s your first time car camping or you’ve been at it for years, it never hurts to have a good checklist. To help you get out of the house with all of the essentials in tow, we’ve outlined everything you need including campsite and sleeping gear , camp kitchen essentials ,  outdoor clothing and footwear , health and hygiene products , and personal items and extras . For each category, we’ve listed necessary items—along with our top picks—as well as optional gear. Finally, for all our product recommendations in one place, see our detailed camping gear reviews .

Editor's note: The table above provides a brief overview of what you'll need to get outside, but our full PDF version is printable and offers a more comprehensive breakdown of the necessities and nice-to-haves. See Our Camping Checklist PDF

Campsite and Sleeping Gear

Camping checklist (Exped MegaMat Duo camping mat inside REI tent)

Camping Tent

Our top pick: The North Face Wawona 6 ($500) What we like: Open interior and massive vestibule at a price that's hard to beat. What we don’t: Time-consuming to set up; partial-coverage rainfly leaves the bottom exposed to moisture.  

Camping Sleeping Bag

Our top pick: REI Co-op Siesta Hooded 20 ($139) What we like: Affordable and comfortable for three-season use with a rectangular shape, warmth-trapping hood, and 20-degree rating. What we don't: Heavier and less compressible than mummy bags.

Camping Mattress

Our top pick: Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D ($240) What we like: Thick build and plush foam make this one of the most comfortable sleeping pads on the market. What we don't: On the pricier end and overkill for occasional campers.

Camp Pillow

Our top pick: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow ($37) What we like: Soft exterior, machine washable, and cinch cord makes it easy to tailor firmness.  What we don't: Foam takes some time to expand; those on a budget can just bring a pillow from home.

Camping Chair

Our top pick:  REI Co-op Skyward ($60) What we like: Strong and comfortable, well-sorted feature set, and ample mesh for hot summertime temps. What we don't: Not the cushiest or most supportive option—those with taller and broader builds may want a higher backpanel and larger seat.

Our top pick: Petzl Actik Core ($80) What we like: Great output, long battery life (via AAAs or the rechargeable battery), and easy-to-use interface in a feathery build. What we don't: Expensive and not the most water-resistant option on the market.

Camping Lantern

Our top pick: BioLite AlpenGlow 500 ($80) What we like: Impressive output, ample lighting modes, and fun tech features. What we don't: Pricey and takes a little time to learn how to operate.  

Optional Campsite and Sleeping Gear

  • Camp table (if no picnic table)
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Camping blanket
  • Tent footprint/ground cloth
  • Extra stakes

Camp Kitchen Gear

Camping checklist (cooking eggs on camp stove)

Camping Stove and Fuel

Our top pick: Eureka Ignite Plus ($160) What we like: Quality build, generously sized cooking area, and well-sorted feature set.  What we don't: Discerning campers can get double the output with Camp Chef’s Everest 2X.  

Cooler  or Wheeled Cooler  (Pre-Filled with Ice)

Our top pick: RTIC 52 Ultra-Light ($200) What we like: Versatile size and competitive ice retention for less than the competition. What we don't: Only sold online and a small step down from Yeti in cooling capabilities.  

Cookware and Utensils

  • Pots and pans
  • Cooking utensils (spatula, large spoon, tongs)
  • Silverware (forks, spoons, knives)
  • Bottle/can openers

Food Prep and Dish-Washing Supplies

  • Matches and/or lighter
  • Cutting board
  • Cooking oil
  • Paper towels
  • Measuring cups
  • Aluminum foil
  • Seasonings and condiments
  • Wash bin/portable sink
  • Sponges/scrubbers
  • Food and gear storage (Ziploc bags, plastic bins, etc.)

Optional Kitchen Gear

  • Water jugs (if no potable water)
  • Portable coffee/tea maker
  • Firewood (if fires are permitted)
  • Axe/hatchet
  • Fire starter

Outdoor Clothing and Footwear

Camping checklist (sitting by campfire in down jacket with blanket)

Moisture-Wicking Baselayer

Our top pick: Smartwool Merino 250 1/4-Zip ($115) What we like: 100% merino wool build is warm, super soft against the skin, and naturally resists moisture and odors. What we don't: Wool baselayers don't come cheap and require care to last (avoid using the dryer).  

Down Jacket or Synthetic Jacket

Our top pick: Patagonia Down Sweater ($279) What we like: Great warmth for the weight and looks great for everyday wear.  What we don't: We prefer something lighter for backcountry use.  

Rain Jacket

Our top pick: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L ($179) What we like: 3-layer protection and durability in a sleek and affordable package. What we don't: Fabric is stiffer and more crinkly than some of the higher-end competition.  

Hiking Pants and/or Hiking Shorts

Our top pick: Outdoor Research Ferrosi ($99) What we like: Durable, stretchy, and great balance of wind protection and breathability. What we don't: Doesn't come with a built-in belt and a little technical for some.

Hiking Boots or Hiking Shoes

Our top pick: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX ($175) What we like: Light, comfortable for all-day wear, and can handle everything from short day hikes to lightweight overnights. What we don't: Relatively thin and flexible underfoot for carrying a heavy pack over technical ground.

  • Hiking Socks

Our top pick: Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion ($25) What we like: Great padding and breathability for three-season use, seamless construction, and backed by a lifetime warranty. What we don't: Tougher than they are soft and plush.

Optional Clothing and Footwear

  • Camp sandals or slippers
  • Neck gaiter/buff
  • Long underwear

Health and Hygiene

Camping checklist (sitting outside REI tent reaching into duffel bag)

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Soap/hand sanitizer
  • Toiletries kit (shower supplies, deodorant, etc.)
  • Quick-drying towel
  • Personal medications
  • First aid kit  

Sun and Bug Protection

  • Insect repellent  

Optional Health and Hygiene Items

  • Trowel or portable toilet (if no facilities available)
  • Portable/solar shower

Personal Items and Extras

Camping checklist (playing crosswords at campsite)

  • Basic repair kit (multi-tool, duct tape, extra cord)
  • Navigation (map, GPS, compass)
  • Water bottle
  • Earplugs and eye mask
  • Batteries and/or solar charger
  • Notebook and pen/pencil
  • Book or Kindle
  • Bear spray (if required)
  • Activity-specific gear (daypack for hiking, pole for fishing, etc.)
  • ID, cards, cash
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Campsite reservation
  • Forest Service/park pass (if required)

Other Considerations: Weather, Group Size, and More

Camping checklist (winter camping gear)

Group size is another important factor to weigh when packing. For example, smaller groups may not have any issues cooking on a standard two-burner stove, but larger parties may want to step up to a larger freestanding unit (or even a portable grill), opt for a three-burner design, or bring along more than one stove. If you’ll be basecamping for a while, you may also consider setting up a shade structure and folding table for hanging out and cooking or fashioning a clothesline to dry wet gear. Portable fire pits have also become increasingly popular recently, and we love Solo Stove’s offerings for their precision and lack of smoke.

Camping checklist (playing with dog under camping blankets)

Additional Car Camping Tips

  • Be sure to confirm ahead of time which amenities (if any) will be available to you. Will your campsite have a fire pit and/or picnic table? Are there bathrooms and/or showers on site? Will you have access to running water for filling up bottles and reservoirs?
  • Check restrictions before you go to ensure you're up to date on current fire bans, required bear-proofing measures (such as bear canisters or bear bags for food), etc. 
  • When loading up your car, start with the biggest and heaviest items first (e.g., hard-sided coolers and water jugs) and stack smaller and lighter items on top. If you'll want quick access to something while driving to your campsite (such as food), be sure to separate it ahead of time.
  • If you’re limited on space, consider using dedicated compression sacks for soft gear like clothing, sleeping bags, etc.
  • Prep what you can at home to save time at camp and minimize the amount of gear you need to pack. Cut vegetables, marinate meats and stash them in a labeled Ziploc, pre-measure your spices and condiments, etc.
  • Combine like-minded items in one container to make it easier to find what you’re looking for when you arrive: A tote with your tent, sleeping bag, and pad; a dedicated bin for kitchenware and cooking equipment; clothing in a duffel bag or suitcase, etc. We like to use clear plastic bins since they make it easy to see what’s inside at a glance.
  • Use resealable bags for toiletries and other small items you don’t want to lose or get wet, such as lighters and matches.
  • To maximize insulating performance, it’s best to pre-chill your cooler prior to loading it up by filling the interior with ice for at least a few hours. When you’re ready to hit the road, swap in some fresh ice along with your drinks and food (most brands recommend a 2:1 ice-to-food ratio).

Where to Buy Camping Gear

When it comes to purchasing gear, we recommend supporting your local gear shop whenever possible—they are important community centers for outdoor enthusiasts, and chances are that the staff will have insider information about the surrounding wild spaces. That said, we tend to do the lion's share of our gear shopping at REI Co-op , which has over 100 brick-and-mortar locations across the U.S. and an excellent inventory both in-store and online. Another good option for online shopping is Backcountry.com , which offers free shipping on orders over $50 and excellent customer service. For cheaper items and those who need gear quickly, it’s hard to beat Amazon for the sheer volume of sellers and product options. It’s also worth checking to see if there is a consignment or used gear shop near you—buying secondhand does not necessarily mean sacrificing quality, and you also get to help keep equipment out of the landfill by giving it a second life. Back to Our Camping Checklist   See Our Camping Gear Reviews

Learn More About Camping

Camping Landing Page (header)

Camping Gear Reviews

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REI Co-op Wonderland Tent Review

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Coleman Sundome 6 Tent Review

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Camping stove (cooking by creek)

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Camping gear (sitting around campfire)

Good Camping Gear on a Budget

Camping chair (sitting in Nemo Moonlight at camp)

Best Camping Chairs of 2024

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How to plan your camping trip

What clothes to pack, the best toiletries to bring along, how to plan your meals, what gear to bring for day hikes, the proper way to set up your campsite, our camping expertise, planning your first camping trip here's the essential gear you'll want while roughing it.

When you buy through our links, Business Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Sitting around a campfire and stargazing from a cozy sleeping bag has long been a favorite pastime of many Americans. And more are joining the trend: A quarter of North Americans who camped in 2020 said it was their first time, and nearly two-thirds said they plan to go again, according to a report from Kampgrounds of America.

We're all for new faces at the campgrounds — a weekend away allows you to take a break from your phone and enjoy nature and its many benefits . But knowing what to pack is an art.

We would know: Our writers, Hannah Freedman and Rachael Schultz, have spent countless days on every kind of camping trip over the years. While each trip is different and requires its own specific gear, it's important to always pack the essentials.

Below is everything you absolutely need for an overnight or multi-day trip, as well as a few nice-to-haves that make sleeping on the ground far more fun.

For backpacking, you'll need a lighter, more heavy-duty packing list. Check out our ultralight backpacking guide .

for camping trip

Planning a camping trip comes in two parts: picking your campsite and deciding what to pack. What you need for a car camping trip depends entirely on who's joining you, where you're going, when you're going, and for how long.

Here's what to keep in mind while planning.

How do I find a good campground?

If you're looking for a campsite to enjoy, consider starting with our list of the  best campsites across the US . We also have you covered with a list of less-known places to check for last-minute camping reservations, including private campsites . And if you're eager to bring your four-legged friends with you, be sure to check out our  tips for camping with dogs . 

If you're a seasoned camper and want to try your hand at free camping, you'll have to look beyond national parks and developed campgrounds. Dispersed camping is available for free on most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or  United States Forest Service (USFS) land ; check out their websites for how free dispersed camping works.

Who all is camping? 

This list is a great starting point for car campers and tent-pitching newbies but you'll want to make sure you create your own specific pack list based on several key factors.

First, think about how many people you're going with. If it's a family camping trip, you may want a four-person tent or two separate tents so adults and kids can have their own spaces. If you're heading out on a solo experience, a medium one-person tent works just fine, or an alternative like hammock camping . 

Where will you camp?

The type of campsite you'll visit and how long you plan to camp are both vital considerations. Will the campsite have running water or will you need to bring your own jugs of water? Is it off a main road or deeper into the backcountry where cell service may be nonexistent?

If it's the latter, you'll want to factor that in when making decisions like how extensive your  first aid kit  should be. It's also smart to plan out meals and snacks ahead of time to make sure your food needs are covered no matter how long you're gone.

What's the weather forecast?

The season and weather also make a world of difference when it comes to what you're packing. Most casual campers generally go during warmer months when lighter layers and less heavy-duty gear are preferable.

In the summer, check the fire restrictions where you're headed since most places in the west and the Rocky Mountains have fire bans most of the summer to prevent wildfires. That means you won't be able to have a campfire at night.

If you plan on camping in the winter, or somewhere that still has snow, you'll want to add items like snow pants, gaiters, and warm gloves to your list. Packing an extra pair of socks and spare blankets won't hurt either.

What do you plan on doing? 

Finally, don't forget to think about the activities you'll want to do. If you're headed to a river where fishing is permitted, throw in a fishing rod and a tackle box. If you're camping with friends, bring a deck of cards or other easily portable games. If you'll be hiking, break in your hiking boots before and have trail maps on hand.

for camping trip

Packing for camping is not like packing for any other trip. You need to be protected from the elements, which may be drastically different from day to night. Even in the summer, the desert and mountains can be blistering hot during the day but down in the 30s and 40s at night.

That means you need to focus on practical gear. It's even smart to overpack (assuming you're not backpacking) in order to bring just-in-case items like a rain jacket or thermal layers . 

You want breathable, sweat-wicking clothes for the day (i.e. no cotton, which gets wet and stays wet), including a sun shirt and hat to protect your arms or face.

Whether you want to hike or lounge in shorts , leggings , or hiking pants for men or women is up to both you and the terrain you'll be adventuring on. No matter what season you plan to camp, it's smart to pack a warm base layer and a lightweight fleece for unexpectedly cold or windy days — they double as pajamas on crisp evenings, too, especially if your sleeping bag isn't as warm as you need.

Always pack a wool beanie and warm socks as these are invaluable on chilly nights. Also helpful are sturdy sandals to wear around camp which help give your feet a break from hiking boots . And don't forget the SPF .

for camping trip

This base layer is extra soft and moisture-wicking. Not to mention the HeiQ Fresh durable odor control comes in very handy after a long, sweaty day.

for camping trip

Read Insider's guide to the best base layers for men and for women .

for camping trip

This moisture-wicking tee is breathable to keep you cool, dry and comfortable.

for camping trip

These men’s hiking boots are comfortable from the outset and will hold up for thousands of miles hiking in all conditions.

for camping trip

These women’s hiking boots are comfortable out of the box, breathable, and waterproof.

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking boots for  men  and  women

for camping trip

A good pair of trail pants like these should be water-resistant, sweat-wicking, come with UPF protection from harmful UV rays, have some stretch to them for comfort, and have a zip pocket or two.

for camping trip

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking pants for men  and  women

for camping trip

This ultrasoft layer is ideal to throw on over a t-shirt. It has a little bit of stretch, is anti-pill, and has zippered pockets to store a phone or other important items securely.

for camping trip

Patagonia's Better Sweater Fleece Jacket is equal parts comfortable and warm, and it comes in a variety of colorways to match anyone's personal winter style.

Read Insider's guide to the best fleece jackets for men

for camping trip

Lightweight, sweat-wicking, four-way stretch fabric, and zippered pockets — these lululemon athletic shorts deliver on all fronts.

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These hiking shorts are made from durable, water-resistant stretch fabric, have a comfortable high-rise fit, and are cute enough to feature on IG.

for camping trip

The Patagonia Torrentshell Packable Rain Jacket can keep you dry in serious rainstorms, but it can also fit into a briefcase, backpack, or glove compartment.

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Keep your feet happy and dry with these moisture-wicking wool socks, which have cushy bottoms for a long hike and elastic for comfort around the campfire.

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking socks

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This classic hat will keep your head warm with enough stretch to fit all sizes.

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These trail-ready Teva's balance comfort with durability for the ultimate combo.

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Read Insider's full review of Teva's Universal Sandal

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All of Sunski’s shades are polarized, which keeps you comfortable and protects your eyesight, without being too expensive so if you break them or lose them in the water, you won’t be too put out.

Read Insider's guide to the best polarized sunglasses

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A hip pack is incredibly convenient to stash medium essentials like chapstick and dog waste bags when you’re at camp or on a hike. This one from Patagonia is lightweight, waterproof, made from ripstop nylon, and has three zippered compartments including one big enough to fit a large iPhone.

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Beyond the essentials of your toothbrush  and comb , a thorough toiletry bag is essential for both safety and comfort. Items like sunscreen  and moisturizer can help protect your skin from the elements, while nice-to-haves like hand sanitizer  and deodorant wipes help you feel fresh each day.

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Keep toiletries organized (and out of the dirt) by packing them in this light-but-durable bag, which features a strap for easy carrying or hanging inside your tent.

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Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen is noncomedogenic, lightweight, and water-resistant. It contains SPF 55, and dries down quickly without leaving a greasy residue.

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Cleaning your hands before handling food or if the bathroom runs out of soap is crucial. We like this one because the aloe and vitamin E keep your skin from getting too dry, while the flip cap minimize spillage in packing.

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A nice way to freshen up when showers aren't available, these body wipe have the added bonus of containing aloe vera and vitamin E to give skin a gentle, refreshing boost.

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No one ever thinks they’ll need a first aid kit, but this affordable and compact option is ideal to have on hand just in case to treat minor injuries like cuts and scrapes, burns and bites, and the occasional puncture wound.

Read Insider's guide to the best first aid kits

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Always bring bug spray to save yourself a serious headache. OFF! Deep Woods contains 25% DEET so use it sparingly, but it’s the most effective against ticks, mosquitoes, biting flies, chiggers, and gnats.

Read Insider's guide to the best bug sprays

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Eye drops help re-hydrate your eyes after a night of sitting around the smokey fire, and Clear Eyes Triple Action provides more lubricant to soothe and moisturize.

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Camping meals can be as simple or as complicated as you make them. While you can nosh on dried goods all weekend, it's smart to pack along some cooking gear like a camp stove or pot and pan , which lets you boil water or sauté over the fire. If you need to buy groceries for camping food, check out the best places to buy groceries online .

Don't forget your other camping cooking gear like plates, cups, and cutlery , which you can either bring from home or buy an all-inclusive set that you don't have to worry about damaging or breaking.

Any major campground, like a KOA or those at National Parks, will likely have a sink for you to wash dishes in. But medium-sized campgrounds and wild campsites won't so be sure you have your dishwashing system dialed in as well (see below).

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This classic, hard-shelled cooler will keep ice cold for, realistically, two days and is a solid option for causal campers looking to not break the bank.

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Yeti coolers will cost you a pretty penny, but their superior temperature-retention and durability is well worth the money in the long run if you’re camping for days without access to replacement ice or will be putting the fridge through a beating. The Tundra 75 is uber durable, the perfect size for most trips, and will keep ice frozen for more than a week. Plus, it’s bear-resistant.

Read Insider's guide to the best coolers

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The set includes four polypropylene plates, four bowls, four insulated mugs, two- and three-leader pots with lids, a frypan, pot gripper, and a welded sink/stuff sack, all of which neatly nest and stow in the welded sink for easy packing.

Read Insider's guide to the best camping cookware

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This handy spoon, knife, and fork set features a removable carabiner so you can easily keep the set together for packing and take the utensils apart for eating. The cutlery is made of pure titanium so it's resistant to corrosion and high temperatures.

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If you’re a one pot kind of camp cook or just need to boil water, this lightweight backpacking stove from MSR folds down small and can balance anything from a frying pan to a pot to boil.

Read Insider's guide to the best camping stoves  

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This classic, suitcase-style stove is portable, has wind-blocking side panels, and lets you use two burners at once. It doesn’t have a self-ignite but is easy to get going with a lighter, and uses a standard 16oz propane can.

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Coffee is a serious necessity for some, and the AeroPress is small, simple, portable, and easy-to-use way to brew a highly competitive, frothy cup of coffee somewhere between a French press and an espresso.

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Forgo the full coffee setup with this ingenious pour-over system, which lets you make single cups of coffee with nothing more than boiling water and a cup. The grounds are 100% arabica, responsibly-sourced beans and make a cup 100x more delicious than instant coffee.

Read Insider's guides to the best coffee makers for camping and the essentials you need to make delicious camp coffee

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Most developed camp grounds have water spigots easily accessible, but filling up this 6-gallon jug once will save you a lot of trips — and it’s essential when you’re wild camping without water access. Not only does this jug hold a ton of water, but the lid unscrews for an easy-pour spout system.

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Wash bins help you clean up after cooking safely without leaving any food bits behind to attract animals. This foldable option is easy for on-the-go and the two bins mean you have one bin for soapy suds and one for a final rinse.

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This biodegradable soap requires just a few drops for dish cleaning and adhere's to leave-no-trace practices.

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A quick-dry towel will make short work of drying off dishes, and this one unfolds to be nearly 2-feet wide and will dry off quick.

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Keeping sanitizing hand wipes in your cooking setup is a pro move to use after you handle raw meat, when your fingers are covered in s’more stickiness, or when you just want to wipe down the table before playing cards.

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If you're going camping, chances are you'll at least embark on a short day hike or walk around a park. For a hike of any length, it's smart to bring a sun shirt , hat , sunscreen , water , and snacks .

If your adventure is going to be more than 5 miles, make sure you bring a first aid kit , as well as some extra water and food.

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Lightweight, comfortable to wear, and with plenty of capacity for a day on the trail, the Gregory Miwok 24 is a fantastic and affordable option for day hikes.

Read Insider's guide to the best packable daypacks

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This 40-ounce water bottle holds enough hydration for a hike (and keep it cold for up to 24 hours) and then lets you keep tea hot back at camp hot for up to six hours. And the handle is comfortable to carry on a hike if you don’t have a pack.

Read Insider's guide to the best water bottles

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This simple black hat is made from breathable, quick-drying fabric and features a sweat-wicking headband. The UPF 30 fabric further protects from harmful UV rays and the adjustable back makes it easy to get the perfect fit.

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Created by two pro athletes, Picky Bars taste good, are free of most allergens, and provide around 200 calories and 28g carbs of whole-food energy.

Read Insider's guide to the best plant-based protein bars

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When it comes to setting up camp quickly and ensuring a good night's sleep, you know you absolutely need a tent and a warm sleeping bag . It's also important not to skimp on a sleeping pad which not only lets you sleep comfortably but also keeps you warm by lifting you off the ground.

An all-purpose tarp can also act as a blanket to sit on, a water barrier under your tent, or a roof to shield your campsite from an unexpected downpour. And don't forget to pack a comfortable  camp chair , and either a headlamp (better) or a flashlight  (cheaper).

A few nice-to-haves that can really change how easy it is to set up camp are a  stake hammer to help secure your tent on dry, hard ground; a nice pillow  (stuffing your clothes into a bag is fine in the backcountry but truly not enjoyable otherwise); and  a collapsible table to cook on if there's no picnic bench. Tables are also great for playing cards on or holding s'mores supplies.

Below is a list of everything we recommend you bring to set up a comfortable camp.

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Ideal for the warmer summer months, this two-person tent is easy to assemble and will keep you comfortable even on hot, sticky nights.

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This bag is lightweight, water-resistant, and suitable for evenings that get windy or chilly (its ISO comfort rating is 39 degrees).

Read Insider's guide to the best sleeping bags

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Klymit's Klymaloft is a superbly comfortable camping mattress that comes as close to guaranteeing a good night's sleep while camping as you can get.

for camping trip

This cushy pillow is slightly curved for better head and neck support, quickly inflates, and doesn't lose air or sink throughout the night.

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Keep both your hands accessible while still seeing in the dark with this headlamp, which is comfortable to wear and shines bright.

Read Insider's guide to the best headlamps

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These compact flashlights are bright, durable, water-resistant and come in a four-pack so there’s a light for everyone.

Read Insider's guide to the best flashlights

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Hitting the sweet spot of value, this foldable camp chair is light enough for multi-day backpacking trips but comfortable enough to lounge at any campsite.

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If comfort is of the utmost importance to you, this foldable camp chair is incredibly durable, supportive, and ideal for long nights of sitting around the campfire — a worthy splurge.

Read Insider's guide to the best camping chairs

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A stake hammer makes it much, much easier to stake down your tent in hard ground, and this one is durable, lightweight, and doubles as a bottle opener.

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This folding table is super lightweight but sturdy enough to hold down in the wind, and folds up with luggage-style handles.

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A solid, every day tarp is a must-have on any camping trip and this one comes in three different sizes for cheap.

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If you can use a classic Zippo lighter, you can use this Zippo EFK Emergency Fire Kit.

Read Business Insider's guide to the best fire starters

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This down blanket is weather-resistant with DWR coating and made of durable, ripstop polyester. It’s a bit of an investment, but we’ve used ours for everything from staying warm by the campfire to sitting on muddy ground to wrapping it around a dog on cold nights.

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This solar-generated power pack will keep small electronics charged up, including phones and laptops. Unlike many of its competitors, this one is also environmentally-friendly and quiet.

Read Insider's guide to best portable power stations

Hannah Freedman grew up in New Mexico where she spent many weekends of her childhood pitching a tent with her family and making homemade breakfast burritos on a camp stove  in the morning. Her love affair with the outdoors has continued and, as she's gotten older, she's gone on more ambitious trips, tackling long treks in Patagonia and rafting down the Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, Rachael Schultz didn't start camping until she was an adult, which means she's well-versed in the big question of what to bring camping for beginners. In her 20s and 30s, she car-camped around the country for four months and now regularly heads out for weekends under the stars from her home base near Aspen, Colorado.

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  • Main content

How to Plan a Camping Trip: 10 Steps to an Unforgettable Excursion

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The best experiences in life start with a great plan. When it comes to camping trips, advanced preparation helps you get the most out of your adventures. However, in the past campground websites were mostly archaic, or non-existent. Not only that, it was almost impossible to know what the campground would look like before you got there. We’d ask our friends for recommendations, but information online was tricky to find and even trickier to keep organized once you found it. The Dyrt’s new search features and saved campground lists solve this problem, and make it even easier to research campgrounds. Keep reading to learn how to use The Dyrt’s features to help you plan your next camping trip. 

woman lying on her stomach looking at her phone

Planning the perfect camping trip can get really frustrating. The good news is that you’re not alone. Just like you, many want to know what it takes to plan a successful camp outing by themselves, or with their friends or family.  That being said, up until now planning a good trip was difficult due to the lack of information on the internet.

Sarah Smith, co-founder of The Dyrt, was frustrated with how hard it was to find and research campgrounds online.

“We should make an app that helps you find and review campgrounds!” she said to her husband and soon-to-be-co-founder, Kevin, while they were out hiking one day.

The rest is history. Today, it’s much easier for any level of camper — even first-timers — to plan every stage of their camping trip. The Dyrt helps you find campgrounds, read reviews, view photos, and save campgrounds. We make planning a camping trip simple. Our newest version of The Dyrt app makes it even easier, with enhanced search features and usability.

Searching and finding a campground is a big part of planning any great adventure. But there are many other considerations, as well.

Start with these questions to plan your next camping trip:

1. Planning the Time to Camp

planned water hike during a group camping trip

Image from The Dyrt Camper Carly E.

Since you’ll be sleeping outside, the season and the weather will have a big impact on your camping trip.

For example,   Olympic National Park.  sees over 150 inches of rain a year. Waking up to the patter of raindrops on your tent can be lovely. Now imagine that same scenario, but having your entire camping trip ruined by soaked and soggy gear from the night before. Not only would it be unpleasant to wear wet clothes, it would be even worse to sleep in a tent filled with them.

A lot of people have more freedom to take time off to camp in the summer, when offices slow down and kids are out of school. Initially this seems like a good idea, but it also means bigger crowds, especially at popular campgrounds and National Parks. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, why not take time off in the shoulder season instead? Or check out these national parks with backcountry camping .

Editorial Note: 

The Southwest desert is a great place to plan a spring time camping trip, when places like Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park present relatively pleasant weather. Taking that into consideration, you should definitely avoid camping in Death Valley during the summer, when temperatures spike well into the triple digits.

road out in dry desert en route to camping

Prepare for your summer camping trips diligently. Some desert campgrounds (such as those in Death Valley) often have temperatures soaring well triple digits.

A few years back my Dad and I drove through Death Valley en route to our own Yellowstone camping trip. At times while cruising through the dry and arid California State Route 190, neither of us were able to call out (or receive calls) using our cell phones. This was the same situation with Sprint, Verizon, and later T-Mobile. We were fortunate not to have any issues with our vehicles, as the sun scorched above us escalating temperatures well over triple digits. If you’re planning to make any camping voyage, check your vehicle thoroughly and pack plenty of water, supplies, and dry food to last you in the event of an emergency. 

kuo g's review of furnace springs campground

Not only will you find current weather reviews for campgrounds on The Dyrt, you’ll also find helpful accounts of the type of weather campers experienced while they were there.

When deciding when to camp, check out  National Parks free days to save some money for other things, like extra s’mores  ingredients.

2. How to Plan Where You’ll Camp

tent set up for camping trip

Backcountry or state park? Desert or jungle? Near or far?

At the same time that you’re thinking about when, you should also be thinking about where. The United States has such a diverse landscape to explore, from the ocean-carved cliffs of the Pacific coastline and the vast plains of the Midwest , to the thick forests next to quaint towns in New England and the jungly swampland of Florida.

Perhaps you want to camp near hot springs or waterfalls. Or maybe you’d like to sip on a craft beer after camping, in which case, camping near a brewery can be fun.

While the options are endless, you might also consider staying close to home. There’s often more to explore in our backyards than we realize, and staying close will save you time and money.

Want an adventure of your own? Find free camping near you

Did you know that almost all states in the US have free camping? 

Although, some of it is not-so-great and can be hard to find.

There is an easier way:

  • Hand-picked free campsites 
  • Pre-saved to your phone
  • The best in all 50 states

It’s the only hand-picked list of 5,000 free camping locations that you will find anywhere. 

It comes with a bunch of other features like last-minute camping texts, offline maps, etc.

You can check it out for free today by starting a free 7-day trial. After the 7-day trial, the membership is just $35.99 for a full year of access — well worth it if you camp more than 2 times per year.

3. Choose the Best Camping Activities Before Leaving

man on camping trip kayaks and fishes with dog on his boat

Image of Farewell Bend Campground in Oregon, from The Dyrt Camper Ed E.

As you’re planning your camping trip, ask yourself this: will you be content to spend your time enjoying the campground? Or in contrast, do you camp as a means to reach other activities, like hiking, rock climbing, or mountain biking?

There are plenty of ways to plan your camping trip. But if activities outside of the campground are your priority, then you’ll want to think about access to your outdoor adventure of choice.

You can find campgrounds near running trails , or bouldering destinations with campgrounds nearby. You can camp near streams for fishing and boating, or camp near trails for hiking.

There’s a campground for every adventure and every camper. Use The Dyrt to read campground reviews and find out what campers are up to, in and around the campground.

4. The Best Camping Trips Always Start with Quality Directions

truck overlooking desert river on a planned camping trip

Image of Stanton Creek – Glen Canyon Campground in Utah, from The Dyrt Camper Shannon C.

Car camping is the most convenient way to reach the campground. (Car camping refers to driving up to a campground — not sleeping in your car.) When you car camp, you don’t have to worry about packing extremely light. You can bring the double burner stove , the cooler full of beer , and the dutch oven desserts .

That being said, if you’re planning on hiking into a campground, you’ll have to be more selective. That being said, backcountry camping can be a great way to avoid the crowds on your camping trip and discover some solitude in nature.

Other campgrounds are only accessible by boat , which can be a unique way to embrace the elements.

Don’t own a car? Consider planning a camping trip utilizing  campgrounds you can reach via public transportation .

5. Plan Your Trip Around the People Camping With You

knowing how to plan a camping trip helped these campers have a ton of fun around their campfire!

Image of Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley National Park, from The Dyrt Camper Kuo G.

It’s time to rally the troops. Or don’t, and camp solo .

When planning your camping trip, make sure to know how many people are going in advance. Your group size will dictate what kind of campsite you require, how much food to pack, and the level of organizing between parties. Too many people can make your trip a logistical nightmare. (Who was supposed to bring the tent stakes??) But lots of campgrounds accommodate large groups. So if you are bringing a party for your next camping trip, be sure to find a campground that can comfortably fit all your friends.

6. Remember to Reserve Your Campsite

Every good camp planner will remember to reserve their campsite in advance. This is especially important in the summer months when many campgrounds are full on the weekends. Don’t forget to make reservations if you need them! You’ll find information on whether a campground can be reserved in the campground details section on The Dyrt.

campground info

Some campgrounds restrict the number of guests in order to preserve a delicate environment. They do this through limited camping reservations and permits. If you want to camp in a place like Havasu Falls — a sacred place to the Havasupai people and a delicate desert ecosystem in Arizona — you’ll need to get a permit months in advance.

Some popular hikes require permits as well. You’ll need to enter the lottery for Half Dome permits in March of the year you want to climb this iconic dome face. Other outdoor activities that require permits include driving Denali Road in Alaska, backpacking through the Enchantments in Washington, and rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

7. Planning the Best Campground for Your Needs

the dyrt's north carolina camping page

Planning the best best campground for your needs is not always that easy. As a camp planner, you need to know the quirks and benefits of wherever you’ll be staying. In the past knowing this came down to word of mouth and some luck, but thanks to our new app (android), gone are the days of camp planning woes.

Both the Android , as well as the iPhone’s (IOS) search feature allows you to view campground photos, videos, and reviews, so you can compare your options and make the best decision on a campground.

Once you start browsing campgrounds, save a list so you have them all in one place. The Dyrt’s Save a List function allows you to create custom lists, and add notes to each campground. Did your friend tell you about a great campground you should check out on your next camping trip? Add it to a list? Did you discover a campground that looks perfect on The Dyrt? Add it to a list!

We’ve created some themed lists that might give you some inspiration on planning where to camp:

  • 21 Campers Share Their Favorite Campgrounds Across the U.S.
  • Dog-Friendly Campgrounds in Utah
  • Campgrounds Around the Enchantments

Creating your own list allows you to keep track of the campgrounds you’re interested in, so you don’t lose that perfect discovery once you find it.

If you’re planning a campsite once you arrive at your campground, look for even ground, shade, and natural features that offer privacy.

8. Preparing a Soul Warming Meal Plan

food cooked after a great camping trip meal plan

Image from The Dyrt user Chanel C.

Now that you know to plan the when and  where for your camping trip, you can now move on to planning camp meals and the planning camp gear you’ll need on your camping trip.

If you’re just getting started as a camp planner, we recommend keeping it simple. When it comes to gear, you really only need 6 basic camping necessities for your first time at the campground.

When it comes to cooking, you can get adventurous or keep it simple. We created this guide to simple campground cooking to get you started. But if you love to work the kitchen, bring the extra ingredients and have yourself a feast!

If you’re camping with other people, be sure to collaborate on ingredients so you don’t end up with ten bags of marshmallows and nothing to eat for dinner.

9. Get The Dyrt App to Plan Your Next Camping Trip

You’ve found your campground and marked your dates on the calendar. You are ready to go camping.

Now don’t forget to download The Dyrt app for iOS and Android so you can find and review your campgrounds on-the-go. When you add photos and reviews of your campground on The Dyrt, not only will you be making camping better for everyone — you’ll also be in the running for a ton of free camping gear as part of our  Camping Giveaways . We partner with outdoor gear brands who want to make camping better for everyone. Don’t miss out on the fun.

We can’t wait to see all of the places you camp this summer!

Popular Articles:

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  • The Checklist Every First Time RVer Needs
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Britany Robinson

Britany is the Managing Editor of The Dyrt. She's been a writer ever since she can remember, and her first literary accomplishment was having a poem about a panda published when she was eight. The anthology was definitely a scam to get her parents to buy a bunch of anthologies, but she's still pretty proud of her panda poem. When she's not at her computer, she's (hopefully) outside, hiking or camping with her dog.

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

25 Of The Most Useful Camping Tips and Hacks For 2024

Written By: The Planet D

Travel Tips

Updated On: January 5, 2024

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Camping is a fantastic way to calm the mind, connect with nature, and have an adventure. But it’s not easy to make it perfect on your first try. We have had years of trial and error camping on every continent ( including Antarctica ) and have put together our best camping tips to help make the great outdoors more comfortable and fun.

In this guide, we are going to cover camping essentials, meal planning, how to set up your camp, and much more. So get ready to plan your next camping trip with our help.

Table of Contents

The Best Camping Tips

Camping tips for beginners

Camping is by far one of the best ways to experience nature and the outdoors but it can be intimidating, especially for beginners. We have done a lot of camping over the years that has allowed us to amass a wealth of knowledge from car camping to backcountry camping. So today, we are going to share all our camping tips and tricks that will make your next camping trip enjoyable.

  • If you are new to tent camping, you’ll want to check out our camping gear list to see what you should bring to make the most of your camping trips.

Planning Your Camping Trip

Planning your camping trip

The best camping trips start with good planning. It is not like you can just jump in your car and go. You have to take weather and time of year into consideration. Plus, you will probably have to book a campground well beforehand unless you plan on backcountry camping. Everything you do to plan your trip before hitting the road will make the camping experience easier and less stressful. So let’s get started.

1. What kind of camper are you?

What type of Camper are you

We like to break camping down into different types of styles. Some people prefer roughing it as much as they can and others prefer a bit of comfort on their camping trip. By determining what type of camping experience you want to have, you will be able to plan the perfect trip.

  • Tent Camping: By far the most popular as it usually involves camping in a tent at a campsite or a national park where they have facilities like bathrooms and water.
  • Car Camping: This is popular in North America as it lets you drive you car into the campsite and the set up is really easy. Sometimes you camp in a tent on the gound, sometimes on top of your car, and the more adventurous just sleep with a blow up mattress in the back of their SUV.
  • Trailer or Camper: Campervan travel has become increasingly popular and it involves either towing a camper or actually driving a campervan where all the amenities are inside.
  • Backcountry Camping: This for the hardcore campers and hikers out there. This is where you hike in, carry all of your gear, food, and water (or a water purifyer to purify water from lakes) and you are camping with no facilities. This is the type of camping you usually do when you have a bit of experience.

2. Picking a Campground

Picking Campground

When it comes to choosing a campground it is always recommended to do it in advance. When picking your campground, there are a few things you should consider when choosing one that is right for you:

  • What is the best time of year to visit? High season or low season?
  • What amenities are available? For example are there washrooms, do they have running water, do they have fire pits or do you need to pack a camp stove , do you need a picnic table?
  • What regulations does the campground have? For instance, is there a no fire policy, are there any closures or if you have a dog, are pets allowed?.
  • How far ahead of time do you need to book to get the campsite you want?

3. Choosing the Best Campsite

Choosing Best Campsite

Regardless of whether you are camping in a National Park or designated campground, choosing a good campsite can make the difference between a great camping experience and a mediocre one. It is always a good idea to look for a site that has these features:

  • A great view or close to the water . These are usually away from other campsites and offer a bit more privacy.
  • Located further away from the bathrooms. If your campground is equipped with washrooms you will want to pick a site that is a good distance away, especially if you go to bed early or are a light sleeper.
  • When camping in the summer, look for a site that has some shade by trees, you’ll thank us when the morning sun hits and makes your tent an oven.

4. Packing the right Camping Gear

Camping Gear

Camping gear is always a very personal choice and one that changes depending on comfort level and budget. Here are some suggestions for the camping essentials including your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and more.

Choosing a tent

Your tent is the most important piece of camping gear you will need and it is worth spending money here if you want something that is going to last. We recommend a 3 season tent, as most of you will not be doing winter camping.

We own a three-person tent for the two of us. We find it is good to go up one size from what you need unless you are doing serious backcountry hiking and need to keep your weight down.

  • If you are car camping, you can choose any size you want! A larger tent that you can stand up in and move freely in is ideal.
  • If you are hiking and carrying all your gear, you’ll want to go as light and small as possible.

If you already have a tent, make sure to check the rain fly for leaks and waterproof the seams . You can buy sealant for zippers and you should have a tent repair kit and patches for any leaks or tears.

Tent Suggestions

  • MSR Mutha-Hubba 3 Person Tent
  • Big Agnes Copper Spur Line
  • Car Camping: Big Agnes Big House

Sleeping Bag

Choosing a sleeping bag

Next on the list of importance is your sleeping bag. This is another place you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to quality, especially if you want to stay warm.. There are 2 types of insulation that are used in sleeping bags; down and synthetic. Basically, down-filled sleeping bags have a better weight to insulation ratio than synthetic ones. This means, if weight is a real concern for you then down is the way to go. If you are just doing some weekend camping synthetic will definitely save you some money.

Sleeping Bag Suggestions

  • Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass
  • Sierra Designs Night Cap
  • Big Agnes Sidewinder

Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pad

A good sleeping pad can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one. A sleeping pad goes between you and the ground and is there to provide cushion and insulation. These are measured in R-Values which tell you the effectiveness of comfort and warmth. We recommend something between 2.5 and 3.5 depending on how much weight you want to carry and how much room you have in your pack.

We use an inflatable sleeping pad from Thermarest. It keeps us warm and comfortable no matter what the temperature outside.

There is a lot more gear you should consider for your next camping trip and in order to make sure you don’t miss anything check out The Ultimate Camping Checklist before you hit the road. We cover everything from what to pack in your first aid kit, what clothes to pack, cooking essentials, and much more.

Outdoor Living and Cover

You’ll also need to be prepared for rain and weather. Temperatures can dip in the middle of the night, so you’ll need to layer up, and have waterproof gear. We always pack a large tarp when car camping to protect from rain should there be a downpour. Fasten it to the trees around you and you can sit under it and enjoy the sound of pitter-patter raindrops. You don’t want to be stuck in a tiny tent all night if the rain comes.

Headlamp and Lanterns

Headlamps and Lanterns

When sleeping under the stars, it’s a lot darker than in the city and you are going to want more than just the light on your smartphone. A camping lantern is a great thing to bring along whenever you go camping. Sure you’ll have the light of the campfire, but what if you want to play a game of cards or read a book, you’ll definitely want some light.

A headlamp is a must when camping. It is a great way to free up your hands so you can clean up, pack up, or pile some more wood onto the fire.

Practice Camp Set Up at Home

Practicing Camp setup at home

There is no worse feeling than getting to a campsite and trying to figure out how all your things work. You want to take the stress out of camping and a good way to do that is by practicing how you are going to set up camp at home. It may sound strange, but if this is your first time camping or you haven’t done it in a while, this will remind you of all those little things you may have forgotten about.

5. Practice Setting Up Your Tent

Too many people get to the campsite and set up their tents for the first time. It can be a frustrating experience and it can really set a negative tone for the weekend. So do yourself a favor and set up your tent a few times before your trip.

After you’ve set it up, get inside and see how it fits. What can you do to make things more comfortable, where are you going to put your packs and gear when inside? Where will you keep your flashlight so it is handy for those middle-of-the-night bathroom runs? Speaking of bathroom runs, don’t forget about toilet paper. What are you going to pack away and what are you going to keep at your fingertips in the middle of the night. The more you are in your tent, the more ideas will come to mind.

6. Practice using your Camp Stove

Using Camp stove

Another item you are going to want to make sure you know how to use ahead of time is your camp stove. It is not a lot of fun when you want to boil water or eat and you have no idea how to regulate or light your camp stove. This is the camp stove we use.

Follow the instructions that come with it and practice cooking some food and boiling water so that you are not trying to figure that out when you have just come off the trail and are hungry. This is a good car camping or comfort camping stove. See our full camping checklist for cooking and camping utensils.

7. Check Your Headlamp and lantern Batteries

There is nothing worse than getting to the campsite and realizing the batteries in your headlamp or lantern are dead. We always make sure to check these before we go on a camping trip. We also just headlamps that are re-chargeable, so if they do run out we can plug them into a power brick and recharge them on the go.

Make sure to test them at night, so you can see just how run down the batteries are. This is a good headlamp for camping.

8. Setting Up Your Camp Site

Setting up our campsite

At the campsite, be sure to select level ground and look for any rocks, sticks, or roots that will ruin your sleep. Choose a site that has a good tree cover that you can use to tie your tarps and hang any gear. We use a pegless clothesline to dry bathing suits and towels.

We always use our fly on our tent and use it as a vestibule to store our packs. We don’t normally keep our packs in the tent. Instead, we keep them just outside the zipper doors under the vestibule. That said, be sure to have a tarp or footprint under the tent as well. It can get a bit warmer, but we just keep the doors of the fly open to allow air through.

9. Prepare and Plan Your Meals

Plan your meals

When we first started camping, we didn’t think about meals. We stopped a the store on the way and grabbed some hot dogs and marshmallows thinking we’d just cook over the campfire. This was a bad idea. As we learned to prepare food ahead of time, we found that we could eat very well while camping. There are many prepared meals that you can buy for camping these days from pre-made chicken gumbo to vegetable lasagna.

You can easily pick up gourmet meals at REI (in the US) or MEC stores (in Canada.) Or you can prepare your own meals and portion them out in ziplock bags or plastic bins . We love making stews or chilis when camping . It’s easy to heat up and clean up afterward.

Don’t forget about breakfast. Oatmeal is a great option and we always have a French Press to make delicious coffee. Just add water!

Eggs when camping – Want eggs instead of oatmeal or cereal in the morning? Pre crack your eggs ahead of time and put them in a water bottle. That way you don’t have to deal with messy shells at the campsite. Personally, we don’t cook over the campfire and prefer to use that for S’mores and hot dogs. We use a multi-fuel camp stove and instead make a fire for roasting marshmallows.

10. Make a Kitchen and Sitting area

Kitchen and sitting area set-up

You are not going to want to sit in your tent all night, so you need to make sure you have all the comforts to spend a few hours outside. We made the mistake while camping our way through Spain of not bringing camp chairs and we were always sitting on the ground. Pack foldable camp chairs. Don’t solely rely on the picnic tables provided at most campsites. Besides, when you are ready to sit around the campfire, you can’t take the table over.

Pro Tip: Be sure to string a tarp as soon as you get to camp as well. It will protect from rain and offer some shade from the sun. We usually string our tarp up over our eating area.

11. Dealing with Bugs

Bug jacket for bugs

Many people pack a screened gazebo for sitting in. If you are car camping, go for it. You can set it up around the picnic table and have a place to eat and relax free from bugs. If you are camping in places with mosquitoes and black flies, we highly recommend bug jackets. It is also a good idea to make sure you have bug spray and after bite in your first aid kit to help mitigate the bugs but also alleviate the itching and swelling when you do get bit.

Pro Tip : never leave your tent zipper open. Close it immediately when exiting or entering, it can fill up quickly with bugs.

12. Campfire Tips

Campfire tips and tricks

Our favorite part of camping is making a campfire. But a lot of people don’t know how to make one in this day and age. Before you go camping, learn to make a good campfire.

  • Lighters – Be sure to pack several ways to start a fire. Matches can get wet and lighters can be finicky, so bring a few backup options of both.
  • Firewood – Make sure you buy dry wood. We’ve had fires smolder and fizzle because the wood was damp or waterlogged. When purchasing firewood, make sure it’s nice and dry.
  • Tinder/Firestarter – You’ll want something that ignites quickly like dry leaves or pine needles. Newspaper is great for this as well. But you can simply buy a firestarter when you get your wood.
  • Kindling – When purchasing firewood, make sure you get small strips of wood known as kindling. This will help ignite your larger logs.
  • Placing the logs – When building a fire, it’s important to place your firestarter, kindling and logs in the proper configuration to ignite properly. You can build a teepee starting with the tinder in the middle, then create a teepee shape with your kindling. Once its lit and going strong, slowly add the logs to the fire. This is one of the easiest methods for making a fire.

We also recommend having some kind of poker on hand to move the logs. If you plan on using it for cooking then a stand-up cooking rack is a great idea. We pack leather work gloves for the campsite. When you are ready for bed or leaving the campsite, be sure to put the campfire out completely with water. Pro Tip: Cotton balls rolled in vaseline make for great fire starters.

Water while camping

Many campgrounds have hoses and sinks where you can wash up and get water, but we recommend bringing a large several gallon jug of water for cooking and drinking. You can get a collapsible jug for cooking and a lined insulated container to keep water cool. Make sure you have a cooler filled with ice if you are car camping.

If you are backcountry camping you will want to have a water purification system like a Steripen. That way you can get water out of streams, rivers, and lakes for safe drinking. And pack a Nalgene t o refill your water instead of cups. For coffee we love insulated travel mugs.

14. Dry Your Tent

When you are finished with your tent, don’t forget to take care of it. Make sure it it dry before packing it up. If you don’t have time to dry it out, be sure to unpack it when you are home to hang it out. Sweep out the tent and make sure there is nothing left inside. Little twigs or rocks can cause holes. The more you care for your tent, the longer it will last.

Fast Hacks for Camping

Fast Hacks for camping

15. Tripping over your tent pegs

Gather some rocks and put them over your tent pegs so you don’t stub your toe in the middle of the night.

16. Mosquito Repellant

Mix lemon and eucalyptus to create a natural mosquito repellent. Pack some sprigs of sage and burn it to deter mosquitoes from coming around the fire.

17. Use jugs of water for ice

Ice can get messy and take up a lot of space when camping. Instead, fill up your water jugs and freeze them before camping. Then use them as ice packs. They’ll keep your food cold, and slowly melt so you can drink ice water

18. Fill a hot water bottle to keep you warm at night

Or fill your Nalgene before bed with boiling water and put it in your tent to help keep you warm.

Staying warm camping

19. Pack a pair of crocs for wearing around camp

They are easy to slide on and off when getting out of the tent and they are sturdy enough that you won’t stub your toe.

20. Pack a warm hat and warm socks for sleeping

I even love wearing a buff around my neck to keep warm. Temperatures can get chilly when camping. Read: The Ultimate Guide to Everest Base Camp

21. Pack wipes and hand sanitizer

Camping can get messy and you don’t always have a sink and soap readily available. Hand wipes and sanitizer are always good to have on hand.

22. Sleep with your clothes in your sleeping bag

When camping through Africa, it was hot during the day, but freezing at night. I kept the clothes I was going to wear the next day in my sleeping bag, so I didn’t dread putting them on in the morning.

Clothes in your sleeping bag

23. Don’t have a lantern? No problem

Instead, loop your headlamp around your Nalgene filled with water and shine the light towards it. You have an instant lantern!

24. Pack in bins and sacks

Staying organized when camping is key to having the most fun. Pack your food and kitchen items in bins that can be used as tables for eating and cutting. One can be used for all your food and the other for all your utensils, plates and pots.

25. Don’t forget condiments and spices

You don’t have to bring the entire kitchen, but your favorite spices and condiments can turn food from bland to wham!

Pill containers are a great way to store spices in a small space. I have seen other people recommend tic tac packets. This is a great idea, or you can just buy a Six Spice Camping shaker.

And these are all the tent camping hacks I can think of at the moment. Do you have a secret or unique camping tip to add? We’d love to hear from you. We’re always learning and adding to our camping gear list.

Plan your next camping trip with these Resources

  • Glamping in Big Sur – Luxury in the Redwood Forest
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park – Glamping Tour in the Alberta Badlands
  • 21 of The Best Treks in the World
  • Camping in Spain: Everything You Need to Know
  • 25 Camping Tips – Our Top Hacks for Happy Nights Outdoors
  • The Ultimate Travel Packing List (By Professional Travellers)
  • The Best Travel Gear – Unique Ideas for Smart Packing

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO . 

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine , the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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8 thoughts on “25 Of The Most Useful Camping Tips and Hacks For 2024”

I loved reading about your camping tips. Looking forward to more stories from your outdoor escapades! I loved also bringing my camping tools.

I loved reading about your camping tips. Looking forward to more stories from your outdoor escapades! I loved also bringing my power station for camping.

I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the fantastic tips and insights you provided in this article. My favorite is 25. Don’t forget condiments and spices which i usually forget.

Simple but helpful tips. Amazing. The challenging part is packing food. I started exploring campsites in rizal and collectings ideas and tips. Thank you for sharing.

Such a great post. Thank you so much for an amazing post.

Is there a campground you would recommend, I want to explore different places this summer, friends.

planning meals is the toughest as we need more snacks and comfort food as we don’t have much space and cutlery in the tent and carrying hot water is brilliant idea

Cool camping tricks that really are a must-try and truly could be a life-saver! The photos look astoundingly surreal and out of this world! It’s like the sceneries were only captured to be viewed on a movie screen! The beautiful art of nature plus great photography equals these masterpieces! Thank you for sharing these camping tips and tricks with us!

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Adventure , Camping Skills

Camping 101: the ultimate guide to camping for beginners.

Beautiful scenery on beach

Camping is one of the best activities out there. Who doesn’t want to hike away from the hustle and bustle of the city, pitch a tent under the stars and cook a delicious meal over the fire. Camping – be it at campgrounds, in the mountains or on the river – is something I think everyone should try, at least once in their life. But if you’ve never been before, your first time camping can be overwhelming or intimidating. That’s why I’ve put together this comprehensive guide on camping for beginners.

In The Ultimate Guide to Camping for Beginners , you will learn:

  • How to plan your first camping trip
  • How to camp (packing, setting up your tent, lighting fires, cooking and more)
  • Camping gear for beginners
  • Sample packing list and meal planner

for camping trip

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is much appreciated! You can learn more by reading my full disclosure .

Camping for Beginners: Introduction

This guide will give you the knowledge and tools on how to camp and enable you to plan your first camping trip. The easiest way to get good at camping is to go with someone more experienced than you. If this is an option, definitely take it! But if you don’t have someone to go with, do not fret. By reading this guide you should have everything you need to get started.

I’ve written this guide with camping experience from Canada, New Zealand and Iceland and I know it’s largely applicable to the US as well. If you are camping in other countries, most of the information should still apply but ensure you do your research.

Note : Camping 101: The Ultimate Guide to Camping for Beginners is specifically designed for tent camping for beginners. This post does not cover RV / trailer camping.

Section 1: The Basics of Camping

In this section, I will go over the basics of camping – specifically, the different types of camping and how you find campsites to begin with.

1.1 Different Types of Camping

There are broadly two ways we can categorize camping. The first is by the proximity to road access / civilization, and the second is by the type of land.

Proximity to Road Access

Front country camping – Also known as ‘car camping’, front country camping is when you drive somewhere and pitch your tent near your car. Front country camping is typically done at campgrounds, and there are often facilities like washrooms, sinks and sometimes laundry and showers.

Backcountry camping – Backcountry camping occurs away from road access, and typically requires some element of human power to access. This could be hiking, kayaking, canoeing, biking, climbing or another activity. Because backcountry camping isn’t accessible by road, you can’t just get in your car and leave if something goes wrong. As a result, backcountry camping is higher risk and requires more experience than front country camping.

Type of Land

Publicly Managed Land – This is camping on land that is publicly managed by the government (i.e. a national/provincial/state parks). Usually, there are camping fees proportional to the number of services provided. If you are at a car camping campground with washrooms and showers, you can expect to pay $20 – 40 per night per site. Meanwhile, backcountry camping sites could range from $0 to $40 per night.

For example, many “non-operating” provincial parks in Ontario do not have fees. Likewise, you can camp in many National Forests for free in the US.

Wild / Freedom / Dispersed Camping – This can be either car or backcountry camping, but it occurs outside national/provincial/state parks and that usually means it is free .

There are some countries that let you camp in any wild space in the public domain. For example, in Canada we often call this Crown Land Camping and it allows Canadian residents to camp on the land for up to 21 days. Many places in the United States allow for free camping too. New Zealand and Iceland allow freedom camping in many areas if you have a self-contained camper van.

Private Campgrounds – These are car campgrounds that are owned privately. Sometimes they’re owned by a family who lives on the property, or it could be a chain, like KOA campgrounds. These campgrounds tend to be $30 – $50 per night and often have better facilities than parks. Some even have swimming pools, activities and free boat rentals.

1.2 Finding Campsites

So with all those types of camping, how will you ever find a campsite? Well, it helps to start with what you want out of your trip. Camping beginners will likely want to start with front country camping ( car camping ) so they can be close to their vehicle and don’t need to carry all their gear themselves.

I’ve found camping beginners also tend to prefer camping in national/state/provincial parks over wild/freedom camping because it’s really easy to find campsites and book reservations. Finding free camping is a bit of an art and takes some practice.

So I recommend Googling parks near where you live and then booking a campsite through their reservation portal.

Note : If you live in Canada and really want to do backcountry camping, head over to Trip Reports where we have compiled detailed guides for tons of beginner canoeing and hiking routes. They have literally all the information you need to plan the trip (maps, reservations, itinerary, tips and more).

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Section 2: Planning & Preparation

2.1 choose a destination & book your sites.

As I stated above, a great starting place is searching for parks in your area. When you’re considering different parks, consider the following:

  • How far away is it? Parks further from the city tend to be less busy, but they also involve more driving.
  • What facilities are there? Decide what facilities you want and what is available.
  • What things are there to do? While camping is itself an activity, search for hiking / paddling / activities in the area.
  • How popular is it? I suggest Googling something along the lines of “most popular parks” in your location. There is usually a reason a park is so popular – be it beauty, facilities, proximity. Decide how much solitude you’d like on your camping trip, as popular parks tent to be busier.

Depending on your destination, you will likely need to make a reservation in advance. If this is the case, book your campsite or camping permit.

2.2 Choose a Time to Go

The exact time of year will partly depend on your geography and interests, however, this advice applies to the broad United States / Canada / Western Europe regions. If this will be your first time camping, I highly recommend going in the summer.

Other considerations :

  • Climate : Perhaps the biggest driving is climate, specifically temperature and precipitation. Most people go camping when it’s warm out and try to avoid particularly rainy seasons.
  • Wildlife : Some people will time their camping trips with when they’re most likely to see wildlife. For instance, many people go camping in the winter or early spring for moose spotting.
  • Scenery : Different seasons provide sceneries. Autumn is a popular time to go camping due to fall foliage, but the chillier temperatures mean you need more gear and experience.

Pro Camping Tip for Beginners : In Canada and much of the US, I specifically recommend beginner campers plan their trips for early August. As it’s summer, the weather is warm so you don’t need much gear and there’s little-to-no risk of things like hypothermia. June and July are even warmer but many regions have higher levels of mosquitos and black flies at this time, making for a less than enjoyable time.

2.3 Choose How Long to Make Your Trip

If this will be your first camping trip, I typically recommend going to a campground for two nights. I think planning a camping trip is too much work for a single night; with driving, setting up camp, cooking and cleaning, you just don’t get enough time to actually enjoy the camping trip.

On the other hand, if you will be backpacking or paddling out to you campsite it may make more sense to go for a single night. That way, if you are uncomfortable or need something, you’re relatively close to home. My first backpacking and paddling trips were all single nights. Keep the distance you travel short so you have time to enjoy being at the campsite.

2.4 Prepare Your Route Card

This is something not nearly enough people talk about! Whenever you go out into the wilderness, you should build a route card and leave it with a friend or family member not on the camping trip.

What is a route card?

A route card is a list of where you will be camping each night and when you intend to be back home. For long and remote trips, a route card might have information on the GPS coordinates of campsites and emergency access points, emergency contacts and more. For short trips, a route card is simply where you’ll be camping (i.e. Mew Lake Campground, Algonquin Provincial Park) for which days (i.e. June 12th and June 13th) and when you’ll be home (i.e. June 14th).

You should also leave instructions for what your friend/family should do if you don’t return on time. For example, this could be the phone number of the park office.

Why does this matter?

You leave a route card in case you get lost or injured on your camping trip, or if your car gets a flat tire and you don’t have cell service. That way, someone knows you’re missing and can take steps to get you found.

I’ve always done this for backcountry camping trips, but one time my boyfriend and I were driving to a car camping site and blew a tire on a mountain road without cell service. I hadn’t told anyone where we were, so no one had any idea. Thankfully everything worked out, but since then I always leave a route card with someone.

2.5 Gather Your Tent Camping Essentials

Okay, so you’ve got your first camping trip planned. Now it’s time to gather all the gear you’re going to need. Since there is a long list of things you need to camp, I’ve dedicated all of Section 3 to this topic. There you will find exactly what the tent camping essentials are and how to get them inexpensively if it’s your first time camping.

2.6 Go For a Test Drive

As much help as I can provide over in a beginners camping guide, the best way to learn how to go camping is to go out and do it – in a low risk environment. So before you go out on your first camping trip, try spending the night in your backyard. This will show you a few things:

  • Do you know how to use all your gear?
  • Is there anything you’re forgetting?
  • Are you warm enough?
  • Are you comfortable?

Because you’re in your backyard, you can simply go inside and grab something you’ve forgotten. Or, say your sleeping bag is not nearly warm enough, you can move inside for the night. Camping is all about testing and refining what works for you.

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Section 3: Clothing & Gear – Things You Need to Camp

In this section, I’m going to go over the essential things you need to camp. This includes both the gear and clothing you need to stay safe, as well as the gear and clothing you should bring to be comfortable.

3.1 Safety Gear

  • First Aid Kit – You should always bring a first aid kit. I have a full post on how to build your own wilderness first aid kit , but the basics are this: pain killers, allergy medication, wound kit (bandages, gauze, polysporin), blister kit (bandaids, moleskin, medical tape).
  • Satellite Communication Device – If you will be camping somewhere without cell service, bring some form of satellite communication device. These are pricey and not always feasible for camping beginners. Some places allow you to rent them. If you don’t have one, stay somewhere with cell service. >>This is the one I highly recommend.
  • Map & Compass – If you are hiking or paddling to your campsite, ensure you bring a map and compass.

Pro Beginners Camping Tip : Even some drive-in campgrounds don’t have cell service. Download your map and directions to your phone so you can still access them if you lose service.

3.2 Shelter Gear

  • Lightweight Tent – If you will be camping at your car, your tent doesn’t need to be lightweight. However, if you are hiking or paddling to your campsite, you want it to pack small and be light to carry. For camping beginners, I typically recommend they choose an inexpensive tent, even if it’s a bit bulky. As you do more camping, though, you’ll want to upgrade. >>This is an affordable backpacking tent I previously used.
  • Sleeping Pad – Your sleeping pad adds a layer of air in between you and the ground. They typically pack small and are light to carry, and they can be inflated with your mouth.
  • Sleeping Bag – Finding a warm sleeping bag that packs small can be tricky for beginner campers, as they tend to be expensive. If car camping, don’t worry about it being light. If backpacking, try renting a sleeping bag or choose one made from synthetic material, as this tends to be cheaper. >>Here is an inexpensive, but lightweight, sleeping bag.
  • Camping Pillow – This is optional, but will improve the comfort. >>I recommend an inflatable pillow to cut down on space.

Note : Many of these items are essential things you need to camp, and are part of the 10 Essentials. If you’re not familiar with the 10 Essentials, read this post .

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3.3 Cooking Gear + Food

Here are the items you need to cook basic meals on camping trips. Feel free to bring other gear if space allows and get creative with your cooking!

  • Water Bottle – Bring a reusable one to cut down on single use plastic!
  • Water Purification – Needed if you will be camping somewhere without running water. This could be water filtration tablets, a Sawyer Straw, water pump or similar device.
  • Matches / Lighters
  • Camping Stove – For car camping, you can use a larger 2-burner stove. For backcountry camping, you can use a backpacking stove.
  • Grill – Some fire pits come with a grill, but if you know you want to cook over the fire and don’t know if your fire pit will have one, you can bring a cheap, lightweight grill .

Cooking Gear

  • Pots and / or Pans
  • Big Spoon / Spatula
  • Bowls and Cutlery
  • Biodegradable Dish Soap & Sponge – Use this to wash your dishes after eating.
  • Garbage Bags – Unless garbage facilities are present, you must pack out everything you pack in. So bring a few garbage bags for waste.

There’s a lot that goes into planning food, so I’ve included a separate section for meal planning in the appendix.

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3.4 Clothing

The clothing you wear camping can roughly be categorized into four groups.

Day Clothing – This is the clothing you wear during the day and when you’re on the move. It needs to be durable and comfortable, as you’ll be moving a lot and don’t want anything to rip or tear. In addition, it should be moisture-wicking and weather resistant (so not cotton or denim).

  • Durable Hiking T-shirt or Long Sleeve Shirt – Any athletic / gym shirt works when you’re getting starting.
  • Durable Hiking Pants or Shorts – Any athletic / gym pants work here too.
  • Wool Socks – These will keep your feet warm, even if they get wet. Wool is much better than cotton for socks.
  • Underwear / Sports Bra – You know what to do here.

Campsite Clothing – Many people like to change out of sweaty / dirty clothing once they get to the campsite. Campsite clothing should still be durable, but tends to be a little more comfortable and warmer. If you’re going ultra lightweight, you probably won’t bring a second outfit for the evening.

  • Comfy Top – This could be a flannel shirt and something made from wool or fleece. Again, we want to avoid cotton.
  • Comfy Pants – I like to bring leggings or fleece pants for chilly evenings.
  • Sweater or Jacket – Personally, I like to bring both a fleece sweater and a synthetic down jacket. Ideally, avoid bringing cotton.

Sleep Clothing – This is the clothing you wear in your tent, and only in your tent. When you’re getting started, any comfy sleep clothing will technically do. Some people may wear cotton to bed, but I advise against this because if the clothing gets wet it will never dry. Synthetic or wool layers are better for sleeping. And if you’re worried about being cold and have a little money to invest, I highly recommend getting a pair of merino long underwear to sleep in. >>This is what I wear.

Rain Clothing

  • Rain Jacket – This is an incredibly important piece of beginner camping gear. Your rain jacket will keep you dry (and warm) even if you have to set up your tent in the rain. You don’t need a fancy Gore-Tex rain jacket when you’re still starting out. My first rain jacket was excellent, lasted for three years and cost less than $80. >>This is the first rain jacket I had.
  • Rain Pants – Rain pants are less common, however I really like having rain pants and recommend them for anyone camping in rainy climates. They are loose enough to go over top of hiking pants and are 100% waterproof (unlike hiking pants, which are typically water repellent ).

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3.5 Footwear

The shoes you bring camping will be somewhat dependent on whether you are driving, hiking or paddling to your campsite. For my first few car camping trips I just wore running shoes.

  • Hiking Shoes / Boots – If you will be hiking to your campsite, where a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots. Most hiking shoes tend to be waterproof, or at least water resistant, so you’ll still be comfortable if it rains. I recommend the hiking boots as excellent beginner hiking boots.
  • Sandals – Whenever I’m at the campsite, I like to wear sandals with wool socks. Especially if I’ve had to hike to my campsite, my feet just want to breathe! So in addition to your sturdy hiking shoes, bring a comfortable pair of shoes for around the campfire.

Read More : 10 Best Women’s Hiking Boots (2021) + Guide to Buying Beginner Hiking Boots

3.6 Miscellaneous

  • Backpack – If you are hiking or paddling to your campsite, you’ll need something to put everything. Backpacking backpacks can be expensive, so see if you can rent or borrow one for your trip.
  • Dry sacks / Ziploc bags – I like to bring some small dry sacks and zip lock bags to store items. This keeps them dry no matter what.
  • Biodegradable Toothpaste – Many car campgrounds have washroom and sink facilities, but if you are hiking/paddling to your campsite you will need to spit your toothpaste into the bush. Please use biodegradable toothpaste.
  • Sunscreen – Gotta be sun safe!
  • Bug Spray / Bug Hat – This is perhaps one of my most important first time camping tips. Bring a bug hat. Nothing ruins a camping trip more than mosquitos and black flies. A bug hat will keep you sane.

Optional Personal Items

  • Books, journal, pen
  • Camping Chair

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Section 4: Camping Tips for Beginners

This section is about how to camp – that is, how to actually execute a camping trip! There’s only so much I can explore though. The only way to really learn how to go camping is to get out and do it!

4.1 Getting to Your Campsite

Depending on the campground you’re at, you may need to check in with a park office or visitor’s centre to collect your permits / reservations. Many parks are moving away from this and allowing campers to download an electronic version of the permit when they make the reservation. Check what you need for your destination.

4.2 Pitching Your Tent

A integral part of learning how to tent camp is knowing how to set up your tent in the first place! Hopefully you did a test drive and already know how to set up your tent, however I always find the first few set-ups with a new tent take some time (and patience).

When choosing where to pitch your tent, choose relatively flat ground. You don’t want to be sliding in your tent or sleeping on an angle. If there is a slight angle, ensure your head is on the slightly higher ground.

I always recommend pegging out your tent. Once I hadn’t pegged by tent, went on a hike and came back and my tent was a 100 m away and upside down (and had a broken pole). I had no idea a huge wind storm would happen!

Be mindful of where you put the doors. For example, you probably don’t want to put the doors right next to a tree / bush (that could get annoying) or where people watching by could see into your tent.

Orange tent next to a river, eco camping in Canada

4.3 Setting Up Your Sleeping Area

Once the tent is set up, I like to set up my sleeping area. I first inflate my sleeping pad, then unpack my sleeping bag and place it on top. Next, I set up my pillow and place my pyjamas on top of my sleeping bag. I also like to take out anything I might need over the night (i.e. toiletry bag, book, journal, headphones).

I do this so that I can keep my backpack / bags outside the tent. If they’ve touched the ground, they may have dirt on them and I don’t want this inside my tent. You can either leave your bags under the tent vestibule (this is the area right outside the door that is covered by the tent fly) or in your car.

Tip : Don’t leave any food in your tent!

4.4 Staying Dry and Warm

Hopefully, you get wonderful weather for your first time camping, but if it is chilly or raining there are a few things you can do to stay warm and dry. First, ensure you aren’t wearing any cotton and put on your rain jacket. Keep all your gear either in the tent, under the vestibule or in the car.

Tip: Bring a tarp and some rope to build a cooking shelter. There are tons of Youtube videos showing how to set up an easy tarp. This gives you a dry place to cook and hang out.

4.5 Lighting Fires

Before you leave for your first camping trip, watch a few Youtube videos on fire building. It’s pretty easy, but it helps to have a demonstration. It helps to bring some newspaper to help the larger pieces of wood to catch. I also sometimes from fire starter.

Remember, campfires should only be built in designated fire pits. If there isn’t a fire pit, use a stove instead.

A Note on Firewood : Check the firewood rules for where you’ll be camping, and double-check if there is a fire ban. Invasive species can live in firewood, so many parks forbid people from bringing their own firewood and thus campgrounds often require you to buy firewood there. If you’re not at a campground, you can usually collect dead branches from the area.

4.6 Cooking Over a Fire or Stove

Cooking over a stove.

I have a TON of beginner camping tips specifically targeted at camp cooking. So many that I actually have a cookbook (shameless plug).

If you’re car camping, cooking on trip is really similar to cooking at home. You can bring a 2-burner camping stove that functions very similarly to a gas stove at home. The only difference is that you need to connect the fuel to the camping stove yourself.

If you’re backcountry camping, you will likely want to bring a much smaller stove. With backpacking stoves, there is an attachment that sits on top or beside the fuel canister. Similar to the above, you open up the flue valve a little and light it with a match or lighter. Now you have heat! >>I recommend this backpacking stove.

Once you have your heat source, you are ready to cook your food. There are tons and tons of camping recipes on various blogs and YouTube channels that you can experiment with. Though I recommend choosing something simple for your first time camping.

Cooking Over a Fire

If you want to cook over a fire instead of a stove, will need a grill. If you’re camping at a campground, there may be a grill built into the fire pit. If you’re backcountry camping, you will likely need to bring your own grill. >>Here is an option for a cheap, lightweight grill .

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4.7 Camping Etiquette

Camping etiquette is so important! Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re respecting other campers:

  • Don’t play loud music and be quiet after ~10 pm
  • Don’t walk through others’ campsites
  • Be mindful taking a photos if you’re near someone else’s campsite
  • Keep dogs on a lease unless you are in an off-lease area
  • Clean up after yourself, your group and your pets

I’m working on a full guide to camping etiquette, so stay tuned for more tips!

4.8 Leave No Trace Camping

It’s so important that we respect the environment and wildlife when we are camping. This means ‘leaving no trace’ – ensuring you leave the site as you found it (or leave it better than you found it). There is a lot to cover here, so I recommend reading my post on Eco Camping: Your Guide to Environmentally Sustainable Camping .

But here are the highlights :

  • Don’t alter your campsite at all : Do not build new fire pits, tear down branches, making tent clearings
  • Pack out everything you pack in : Bring a garbage bag or use the provided garbage facilities. Absolutely no trash should be left at the campsite (and this includes in the fire pit). Be especially mindful of plastic wrappers and food packaging.
  • Correctly dispose of grey water and human waste : Check what the specific requirements are for the place you will be camping and follow them.
  • Use all natural, non-toxic products : Wear all natural sunscreen and use all natural toothpaste (I like Tom’s ).

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Camping for Beginners: Conclusion

I really hope you’ve found this guide helpful and have the confidence to take your first camping trip! If you have any questions on how to camp, please leave a comment or send me a message.

Camping 101: Meet Your ‘Instructor’

I thought it’d be helpful to introduce myself. My name is Mikaela and I used to work as a wilderness guide throughout Canada. My first long camping trip was a two-week canoe trip in 2010, and since then I’ve spent hundreds of nights in the wilderness.

And through guiding, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching kids and adults how to camp, so I’m acutely aware of the questions and challenges that come with camping for the first time. I am sure this beginner’s camping guide will give you the knowledge and resources to go on your first camping trip!

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Mikaela | Voyageur Tripper

Mikaela has been canoeing, hiking and camping for over ten years. She previously worked as a canoeing guide in Canada, and spent a season guiding hiking and kayaking tours in the high Arctic. Mikaela is a Wilderness First Responder and Whitewater Rescue Technician.


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5 thoughts on “ Camping 101: The Ultimate Guide to Camping for Beginners ”

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Hi your blog is very helpful! I am Rhene from the Philippines, and I’m also a teacher who promotes Outdoor Adventure in the Philippines. I hope I can invite you to talk in our forum/conference to share your expertise and experiences in the outdoors.

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Thank you for explaining that you shouldn’t wear cotton if the weather is chilly or raining. I’ve been trying to get some advice for our camping trip that we’re taking next week. I’ll be sure to remember this advice in case the weather is cold.

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You’re welcome, Olivia! Glad I could help!

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I found it helpful when you recommended that we go for two nights for our first camping trip since a lot of work is needed in planning a camping trip even for just one night. It’s my first time going camping with friends since we just got an RV rental booked, so we’ve been looking for campsites to consider. I’ll be sure to take note of this suggestion while I check out RV resorts we might consider for our trip.

Two nights also works – though I prefer one for beginners just in case they have a really bad sleeping experience. Have a great time on the RV trip, Anna!

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How to plan a camping trip: 7 steps get you ready to camp

From reserving your campsite to testing your gear, our guide explaining how to plan a camping trip will give you confidence in the outdoors

A family camping with a blue and red tent

So you want to go camping. Great idea! Camping is a fun, healthy and relatively inexpensive way to commune with the outdoors. You get to switch off the screens, escape the hustle and bustle of urban life, and return to nature where you can eat and sleep under the stars. 

But if you’re new to camping, there’s so much to know. What kind of tent do you need? How do you find a campsite? Where do you go to the bathroom? This guide will explain how to plan a camping trip, giving you guidance to prepare for a successful – and enjoyable – adventure under canvas. In addition, you’ll want to check out our list of 12 common camping mistakes before you go. 

1. Decide where you want to go

Knowing where you want to go camping involves knowing what kind of camping you want to do. There’s backpacking, where you carry everything on your back and hike in to a remote destination, and then there’s car camping where you load up the car and drive to a paid campsite. There’s also RV and pop-up camping for a tent-free experience. 

Backpacking is going to be the more minimalist – and adventurous – approach. You can only bring what you can carry so you’ll need a good backpack , some lightweight gear (such as a one-person tent ) and you’ll want to have some knowledge of outdoor safety , navigation and be prepared for no amenities that you don’t bring with you (read our article on how to poop in the woods ).

If you’d prefer a developed campground where you pay for a site and have amenities like toilets and picnic tables, you can drive in which means you are not so limited in what you can bring with. This won’t be such a rough and wild experience – you’ll almost certainly be sharing the campgrounds with other people – but it’s a good way to ease in to camping.

Camping in a camper van or RV opens up lots of opportunities too. The main benefit is that there’s no real set up required for camp. Once you arrive, you can just park and sleep. But you have the added factor of finding a place to legally park. Not all campgrounds accept RVs so you’ll want to research that ahead of time so you don’t end up camping in a truck drivers rest stop. On that note, if you’re camping in a tent and want a peaceful experience, you may want to pick a campground that doesn’t allow RVs so you don’t have to listen to the hum of generators and engines all night.

A family who are camping have fun in their tent

2. Reserve your campsite 

If you’ve decided on a developed campground, don’t assume you can just roll in and there will be room for you. Camping is becoming ever more fashionable and developed campgrounds are very popular with families, especially during the summer months. In National Parks, campsites can be reserved as early as a year in advance and competition for a spot is often fierce. Make sure you’ve booked your site ahead of time to avoid disappointment or you might spend the evening driving around looking for a place to sleep.

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If you’re planning on wild camping, you can’t make a reservation but you should still research the area where you intend to pitch your tent and make sure that it’s allowed – not all public land is fair game. Which brings us to our next point...

3. Research your destination  

Once you’ve decided where you’re going, do some research on the campsite and the area. This can range from mundane details such as what amenities are available and whether or not bear lockers are provided to fun stuff like what activities are available nearby. This will help you make sure you’ve packed everything you need, and once you arrive you can’t rely on having internet connection to look things up like where the nearby grocery stores and hiking trails are. 

A man and a woman cooking with a camping stove

4. Plan your meals 

Meal planning can be one of the best parts of camping. If you’re planning backpacking meals , you’ll need to rely on cold, ready-to-eat food or have a lightweight camping stove. With the best camping stoves , you’ll be able to enjoy a hot meal and perhaps even coffee, but you’ll still want to pack light, easy meals like freeze dried meals, packed tuna and boxed noodles.

With car and van camping, your menu can be much more varied. In addition to a  bigger double-burner camping stove , you can pack frying pans to put over the fire or bring a BBQ grill. If there are picnic tables available or you bring a folding table, you can even be slicing and dicing veggies to go in your meals. But when it comes to perishable food, like meat and vegetables, remember that you’re reliant on how much ice you have in your cooler. You might find a campground that sells ice, but if not you’ll want to make sure to eat any perishable food items first before they go off, then switch to non-perishables.

In all types of camping, it’s probably best not to rely on being able to cook over an open fire. It’s definitely possible, but it’s much more difficult to control the temperature of live flames than it is over your stove at home, so you can end up with undercooked, overcooked or unevenly cooked food which can leave you with food poisoning. The other potential problem with campfire cooking is availability of dry firewood. If conditions are damp, you’re not likely to be able to get a fire going, so even if you’re dead set on cooking over the fire, make sure you bring a camping stove as a backup. In the worst of conditions, these can be set up on a picnic table under a tarp and you can still enjoy a hot meal on a chilly night.

Speaking of chilly nights...

A woman wears a yellow raincoat on the trail

5. Prepare for all weather conditions 

You can’t control the weather, but you can prepare for it. The thing about getting drenched while camping is there’s no real way to dry off again. Wet clothes inside your tent mean damp, uncomfortable conditions, and if your best sleeping bag is filled with down, you could be in for a cold night. The most important thing to pack is a waterproof jacket , regardless of the forecast. These are lightweight and pack down small and will keep your clothes underneath dry and your body warm. If you’re expecting to see a lot of precipitation, you’ll want to consider waterproof trousers and shoes as well. 

Even in hot desert areas, temperatures can really drop overnight, so you’ll want to pack base layers which pack down small but provide lots of warmth as well as one warmer outer layer like a fleece that can also double as a pillow at night.

If you’re car camping, you might want to pack a tarp or pop-up tent that can provide shelter from the elements. These also provide good sun shade if the weather is a little too good. 

a tarp stretched over camping equipment in a field

6. Test your gear 

The next thing you’ll want to do is test out your gear a couple of nights before you leave in order to make sure that it all works, and that you know how to work it. Practice setting up your tent, make sure your sleeping pad doesn’t leak air and ensure your headlamp doesn’t need new batteries. Check your camping stove works and has enough fuel, make sure your lighters still work and your first aid kit is properly stocked. It might seem like a drag, but what may take an hour or two could save you plenty in time and frustration when you get to your campsite – and this way you’ll have plenty of time to replace any faulty equipment. 

7. Make a packing list

We should have mentioned this earlier, but all this time you should have been making a camping checklist of what you need to bring. Sleeping on the ground? You’ll need a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag that’s the right warmth for where you’re going. Driving in? You have room to bring a proper pillow if you want. Planning on cooking over a fire? Make sure you have a lighter. Items like bug spray and headlamps are absolute must-haves for any camping experience. Make a list as you go then cross the items off as you pack them to keep track. You’ll want to pack ahead of time too, to make sure everything fits.

Once you get out into the wild, you may have no way of picking up provisions, so plan ahead and make sure you have what you need to really enjoy your time. Now you’re ready to get out there!

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book  Restorative Yoga for Beginners . She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.  

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How to Prepare for a Camping Trip

Last Updated: May 13, 2024 Approved

This article was co-authored by Hannah Young . Hannah Young is an Outdoor Education Expert with more than three years of experience. She specializes in educating others on backpacking and hiking, land ethics and best practices, and wilderness Restoration. Hannah earned a BS in Earth Systems from Stanford University. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 80% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 239,053 times.

Camping is a fun and exciting experience, but to stay organized and safe, you must prepare for the trip.

Step 1 Decide with whom you are camping.

  • Try sticking with dehydrated foods that can easily be prepared with boiling water. This way, you can make a “home-cooked” meal over the campfire.

Step 6 Gather all of the other things on the "Things You'll Need" list and try to pack them in a small, lightweight bag.

Packing List for a Camping Trip

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Community Q&A

Community Answer

Reader Videos

  • Keep matches in a pill bottle and glue sandpaper to the top of the pill bottle. Dryer lint can be used to begin a fire when you have saved enough of it. [4] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • If you have a choice, you may want to sleep in a cabin. They are more sheltered, more pleasant if it is raining, and sometimes even have air conditioning. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Put your sleeping bag, floor mat, blanket, and ground sheet in a bedding roll. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Things You'll Need

  • Enough food for three meals and one snack (opt.) for every day you stay.
  • Sleeping bag(s)/airbed
  • Extra blanket(s) (If you are camping in the cold)
  • Sharp Knife
  • Poncho (in case it rains)
  • Tent (If you are not sleeping in a cabin)
  • Stakes for the tents
  • Water bottle
  • Tennis shoes
  • One pair of jeans or sweatpants per day
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Socks (pack extras)
  • Gloves/mittens (for really cold weather)
  • Hat/cap (for really cold weather)
  • Snow boots (for extremely cold/snowy weather)
  • Appropriate sleepwear
  • Flip-flops (opt.)
  • Sunglasses (opt.)
  • Visor/Baseball cap
  • Short pants and/or jeans
  • Swimsuit (If you plan to swim, sail, canoe, etc.)
  • A T-Shirt or comfortable top for each day
  • Appropriate sleeping clothes
  • Personal items
  • Books and/or games for rainy days
  • Toilet paper (if not provided)
  • Soap & Shampoo
  • Paper towels
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Flashlight(s)/Lantern
  • Extra batteries
  • Comfort pad or air mattress (opt.)
  • Stuffed animals (opt.)
  • Large cooler (for food)
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Adhesive dressings (plasters)
  • Bandage Wrap
  • Painkillers
  • Anti-itch Cream
  • Inhaler (if one of the participants has asthma)
  • Tweezers (in case someone gets a splinter or sticker)
  • Mirror (to signal for help, if needed)
  • Bandanna (These are useful in almost any situation)
  • Ponytail holders (These can be used for more than hair)
  • Small amount of fresh water (for thirst, or if someone has something in their eye)
  • "Feminine" items (for female participants)
  • Any personal medicine

You Might Also Like

Camp in the Rain

  • ↑ https://www.mappingmegan.com/first-aid-tips-for-camping/
  • ↑ https://busycreatingmemories.com/camping-list-how-to-prepare-for-camping/
  • ↑ https://www.nps.gov/subjects/camping/cooking-in-camp.htm
  • ↑ https://momwithaprep.com/pill-bottle-firestarters/

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45 Make Ahead Camping Meals to Simplify Your Camping Menu

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Pinterest graphic with text overlay reading "45 Make Ahead Camping Meals-Simplify Your Camping Menu".

These make ahead camping meals are a must-have for your camping trip! With a little prepping ahead of time, mealtime at camp will be a breeze.

Camp days can often be jam-packed with adventures–and very little time for much else. When we finally have time to relax around the fire, it can be a bummer to have to prep and cook an entire meal instead. Make-ahead camping food to the rescue! 

These make-ahead camping meals are such a lifeline for the weary (and hungry!) camper. You’ll be so glad you added them to your camping menu!

Types of Make Ahead Camping Meals

  • Some camping meals can be entirely made beforehand—just reheat and eat . Those meals are especially nice for your first day at camp when much of the day has been spent traveling and setting up. You’re likely going to be hungry, tired, and/or short on time–and these make ahead meals for camping deliver!
  • Another make-ahead camping food solution is to prep some or all of the ingredients beforehand . Once you’re at camp, just complete any remaining prep and cook your meal on your grill or over the fire for way less effort. 

No matter how you approach it, you’ll love how easy make-ahead camping food make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners when you’re on your camping trip! These make-ahead camping meals give you more time to enjoy the great outdoors—that’s what it’s about, after all! 

A cooler filled with ice, coleslaw components, and other items.

Pack your cooler like a pro.

Pulled pork sliders arranged in a white dish.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

BBQ pork is so tender and delicious, with irresistible barbecue flavors and serious crowd-pleaser status. Make it ahead of time and reheat at camp for easy Pulled Pork Sliders , saucy nachos, and so much more. 

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas served in a dish with fresh limes and slices of jalapeno peppers.

Instant Pot Carnitas

Full of flavor with crispy edges, this shredded pork is endlessly versatile, which it the perfect make ahead camping food. Whip up a batch before you head out camping and store them in your cooler for quick and easy tacos, bowls, burritos, nachos, and more!

Coleslaw in a yellow dish.

With fresh, crisp cabbage in a creamy and tangy dressing, this coleslaw recipe is the perfect side for BBQ style meals. Serve with (or on!) pulled pork sandwiches, with hamburgers, alongside hot dogs, or on grilled chicken tacos! Make this one ahead of time and store in your cooler until you’re ready to eat.

Sloppy joes on a board.

Sloppy Joes

With warm and saucy ground beef served over soft rolls, this classic dinner is the perfect make ahead camping food.

Just make the sloppy joe filling ahead of time, place it in an airtight container, and pack it in your cooler.

At camp, just warm the filling back up and serve over rolls and one of these great sides for sloppy joes to make a complete rib-sticking dinner everyone will love!

Cinnamon rolls with icing in a Dutch oven

Dutch Oven Cinnamon Rolls

Soft homemade dough stuffed with cinnamon and sugar, then drizzled with sweet icing … these cinnamon rolls are incredible for enjoying at camp and are super easy to make ahead of time.

You have a couple of options for making these: 1) Premake the dough and assemble the rolls and cook at camp, or 2) Bake them at home and place them in a foil pan or Dutch oven to reheat over the campfire.

Either way, don’t forget to finish them with the delicious buttery glaze!

A blue bowl of red beans and rice with a Dutch oven in the background

Dutch Oven Red Beans and Rice

With hearty beans simmered in savory Creole spices and served over tender long-grain rice, this beans and rice recipe is going to hit the spot.

You can either prep your ingredients at home and make it easily at camp, or make it completely ahead of time and reheat. 

Two stacked breakfast sandwiches on a blue plate. A hand is picking one up.

Maple Sausage Breakfast Sandwiches

Homemade apple-maple sausage patties are juicy and delicious and can be made ahead of time! Cook them on your skillet or griddle along with fried eggs and layer them into toasted English muffins along with a slice of melty Swiss cheese. They’re definitely an excellent way to start the day! 

Two blue bowls of white bean chili on a table

White Bean Chili

Whip up a batch of this hearty white bean chili, then pack it up and bring it with you for a reheat-and-eat dinner.

Bonus: This chili tastes best a day or two after it’s made so the spices can really mingle together, making it extra perfect as a make-ahead camping meal!

Coconut chocolate granola dotted with raspberries in a green bowl

Coconut Chocolate Granola

Rib-sticking granola is an awesome make-ahead camping food! This decadent-tasting granola features protein-packed nuts, coconut, cacao powder, and more plus freeze-dried raspberries for a sweet berry touch. Just add milk!

A sweet potato black bean burger stacked between two buns, avocado, and spicy mayo on a plate with a natural backdrop.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

With hearty grated sweet potatoes, tender black beans, and Tex-Mex spices, these veggie burgers can’t be beat!

Make your patties ahead of time and store them in a large airtight container with waxed paper or parchment between the patties to prevent sticking.

Pull them out of your cooler when it’s time to grill and enjoy them on golden buns with spicy mayo and creamy avocado.

Potato salad in a red enamel bowl

Potato Salad

You’ll love having this classic potato salad at the ready for an easy side that goes so well with hot dogs, hamburgers, and more. Just assemble the salad at home and tuck it safely into your cooler for creamy, hearty potato salad bliss whenever you’re craving it.

Chicken Marbella in a Dutch oven over the campfire

Dutch Oven Chicken Marbella

How about a gourmet meal on your next camping trip? This elegant chicken dish with juicy thighs, olives, garlic, and bits of sweet chopped prunes can be mixed together at home, stored in your ice chest, and then cooked within 48 hours at your campsite. 

Four grilled chicken tacos on a plate with a green drinking glass in the background

Chipotle Grilled Chicken Tacos

Assemble the marinade at home for these easy chicken tacos with spicy chipotle and smoky cumin. Add the chicken to the marinade a couple of hours before mealtime, then cook the chicken and serve it up in warm corn tortillas with assorted toppings. Easy and delicious!

Grilled chicken pineapple kabobs on a blue camping plate

Chicken Pineapple Kabobs

With savory chicken, juicy sweet pineapple, and perfectly cooked red onion, these kabobs are a delicious make-ahead camping meal!

Just cut up the chicken and pineapple at home and store it in separate bags. Marinate the chicken a few hours before mealtime, build your kabobs, and grill!

Grilled veggie & chicken skewers on a blue camping plate.

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Veggies

Juicy chicken lined up with tender veggies makes an excellent camp dinner!

Prep ahead of time by cutting up the chicken and veggies at home and storing them in separate bags. Stir up the marinade and place it in a separate container.

Tuck it all in your ice chest, then marinate your chicken a few hours before mealtime. You can even make it a family affair when everyone laces their own kebabs exactly how they want them before grilling them to perfection.

Cheesy scrambled eggs and potatoes in a cast iron skillet

Mountain Breakfast Skillet

When you use frozen potato cubes and chop up your veggies before you leave home, this mountain breakfast skillet comes together quickly at camp–just scramble it up with eggs and, if you like, sausage and cheese. 

Red lentil sloppy joes on a blue camping plate with grilled corn.

One Pot Red Lentil Sloppy Joes

Vegetarians and vegans, come hither! These savory sloppy joes are entirely plant-based, made with protein-packed red lentils in a saucy base, served over golden toasted buns.

The filling is perfect for making ahead of time and reheating at camp, but it’s also super easy to prep the ingredients and the sauce at home, and then cook them at camp.

A foil tray of golden macaroni and cheese sits over an open campfire.

Campfire Mac and Cheese

Make your sauce and cook your pasta ahead of time, then pour it into a pan, smother with cheese, cover with foil, and place it in your cooler.

When it’s almost time for lunch or dinner, it’s time to warm your perfectly creamy and cheesy mac and cheese right over the fire! Who says you can’t have comfort food at the campsite?

A jar filled with layers of overnight oats, topped with fresh strawberries and banana slices, sits on a rustic wooden table surrounded by scattered ingredients.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats is an amazing camping breakfast hack! Just make these peanut butter oats the night before and store in your cooler for a super easy and hearty breakfast.

A pasta dish garnished with herbs, cherry tomatoes, ground meat, and olives, is placed on a rustic wooden table.

Cowboy Pasta Salad

This one’s truly a meal in a salad! With ground beef, bacon, corn, black beans, and pasta in a creamy southwestern-style sauce, this Tex-Mex-inspired pasta salad is the perfect make-ahead camping meal. Just store it in your cooler for a quick and easy no-cook lunch or dinner.

Grilled tofu skewers glazed with a savory sauce, accompanied by charred corn on the cob, all served on a rustic table basked in warm sunlight.

Another protein-packed option for meatless folk are these tangy tofu cutlets. A double dose of flavor in the form of spice rub + barbecue sauce makes these tofu hunks so tasty!

Prep the tofu by threading it onto skewers and brushing it with the dry rub ahead of time, then storing in your cooler until it’s time to grill them.

A freshly made egg salad sandwich with creamy filling, crisp lettuce, and soft bread is displayed close-up, surrounded by tomatoes.

Make this egg salad ahead of time and store in your cooler for easy sandwiches, wraps, or lettuce cups. This one’s a great protein-packed option for the vegetarians in the family, too.

A colorful bowl contains chicken salad adorned with red grape halves, chopped celery, green onions, and walnuts.

Chicken Salad

Tangy Greek yogurt lightens up this creamy chicken salad. This is a great make-ahead camping recipe for easy lunches and light dinners–just add a scoop to sandwiches or wraps for a satisfying meal. 

A tray holds chicken salad sandwiches on whole grain bread, layered with lettuce.

Creamy classic tuna salad is a great make ahead camping food, especially for simple and hearty lunches! Assemble this tuna salad ahead of time and pack in your cooler for easy sandwiches or wraps at camp.

A bowl, vibrant and colorful, holds black beans and corn salad garnished with fresh slices of avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Black beans, corn, and crisp veggies mingle with creamy avocado and a zesty lime salad dressing for the perfect accompaniment to Tex-Mex meals or a light lunch all on its own. Make this one ahead of time, then just add the avocado right before serving.

A foil-wrapped breakfast burrito filled with eggs, sausage, beans, and cheese.

Breakfast Burritos

These make-ahead breakfast burritos have it all! Eggs, sausage, turkey bacon, hash browns–a full meal deal wrapped in a tortilla! Make them ahead of time and wrap them in foil for quick reheating at your campsite when it’s time for breakfast.

A serving spoon scoops up a portion of sticky, caramelized shredded chicken, highlighting the glazed texture and sauce-coated meat strands.

BBQ Chicken

This saucy BBQ chicken recipe is perfect for making ahead of time! It cooks up in less than 30 minutes, and can be packed away in your cooler until you’re ready to eat. Warm it back up at camp and use it in wraps, on sandwiches, or over an epic batch of nachos .

A close-up reveals vibrant, colorful egg muffins containing spinach, tomatoes, and cheese, perfectly baked.

Breakfast Egg Muffins

Egg muffins are such a great meal-prep breakfast option, and they’re great for camping too! Make them ahead of time and serve them cold or reheated at camp–they’re delicious either way. This egg muffin recipe features tomatoes, bell pepper, spinach, and feta for loads of flavor and nutrients, too.

Homemade granola with oats, pecans, and dried cranberries is laid out on a baking sheet.

With oats, plenty of nuts, dried fruit, and several ways to customize it, this granola recipe is a great make-ahead camping food. Store it in an airtight container and serve it with yogurt or milk and plenty of fresh fruit for a satiating breakfast.

An Asian-inspired salad in a clear glass bowl is garnished with crispy wonton strips, featuring a colorful mix of shredded cabbage, carrots, and sesame seeds.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Colorful veggies, hearty chicken and a tangy dressing make up this delicious salad with an Asian spin.

To make it ahead of time, prep the ingredients by cooking and chopping the chicken and salad ingredients and whipping up a batch of the dressing at home. Store the salad and dressing separately in your cooler, then toss it all together at camp when you’re ready to eat!

A vibrant plate showcases tortellini, cherry tomatoes, diced ham, and artichokes sprinkled with chopped parsley and dusted with grated cheese, accompanied by gold forks.

Italian Tortellini Salad

Make this one ahead of time and store it in the cooler for fresh, easy pasta salad whenever you want it! This one features cheese tortellini with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, salami, artichokes, and more to bring a little Mediterranean flavor to your trip.

A plump double tofu cheeseburger with fresh lettuce on a toasted bun.

Grillable Tofu Burgers

It can be difficult to find grillable veggie burgers, but this burger recipe solves that problem. These sturdy patties can be shaped and marinated ahead of time so all you have to do at camp is throw them on the grill!

Freshly baked muffins with visible fruit and nut pieces are arranged on a teal napkin against a soft-focus background.

Morning Glory Muffins

Some muffins seem more like cupcakes than muffins, but these morning glory muffins are NOT an example of that. They’re super hearty and packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients from whole wheat flour, flax, carrots, apples, and more! These muffins are absolutely still tender and delicious, though (and excellent with a cup of camp coffee !) 

Avocado toast with a hard-boiled egg, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs rests on a dark plate.

Avocado Toast with Hard Boiled Eggs

For a hearty and delicious breakfast, top your usual avocado toast with sliced hard-boiled eggs! Hard-boiled eggs are protein-packed and perfectly portable, which makes them the ideal make ahead camping food. 

A bowl is filled with chili, topped by shredded cheese, a scoop of sour cream, diced red onions, and fresh cilantro; a golden spoon rests beside it.

Lentil Chili

Lentils and beans bulk up this full-of-flavor chili that makes the best make-ahead camping meal! Just cook it ahead of time and reheat at camp for a hearty meatless meal.

A grilled cheeseburger with lettuce and onions on a sesame seed bun, served with pickles and sliced onions on a wooden plate.

These juicy, perfectly formed hamburger patties can be made ahead of time for a convenient and delicious camping meal. Just store them in an airtight container with parchment or waxed paper between the patties to prevent sticking while stored. Then cook them up at camp and serve them with soft buns and assorted toppings for a crowd-pleasing and easy camp meal! 

A freshly baked enchilada dish garnished with avocado, cilantro, and a lime wedge is displayed.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

These cheesy chicken enchiladas are super easy to prep at home. Layer them into a foil pan and pack it in your cooler, then just heat them up at your campsite on your grill!

Grilled pineapple and tofu skewers are adorned with fresh cilantro and lime wedges, accompanied by a side of creamy dipping sauce.

Pineapple Tofu Skewers

Juicy pineapple and spicy tofu are a perfect match! This one’s perfect for prepping at home, too. Just marinate the tofu at home, pack it in your cooler, then assemble and grill at camp!

A banh mi sandwich is presented on a wooden table, showcasing a toasted baguette filled with grilled meats, pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, jalapeño slices and accompanied by lime wedges.

Grilled Banh Mi Sandwich

Whip up the marinade for these Bahn Mi sandwiches at home, prep the pork and the pickled veggies, and make the chili mayo. Store all of the elements separately in your cooler, then, the morning of the meal, add the marinade to the pork. Marinate for 6-8 hours, then grill and assemble your incredible (and incredibly easy) camping-friendly Bahn Mi sandwiches!

Grilled kebabs, cucumber tomato salad, and tzatziki sauce are presented on a white platter, accented with lemon wedges and herbs.

Grilled Lamb Kofta

These juicy kabobs are so delicious and it’s easy to prep them at home! Just make the meat mixture at home and form it into shapes. Once you’re at camp, thread the meat onto your skewers and grill to perfection!

Three chicken tacos garnished with pineapple salsa and fresh cilantro are served in soft tortillas.

Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Juicy chicken served up in tortillas with a sweet and spicy pineapple salsa? Yes, please! These tacos are fast, easy, and delicious.

To make them ahead of time, make the salsa and the marinade without the lime juice, then add the chicken and store it that way. About 20 minutes before mealtime, add the lime juice so it can do its thing. Cook up your tacos and enjoy!

Blondie squares in a Dutch oven

Dutch Oven Blondies

This sweet treat is so fun to bake at camp! To make them ahead of time, mix up the batter at home and place it in your ice chest. At camp, build your fire, line your Dutch oven with parchment paper, and spread the batter in the pot. Bake until caramelly, melty perfection! 

Negroni cocktail in a mason jar on a table in front of a campfire.

Make ahead cocktails

Mix up a big batch of your favorite cocktail at home and leave all the bottles behind! Negonis are our favorite make-ahead camping cocktail. Premix the cocktail and keep it in a mason jar, then when it’s cocktail hour, just pour over ice, garnish with an orange slice, and sip away!

A close-up of two mugs of marshmallow-topped hot cocoa.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot cocoa is a camping must, and it’s even better when you bring homemade hot cocoa mix! This hot cocoa mix whisks together with hot water for fast, chocolatey camp warm-ups. Top with dehydrated marshmallows for the full hot cocoa experience! 

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Megan & Michael are the creators of Fresh Off The Grid, a blog dedicated to helping you fuel your adventures by sharing camp cooking recipes, backpacking meals, and outdoor travel guides. Their recipes and outdoor cooking expertise have been featured in Backpacker Magazine, Outside, REI Co-Op Journal, Food & Wine, and New York Times Cooking.

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A Complete Beginners Guide to Packing for a Camping Trip

By Oscar Hartzog

Oscar Hartzog

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.

It happens often: First-time campers head into the wilderness with a tent and a sleeping bag , ready for a few relaxing days outside. And then, within a couple of hours, they realize they’ve severely under-packed. From kitchen supplies to warm sleeping gear to bug spray, there’s a lot to remember when packing for a camping trip. It can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry: It’s totally manageable and gets exponentially easier with each trip.

Beginner Camping Gear Checklist

If you’re heading out on your first or second camping trip, we’re here to help. Below is a complete checklist of camping gear for beginners, including all the essentials for your tent , camp kitchen, and wardrobe. We’ve included links to our top pick for each item — all available from trusted brands with at least a 4/5-star average rating.

Campsite Gear

The most important part of your camping trip is, of course, the campsite. If you’re buying a tent , always air on the side of too large instead of too small, and be sure to pick one that’s easy to set up if you’re new to pitching a tent. As for your sleeping setup, find a sleeping bag that matches the lowest nighttime temperature in your destination. Summer sleeping bags are good for 30°F and higher, three-season bags are for 15°F to 30°F, and winter bags are for 15°F and colder. A sleeping pad and pillow are also a must, and camping chairs make a huge upgrade for mornings and evenings lounging by the fire.

Tent : Big Agnes Bunk House 6 Tent, $489.99

Sleeping Bag : The North Face Wawona Bed 20 Sleeping Bag, $78

Sleeping Pad : NEMO Quasar 3D Insulated Sleeping Pad, $119.99

Camping Pillow : NEMO Fillo Camping Pillow, $33.74

Lantern : Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern & USB Power Hub, $69.99

Camp chairs : Helinox Savanna Chair, $164.96

Natural Bug Spray : Murphy’s Naturals Insect Repellent Spray (2-pack), $19.98

Tools & Personal Gear

One easy way to be more prepared is to invest in a few basic tools, starting with a reliable multi-tool. Leatherman is really the only name in this category, so pick up one of those if you don’t already own one. You’ll also need a headlamp , a first-aid kit , and duct tape (this comes in handy shockingly often). Also, be sure to find out if there’s firewood available; if not, bring an axe to get your own.

Multi-Tool : Leatherman Wave+, $119.99

Headlamp : Black Diamond Astro 300 Headlamp, $19.95

Axe : Hults Bruk Almike All-Purpose Hatchet, $154

Duct Tape : The Original Duck Brand Duct Tape, $7.95

First-Aid Kit : First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit, $16.46

Camping Duffel : NEMO Double Haul 55L Convertible Duffel & Tote, $134.96

Food, Water & Cooking Gear

Kitchen supplies are sometimes neglected by beginner campers, and hungry campers are not happy ones. Be sure to pick up a portable stove or grill , as well as a pot and/or pan , a cooking knife , and serving utensils . Also, maybe most important is a large, reliable cooler .

Stove or Grill : Coleman Cascade 3-in-1 Stove, $209.99

Cooler : Yeti Roadie 60, $450

Pan/Pan : TOAKS Titanium Pot with Pan, $54.95

Utensils : UCO Utility Spork 3-in-1 Combo (4-pack), $10.99

Knife : Camp Chef Deluxe Knife Set, $69.99

Cups : Coleman 12oz Enamel Coffee Mug, $9.24

Water Filter : LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Outdoor Apparel

As with most outdoor activities, layers are the name of the game when figuring out your camping wardrobe. Even if you’re camping in the summer, be sure to bring thermal underwear and a warm jacket, as well as regular outdoor clothing and shoes. Mornings and nights out in the wild are beautiful, but they’re also colder than most beginners realize.

Long-sleeve Tee: Men’s Free Fly Bamboo Lightweight Hoodie, $74

Women’s Free Fly Women’s Bamboo Shade Hoodie II, $74

Hiking Shoes : On Cloudhorizon Waterproof Hiking Shoes, $189.99

Wool Socks : Darn Tough Critter Club Micro Crew Lightweight Socks, $24

Thermal Underwear : Men’s Smartwool Merino Baselayer Top, $115 / Bottoms, $90

Women’s Smartwool Merino Baselayer Top, $115 / Bottoms, $115

Warm Jacket : Men’s Patagonia Down Sweater, $279

Women’s Patagonia Down Sweater, $329

Nadal vs. Zverev Livestream: How to Watch the French Open First Round Tennis Match Online Free

  • By Tim Chan

21 Swimsuits You’ll Wear All Summer Long 

  • Beach Season
  • By Anamaria Glavan

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The 22 Best Summer Dresses That Are Also Easy to Pack

  • Pack smarter not harder

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I’ve Worked at a Campsite for 5 Years—These Are the 15 Mistakes Every Camper Should Avoid

What you really need to know before heading to a campsite.

H ot dog buns. It sounds funny, but when people ask me what they need to pack for camping, that's one of the first things I always say—because they are consistently one of the most common items my campers forget. Everyone remembers the hot dogs for roasting, but not the buns for putting them in. As a result, we end up selling an unbelievable amount of hot dog buns at our camp store during camping season! But that's just one of the common camping mistakes I see—and one of the camping tips I’ve learned over the years.

I didn't grow up as a camper. In fact, it wasn't until I met my now-husband, Alan, in college that I decided to even try sleeping anywhere that wasn't a bed. But as I fell in love with him, I also fell in love with the great outdoors, and in 2019, we purchased a KOA campsite in Brattleboro, Vermont, that we own and manage together nine months out of the year. To accommodate every level and style of camper, we have camper cabins, campsites for tent camping and spots for RV camping. So believe me when I say I've seen it all and learned a lot along the way, including the rude habits other campers dislike .

Whether you're a  camping newbie looking to get started or a veteran camper in search of new camping hacks , you’re about to learn something here. And it will make your next camping trip so much better.

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Not doing a "shakedown trip"

A shakedown trip is a dry run of your camping trip, with all your equipment but close to home. This way, you can test out everything, see if you're missing any items and—most important—make sure you know how to put up your tent. I've seen too many campers show up with brand-new camping gear and equipment still in the box and have absolutely no idea how to use it. I've also seen seasoned campers who've forgotten the tent stakes because they haven't checked the bag since the previous season.

Do this instea d: Do a practice run with all your equipment, set everything up, turn it all on and off, and make sure it's all in good condition. Yes, it will take an extra couple of hours, but it's better to spend the time before you leave rather than scramble once you get to the campsite because your camp stove is broken. This is one of the best camping tips you'll ever learn.

Walking through occupied campsites

Want to start a fight with a stranger? The fastest way to make an enemy while camping is to cut through another person's campsite. When you pay for a site, it is reserved just for your use, and it's reasonable to expect others to treat it as your property for that period of time. It's also a safety issue: Wandering through unfamiliar campsites can lead to tripping over an invisible guy line (those cords that extend from a tent to stakes in the ground) or getting bitten by a dog.

Do this instead: Always stick to the official trails. We make sure that there are clearly marked paths to each campsite, so there's no need for shortcuts. This is also time to remind you to stick to official hiking trails too, though for different reasons.

Leaving food or deodorant in your tent

There are bears near our campsite, but even if large mammals aren't a concern, raccoons, opossums, mice and other critters love a free feast—and your tent wall is not going to stop them from pigging out. Fun fact: Animals don't generally differentiate between chips-as-food and toothpaste-as-food. Anything scented can draw their attention, and that's especially true of bears. By the way, here's  what to do if you see a bear .

Do this instead: If you're camping in an area with bears, it's important to follow all campsite rules for storing food and hygiene items. This usually means storing them high up in a tree in a "bear bag" or on the ground in a "bear box," as bears have been known to break into cars too. Otherwise, make sure all food is packaged and put away in your car. Don't leave food unattended out on tables or in your tent or pack.

What should you do with your garbage? Most campsites have critter-proof garbage cans, so make sure to dispose of your trash in the proper receptacles. (It may mean driving your garbage to the designated disposal area.) Some campsites require you to pack out your own garbage, however, so ask the camp host when you arrive, or check the website for the specific guidelines.

Using plastic tent stakes

First things first: Remember to pack your tent stakes! They're usually stored in a separate bag from the tent, so they're easy to forget, and not having them will make putting up your tent nearly impossible. That said, it may be worth upgrading your tent stakes if the ones that came with your tent are plastic. The point of staking your tent down is to keep it stable in storms, and plastic breaks and bends easily.

Do this instead: At the very least, check to make sure all your tent stakes are accounted for and not broken. To be really safe, buy metal tent stakes. (You can find them at any camping store or online.) Pro camping tip: Don't forget a small rubber mallet to pound them into the ground with. A rock is a surefire way to bend the stake and smash your toe.

Not bringing enough bug spray

The outdoors are full of bite-y bugs, and your best defense against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and other pests is a bug spray with DEET. While most campers do remember to bring one can, they often underestimate how much bug spray they'll need. Same goes for sunscreen—the more time you are spending outdoors, the more sunscreen you will go through, and a family can easily go through a whole bottle in one day at the lake.

Do this instead: I recommend bringing at least a couple cans of bug spray if you're staying for a weekend, and more for longer stays or larger groups. It's also a good idea to bring at least one backup bottle of sunscreen. Don't stress, though—if you run out, most campsite stores carry them. Just know they will be more expensive.

Underestimating the weather

Of course you know that there are no air conditioners or heaters in the wilderness, but most of us are so used to central air that we underestimate how much the temperature swings and what that feels like. For instance, in June, it's not uncommon for our campsite to be near 80 degrees in the daytime and 40 degrees at night. Not understanding this means too many campers end up shivering in the evening. Weather also often changes quickly, going from warm and sunny to thunderstorms in minutes.

Do this instead: Make sure your sleeping bag is rated for the climate you will be camping in. Check the website a few days in advance for the weather report. And pack at least one warm jacket or coat, a hat, a rain jacket or umbrella, and a rain fly for your tent.

Forgetting propane

Two common mistakes made by people in all types of RVs ? Forgetting to refill their propane tanks or not bringing enough propane. Propane isn't just used for cooking, after all—you'll need it for heating water and for heating and cooling the RV too. Tent campers should also bring smaller propane bottles that work with their camp stove.

Do this instead : Check the propane tank level before you leave, and get it refilled if necessary. For camp stoves, bring an extra propane bottle. If you run out, your camp host will be able to tell you a spot nearby to fill up.

Not dressing in layers

Even if it's sunny and warm your entire trip, you'll likely need more than a T-shirt and shorts to be comfy and safe. Yet we see too many campers show up with nothing but clothing for the beach. Bringing some different options will help you adjust to the temperature—plus, dressing in layers is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the sun on very hot days. It can also help you avoid scrapes, bug bites and other outdoor hazards. To be comfy, you'll want to start out in the cool of the morning with pants and a sweatshirt. You'll find yourself shedding layers throughout the day and then adding them back on when the sun sets.

Do this instead: Pack at least one pair of durable pants, a long-sleeve top, a warm jacket or sweater, a sun hat and a swimsuit so you can be prepared for anything throughout the day. While we're on the topic of clothing, don't forget to bring hiking boots and socks.

Traveling with firewood

You may want to bring your own wood to burn in the campfire—perhaps you have extra wood lying around the garage, or you know a place to get it for free—but this is a bad idea. First, many woods used in construction are treated with chemicals that become toxic when burned. Second, it's illegal in most places. Due to invasive insect species that travel in wood and kill trees, most states now have laws that prohibit bringing firewood across state lines.

Do this instead: Plan to buy your firewood from the camp host on site or from a local gas station or camp store. All firewood should be kiln-dried to make sure it's bug-free—not to mention, it will burn better.

Improperly storing perishable food

Camp meals can be one of the best parts of camping. There's just something about being outdoors that makes everything taste ah-mazing—but not if you end up with food poisoning. There are no fridges at most campsites (not even for the rangers, so don't ask), and RV fridges can be less than reliable. This means if you're bringing meat (including lunch meat), seafood, milk, yogurt or other perishable items, you'll need to be extra cautious about food safety.

Do this instead: Check to make sure your RV fridge is in good working order before leaving home. Bring a food-grade cooler and enough ice to keep it cold. If you're staying more than a day or two, you'll need to buy more ice to restock the cooler. Check at the campsite store or local gas stations.

Forgetting basic cooking staples

Salt and pepper can make a huge difference in the flavor of your food, but while these staples are close at hand at home, many people forget to pack spices and seasonings for camping. Same goes for cooking oils and utensils such as knives, cutting boards, napkins, measuring cups and spatulas.

Do this instead: Buy a separate set of salt and pepper shakers to keep with your camping supplies. If you camp often, buy a separate set of camp dishes, pots and utensils that you keep with your gear. This is one of the camping tips that will make your life so much easier. For people who only do the occasional trip, have a master checklist that you can print out and go through before every trip. (While you're at it, include a small broom, dish soap and sanitizing wipes.)

Letting your dog roam free

Camping with pets ? Bringing a furry friend can add a lot of fun to your trip. Things feel more free outdoors, and they generally are, so it makes sense that you'd want to give your pet a wider range to roam. Lots of people want to let their dogs off-leash while hiking or at their campsite, but I cannot warn against this enough! This is a recipe for a lost dog, a dog bite or (tragically) a mauled dog. Wandering dogs can also get into fights, make a mess by pooping on trails or eat unattended food that could be bad for them.

Do this instead : Keep your dog on a leash or tie-out that keeps them within the range of your campsite at all times. Bring extra food and water, since they'll be working extra hard to regulate their body temperature as well. And whatever you do, never leave a dog or other pet unattended at your campsite.

Plus: These dog camping gear essentials might come in handy.

Planning on a campfire

What's camping without a warm, crackling campfire? Unfortunately, with droughts continuing in many parts of the country, this beloved tradition isn't always safe, and many campsites are under a burn ban. There are different levels of burn bans with different restrictions—for instance, you may be able to use a lit stove to cook your food but not have a fire.

Do this instead: Check with the camp host upon arrival or check the website a few days before your trip to make sure you're up to date on any fire restrictions in your area. Then follow the rules to the letter, even if it means your campfire stories are a little chillier than normal!

Arriving after dusk

It's easy to get a late start, and travel plans can change unexpectedly, but these things have more consequences when you're camping. Arriving close to dusk or after dark will make it really difficult to set up your campsite. Thinking about using your car to shed some light? One of the top annoyances reported by campers is someone else's car headlights beaming directly into their tent.

Do this instead: Plan ahead so you arrive with plenty of daylight to get your site set up. It can be done in the dark, but if you can avoid it, you'll be glad you did! If setting up your own campsite sounds too tedious, you can always check out luxury camping . You'll still want to follow these camping tips, of course, but certain aspects of your experience will be easier, not to mention a little less rustic.

Being noisy during quiet hours

Most campsites have rules, including when you're allowed to play music from speakers, sing or talk loudly. Sure, you might enjoy dancing, laughing and singing campfire songs till the wee hours of the morning, but your neighbors with a baby may not, and noise carries easily through thin tent or RV walls.

Do this instead: Know the campsite rules, and follow them. Generally, this means trying to be quiet between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. If the ranger or campsite host asks you to quiet down or comply with a different rule (like parking in the designated areas), don't argue, and do your best to accommodate it.

Kathryn Berta is the co-owner of a KOA campsite in Brattleboro, Vermont . It was voted a Top 10 Campground by USA Today's 10 Best in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The post I’ve Worked at a Campsite for 5 Years—These Are the 15 Mistakes Every Camper Should Avoid appeared first on Reader's Digest .

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The 5 things you need for any camping trip, per experts.

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Heading into the great outdoors can be an exhilarating experience, offering a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, to truly enjoy your camping adventure , proper preparation is essential.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or planning your first outing, knowing what to pack can make or break your trip. To help you get it right, we spoke with Nick Madrick, the COO of M22 , a renowned company specializing in outdoor gear and adventures.

Drawing on his extensive expertise, Nick shares the five essential items you need to ensure your camping trip is both safe and enjoyable. From must-have gear to practical tips, our expert-fueled guide will prepare you for any road trip or wilderness excursion.

GSI Outdoors Santoku Knife Set

for camping trip

“This is literally the only knife set you’ll need for the rest of your life,” Madrick rhapsodized. “These knives are so sharp they can cut through anything. Well, maybe not anything but there is not a type of food that they can’t slice through. You’ll want to cook more by just owning this set. The travel pouch comes with a small cutting board, cleaning cloth, sharpener, and three different knives for all your cooking needs.”

Fanttik X9 Ultra Portable Tire Inflator

for camping trip

“Is this the best mobile power station ever? It just might be,” Madrick mused. “Not only can this recharge your phone, computer, and drone, and act as a flashlight, but in the event you need to air up your tires after hitting the trail it can successfully and quickly bring all four tires from mid-20 psi to 35 psi in just a matter of minutes. It might be small but it delivers some serious power when out on the road.”

UCO Flatpack Portable Stainless Steel Grill and Fire Pit

for camping trip

“I traded in carrying around my computer bag for this mobile fire pit and I couldn’t be happier with my choice,” Madrick raved. “I can literally have a campfire anywhere I go. This pop-up fire pit is not only extremely well-built but it packs down into a small carrying bag. It comes with grill inserts if you want to cook over the fire or coals.”

Heavy-Duty Roll-Top Table

for camping trip

“I’ve sat behind a lot of tables in my life and this is by far my favorite,” Madrick said. “This table acts as a desk during the day and a dining table by night. It easily folds up so you can take it anywhere with you on a road trip. Who doesn’t like looking up from their computer and seeing the mountains when working mobile?”

M22 Camp Cup

for camping trip

“I’ve tested every single drink you can imagine in this cup,” Madrick explained. “Sunrise coffee, afternoon wine, sunset cocktails, and even tea before bed. This 12oz cup continues to hold not only great tasting beverages for me while I’m on the road but it keeps my hot drinks hot and my cold drinks cold. This is the only cup you’ll need on your next road trip. Rinse with water and repeat.”

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28 Camping Items To Bring On Your Next Trip That Reviewers Say Are Absolute Lifesavers

Practical necessities and extras for making the most of the great outdoors.

Rachel Dunkel

BuzzFeed Contributor

Kaila Browner

BuzzFeed Staff

1. A LifeStraw personal water filter over 95,000 5-star raters vouch for if you need a little peace of mind for a "just in case" water filtration situation. This little device allows you to safely drink from any water source and is small enough to tote along anywhere.

reviewer drinking out of a stream from a lifestraw

The straw's microfiltration membrane eliminates bacteria and parasites so you can safely drink from any available water source without worry.

Note: if you’re immunocompromised, be sure to read all the package instructions to make sure it’s safe for you.

Promising review: "The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is a must-have for any outdoor enthusiast. It's perfect for hiking with its reliable 5-star performance, keeping me hydrated wherever I go. The lightweight design makes it easy to carry. While the flavor of water isn't perfect (4 out of 5), its unparalleled filtration makes up for it. Overall, a lifesaver for camping, travel, and emergencies!" — Ana Cunha

Get it from Amazon for   $15.78  (available in three colors).

2. A fire-starting necklace  that features an ambidextrous steel striker and a ferrocerium rod for creating fire as quickly possible. Holding the ability to create flame right around your neck... What power! What responsibility! 

reviewer wearing fire starter necklace

Promising review: " Looks great and a lifesaver in the worst situations.  This necklace is great! Chord works very well for burning. A nice slow burn, but not very wind-resistant. Ferrocerium rod is small and is wear-resistant when not in use. The striker is sharp and can saw through chord. You’ll have to burn the ends of the knots to keep it from coming untied. Only gripe I have is paint wears off the striker pretty fast and I’m allergic to metal so I have to constantly repaint it. But I’d rather do that and have it just in case than not have it." — Brian Gabrielson

Get it from Amazon for $6.99  (available in four colors and a multipack option).

3. A pack of two  LED headlamps  so you (and a friend!) can always ensure the path ahead is illuminated. Whether it's just in case for a late-night hike, finding your way to the bathroom at 2 a.m., or reading in your tent, it's always a good idea to have one of these bad boys nearby. 

reviewer wearing the head lamp that has been turned on

It operates using three AAA batteries .

Promising review: "These headlamps are excellent. I’ve been working on my roof at night and they are a lifesaver. They work really well." — Brendan Hughes

Get them from Amazon for $19.99 .

4. A thermal emergency sleeping bag  to keep on-hand just in case. It comes with a whistle, and can keep you warm in temperatures as low as 14 degrees. While it won't be the most comfortable for regular overnights, weighing in at just 4.1 ounces, why not bring it along?

a reviewer holding the thermal sleeping package

Promising review: "This Life Bivy arrived on time and in perfect condition. It offers the best features (size, weight, function) of all the many others I researched before buying it. I hope I never need it in an emergency but I'm confident it will be a real lifesaver if I do need it. " — Mishelle J.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99+  (available in four colors and in a two-pack option).

5. A  tube of blister balm  so you can avoid any dreaded foot pain caused by friction on hikes to and from camp. Even with outdoor shoes that really work for me, I always swipe some of this on to make doubly sure my feet stay A-OK.

model applying anti-blister stick to the back of their heel

Promising reviews: " Not to be dramatic, but this is the best thing I’ve ever owned. I used to get blisters every time I wore my dress shoes, but in the year I’ve been using this product I haven’t gotten a single one. Absolute lifesaver. " — Julia

Get it from Amazon for $8.99 .

6. An inflatable  sleeping pad  to ensure you get the best night of rest that you can. Let's make sure you're sleeping LIKE a rock instead of ON a rock. 

reviewer holding sleeping pad in hand while it is rolled up

Promising review: " This sleeping pad was a LIFESAVER. I used it to hike Crow Pass in Alaska and will be doing Caines Head with it this weekend. It weighs next to nothing, which is great for backpacking. It stores much smaller than [other] lightweight foam sleep pads. And I was able to set up camp in a rocky area and it got no punctures and I still managed to get a good night sleep." — Stephanie M.

Get it from Amazon for $30.99  (available in four colors).

7. A set of marshmallow (or hot dog!) roasting sticks  that telescope all the way out to 34 inches for campfire time. Goodbye, singed knuckle hair! But don't worry, they collapse back to 10 inches for easy storage. 

The set of six two-prong sticks

Each one has a different color at its base, so you always know whose stick is whose. And because it has two prongs, marshmallows don't spin on the stick when they get extra gooey, making it easier to get that perfectly even caramelized crunchy layer.

Promising review: "These lightweight roasting sticks are a lifesaver! I enjoy being able to turn them effortlessly so the entire marshmallow gets that nice crust from the flame. The colors helped us from using someone else’s stick haha! Must-haves for any bonfire! They roast hot dogs well, too." — PAJ

Get them from Amazon for $14.97+  (available in a six-pack, eight-pack, or 10-pack). 

8. A waterproof tent tarp  you can set up in case of rain or for a little shade if you want to take a little rest during the day. Versatility is key when it comes to gear. 

tarp covered over hammock

Promising review: "Small when folded and is lightweight. Very versatile and could be a lifesaver. " — Ssssnice

Get it from Amazon for $25.99+  (available in four colors and two sizes).

9. A portable Radiate campfire  for a bit of extra warmth, light, and entertainment no matter the conditions. It burns for up to five hours and is waterproof, wind-proof, and can even light when wet with no smoke or embers. We call this "camping TV."

Hand holding the 8-inch cake-pan sized lidded tin, that says

Once you light it, it'll stay lit with no maintenance — until you're ready to put it out, of course, by snuffing it with the tin's lid. It's made from 100% recycled soy wax and paper briquettes. One reviewer also mentions they add more soy wax every time it gets low to extend its life. Oh, and if that's not enough, Radiate's a small business that mainly focuses on these portable campfires!

Promising reviews:  "Lifesaver. Set off on a winter climb a few weeks ago. As I was putting my gear together knowingly going into cold temps, I decided I would throw the Radiant campfire into my pack. Typically, I would not even consider packing this at 4 pounds, but for some reason I did. It paid dividends! Me and my climbing buddy got in a tight situation and ended up having to put up an emergency shelter and used this to stay warm dry out and continue our climb. It’s amazing, I’ve used these many times in the past with flames that get 2 and 3 feet high, it’s an awesome fire for roughly 2–3 hours. This time though, we fought off hypothermia with it. Truly saved our trip. Excellent purchase." — Jordan R. Coons

Get it from Amazon for  $25.99  (also available in packs of two and four).

10. A portable, hand-operated espresso machine  that whips up the good stuff (yes, even the crema!) using just a little bit of boiling water and a pump mechanism — no electricity or stovetop required. *Swoon*

The espresso maker

Promising review: " A lifesaver on chilly mornings when camping.  Bought this for backpacking and lightweight camping, and I'm glad I did! Works great for one person, might want to consider the larger size for two people. It's light and compact, easy to rinse out with any remaining hot water you have." — Matt G.

Get it from Amazon for $54.90 .

11. A portable solar-powered light and charger  to ensure you have access to your devices (ahem, GPS) and can see thanks to the light of the good 'ol sun. 

The light charging a phone

Promising review: "Amazing product. I bought a couple last year...just in case...and I brought camping a couple of times...thought it might be good for a hurricane. Well, my family and I took a trip to a farm in Latin America and on the third day we lost power for 10 hours at 8 p.m. This was a sanity / lifesaver with my wife and kids. We cooked, read, and slept with these. Amazing." — Christopher

Get it from Amazon for $49.95+  (available in three styles).

12. A magical sand-sifting mat  that lets sand pass right through the top without it coming back up through the bottom. Useful on any trip, but especially beach camping trips. Consider one of the biggest annoyances dealt with. 

Overhead shot of the blue mat with two people sitting on it and plenty of room for their stuff

Promising review: "This is a beach lifesaver. Such a cool sandless concept! Definitely made our trip to the beach less messy. The 10x10 size is heavy, you will need a carrying bag. It comes with a very flimsy clear snap bag, but it's very poorly made and broke the first time we took it out of the bag. But the mat is great! Well worth the money. Definitely take plunge and invest!" — TSB

Get it from Amazon for $64.99+ (available in four sizes and three colors).

13. A full-fledged propane camp stove/oven  if you're looking to chef it up on the range. Treat your campmates to flapjacks, coffee, bacon, muffins...Wait, my stomach is rumbling.  

The oven on a camp table; there's coffee on the stove and the oven's open to show a tray of cinnamon rolls

Promising review: "I purchased the Camp Chef Deluxe Outdoor Oven in preparation for hurricane season. We were left without electricity for over a week after Hurricane Florence swept through Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (Jacksonville, North Carolina). This was the second time we had been displaced by a hurricane in three years. Having this then would have been ideal. Doing my search, I didn't know a camp oven even existed, so I was excited to see that this one did. I looked at several comparable outdoor ovens, and this one was the one I was drawn to and the one with the best reviews. With a family of six, this was a lifesaver. I had my first opportunity to use it after we lost power when Hurricane Dorian went through. Literally, two nights ago!!" — Buddy

Get it from Amazon for $289.99 .

14. A pack of cleansing wipes so you can freshen up a little bit between showers, much to the satisfaction of your campmates' noses...and your own, honestly.

wipes in their flexible plastic container

Promising review: "I used these on a four-day backpacking trip in Yosemite. Real lifesavers — big enough and moist enough to replace a mini shower. I will always have these on hand." — Alan Studley

Get a 25-pack from Amazon for  $8.99 . 

15. A basic tarp that'll come in handy in more ways than you can imagine, but for starters as a tent footprint, shady cover for your picnic table , or a little rain shelter if you're in a pinch.

blue tarp rolled up in packaging

Promising reviews: "We used this on a recent camping trip and were very satisfied with its usefulness and construction. We tied it up into several trees for shade from the sun and rain later that day. It's a very versatile item — we used it to cover the ground during a yard sale and then to cover up a small site we were working on outdoors." — G. Harts

"We’re using this as a puppy pen floor protector and it has honestly been a lifesaver! Best $6 we’ve spent so far with all the new dog items we’ve have to buy. The puppies try to dig in it and eat the grommets but this thing has held up like a champ and more importantly, our nice wood floors are protected from accidents while we work on potty training." — Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $8+ (available in four sizes).

16. A pack of Alpine Start , aka the most delicious instant coffee in the land. I know what you're thinking, but believe me, it HITS. I tried it for backpacking trips and ended up loving it so much that I keep it on hand in my house all the time for mornings when I'm feeling lazy and need some java. Yes, that's every morning, get off my case.

Hand holding a packet of Alpine Start Original Blend instant coffee on a mountain trail

It's available in single-serve packs, but I recommend splurging for the 3.3-ounce pack. Better value and super easy to dose into a mug or decant yourself. 

Promising review:  "This coffee is my lifesaver. The sticks travel everywhere so easily for when i need a pick-me-up. I can use it in the airport, camping, office and even in my car! Because the grounds are so fine, they easily blend with any temperature water. The flavor is great and they couldn't be easier to use. And $1 a pop! Thanks for existing, Alpine Start Coffee!" — Paul Taylor Coffroth

Get it from Amazon for   $9.99+ (available in three packages and sizes). 

17. A cot and air mattress that over 11,500 people have given a 5-star rating if sleeping on the hard ground is a hard no from you. Sleeping under the stars is rad, but sleeping in a BED under the stars? Unbeatable.

models on an inflatable Coleman mattress on a stand

Promising review: "Love this! I’m an avid camper and usually sleep on an air mattress on the ground. We bought this bed and it is a lifesaver for my husband‘s back. A definite must buy!" — Rachael Hagen

Get it from Amazon for $130.28+ (available in twin and queen sizes).

18. A multipurpose Buff you can wear tons of different ways to protect your neck and head from the sun or the cold thanks to a super breathable fabric. Popularized by Survivor , beloved by hikers.

model wearing buff on their neck and head

Promising reviews:  "This was very useful for backpacking. It makes a good balaclava, neck warmer, and I am bald, so it has enough material. I can put it on just my scalp, twist it twice, and double down for total coverage as a beanie with no gap at the twist. Also can be wetted and draped over neck for cooling. HIGHLY recommend. This is true excellence." — Drumdogma

"Four days on the trail in freezing temps with this buff and it made life easy. Excellent versatility." — David Scruggs

Get it from Amazon for $18.92+ (available in three colors). 

19. A Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system that blows any other system out of the — say it with me — water. It's adaptable and easy to use in almost any situation, planned or not. I've encountered some pretty sad excuses for water sources and have still been able to get liquid into the bag to be filtered and safely consumed.

sawyer squeeze water filter screwed onto a water bottle

The set comes with one squeeze screw-on water filter, two 32-ounce collapsible pouches, one replaceable pop-up drinking spout, and one syringe filter cleaner. It weighs three ounces. It removes bacteria such as salmonella, cholera, and E. coli, as well as protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

I adore this water filter for its ease of use, adaptability, small size, and zero wait time. Just fill the bag, screw on the filter, and roll the bag to squeeze the filtered water into your bottle. You don't need to wait for it to be done like with water treatment pills or gravity systems, and there's no funky taste — just fresh, clean, crisp water. If even the bag-filling situation sounds like it would take too much time, you can also screw the filter DIRECTLY ONTO A WATER BOTTLE and drink straight from it. Game changing. Either way, it's a quick, lightweight system that I completely recommend.

Promising review: " Compact, easy to use lifesaver. There's really not anything to dislike about this water filter. It's small enough and light enough to just be thrown in my pack before heading out, whether I'll be hiking, fishing, camping, or just swimming at a lake. It fits perfectly on the Smartwater water bottles, but be warned. Drinking out of them with the filter on leaves no way for air to enter so they crumple down like at elevation. I simply unscrew the filter a bit after drinking but I could see it annoying some people. As far as I know there's no issues with filtration, I mean I'm not sick yet. ;)" — Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $45.99 .

20. A compact broom and dustpan for sweeping dirt out of your tent quickly and effectively. It may seem inevitable, but there's nothing worse than a super dirty tent floor.

reviewer holding a small dustpan in the palm of their hand with a tiny broom inside.

Promising reviews: "OXO quite by mistake has created the best tent broom I've ever used. I know they had other things in mind when they designed this but it is perfect for car camping (a little to big for backpackers). The bristles are soft and fine enough to get the sand off your taffeta tent floor without damaging it. The cup style dust pan holds your sweepings so you don't have to resweep after you accidentally tip them. The whole kit packs together securely so nothing gets lost. 5-star performer." — H Bart

"I've had this small set in the trunk of my car for almost 5 years now, and it is still in GREAT condition. I mainly use it to sweep sand off of my beach chair , bag, etc. (including my shoes) prior to loading everything into the car. It's also been a lifesaver while tailgating sporting events — broken glass near car tires and flipflop-covered feet. I cannot recommend this enough." — AS

Get it from Amazon for $9.99 .

21. An inflatable lounge chair that will make a sunny outdoor nap feel like the height of luxury. You inflate it just by whipping it in the wind, meaning no pesky hand pumps or electricity needed!

reviewer laying in blue patterned inflated lounger

Promising review: "We were wonderfully surprised how comfortable and easy to inflate these chairs were. After buying the first one and having our kids fight over it, we decided to go back and buy three more, so everyone in the family could lounge in comfort. They fold up small enough to where you can comfortably carry all four in a small shopping bag or tote. They can be inflated by just holding them in the direction of the wind on a brisk day or by running around in a big circle on a calm day. They have been a lifesaver during the stay at home/quarantine period this spring. We haven't tried them on water yet, but they claim to function as rafts as well. We're looking forward to using them during our next beach trip." — RipOff

Get it from Amazon for $39.98 (available in 18 colors and patterns).

22. A waterproof backpack cover  to keep all of your belongings safe from Mother Nature's unpredictable wrath. Come rain or come shine, you're still hitting the ol' dusty (or in this case muddy ) trail!

reviewer photo of them showing how the cover wears over their large hiking backpack, back

Promising reviews: "I hiked the Mist Trail at Yosemite National Park last week and this cover was invaluable. It not only kept my pack contents dry going to the top of Vernal Falls but also a tripod attached to the outside. Later, on the John Muir trail I had to actually walk under a small waterfall. Again, the cover kept everything dry. After leaving the wet area it dried quickly too." — Rick

"The product works as advertised and packs small enough to where I can carry it in a small pocket in my backpack. It’s been such a lifesaver during heavy rain!" — Marco campos

Get it on Amazon for $9.99+ (available in five sizes and in 11 colors and designs).

23. A pop-up trash can that will help you keep any and all waste contained. Always remember to take out everything you brought into the site — especially trash!

green soft trash can with black corded spiral around it to help it pop up

Promising review: "SERIOUSLY, leave no trace! This pop-up trash can is a lifesaver when camping or picnicking.  It's large, so standard 13-gallon bags are useless; use at least a 30-gallon bag. This pop-up has two nylon straps at the bottom so you can stake it to the ground. When you're done and ready to leave you can just tie your trash bag up in the can and zip it shut until you can get to a proper area to dispose of your trash." — Scott Troup

Get it from Amazon for $14.99  (available in other varieties).

24. A roll of moleskin tape so if your brand new boots are giving you blisters, you're able to combat and protect them. Nothing worse than messing up your feet on day one of your trip without the right First Aid!

reviewer holding SpecOps Biosciences' Tactical Moleskin, labeled "Military Grade"

Promising review: "Its reliable adhesion, comfort, and versatility make it a must-have for anyone prone to blisters or discomfort. Whether you're an athlete, a traveler, or simply someone looking for effective blister prevention, this tape is a true lifesaver." — Tom

Get it from Amazon for $17.98 .

25. A lantern and fan hybrid that's as close as you're gonna get to sweet, sweet AC in the woods. I cannot help but stan a mini ceiling fan gadget, it's just so cute and helpful.

light and fan combo hanging inside a tent

Promising reviews: "I went camping this week, and I just hate when it's sooooo darn hot in the tent, and of course there's no place to put a fan AND a light. This one worked perfectly. It hung by it's built in hook to the top of the tent, the light was just right, and the fan was quiet and effective for a two-person tent. Happy I bought it." — Kevin Gaither

" This is a lifesaver. I bought it for camping but really I keep it in my car year round. It’s an extraordinary car light, the hook allows you to hang it under your hood if for any reason you need to pull over at night (which I did). The fan is tiny but mighty and a great accessory to a great light. Doesn’t eat up it’s own battery while not in use which is a blessing. Accidentally left it’s fan for a while without noticing and it’s still good as gold." — Cloud

Get it from Amazon for $19.99 .

26. A pair of collapsible dog bowls with carabiners so your pup is always nourished on the go. Gotta keep your #1 camping buddy ready for adventure!

blue and green collapsible dog bowl with carabiners

Promising review: " These lightweight collapsible bowls are a lifesaver for my pup in the extreme desert heat. They're easy to hook onto a leash, dishwasher safe, and super convenient while taking your pup on walks, hikes, out to eat, or over to another home for pet sitting or playdates. I use one for food and one for water, which has really come in handy in the past." — Carly L.

Get a pair from Amazon for $5.99 (available in four colors and two sizes).

27. A pull-string fire starter because you're probably a little rusty on your Boy Scouts skills and no one in your camp crew is going to give you a badge anyway. Put the sticks down – this'll do all the hard work for you!

model pulling the string on the fire starter in a pile of firewood

Promising review: "It definitely works on wet firewood. Starts like a flair. Burns long enough to dry out wet wood. Expensive. But can literally be a lifesaver." — Jason

Get a four-pack from Amazon for $24.99 .

28. A Coleman lantern perfect for car camping trips — it's essential to keep your path illuminated (and stay safe) with this classic piece of gear.

model holding red Coleman lantern by a handle

The lantern requires four D batteries , but is also available in a rechargeable version !

Promising reviews:  "Love having these in the event of a power outage-they are lifesavers! Having [them] for camping and outdoor activities is a plus!" — Amazon Customer

"A convenient alternative to the old Coleman camping lanterns that used a fabric mantle and burned gasoline fuel. Hangs easily on a loop in a tent or on a stretched line. Provides plenty of light. Well-suited for camping and other outdoor uses, but too large for backpacking." — D E Conner

Get it from Amazon for $29.99+ (available in two sizes). 

Some reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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SUNNYFEEL Camping Directors Chair, Heavy Duty,Oversized Portable Folding Chair with Side Table, Pocket for Beach, Fishing,Trip,Picnic,Lawn,Concert Outdoor Foldable Camp Chairs

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SUNNYFEEL Camping Directors Chair, Heavy Duty,Oversized Portable Folding Chair with Side Table, Pocket for Beach, Fishing,Trip,Picnic,Lawn,Concert Outdoor Foldable Camp Chairs

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About this item.

  • Thoughtful Design for You: The anti-pinching & click-to-lock design help you to set camping directors chair up effortlessly and safely. The open size is 21"x25"x36", and the packed size 20"x19"x5". The folding camping chair is easy-carrying and can be stored almost anywhere.
  • Convenient Storage: The directors chair with side table and the integrated beverage & phone holders free your hands, and the double front multi-pocket attached on side providing ample storage to store your books, magazines, iPad, keys, wallets, keeping your belongings organized.
  • Built to Last: The sturdy steel frame construction affords up to 300 LBS (136KG) and the chair weight of 13.4 LBS (6.1KG). The double-seam 600x300D Oxford Cloth & 200g mesh has great strength, durability, and breathability. This folding camp chair is great for adults Heavy Duty.
  • Easy-Peasy: Setting this director chair up is effortless and fast. You only have to take it out from the Handle straps attached carry bag, pull the frame apart, and click the frame to lock… Ta-Da! Here you go - now you can enjoy this sturdy & comfy director chair and easily transport to camp, lawn, concerts, festivals.
  • A Camping Director Chair that is Built for Anywhere: Use it as a camping chair, folding chair, lawn chair, travel chair, beach chair and more. Suitable for outdoor adventures, tailgating, fishing, backpacking, beach, picnic, sport games, car travelling, or just put it in the backyard, cabin, balcony, patio lawn parties. The SunnyFeel camping chair is an essential to add to your camping accessories.

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SUNNYFEEL Camping Directors Chair, Heavy Duty,Oversized Portable Folding Chair with Side Table, Pocket for Beach, Fishing,Tri

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From the brand

brand story

SunnyFeel manufactured more than 10 millions camping chairs a year for 16 years, is dedicated to bring the most friendly user experience - Comfy, Sturdy, and Easy-to-Carry camping chairs.

No matter what you have in mind, you’ll be sure to find it here. Without a doubt, you have also come to the right place for camping furniture. Bringing a SUNNYFEEL to your trip outdoors, you’ll surely enjoy a feeling of sunny feel!


SunnyFeel Camping Chairs

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SunnyFeel Beach Chairs


SunnyFeel Camping Tables

Product description.

camping directors chair

Are you looking to add comfort and style to your next camping adventure? If so, check this out! SUNNYFEEL has created a series of folding camping chairs, beach chairs and outdoor camping tables to make beaches, mountains, riversides, and even house garden backyards more comfortable places for you to have relaxing moments and to do what you like.

No matter what you have in mind, you’ll be sure to find it here. Without a doubt, you have also come to the right place for camping furniture. Bringing a SunnyFeel to your trip outdoors, you’ll surely enjoy a feeling of sunny feel!

4 Unique Designs for Your Extreme Convenience


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Customer Review: It's awesome 👌

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SUNNYFEEL Oversized Camping Directors Chair


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SunnyFeel Oversized Camping Directors Chair with Side Table


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Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

Customers say

Customers like the size, comfort, and ease of set up of the chair. For example, they mention it's super roomy, has plenty of storage options, and is very comfortable. Some appreciate the carry bag and cup holder. That said, opinions are mixed on portability.

AI-generated from the text of customer reviews

Customers like the quality of the chair. They mention that it's very sturdy, stable, and should last years.

"...Great design, really nice looking, and for how sturdy it is I’d say it’s pretty lightweight too...." Read more

"The chair is sturdy , well made, comfortable, and nice looking. It is so easy to assemble in one step...." Read more

"This is great heavy duty chair ! Learn to fold an unfold..." Read more

"...too skinny for my taste, but I'm nitpicking considering the fold out table is sturdy , the chair itself supports 300 lbs and the carrying cases have..." Read more

Customers like the comfort of the chair. They mention that the table is a good size, the seat is comfortable and heated, and that it fits nice and snug in the trunk of their car.

"...Great for WHOEVER! I’m sitting in it now and it’s so comfortable ! What a bargain. Y’all Amazon peeps just made me super happy 😊👍🏽✨😁..." Read more

"The chair is sturdy, well made, comfortable , and nice looking. It is so easy to assemble in one step...." Read more

"...nice great camping chair great outdoor yard chairs nice carry bag an comfy " Read more

"...I love the folding aspect. They fit nice and snug in the trunk of my car...." Read more

Customers are satisfied with the appearance of the beach chair. They mention that it has a great design, is sturdy, and has dozens of pockets. Some appreciate the carrying sleeve that stores the chair when not in use. Overall, most are happy with the quality and appearance of this product.

"...Instant HEAVY DUTY rocking chair! This thing is super sturdy! Great design , really nice looking, and for how sturdy it is I’d say it’s pretty..." Read more

"The chair is sturdy, well made, comfortable, and nice looking . It is so easy to assemble in one step...." Read more

"...Learn to fold an unfoldHeavy to carry for seniors but nice great camping chair great outdoor yard chairs nice carry bag an comfy" Read more

"...The color choices are great ...." Read more

Customers like the ease of set up of the chair. They say it's not difficult to unfold and set up, and it takes less than 20 seconds to set up. It's also easy to carry and setup and take down, and requires no special skill or trickery. Customers also mention that it'll be super convenient with all the storage space.

"...It is so easy to assemble in one step ...." Read more

" Easy to set up and fold down - great carrying case - comfortable and sturdy...." Read more

"...I did not need any instructions, but the chair came with a little instruction booklet tucked in one of the pockets...." Read more

"These two chairs are very easy to set up and the side table is a HUGE plus! My youngest son uses the side table and loves it...." Read more

Customers like the ease of folding the chair. They mention that it folds nicely, neatly, and into a cover for easier storage. Some say that the chairs are sturdy and easy to close and put back in the bag. Overall, most are satisfied with the ease and functionality of the product.

"I am so super impressed! It comes folded up in a box and to set it up you just pop two small sticks of metal frame into snap holes and then open the..." Read more

"This is great heavy duty chair ! Learn to fold an unfold ..." Read more

"...I love the folding aspect . They fit nice and snug in the trunk of my car...." Read more

"Great chairs - fold up and store easily in nice case. Very sturdy and comfortable. Table is handy." Read more

Customers like the size of the chair. They say it's super roomy, has plenty of storage options, and can hold your drink. The table is a good size and the seat is comfortable and heated. It holds 250 to 280 pounds and the large tray with a slot is great. They also love that it can slide in between spaces for storage.

"...Also, this chair is super roomy , if you have somebody big to support it’s totally accommodating! My man is 6’3” and XXXL; he will love this thing!..." Read more

"...The side table is great and the side pocket pouch has multiple compartments to hold anything you may get need...." Read more

"...There are plenty of storage options with the side pockets, including a zippered pocket...." Read more

"...in the multiple pockets and on the table and I still had plenty of room for my drink , phone, & keys. Very happy with these chairs." Read more

Customers like the cup holder. They say the carry bag is another great feature, and appreciate the pouch organizer. The folding table and side pocket bags are very useful. They also mention that the compact size makes them great for storing in the outer compartment of their motor home.

"...(The carry bag is another great feature !)" Read more

"...for seniors but nice great camping chair great outdoor yard chairs nice carry bag an comfy" Read more

"Easy to set up and fold down - great carrying case - comfortable and sturdy...." Read more

"...and out of the box it came in a handy carrying case, complete with built in handle . The carrying case seems pretty sturdy as well...." Read more

Customers are mixed about the portability of the chair. Some mention that it's easy to fold up and fits back in bag easier than any chair they've owned, it'll fit in a nice case, and it'd be easy to take on the go. However, some say it''s a little heavy to carry for seniors.

"...really nice looking, and for how sturdy it is I’d say it’s pretty lightweight too...." Read more

"This is great heavy duty chair ! Learn to fold an unfold Heavy to carry for seniors but nice great camping chair great outdoor yard chairs nice..." Read more

"...nitpicking considering the fold out table is sturdy, the chair itself supports 300 lbs and the carrying cases have shoulder loops for an easy carry..." Read more

"Chairs are awesome, very comfy and sturdy. However, they are a bit heavy especially with the cover on...." Read more

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Watch CBS News

Chicago Police officer takes teens on camping trip, providing a safe place amid dangers

By Jermont Terry

May 24, 2024 / 10:31 PM CDT / CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The prevalence of gun violence during Memorial Day weekend in Chicago is a concern every year, but a Chicago Police program is actively working to change that.

From city life to the great outdoors, a Chicago Police officers headed off Friday to take teens from the West Side camping for the weekend.

City life is always busy, and often noisy," said Mikey Malarski, 17.

That is why Malarski and more than a dozen youngsters are changing scenery this weekend.

"I'm kind of nervous," Malarski said. "I've never been, like, very far from the city."

Oranges and watermelon, Cheetos and Doritos, Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish, water and soda, and assorted supplies were loaded into a 15-passenger van late Friday. Officer Will Martinez of the Austin (15th) District prepared to drive two hours west with the young people.

They'll be camping at Woodhaven Lakes in Sublette, Illinois just south of Rockford off Interstate 39.

Camping with a cop had a clear purpose.

"All the youth that you see around you – they're actually involved with different programs at the 15th District," said Officer Martinez.

Joshua Torres lives in the West Side's Austin community.

"I see a lot of things, you know, that's dangerous - a lot of shootings, a lot of drive-by's," he said, "I try my best to stay safe and be in the house so nothing bad will happen to me."

Torres started hanging at the Austin District police station when he was 7. He was part of the Officer Explorer Program.

Ten years later, Torres is voluntarily choosing to hang out with the officers for the Memorial Day camping outing.

"It's more safe," Torres said. "I feel like there's not a lot of - I'm not in danger where something bad is going to happen to me if I step out."

The Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicks off summer. Yet in Chicago, it has also proven to be deadly and violent – which is exactly what prompted the Austin District to start the camping outing four years ago.

"My goal was as long as they put in the work in building up their community, I wanted to give them a safe place," said Officer Martinez. "So we take them from here, uproot them. They're in a safe place – it's a gated camping ground. They can roam around. It's more fun for them."

The outing allows the young people to escape the violence and build bonds.

"Officer Will - I don't see him as a cop," said Torres. "I see him more like a father figure."

"We're part of the community, and we just want to build together," said Officer Martinez. "We're building bridges all together."

  • Chicago Police Department
  • South Austin


Jermont Terry joined the CBS 2 team in October 2019. He's born and raised on Chicago's South Side. He's happy to return home to report on his community after 18 years of uncovering stories across the country.

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Person hospitalized after being stabbed during argument on West Side

Chicago summer safety plan involves community engagement, strategic police deployments

Chicago Police turn out for fallen officer's son as he graduates from eighth grade

2 men dead after being shot in head in Albany Park alley


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