Travel Tips

Everything You Need to Pack for a Camping Trip

Avoid forgetting necessary camping items at home with this handy guide.

We all know that sinking feeling of realizing you’ve left something at home halfway to your destination. When you’re on your way to a campsite, often with no cell service, running water, or grocery stores, forgetting things can be even worse. To help you avoid this, here’s our list of all of the basics you should bring on any camping trip. Whether it’s your first camping trip or one of dozens, we hope this packing list will help keep you organized.

Essential Things to Pack for a Camping Trip

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Sturdy and Supportive Backpacks for Camping

A Sturdy Backpack

If your campsite is backcountry or even a walk-in, it’s SO much easier to carry your large belongings (e.g., a tent, sleeping bag, etc.) if you have them packed into a backpack. I’ve owned four backpacks in my life, and the Osprey Ariel 65 is by far my favorite (the corresponding men’s pack is the Atmos). I have walked over 100 kilometers wearing this backpack and I’ll continue to use it until it is completely worn out.

A Compact Day Pack

For shorter day hikes, you’ll want a comfortable day pack to take with you on your excursions. This way, you can leave all of your big equipment and gear inside of your car or with your tent. Large and versatile, I highly recommend the Osprey Nova 33 for daytime adventures.

Waterproof Shelter and Camping Gear

A Tent and Rain Fly

This is obvious, but you will need something to protect you from the elements. I have a 2-person Marmot tent/rain fly that I love because it’s lightweight and easy to set up – I even use this when I’m camping alone. If you’re looking for an ultralight tent, try the Big Agnes backpacker tents.

Sleeping Bag and Mat

Even in hotter climates, you’ll usually want something to cover your body while sleeping and something to cushion you from the ground. Here’s where a good sleeping bag and inflatable mat will come in handy. For more versatility in different climates, you’ll want a thermal, zippered sleeping bag, an inflatable sleeping mat, and a sleeping bag liner.

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A Compressible Pillow

Compressible pillows are perfect for camping, because they can usually roll up into the size of a water bottle. If you want a good night’s sleep (that’s everyone, right?!), the Thermarest compressible pillow is your best friend. My Thermarest is fluffy, comfortable, and I take it basically everywhere with me.


A good headlamp is a camping essential. Whether you’re hiking early in the morning, walking around at night or simply need to illuminate your tent, a headlamp will be your perfect companion. If you do night time photography or don’t like harsh LED lighting, I recommend getting a headlamp with red night vision capabilities.

Clothing and Hygiene

Hiking Clothing

When camping, I usually bring at least one set of clothes for hiking/activities and one set for sleeping. The amount of clothing you bring depends on the climate and your personal preferences. Avoid overpacking. My recommended list of clothing items is below:

  • A waterproof rain shell
  • A compressible puffer jacket
  • Layers depending on the climate
    • For cold weather: a SmartWool merino wool layer
    • For warm weather: tank tops and shorts
  • Undergarments
  • Hiking socks

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are essential if you’ll be doing any off-roading or hiking on trails. Not only do you want your boots to be comfortable, but you’ll probably want waterproofing as well. For any kind of hiking excursion, I highly recommend the Ahnu Montara hiking boots (or, for men, the Ahnu Coburn hiking boots).

Slip-On Shoes

You’ll want some slip on shoes for walking around in the evenings, going swimming, showering, and getting in and out of your tent. For this, I love my trusty Birkenstocks.

A Microfiber Towel

If you’re planning on swimming or your campsite has shower facilities, you’ll need a towel to dry yourself. My favorite travel towel is my microfiber towel – it is lightweight, doesn’t stink, and folds into a tiny square when I’m not using it.

First Aid Kit

On any outdoor adventure, you should bring a small, basic first aid kit. I find it easiest to bring a pre-assembled first aid kit, which includes a small bag to hold everything.

Any kit you bring should include the following items (at a minimum):

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic cream
  • Bandage wrap
  • Gauze and tape
  • Gloves
  • Basic medications – antihistamine, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, antacid
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Other Items

Here are some other items you should bring with you on every camping trip:

  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Brimmed hat with drawstring
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
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Photo Credit: webhamster (Flickr)

For Eating and Drinking

To make food at your campsite, you’ll need the following items:

  • Water Purifier: Don’t ever drink water that hasn’t been purified, or you can end up with a nasty stomach bug. I normally use both a water filter and a UV purifier to clean my water before drinking it.
  • Fire-Starting Materials and/or Stove: I’ll say, from personal experience, it is a LOT easier to cook things on a stove than on an open fire. However, either way, you’ll want to bring matches or a lighter. If you bring a stove, you’ll also need a gas cannister.
  • A Bear Box: Be sure to protect yourself from wildlife by putting all food items in a bear box.
  • Water Bottle: For drinking and storing purified water, I splurged for a Hydro Flask once and now own three.
  • Mess Kit and Cooking Supplies: To cook and eat on, you’ll need pots, pans, plates, and silverware.
  • Cookable Food: You’ll want a few meals you can cook if you enjoy substantial food. I like the freeze dried Backpacker’s Pantry meals – they’re really easy to make and don’t require much cleanup.
  • Non-Cook Snacks: Clif bars are my go-to snack for any camping weekend. They also make an excellent breakfast. On intense hiking days, I often eat salted caramel Gu Gels as well.

For Added Comfort/Entertainment

Additional Camping Resources

If you’re planning on visiting remote places, we always recommend purchasing travel insurance. Not only does travel insurance protect you in an emergency, but it also gives you the peace of mind knowing that you’re covered. Our favorite insurance provider is World Nomads, they’ve always had our backs through medical emergencies and more.

Kay is a full-time media professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare day of time to travel the world. In the last year alone, she's visited over 10 different countries and taken a dozen short trips in between. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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