We’ve camped for a REALLY long time. Kindergarten is my earliest memory of camping. My mom picked me up from school in her white Lincoln Continental. The back seat was piled with sleeping bags, the tent, a cooler…all the things. I sat on top of the gear pile, my tiny head grazing the ceiling and we went off to Huntsville State Park.
As life changed, our lists of camping gear changed. Camping with Issa when she was 3 years old put us into a whole new bracket of needed camping gear. Over the years I’ve kept a running list of gear. Today it’s a shared note on our iPhones, a running checklist of things to pack. I’ve sent this list to at least a dozen friends and family members, all new campers not sure where to start.
Now this list lives here too! I thought it would be an easy way to share it with some direct links to some of our favorite gear.
A few things to note about our list…
I’ve broken up the list into categories that make sense for us. If you want to copy and paste this list into your own note, go for it. I’ve included what we pack for our kid and dog too. Not everything on this list is mandatory, so don’t let its extensiveness scare you. I’ve gone ahead and put a * next to the items that I believe are essential to a first camping trip.
Our favorite gear is linked below. If it’s an Amazon link, it’s an affiliate link. This means if you decide to buy that item, Amazon gives me a teeny tiny cut of the sale as a thank you. That’s it. All the other links below are just links, not affiliate programs. All the links listed below are to gear we actually own and have used for a while (in a few cases it’s the updated version of the gear we own). If it’s gear we’ve ended up hating, it is definitely not listed below.
There is no right or wrong way to camp, it’s all about enjoying the outdoors in a way that makes you most comfortable.
Camp Site Gear
This is all of our base campsite gear. Of course this will change depending on the type of camping you’re doing (tent, with power, primitive, hike in, camper, etc.). Not all of these items are mandatory. As you camp you will refine your personal camping supply list.
- Tent (We have two. This large tent for the whole family. And this small tent for one or two of us. If you’re camping with a family, get a tent larger than you think you’ll need. If it says it sleeps 8, that’s 8 people right next to each other without room for clothes and other stuff.) *
- Tarps (Bring all the tarps. You’ll want at least one tarp for under your tent and two extras. The extras can be used for shelter or to cover chairs/firewood during rain.) *
- Heavy Duty Door Mat for front of tent. (This helps keep the tent clean.)
- Clothes Line (This sounds silly, but this camping clothes line gets used EVERY trip. If you have a larger family, grab the 2-pack. They’re bungees so they can hang just about anywhere.)
- Pool Noodles (If you slice them, they are great to put on your tent tie down lines so you don’t trip over them. They also make good fake swords.)
- 10×10′ Pop Up Canopy (We put this over our picnic table. Keeps sun or rain off, also all camp chairs go under it at night to stay dry from a morning rain or dew).
- Camp Chairs (We’ve had these for about 4 years and we love that the arm has a cooler.) *
- Camp Stools (We use these as foot rests or extra seating when friends visit.)
- Pop Up Camp Table (We use these by the fire and they are great. This one is similar to one we have.)
- Hammocks (We each have one. They are very easy to hang between trees. We bought this one for a friend.)
- Folding Soft Sided Wagon (We use this to load and unload firewood and gear, it doubles as a place to toss shoes or live vests outside the tent.)
Bedding & Linens
This changes depending on the season. We’ve had insane cold fronts blow in in early fall and record high temps in late spring. When in doubt, if it fits, bring it.
- Sheets (Even if you plan on sleeping in a sleeping bag bring a sheet, you’ll thank yourself on a hot night.) *
- Quilts/Blankets (We have a travel quilt we use every time. I always bring extras in case of a cold front.)*
- Pillows (Again these are on the day of packing list.)*
- Air Mattress (I know, it’s kind of glamping, but why be uncomfortable on the ground? Also make sure you bring some extra sheets, air mattresses make you colder when sleeping.)
- Sleeping Bags (Get bags rated for the climate you are staying in.)
- Extra Blankets (Definitely bring these if your camping anytime other than Summer.)
- “Fire” Blankets (These are smaller throw blankets we keep on our chairs by the campfire. They’re good for cold nights and having a designated campfire smoke blanket means you’re not smelling it in your tent.)
- Towels (We like thin beach towels and always bring one or two extra.)*
- Wash Cloths*
- Hand Towels
Lighting & Power Gear
This is ALL the lighting and power gear we bring. If you are primitive camping (no electricity) or backpacking into a location, this list will look very different.
- Hand Held Lanterns (These are our favorites, lots of lighting options and they are magnetic.)*
- Large Lantern (Again we like the Ryobi gear so we use this one.)
- Heavy Duty Outdoor 30 Amp to 15 Amp Converter (If you’re camping with power and have multiple people camping on your site, this comes in handy. It converts the RV outlet to regular outlets.)
- Hanging Lights (We use these now, we hang them around our pop up canopy if tent camping or along the canopy of the camper.)
- Tactical Flashlight (We like these, great for spotting creatures at night.)
- Extension Cords (We always bring a 100′ and a 50′.)*
- Power Strip (We use this one, the USB ports mean we don’t have to remember power blocks.)*
- Heavy Duty Power Strip (We keep this one by the cooking area.)
- Fan (We like this Ryobi one. I also have my eye on Ryobi’s larger fan and their misting fan. We also take a box fan in the hotter months.)
- Extra Batteries (Bring what your gear uses. For us this is AA, AAA and Ryobi Batteries.)*
- Space Heater (We’ve always camped with one in the winter. Most tents have a little zipper to stick an extension cord through. Our’s is highly sensitive to tips and will turn itself off even if it isn’t fully level. Look for one with lots of safety features just in case, and of course use at your own risk.)
Food & Cooking Gear
Ok, so I REALLY love to cook while camping. I plan my meals ahead of time so I know exactly what gear to bring (more on that in another post). My food and cooking gear list is…comprehensive. Pick and choose what you need.
- Camp Kitchen Utensils Set (Buy this. This is in my top 10 essentials. I have used it 100 times.)*
- Eating Utensils (We’ve used these for a long time.)*
- Hot Gloves (We use these straight up welding gloves. They get used for cooking and for tending the fire.)
- Cast Iron Pans or Dutch Oven (I bring this if my food plan calls for it.)
- Cast Iron Sandwich Maker (This baby is a game changer.)
- Meat Thermometer (We use this one.)
- Collapsible Sink Baskets (These are awesome and we end up using them for loads of things.)
- Camp Plates (Paper plates make it simple. We also have some hard reusable biodegradable plates.)*
- Camp Cups (We like a good metal cup that can be used for coffee or stew. I also like these coffee cups from Rtic.)*
- Electric Skillet (Friends turned us on to this years ago, makes camp cook life SUPER simple. Our’s is similar to this one, but buy one based on your family size.)*
- Plastic Spatula (For the electric skillet.)*
- Coffee Maker (I like a percolator or a french press. If you get a percolator make sure you get filters too.)*
- Grill Brush / Tongs / Spatula
- Reusable Plastic Table Cloth
Cooking, Fire & Camping Supplies
I’ve kept this list separate as it’s more supplies based and less gear based. Before we had our camper we had heavy duty storage bins with lots of labels that we’d keep everything in. I would say everything on this list deserves an * and should make your “must pack” list.
- Dish Soap (Use something earth friendly.)*
- Hand Soap (I bring a couple of these.)*
- Dish Sponge*
- Hike Friendly Snacks (Trail mix, nuts, meat sticks, fruit snacks, etc.)*
- Ziploc Bags*
- Firewood (You can purchase firewood from most state parks.)*
- Starter Logs / Fire Starters*
- Charcoal (If you need it for cooking.)
- Lighter Fluid (If you need it for cooking.)
- Paper Towels*
- Garbage Bags*
- Marshmallow / Hot Dog Roasting Sticks (We like these. I actually cooked raw meat on these once.)*
Personal Supplies & Gear
These are some personal care items we always pack. I usually run down this list while packing to see if anything needs to be replaced or restocked.
- Sunscreen (Even in the winter!)*
- Bug Spray (We like to have deet and deet free on hand.)*
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash (A shower Caddy is helpful if you are using public showers.)*
- Hiking Boots
- Water Shoes
- Hat / Visor
- Shower Shoes (If you are using public showers.)
- Hiking Socks
- First Aid Kit*
- Nail Kit
- Pocket Knife*
- Bear Spray (If needed in the area you’re visiting.)
- Thermacell (We’ve started using these if the bugs are REALLY bad. Remember they are not to be used in inclosed spaces.)
- Bathing Suit*
- Winter Gear (Hats, gloves, lots and lots of layers.)*
- Bandana / Sport Sweatband
This is just a compilation of our favorite items for hikes. We always pack based on the kinds of hikes and length of hikes.
- Water Bottles (We like these from Rtic.)*
- Solar Phone Charger
- Small towel (Great if you know you are going to cross water.)
Day of Items
These are the things you grab right before you leave. This checklist has saved our butts MANY times.
- Chargers (phones, ipads, watches, etc.)*
- Kid’s Stuffed Animals
- iPads, Books or Travel Entertainment
- Dog Bed
- Medical Ice Pack (sounds weird but we’ve used it more than once)
- Coolers (We LOVE our Rtic Coolers. They hold keep food cold longer than any other cooler we’ve owned.)*
- Food (more on this in a future post)*
- Travel Drinks (We fill our Rtic cups with whatever we plan on drinking during the drive.)
Assorted Other Gear
This a list of all over the place gear. They’re things we like to have on hand. You may not use them every trip but you’ll be thankful you have them when you need them.
- Hatchet/ Mallet (We keep this one in our truck. We also have this larger one for cutting wood and hammering in tent stakes.)
- Temperature Gun (This is just a fun thing to have. Kids LOVE it.)
- Folding Table (We love this one because it pops up to counter height for cooking or can sit low like a coffee table in front of our camp chairs.
- Carabiners (We get the multi pack from harbor freight, you can never have enough of these. Toss a few extras on your day packs too.)
- Hand Held Vacuum (This Ryobi one has been great for our camper. Friends have also borrowed it to vacuum out their tent before packing up.)
- Broom and Dustpan (We have a full sized one and this one from Ikea.)
- Bluetooth Speaker (We have invested in Ryobi tools for our camper and home. We use this one because it doubles as a radio.)
- Folding Shovel (We have this one.)
- Bungee Cords (Just get a large multipack, we usually pick these up at harbor freight, definitely invest in these.)
- Spring Clamps (We’ve used these to attach tarps to things and all kinds of stuff.)
- Duct Tape (Because you never know.)
- Extra Tent Stakes
Fun Camping Games, Gear and Extras
These are all those extra things we sometimes bring. They’re fun, some are a little silly, but we like to have them along.
- Fishing Poles
- Tackle Box
- Magnet Fishing Magnet (We have this one.)
- Collapsible Corn Hole Game (Yeah, we’ve used it.)
- Board Games (We like cards, Skip Bo and Uno. These come in handy on rainy days.)
- Black Light Flashlight (See all the creepy crawlies or things in the water at night with this bad boy.
- Travel Journal (I like to keep a record of our adventures.)
- Around the Fire Games (Games like Table Topics, the UnGame, or Loaded Questions are great around the fire games.)
- Flora & Fauna Guides (I bring my bird identification book on every trip.)
- Kids Explorer Packs (There’s loads of explorer packs on Amazon for kids that include magnifying glasses, bug catchers, etc.)
- Baseball Gloves
- GoPro Camera
Gear for Camping with a Dog
Our dog Layla comes on every single camping trip with us and thus requires her own gear. If you’re traveling with a dog, keep these things in mind.
- Dog Food
- Water Bowl (We like this collapsible one.)
- Dog Water Bottle for Hikes (Like this one.)
- Hiking Leash (We have one that is padded that is more comfortable to carry for long hikes. It has a long handle and a short handle.)
- Dog Lead (You can see it around Layla’s nose. She gets excited at the beginning of a hike, this helps us keep her controlled until she gets more used to the smells.
- Long Leash/Lead (We use this on our camp site. Dogs must be leashed. This gives her the freedom to roam our site only. We loop it around a tree, the table or a bumper.)
- Dog Hiking Boots (Sounds silly, but if you can’t hold your hand on the pavement or rocks, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. We’re still hunting for the right boots for Layla.)
- Dog Hiking Pack (Layla uses this one. Have your dog wear it regularly well before a hike to get used to the feeling.)
- Blanket (Layla likes a blanket so we bring one for her.)
- Dog Orb (OK so it’s a light for her collar. Layla is black and if it’s a dark night, she completely disappears. This helps us see her in the dark.)
- Poop Bags (Pick up after your pet, even if it’s on your own campsite.)
- Dog Chair (An old camp chair has become Layla’s chair. Bugs would bite her if she layed on the ground. We also have a folding dog camp bed for her. She still steals our chairs though.)
- Dog Bed for in the tent
So that’s what my friends have lovingly called THE camping list. If you’re new to camping this should get you started. I’d also suggest camping with an avid camper for the first time. If you’ve forgotten something, chances are they’ll have it.
If you have any other gear suggestions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll definitely add them to the list. If you have any questions, please ask away. I’ll also be adding a future post about camper or RV specific gear.