What are the essentials for camping? Look no further than this ultimate camping gear list of everything you could possibly need for your next camping trip!
Here's a fun fact that's probably hard to believe: I did NOT grow up going camping! I can think of a single time when my siblings and I attempted to sleep in a tent in our backyard, but I don't think we made it through the night.
It wasn't until college that I started camping and realized how much I loved it! I slowly started collecting camping gear and planning more trips. It's been so good for me to spend time exploring, resting, and living in the outdoors.
Camping makes that possible and it'll be something I do for the rest of my life!
The camping gear you pack can elevate your camping experience! Whether you're a camping expert or have never been, I have created some resources to help you get your camping gear ready.
Discount camping gear
Want to know the best places to purchase discount outdoor gear? Here’s a guide to the best places for purchasing outdoor gear without breaking the bank.
What is the difference between backpacking and camping?
Camping and backpacking are different. Simply put, camping typically involves spending time in a tent. There's tent camping, car camping, and hammock camping.
These styles of camping can happen in a campground, forest, or even just your backyard. The beauty of typical camping is that you pack everything you'll need, set up camp, and stay put. It's so much fun!
Backpacking is a little different from camping in that you don't stay put. While you still might be sleeping out in a tent, you are usually hiking in the day and sleeping at different locations at night. You'll carry everything you need in a backpack.
Both of these activities are awesome, and the style of sleeping in the outdoors depends on the goal of the adventure.
Camping and backpacking have a lot of similarities and a lot of overlapping gear can be used.
This post focuses specifically on a camping gear list, but I have a full post specifically about backpacking gear as well.
Stay safe while camping
Camping can take place in a remote location. In order to stay safe, it’s important that you take the time to prepare. Follow a packing list and double check everything you will need before you leave.
Always make an emergency plan and let someone know your trip plans before you leave.
Camping gear list
While this is a comprehensive camping gear list, you definitely don’t need every item on this list. It’s important to consider the duration of your camping trip, the weather, and the conditions of the area. Remember to double check for the essentials before you leave to help you stay safe.
How to pack for camping
Each person will pack for their camping trip in a way that best fits the needs of their trip. If you're camping in a campground or near a car, it doesn't really matter how the pack items. If you're going to have a hike a little ways, you might need to bring a big backpack. Packing is purely based on preference!
Since I'm really used to packing for backpacking trips, I throw most of my gear into a backpack.
Here are a few questions to answer when making your camping gear list:
- what kind of camping are you doing? (car, primitive, etc.)
- what kind of food will you bring?
- will you have a cooler?
- how do you want to sleep at night?
- what luxury items do you want to bring?
- will you be doing any activities? (hiking, climbing, swimming, etc)
- will you have access to a bathhouse?
- this last one isn't a question, but it's crucial: waterproof everything! You want to make sure everything that isn’t a waterproof material is kept dry! To easily do this, pack things in double ziplocs. It will be important to waterproof gear like clothes, lighters, journals, sleeping bags, and food. You won’t need to worry about waterproofing rain gear or pots.
Tent (with Rain Fly)
A tent is one of your best friends on camping trips! It is the piece of gear that will protect you the most on rainy, cold nights. There are definitely better tents than others.
In my opinion, it’s better to have a tent that doesn’t cause you any troubles and makes things easy. I want my tent to be quick and easy to set up and keep me dry. I want it to be big enough to fit me, but not have extra room because I will only be in there while I’m sleeping.
Because I camp in the same tent that I go backpacking with, my tent isn’t super bulky and has compact folding poles and a rain fly.
I can’t stress the rain-fly enough… make sure your tent has one! Most people think the purpose of a tent is to protect you from animals, but honestly, it’s really for the rain!
My favorite tent is a 2-person tent that fits me and my husband perfectly. It’s easy to set up and keeps us dry.
- 2-person Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent
A sleeping bag is another really important piece of gear! It’s what will keep you the most warm at night. There are a couple of considerations when choosing which sleeping bag to pack for a trip.
You can consider the weight, weather ratine, and shape of the bag when choosing one that works.
Research the weather rating to figure out how warm of a bag it is and if it will work for the temperatures you’ll be camping in! For example, I have two sleeping bags: a warm and cold weather bag that I pack depending on what time of the year I go camping.
Sleeping bags are one of those gear items that can really vary in price. It’s possible to find cheap options online, but it might not be as durable or high-quality as a more expensive bag.
Consider how much you’ll be using it and what qualities are really important to you. I go backpacking often, so for me it’s important to have a bag that is light, packable, and warm!
- Warm Weather Sleeping Bag: Zero Degree Big Agnes Women’s Sunbeam (FireLine Eco) Sleeping Bag Sleeping Bag
In addition to your sleeping bag, a sleeping pad is helpful for camping trips. Not only is this piece of gear going to go underneath your bag to keep you warm, but it can also be really helpful to sit on while you’re hanging out around the fire.
When you’re choosing a sleeping pad, you’ll want to consider how much it weighs, if it is waterproof, how small it packs, and the durability.
My personal preference is to use a small, fold-up sleeping pad, because this is what I use for backpacking.
Some people really like blow-up sleeping pads, but I haven’t converted because I like that my fold-up pad is ready to go, durable, and won’t let me down at night.
- Fold-up Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Ultralight Foam Backpacking Mattress
- Inflatable Sleeping Pad: Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad – Mat, (Large), Ultralight 14.5 OZ, Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking, Hiking Air Mattress – Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact, Camp Sleep Pad
A camping pillow is an optional piece of camping gear. I went years without having a pillow and just packed use a piece of clothes I had in my bag. However, the more trips I went on, the more I realized I actually really wanted a pillow so I made the investment!
There are super compact, lightweight, blow-up pillows that are life-changing. It hardly takes up any space so I bring mine on every trip!
- Camping Pillow: Sea to Summit Inflatable Pillow
Depending on what you plan to use it for, you will need to pack one or two tarps. You will need one tarp to go underneath your tent!
The tarp under the tent will keep the bottom of your tent dry if it rains. (Trust me, I’ve been lazy and skipped this and I ended up in a puddle of water…) Because the tarp is going on the ground, make sure the material is waterproof and durable.
The size of the tarp doesn’t need to be huge – it just needs to be large enough to cover the ground under your tent.
A second tarp can be packed if you plan to make a tarp shelter for sleeping.
If you’re planning on sleeping on the ground, in a hammock, or anywhere outside of a tent, you’ll need to make a tarp shelter to keep you dry in case it rains. Practice making a tarp shelter before your trip so you know how to set it up!
Make sure to pack plenty or paracord to keep your tarp up.
Pro Tip: Keep your ground tarp and shelter tarp separate! Use the same tarp for the ground every time because it’s more likely to get holes, which you won’t want on your shelter tarp.
- Basic Tarp: AmazonBasics Waterproof Camping Tarp
Hammock (and straps)
Some people choose to sleep in a hammock instead of a tent. Make sure to check the area you’re going backpacking to make sure there are plenty of trees and if the area allows for hammocks.
Some places do not allow you to hammock! You will want the material to be strong, durable, and compact.
I love sleeping in my hammock and pack it for every trip I have the option to sleep in it. It might sound strange to sleep in a hammock, but it is so comfy to be like a little cocoon in the night!
- Hammock straps: ENO, Eagles Nest Outfitters Atlas Hammock Straps
An important consideration for camping is what you are going to wear! One of the best parts about camping is that you don't have to worry about weight in the same you do while you're backpacking. This means you can typically pack more comfy and clean options!
ALWAYS check the weather! If there’s a chance of rain, it’s going to be cloudy, or you’re hiking to higher elevations, you’ll probably want to bring some upper layers. Layers can also be important for sun protection. Even if you’re wearing sunscreen, wearing a long-sleeve shirt can help protect you from the sun.
Your best bet will be to pack extra layers in your bag.
Consider packing a base layer and second layer (the specifics of those will depend on the temperatures.) Depending on what you choose to bring (I recommend lightweight, synthetic, and waterproof layers), a few extra clothing items really won’t add that much weight or take up much room in your bag.
The philosophy I follow for most trips (camping or backpacking) is “wear one, pack one.” If I’m wearing one t-shirt and a pair of shorts, I will pack an extra of both.
You don’t need to pack a new outfit for everyday. Pack what works for you!
Check out my Amazon Storefront for specifics.
- Insulated Jacket
- Top Layers
- Sports Bra
- Rain Gear
- Rain Pants
- Bandanas / Headbands
- Hiking Boots
- Camp Shoes
The amount of additional clothing items depends on how you're camping.
This isn’t a necessity, but packing a book to read before bed or on a break during the day can provide some extra entertainment when you’re off-the-grid.
Journal & pen
Packing a journal is a great way to reflect, think, and pray on a backpacking trip. I always pack two journals: a tiny adventure journal and a writing journal.
My adventure journal is where I document the cool adventures of trips (where I hiked, camped, explored, etc.) and the writing journal is where I write down ideas, reflections, and more.
The wilderness provides so many amazing experiences so I want to write them down to remember!
Several people enjoy carrying a camera or phone on their hike so they are able to document the adventure! It’s so cool to take a picture at the top of a mountain or in a new place. Every smartphone has a camera so if you’re already bringing a phone, there’s no need to bring an additional camera.
However, if you are planning on taking some action shots or videos, you might want to consider a GoPro. Remember to waterproof your camera or phone in case it rains!
Here’s one of the more popular GoPros available:
- GoPro HERO7 Black — Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen 4K Ultra HD Video 12MP Photos 720p Live Streaming Stabilization
If you think you might be hiking when it’s dark, you will need a light! You'll also just need one around camp.
A headlamp is more convenient than a flashlight because it keep your hands free. You’ll be able to see the trails and your surroundings well. Having a headlamp with the strobe-light function can help in emergency situations as well.
When purchasing a headlamp, consider the different power modes, batteries, and if it is waterproof. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries!
My favorite headlamp:
This is an item I like to bring camping so it's easier to hang out at night! I like to stay up roasting marshmallows, playing games, and hanging out.
Lantern: LE LED Camping Lantern
If you have room for extra batteries, pack them in case your headlamp dies!
Cast iron skillet
If you plan to cook over a campfire, a cast-iron skillet is the way to go! It can easily hold up to the heat and cooks things so well.
Skillet: Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet
A multi-tool can be a really helpful piece of equipment when you don’t have a lot of resources around. From repairs to fixes, a multi-tool can really save you in an emergency situation!
When considering a multi-tool, think about what you might need it for, the tools available, and where you will carry it.
One of the most popular multi-tools on the market:
Whether you’ll be gone for one day or one week, nutrition is a very important consideration for your trip. There are so many factors to what you will pack, and I would suggest using this post as a starting point to get you planning.
Water bottles or hydration system
The rule of thumb I follow is to drink 3 liters of water per day. You can either bring a water bladder or few water bottles that equal 3 liters. You’ll need to check where you are camping to see if there are water sources available.
It’s so important to research if there is water available on the trails so you can plan the correct amount of water to bring! If you're camping in an area with water, you won't need to consider bringing a big tup with you.
Aside form the hydration pack linked above, here's an option for a water bottle:
- Vmini Water Bottle with New Wide Handle Straw Lid, Wide Mouth Vacuum Insulated 18/8 Stainless Steel, 32-40 oz
Depending on what kind of activities you're doing during the day of your camping trip, it’s helpful to bring some electrolytes to help with hydration.
Electrolytes are important because they help balance the amount of water in your body and move nutrients to your cells. Most electrolytes can come in a tablet that dissolves in water or even a little packet.
My favorite electrolytes:
I consider coffee a part of my daily nutrition! Seriously, I’m not going to sacrifice a cup while I’m backpacking.
There are several different methods to make coffee on a camping trip, and my favorite is with an Aeropress. It’s lightweight, quick, and easy to make a morning cup.
I will ALWAYS bring this on a backpacking trip. I switch up what kind of coffee I bring, but it’s always a smooth dark roast. It’s totally up to you to choose what kind of coffee you want to bring on a trip.
I usually pack some in a small ziplock so that I don’t carry a big bag. If you would rather pack instant coffee you can add to hot water, that’s fine as well. It’s up to you!
It’s important to bring nutrients while you’re camping! I like to bring high-protein snacks when I go camping.
Protein bars, trail mix, and foods with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will give you the fuel you need for your hike! Brining a cooler and having access to car will allow me to bring different kinds of snacks than if I were going backpacking.
Regardless, remember to put your snacks away at night so an animal won't get them!
Check out this post full of my favorite hiking snacks.
The meals you pack will depend on if you are backpacking or car camping. For camping trips, you can bring a cooler and bring bulkier items than if you were backpacking.
The amount of hygiene items you pack will be based on personal preference. I like to pack all of the basic hygiene items so that I can feel as fresh and clean as possible while I’m camping. This might also change depending on the length of the trip and if there's a bathhouse available.
Here are some daily hygiene items:
- Face Wipes
- Bug Repellant
- Hand Sanitizer
- Menstrual Products
- First Aid Kit
The necessity of a bobo bag will depend on if you have access to a bathhouse or not. If you're staying at a campground with a bathhouse, no need to worry about this! If you are camping in a remote location, you will need to prepare.
A bobo bag is a small bag filled with the items you need to poop in the woods. You’ll need a trowel, toilet paper, and ziplock bag.
The trowel is helpful to dig a hole in the ground to do your business and then cover it up. The toilet paper and ziplock are optional based on how you decide to clean up.
If you decide to use toilet paper, you’ll need to pack it out in a ziplock so that you’re following all of the guidelines for leave no trace. If you don’t want to pack out any toilet paper, you can use a rock, leaves, or whatever else you find in nature. I promise there are great smooth rocks out there!
- Trowel: TheTentLab Ultralight Trowel
A Kula Cloth is a reusable antimicrobial pee cloth. To avoid packing excess amounts of toilet paper and/or using the ‘shake off’ method (aka ‘drip dry’), this pee cloth is a way that to stay comfortable AND have a positive impact on the environment at the same time. This item is a total game-changer!
Navigation & safety
Depending on where you're camping, you might need to do some navigation to get to your destination. Always make sure you have everything you need for navigation and safety. Have an emergency plan and let someone know (who isn’t going with you) your plan before you leave.
If you’re backpacking on unfamiliar territory, consider a map. Most parks will have maps at the trailheads so you can take a picture of it before you head out. There are also navigation apps with maps you’re able to download if you’re going to be gone for a couple of days.
I always bring a paper map (waterproof ones are great!) and download a map on my phone. It’s so smart to have backup!
In order to correctly use a map, you’ll need a compass. Most smartwatches and phones have one built in, but if that isn’t an option, make sure to bring another.
If I'm camping, I'm bringing my camp chair. It stays by the fire the whole time and makes things way more comfortable!
Before you leave for a trip, you might need to make reservations! Most places let you make reservations online and you can look at pictures, availability, and amenities.
There are a lot of places that have first-come, first-served sites that are available if you want to risk showing up (I have done this!)
If you’re planning on staying in unfamiliar places, it’s a good idea to bring a GPS or safety device. There are apps you can download on your phone if you don’t want to make a completely new purchase, but make sure you have a plan.
If you’re purchasing a GPS device, consider the maps, waterproof capabilities, battery life, readability, and affordability.
- GPS option: Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
Even though you might not have service for your camping trip, it might be helpful to pack your phone for potentially using spots of service, especially if there’s an emergency. I usually pack my phone in a waterproof case and use it for pictures.
Solar powered charger
If you are going to use your phone, packing a solar-powered charger is a good idea so your battery can recharge. A lightweight and durable charger will be your best option!
Other personal items
Depending on where you’re camping, it could be helpful to pack personal items like an identification or cash. Look into where you’ll be going and see if you’ll need this!
The kitchen items you pack will depend on how you decide to cook. The affordability and durability of these items will depend on your needs. For your camping trip, consider the meals you want to bring and plan accordingly.
I like to keep things simple, yet ball out while I can! Since I won't be carrying any of the kitchen items like on a backpacking trip, I like to cook with a skillet.
If you want to make dinner quick and easy, consider using a stove that will boil water quick. Sometimes cooking over a fire is unrealistic or slow, so I will use a backpacking stove on my trip.
A stove is only helpful if you have fuel! Make sure to pack fuel bottles, and enough fuel to get you through your trip.
Serving spoon & spatula
A serving spoon and spatula will be helpful while you’re cooking. Think about what you will be cooking and the kitchen utensils you will need. Consider packing tools that are multipurpose so you can use them for more than one cooking method to avoid packing extra tools.
Make sure the tools are durable, easy to use, and easy to clean.
- Multi-Use Tongs & Spoons: Cusinine Heart 2-in-1 Silicone Food Tongs, transform from tongs to cooking spoons, salad servers, tongs, fork and spoon, all in 1
Pots & lids
These are very important for coking! Whether you’re boiling water for coffee, making dinner, or even baking a dessert, you will likely need pots and lids to cook. It’s great to have pots and lids that are lightweight, packable, compact, and durable.
- Pot: MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot
- Cookset: 1 Liter Camping Cookware Mess Kit Backpacking Gear & Hiking Outdoors Bug Out Bag Cooking Equipment 10 Piece Cookset
Depending on what you plan to make on your trip, a skillet can be a helpful tool to elevate your meals. Like the pots you will bring, make sure its lightweight compact, and durable.
- Skillet MSR Alpine Fry Pan
In addition to having a pot, a pot grabber can be a helpful tool when you’re cooking! This can easily protect your hands while you’re cooking. Specifically, I like to pack a pot grabber that is durable, lightweight, and made out of silicone.
- Silicone Pot Grabber: GSI Outdoors 74010 MicroGripper Silicone Pot Gripper
- Aluminum Pot Grabber: Olicamp Aluminum Pot Lifter
A personal bowl is what you will eat all of your meals with! Also, it’s great to have a bowl that is easy to clean and lightweight. Some camping bowls have lids and others are collapsible—it all depends on your preference and what you want!
I like the bowl with the lid to keep critters and dirt out of my bowl.
This utensil is what you will use to eat all of your meals! There are so many options so it just depends on your preference. The beauty about this piece of gear is that it definitely is lightweight.
There are several styles you can choose from.
- Orblue 2-PACK 4-in-1 Camping Utensils – Portable Stainless-Steel Camping Spoon, Fork, Knife and Can/Bottle Opener – Backpacking Utensils with Case
- Navaris Titanium Spork Camping Utensil – 3-in-1 Fork, Spoon, Knife Cutlery Combo – Lightweight Metal Silverware for Backpacking, Hiking, Outdoors
Coffee mug (personal)
Because I’m definitely making coffee in the morning, I always bring a coffee mug. I like to bring a mug with a handle because I can easily hook this on the outside of my backpack. Usually I choose one with a lid as well to keep the dirt and bugs out of it!
- Coffee Mug: COOK’N’ESCAPE Lightweight Titanium Pot with Lid, Titanium Camping Cookware Backpacking with Foldable Handles, Space Saver, Easy Clean
Because you might not access to running water and soap, a pot scraper will really help you easily clean your dishes. This pot scraper is lightweight, durable, and can help clean non-stick surfaces without scratching.
- Pot Scraper: GSI Outdoors 74125 Compact Scraper
Essential for getting fires started, you won’t want to forget a lighter! I pack a more durable lighter because I always want to make sure it works, but. you can pack whatever compact lighter you prefer.
- Lighter: Zippo Matte Pocket Lighters
Firewood and charcoal
A big part of camping trips is making bonfires! Always check the area to make sure it's okay to make bonfires. Brining firewood and charcoal can help!
If I'm going camping, I will bring better food than if I'm backpacking! I get a big cooler, pack it with GOOD FOOD, and plenty of ice.
Camp sink and wash tub
Consider bringing a camp sink or wash tub if you're camping to make doing dishes easier. This will be a lot more realistic if you have access to water!
Paper towel and rags
Bringing a few paper towels or rags can make cleaning dishes a lot easier.
Small cutting board
Whether or not you pack a cutting board will depend on the meals you bring on your trip. If you are bringing foods you will need to cut, having a small cutting boards make it easier than just cutting items on the ground.
Consider a cutting board that is lightweight and two-sided to prevent cross-contamination.
- Cutting Board: GSI Outdoors Ultralight Cutting Board- Small
Spice containers (with spices)
Brining a spice container can elevate your meals while camping! These spice containers are compact, convenient, and easy to clean. This might go without saying, but make sure to pack it with your favorite spices!
- Spice Container: GSI Outdoors – Spice Missile: Lightweight, Modular Spice Carrier for Camping and Outdoors
Knife or multitool
It’s always smart to carry some sort of knife or multitool. You might need it while cooking or to double as a pair of scissors in certain situations.
- Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife with 3.1in Serrated Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor, Tactical, Survival and EDC
Looking for more information?
I hope this camping gear list is helpful! If you're looking for more wilderness adventure resources, check out these posts:
This is not a paid review and opinions and experiences expressed in this post are all mine. This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. Jordo’s World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you purchase an item through the link I will get a small percentage of the sale which goes toward the development I do for this site.