I’ve been procrastinating writing this camping checklist for ages because it’s impossible to do a one-size-fits-all! I’ve decided to create this ‘Ultimate Camping List’ covering all the essentials a beginner -and not so- camper and/or hiker would need to have a safe and comfy outing. What’s more, you can download a printable camping checklist to use for packing and taking with you -to make sure you don’t leave stuff behind!
Intro to the Ultimate Camping List Guide
There’s no doubt that camping is such a soul-satisfying activity. But, getting ready for a good overnight of camping can be confusing, especially if you don’t fancy the idea of packing. But, it’s inevitable. You need to have a good camping supplies checklist to help you survive and have a good time out there in the wilderness where amenities are… pretty much limited.
As I’ve been living in New Zealand -aka outdoors’ wonderland- for 6 years, I’ve gained a fair share of camping and hiking experience. I was into hiking before, but in NZ it became ‘my thing.’
So here’s what I have to tell you. When you accidentally forget your camping and hiking must-haves, managing things becomes a hassle and it can curb your excitement. This is when having a readymade camping list comes in handy. It’s a lifesaver for last-minute hikers!
In this article, I exclusively focus on providing you with the ultimate camping list that covers the bare bones of camping and hiking gear. Plus some extras to let you have a smooth experience.
How Does This Guide Work?
This guide is super easy to use! It is categorized based on every aspect of camping -from first-aid to entertainment.
Below each group, I have explained why they count as essentials for your camping trip in case you have second thoughts. Haha! Along the way, I have shared my personal recommendations of some camping gear that I have found to be great and affordable!
I assure you there won’t be any regrets if you have a copy of this printable camping checklist with you. It takes off the hassle of organizing stuff and saves you the time spent on brainstorming things to pack for camping, so you can focus on planning the fun bits! It can also be customized based on your preferences, dropping out what you think is unnecessary for your specific hiking trip!
Who Can Use This Ultimate Camping List?
While this camping packing checklist is handy for anyone, I like to note that it’s specially designed for hikers planning on overnight or multiday camping in mild to moderate weather conditions. It’s basically all the stuff I took with me to the Queen Charlotte Track, minus the board games cuz I was hiking solo.
So, if your journey is to a tough terrain in extreme climates, this might not gear you up with all that you need! At the same time, I’m also guessing that you’d gain experience on overnight hiking before venturing into extreme conditions -please do!
When you are a beginner to camping, you get the tendency to hoard anything and everything you deem as important. So, if you are someone who is just getting started on hiking and need an essential camping gear list, this one is for you.
A checklist for camping will keep you in check, making packing both at home and campsite easy. This way, you know exactly what you are taking and bringing back.
- Camping tent
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag liner
- A rainfly or tarp Stakes (always a good idea to have a few extra ones in case your tent ones are not high quality) Footprint (I usually take a waterproof beach blanket that I can also use for hanging out during the day!) Travel pillow (optional, I always use spare clothes lol) Flashlights
- Head torch
Campsite Gear: Why These Are Must-Haves for Camping
Picking the right camping tent means everything! It’s your shelter for the day plus you need it to have a comfortable sleep. Camping tents usually have a rainfly attached to it. But if you are camping in the wild with no shelter -and there’s a chance of rain- then taking a spare one will let you create a ‘ceiling,’ for cooking and hanging out.
Your sleeping system is a factor that needs careful attention because, at the end of the day, you need it to keep you adequately warm and comfortable to let you have a good sleep. For example, a sleeping mat is not just for comfort but also insulates your sleeping bag to keep you warm.
A footprint -the plastic that goes underneath your tent- will keep the soil’s moist out. So again, it’s an uber-essential item.
It’s also important to think of a source to light the camping ground. It helps you move around, socialize, cook, eat more conveniently.
A bonfire is an ideal option for lighting a large space as well as keeping you warm. But, in sites where campfire is not allowed, a lantern will serve the purpose. You also need one inside the tent if you want to stay up late chatting with your camping mates or play a game.
You can get a portable ready-to-go first-aid kit! Still, make sure it contains all the following items:
- A plastic bag or pouch to hold your first-aid items
- Adhesive bandage/ Band-Aids
- Butterfly bandages
- Antiseptic wipes
- Gauze roll
- A pair of small scissors
- Anti-bacterial creams/ointments
- Anti-inflammatory medicine/pain killers like ibuprofen
- Antihistamine for allergy relief
- Your regular medicines and their prescriptions
- Rash cream
- Medical gloves
- Eye drops
- Hand sanitizer
- Alcohol wipes
- Safety pins
- An aloe gel or similar to treat burns
- Bee and bugs’ bite sting relief
- Snakebite kit (this will depend on where you are hiking. If you are in Australia, then it’s a must! However, in countries like New Zealand, you won’t have any problems with snakes)
- Emergency survival blanket
First-Aid Kit for Camping and Hiking Essentials
A first-aid kit is an absolute essential for hiking and camping! Nature can roll out the biggest surprises at you, some of them being unpleasant encounters. You can be a pro at camping but still, slip and fall. You can be extremely cautious watching your step but still sustain injuries. So, you need to be prepared to face them.
Although the above camping supplies list may seem very long, a lot of them don’t take much space. Some of the main medical emergencies faced by campers are caused by minor cuts and scrapes, burns, sprained ankles, and insect bites or stings.
Depending on the severity, you should treat them as soon as possible following proper hygienic measures (why a hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes are necessary). Even if your first-aid treatments may not entirely heal the injury, it will prevent possible infections.
Truth be told, you might not be using any of these supplies at all -hopefully! But, you don’t want to be running frantically back and forth, not knowing what to do, when one of your camping mates gets injured. Don’t turn camping bliss into trauma by not being prepared.
You can also get an ultralight camping cooking kit!
However, note that it’s important to customize your camping gear to suit your needs!
- Foldable camping stove
- Cooking Gas (you need to make sure it fits your foldable camping stove as they are not all the same!)
- Reusable water bottle
- Water filter
- Box of matches
- Eating utensils (spoons, forks, knives)
- Cooking utensils (knives, spatula, spoon)
- Cutting board
- Pocket Knife (with corkscrew, bottle opener, etc)
- Frying pan
- Containers to store food
- Bags for trash
- Biodegradable dishwashing liquid
- Scrubber to scrub dishes
- Packaged food
- Beverages (who said wine??)
- Ingredients for cooking meals
- A foldable small bag (to store your cooking kit together)
Camping and Hiking Cooking Gear Must-Have Items
No camping gear list is complete without a portable set of kitchen essentials. After all, what’s a great camping night without a hearty meal of camping food! Based on the facilities available at the campsite, you can decide on the amount of cooking gear needed. So, customize this list based on your needs.
It’s easier if you invest in a set of good reusable cutlery set if you camp often. This way, there’s less waste and money spent repeatedly. Good for the environment and good for you.
When it comes to food and water, you have to be extra careful.
You don’t want to stomach impure water and fall sick like I was from my last camping trip! It was the worst! I ended up spilling my guts for days all the while swearing I wouldn’t camp without a water filter ever again! It took me about 3 weeks to fully recover -just one of the many hiking and backpacking mistakes we all do from time to time, but need to learn from!
On the other hand, you can’t rely on light snacks to keep you well-fed either -obviously, food-planning for camping is a topic for a different guide. But taking important cooking gear along with you comes in handy. You won’t only enjoy cooking with your camping mates, but also treat yourself to a delicious meal before you are set for stargazing or playing games.
It’s important to keep your cooking kit safely stored, especially matches and lighter! You don’t want things to get wet.
The great thing about camping gear nowadays is that you can find amazing camping cooking kits that are both comprehensive and ultra-light!
Clothing and Footwear
- Two pairs of socks
- Anti-leech socks and/or gaiters (this will depend on how much water or mud you’ll encounter along your hike)
- Hiking boots
- Running shoes
- Sandals or Flip flops (again, will depend on the hike. I take one or the other, preferably water sandals)
- Long-sleeved shirts
- A pair of trousers
- A pair of shorts (optional)
- Pajamas (I never take pj’s but my bestie does!)
- Hat or Cap
- Rain jacket
- Buff or bandana
- Bathing suit
- Laundry bag
Clothing and Footwear: Hiking and Camping Essentials
When it comes to clothes in your camping packing list, it’s a case of choosing the right mix of clothing as opposed to your best clothing. The purpose of clothing comes down to comfort and protection.
Besides, there’s a high chance you will be covered with dirt or mud when you set up the tent, go out looking for firewood, and whatnot. So, wearing your newest clothes is a bad idea unless you prefer them with spills, rips, and mud stains.
Also, out in the wilderness, you can’t always expect good weather or the perfect surrounding free of bugs and insects. Consider the weather conditions and decide on what to pack for camp. In winter, it’s best to go for thick, moisture-wicking fabrics. In summer, light-weight, heat repelling clothes are good choices.
Whether or not you anticipate the company of eager-to-bite mosquitos, go for long-sleeved clothes. They also protect you from sunburn.
Finally, even if you are going on an overnight camping journey, remember to include an extra pair of clothes in your camping gear checklist in case you get drenched in the rain or fall into a puddle! I personally never bring shorts because I’m always cold -even during summer- and I really can’t be bothered!
This goes to say that I prefer to only pack the most essential clothing. I must say tho, it’s key to always do extensive research on the hikes before putting together your final camping packing list!
- Bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste
- Lip balm with 30spf
- Insect repellant cream
- Bug spray
- Facial wipes
- Pocket Mirror
- Soap bar
- Dry shampoo (if you are not planning to shower)
- Towels/ washcloth
- Menstrual essentials for the ladies!
- After-sun lotion
Toiletries Hiking and Camping Essentials
While camping is one of the situations where you don’t have to obsess over how you look, these items should be there in your camping trip checklist. These basic toiletries will save you from the misery of bad weather getting under your skin.
For example, forgetting to take a good bottle of sunscreen is a huge mistake, regardless of your skin type! Sunburns can irritate you so much leaving you weary and frustrated for the rest of the day.
For example, let’s say you spend a few hours at the beach and get sunburnt, can you imagine the horrors of having to carry your backpack the following day!? Also, bug spray and insect repellent creams are so so important if you are camping in the wilderness. You don’t want to be waking the next day feeling itchy with lots of bumps on your skin.
A travel-sized toothpaste and deodorant in the list of things to take camping will prevent you from reeking even after a tiresome day of adventure. The rest of the toiletries will help you be in good shape feeling a lot pleasant and happy!
- Camping backpack
- Backpack rain cover
- Big plastic bag (to put inside your backpack and make it even more waterproof!)
- Hiking poles (I didn’t use to think of these as essentials, but now I take them everywhere!)
- Packing cube
- Hydration bladder -and/or water bottle
- Foldable daypack
- Combination lock
- Fanny pack (optional)
- Compass/ GPS
- Mobile phone
- Power bank
- Map of the site with directions
- Wristwatch (optional)
- Cash/ credit card
- Reservation ticket/ permits/ license (make sure to keep digital copies just in case)
Personal Gear: Why These are Essentials for Camping
Your camping must-have list should never miss out on gear required to survive outdoors and protect your valuables. A spacious, comfortable backpack stands on top of our list for many important reasons.
First, it will safeguard you from back pains or strains on your shoulders as long as you wear it right. Next, it gives you adequate space to hold your belongings and all the essential camping gear. So, it’s vital to pick a good backpack especially for hiking purposes paying attention to weight.
Also, don’t miss out on getting a lock for the backpack. Even if the camping ground may seem deserted, you don’t want to risk your valuables when you are away collecting firewood or exploring the grounds.
On the other hand, your mobile phone is also a top priority. It’s essential to make calls or send texts during emergencies, use GPS, snap pictures, search how-to guides on the internet, and for many other things.
Having a hand-sketched or printed map of the place can be very helpful if there’s no cell reception to use GPS. However, you may not have a phone reception on backcountry hikes. Always share your plans with others and study your hike beforehand! For some hikes, it’s best to have a GPS Communicator!
Finally, for me, hiking poles belong to the essential camping equipment list as they are so helpful and versatile. It helps you check the depth when hiking on muddy areas, provides grip when walking down steep areas, helps you maintain correct posture, and lowers fatigue by providing support!
Repair Kit and Miscellaneous
- Multi-tool ki/pocket knife (as you use for cooking)
- Duct tape
- Bear spray (depending on where you are heading)
- Threading needle
- Safety pins
- Liquid heavy-duty adhesive
- Spare patches of fabric
- Sewing thread (polyester and plastic)
- Small scissor
- Ferrules tent poles
Repair Kit: Why These Are Essential Items
It’s very important to carry a repair kit with you at all times! It’s very common to experience issues with your hiking gear, especially your backpack and tent.
Your backpack takes a lot of sustained weight and pressure. Sometimes if you pack in a rush, you may end up with sharp objects rubbing the fabric of your backpack -this has happened to me with my cooking pots!
You may need to sew, patch, or even replace your backpack’s plastic clips -or adjust your tent zippers.
Do note that most items in this section are optional as it will depend on how you entertain yourself during hikes and camping days!
- Camera (optional if you have a badass phone)
- Camera bag
- Spare memory card
- Selfie stick
- Ebook or a Book
- Portable travel board game
- Waterproof mp3 player
- Musical instruments
- Hobby Gear (eg: fishing)
Entertainment Gear: Pick Your Adventure Fun!
Sometimes, when you are so caught up brainstorming the essentials, you can miss out on these extras. You don’t want to leave behind your ukelele -a backpacker’s fave- or your favorite travel game So, don’t forget to include these in your overnight camping checklist!
As a huge fan of board games, I cannot imagine a good night of camping without a travel board game because it helps us ward off fatigue with giggles. Each camper can have his/her mode of entertainment, be it sitting under the shade of a giant tree reading a book or dancing to music around the campfire. So, you can customize this list of camping supplies based on your preference!
If you are an avid photographer and your phone’s camera quality doesn’t live up to your expectations, count your camera in the camping essential list! Make sure you take your charger or extra batteries as well.
A Quick View on How to Plan for Meals
As I mentioned before, this is a topic in and of itself. I’ll touch very quickly on it just saying that you need to plan each meal in detail. Dehydrate food packs -some you can do yourself- brekkies, and snacks are fundamental to keep your engines going. For example, we had to come back from our first-weekend adventure in the Ashburton Lakes because we didn’t have enough food to take us through a rough, cold night -true, weather didn’t help either!
How much you eat will depend on your fitness level, type of hike, type of diet, and so one!
But what I can say from the top of my mind is that you should always have your portions ready to go and divide them yourself when packing. I mean, don’t go out with full packages of stuff! Eg: for breakfast, I prepare my cereal with about 4 varieties of seeds and nuts, raisins, chocolate chunks, and powdered milk.
Camping Equipment List: Final Thoughts and Tips
- If you are hiking and camping with others, the great thing is that some items you can divide and share the weight! For example, you’d take only 1 beach blanket -which as I told you before can serve as your tent’s footprint. You can also take only 1 cooking kit, etc.
- Having a good idea about the landscape and climate of the region will help you decide what items you for camping and what you can drop out.
- Always go for lightweight gear if possible and segment items based on the frequency of usage. So, whatever you’ll be taking out often should be easily accessible! Also, don’t cram everything inside your backpack. It’s better to utilize the space for items that need protection from environmental conditions. Extras, you can take in a daypack.
- Keep in mind the weight of your backpack. I’m 54kg, so my backpack shouldn’t be over 11kgs. It’s estimated that we shouldn’t carry over 20% of our total body weight. During multi-day hikes, you’ll find that your backpack may be overly heavy at first, mostly because of the food. So be assertive when planning your hiking meals!
I hope this ultimate camping list guide and checklist helps you get prepared better and faster! If you think there are any other must-have for camping items, go ahead and add them to the list! Have fun!