Families are flocking to the great outdoors and jumping on the camping caravan. And for good reason – nothing beats spending time together away from the distractions of everyday life, snuggling in sleeping bags, waking to the smell of campfires, and watching the squirrels chase each other at your campsite. Unless you forgot to bring a camping essential or didn’t even know what you needed to pack. Never fear, my ultimate camping checklist is here! I know, I know – that last sentence was kinda cheesy.
First, let’s clarify that this camping checklist is for car camping. Nope, I’m not talking about sleeping in your car, although that is a thing nowadays. I’m talking about the kind of camping where you are able to drive your car up to your campsite, unpack all your camping essentials, and set up camp right there.
No backpacking in, no RV – just your car and all the wonderful camping goodies you choose to stuff in it. Oh yeah, your friends and family too, unless you are camping solo. Did you know car camping is the most popular type of camping for beginners and families?
Drop your email below, and I will send you a CAMPING CHECKLIST PRINTABLE faster than you can say “Honey, I forgot the food” (Been there, done that.)
Ok, don’t panic when you see how much stuff is on this camping checklist. It looks like alot when each item is individually listed. I’ve tried to include everything you could possibly need and want on your camping trip, but really there are tons of camping comforts and gadgets you can get that I haven’t put on the camping checklist. Start with camping essentials and get more gear later.
I’ve divided the camping checklist into sections to make it easier to see what you need and have packed.
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Tip: Get some totes to store your camping gear in and most of your packing will be done for you.
Shelter and Sleep System
- Footprint/Ground cover/tarp for under tent
- Sleeping bags or blankets
- Sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress (unless you like sleeping on the ground)
- Hammock and tree straps (if you want to skip the tent/great for lounging)
- Hammock tarp/rain fly
These are the obvious items you will need for your camping shelter and sleep system. Once you know you love camping, you can upgrade some of your gear.
- Camp stove and fuel
- Cast iron skillet
- Oven mitt/pot holder
- Kitchen towel/washcloth
- Cooking utensils – spatula, tongs, spoon etc.
- Knife and cutting board
- Aluminum foil
- Coolers (preferably one for drinks and one for food)
- Plates, bowls, and cups
- Water bottle
- Eating utensils -forks, spoons, and knives
- Can opener
- Lighter/matches and fire starter
- Skewers/roasting sticks
- Ziploc baggies – heavy duty, freezer ones for leftovers
- Basins for washing dishes
- Biodegradable soap
- Bulk water container
- Food and drinks
- Trash bags
The methods of camp cooking are endless. If you are camping at a campground that has either grills or grates over their fire rings you can wait to purchase a camp stove. You can even cook hobo style meals in aluminum foil in hot coals. Another option is a dutch oven.
Related Camping Post: The Campfire Cooking Equipment of Your Dreams
- Camp chairs
- Extra batteries
- Hammer/mallet for driving tent stakes ( a rock works in a pinch)
- Mat for tent door -optional but keeps tent cleaner
- Cord/rope (use for clothesline, extra tent guy lines, repairs etc)
- Saw or ax for cutting fire wood
- Multi tool/knife
Most campgrounds have picnic tables, but if not, you may want to take a folding table for food prep etc. Some campers bring a tarp or pop up canopy to provide some shade or protection from rain.
Health and Hygiene
Tip: Create toiletry kits for each family member. You can purchase actual toiletry bags or just use quart or gallon size ziploc bags.
- First Aid kit
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Soap and shampoo (if showers are available)
- Camp towel
- Toilet paper
- Trowel ( if no toilets)
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby wipes
- Menstrual products
- Lip balm
- Insect repellant
Depending on how primitive you are camping (developed campground vs. dispersed camping etc.) bathrooms and showers may not be available. Some people bring their own camping toilet and pop up “outhouse” shelter and portable camp showers.
Otherwise, embrace nature! Squat in the woods (be sure to dig a cat hole and bury your waste) and shower when you get home. If you are really stinky, take a “sponge bath” or use some baby wipes. Most developed campgrounds have bathrooms of some sort even if they don’t have showers.
Related Camping Post: Where to Go Camping: The Best Campgrounds for Beginners
Camping Clothes and Footwear
- T shirts
- Long sleeve shirt
- Sun hat/ball cap
- Rain boots/extra pair of shoes
- Insulated coat
- Warm hat/gloves
- Sandals/water shoes
Obviously, the clothes you need will depend on when you are going camping. Even if you are camping in the summer/warmer months, it can get cool in the evenings, especially in higher elevations. I always take a jacket/fleece and rainwear.
Camping Checklist for Babies
- Portable playpen or play yard
- Portable booster seat/high chair
- Portable bassinet or crib
- Baby carrier or backpack
- Baby wipes
- Diaper cream
- Formula if not breastfeeding
- Baby food
- Plate/utensils/sippy cup
- Baby first aid/medicines
- Outdoor picnic blanket (for baby to play on)
Take everything you normally need for your baby, then pack extra! Check out these tips for camping with babies.
Camping Essentials Checklist
When you head out on your camping trip, don’t forget any reservation confirmations. I also like to take both cash and my debit/credit card. Some campgrounds that are first come first serve have boxes to pay your camping fee so cash would be needed.
Camping checklists are a handy way to remember all the camping essentials you need. Is there anything you take that I didn’t include in this post?