Tips for Building a Great Camping Gear List

Making a camping gear list is an important part of planning for an enjoyable camping trip.

Think of your camping gear list as a living document. Instead of just making a list and checking it off for the upcoming trip, plan on keeping the list. When you get home and unpack, make note of the items you did not use, and the ones you didn’t pack but wished you had.

Over time you will build a list that is perfect for your needs and the kinds of activities you like to do during your camping trips. Stow the list in an easy to find spot with your gear so it is easy to find before the next trip.

In researching this article, I found a lot of lists that are just not very helpful. They were just giant catch-all lists that were not really tailored to the vastly different kinds of camping that people do.

Instead, I wanted to write an article that would help you think through the specific kind of camping that you are doing to build a list that is perfect for your next camping trip.

Tips for building a great checklist

• Start your list at least a few weeks before your trip if you can. Sometimes things pop into your head when you are thinking about other stuff, and being able to write down ideas when they come to mind is efficient.

• Make a separate shopping list. As you make your pack list, add the things you need to purchase to a separate list to save yourself the frustration of having to go back to the store for two items the day of your trip.

• Before you sit down to write your list, it might be helpful to call or visit the websites of any campgrounds you will be visiting to find out what their amenity situation is. This can have a pretty major impact on the kinds of things that make your packing list, especially in terms of toiletries.

• Decide what kinds of activities you are going to do on your camping trip, and visualize them while you work on your list. This will help you realize that you need ketchup for the burgers, waterproof sacks for the canoe, or floating balls for the dog.

• Consider the special needs of family members and pets. If anyone has allergies you can make sure to pack extra antihistamine in the first aid kit, etc.

• Make sure a friend or loved one knows where you are going and when you plan to be back in the event of an emergency.

The baseline necessities

Regardless of your style of camping, there are some basic necessities that you will need to bring with you. Make sure your list includes the following:

First aid kit
• Water, water bottles
• Water filtration system or treatment tabs
• Food
Flashlights and lanterns
• Eating utensils, cooking safe containers, and fuel to cook
• Extra clothes (especially extra socks and shoes)
Jackets and rain gear
• Prescribed medications
• Sleeping gear (tents, sleeping bags, mats)
• Basic toiletries (biodegradable)
Fire starting supplies
Sharp knife
• Can-opener
• Sun screen
• Bug spray
• Extra batteries in all sizes of your gear
• Phones and chargers
• Camera
• Bear safe food storage containers
• Trash bags
• Locator beacon (if you plan on exploring off trail)
• Tarps
• Rope

Car camping gear list

If you like to pitch camp near the car, then take hikes and day trips to natural locations, congratulations you get best of both worlds. Your list gets to include lots of amenities that the backpacker can’t afford to carry.

Consider adding the following items to your list for car-side camping:

• Foldable canopy
Folding chairs
• Pillows
• Folding table
• Coffee pot
• Toilet paper
• Firewood (don’t take firewood over state lines, buy near the campsite)
• Large coolers
• Extra beer and soda
• Charcoal
• Fire lighting fuel
• Pots, pans, tongs and other cooking gear
• Cutting board
Cooking stove and fuel
• S’more’s stuff

Winter camping gear list

Camping in cold weather brings along special environmental challenges and the need for extra gear. If you plan to be camping during the cold months or at high elevations with cold temperatures, consider adding the following items to your list:

• Insulated and waterproof boots
• Sunscreen (yes, you need it in winter too!)
• Sunglasses (helps with bright snow)
• Chemically activated heat packs
Trekking poles
• Extra socks
• More extra socks
• Gloves, waterproof glove liners
• Insulated water-resistant jacket
• Hats
• Thermal long underwear
• Crampons
• Vapor barrier liner
• Snowshoes
• Insulated thermos

Camping gear lists for special companions

Kids and pets have special needs to consider when camping. Here are some ideas to get you started in thinking through lists for taking them camping:

For the kids

• Smore’s stuff
• Board games
• Craft kit (plan a few specific crafts and pack what you will need)
• Frisbees, balls, nets for games
• Glow sticks
• Ghost stories

For the pets

• Food and water dishes
• Food and water in sealed containers
• Tie out and cable
• Harness, leashes, long lines
• Bals and toys
• Extra towels
• Crate
• Poop bags
• Plastic tarp to waterproof kennel
• Treats
• Brush (think burrs)
• Pet specific first aid items
• Dog license and/or rabies tags
• Glow stick (to see them at night if they get off leash)
• Bell for collar (to help find them if they get off leash)

Activity specific lists

Think through the specific activities you are planning for your camping trip. Visualize doing them and think through things you might want to have on hand. Here are some examples:


• Maps (the paper kind)
• Satellite phone
• Two-way radios
• Extra shoes and socks
• Gaiters
• Extra food and water
• Fire-starting gear

Nature watching:

• Field guides
• Notebook
• Pen an pencil

Take along entertainment ideas

• Paperback books
• Playing cards
• Radio
• Board games
• Your imagination


• Bathing suits
• Extra sunscreen
• Extra towels
• Sun hat
• Floaties
• Snorkel gear
• Goggles
• Flip-flops or crocks


Fishing poles
• Bait and tackle
• Stringer and nets
• Cooler packed with ice for transporting the catch


• Life jackets
• Waterproof sacks
• Paddles
• Boat repair kit
• Dry change of clothes


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