When building your camping supplies list and camping checklist, it might be a little overwhelming the first time, especially if you don’t know what to expect. I’m going to break it down for you to hopefully help you formulate your list. Some of the items may appear in multiple categories, which is actually good because getting multiple uses for your items will help cut down on the amount you need to pack.
Somewhere to sleep
We’ll start with the most obvious: your shelter and the items you’ll need for sleeping at night. For shelter, you will probably want a tent. (Unless of course you’re planning to use an RV or pop-up, in which case many items in this blog post will probably not be relevant!) You’ll need to make sure the tent is big enough for everyone in your party, and that it is weather appropriate. (Most tents will be fine, unless you’re camping in extreme weather.) You will need to look at what you’ll need to set up your tent: a tarp or footprint, a mallet, etc. (I highly recommend a test run of setting up your tent before you go camping – just to make sure all your bases are covered.) I would recommend always bringing a tarp and a rope even if you don’t have specific plans to use them.
You’ll also need something to sleep on or in. You have several options for comfort: sleeping pads, air mattresses, or cots. For warmth, you’ll want a sleeping bag or sheets and blankets. Don’t forget a pillow if you want a soft place to rest your head.
Something to wear
You’ll need to think through clothes and personal items for your camping trip. Be sure to check the weather if possible. Layers are best, as it can be chilly in the morning and evening, but hot during the day. Think through your planned activities and make sure you have appropriate clothing. Don’t forget toiletries, as well as things like bug spray or sun screen. I also recommend having a basic first aid kit.
Something to eat
How will you take your meals while camping? You could go very simple and get prepackaged items that don’t need to be cooked. (If you’re close enough to a town, for example, you could get lunches and dinners at a restaurant, and just have fruit for breakfasts.) You can use the fire to cook – there are a lot of recipes on the internet for foil packs. (You’ll need aluminum foil, firewood, and/or toasting sticks for this method.) Another options is a camp stove. (Don’t forget fuel for the stove.)
Plan your meals and be sure to note all the utensils you’ll need to prepare, cook, and consume each meal. Think through dishes and silverware (disposable works great for easy cleanup, but washing and reusing will pack smaller and be lest wasteful). Don’t forget to bring a way to wash all your dishes/utensils, and storage bags are very useful for leftovers.
If you will have things that need to be kept cold, then you’ll need a cooler. Plan on buying a bag of ice each morning.
Something for lighting
You will need some sort of lighting once the sun goes down. Generally, you’ll probably want a combination of lanterns and flashlights or headlamps. A lantern to provide general light for the campsite is helpful, and we also like having a smaller lantern for inside the tent. We like everyone to have their own headlamp, even the children. You may prefer flashlights yourself.
Something to do
You will need to think through what you plan to do while at the campsite. You’ll probably want chairs and a bonfire (firewood, hatchet), even if you don’t use a fire for cooking. (Fire is good for keeping the bugs away at night, as well as providing warmth.) Do you need things to do while at the campsite, or are you comfortable just sitting and talking? Do your kids need activities? This will depend on the personalities of everyone in your party as well as the specific campground where you’ll be. We like to bring a small bag of toys for the tent. If it looks like rain, you’ll need to plan for some inside the tent activities.
Do you plan to go hiking during the day, or sightseeing? You’ll need the appropriate items for whatever you are planning to do. Footwear, water bottle, baby carrier, money for sites, etc.
Use these ideas to make your list
Hopefully that helps you make your list. There are lots of checklists online that you can model your list after. Our list changes with each trip, so try not to stress about it being all-inclusive for every possible scenario. If you’re new at camping, it can be hard to foresee all the things you *might* need, and if packing space is tight then it can be challenging to decide what extras are worth bringing. For your first time, I would stick close to home so the climate won’t be very different from what you’re used to, and you can run back home if you forget something vital.