I’m an old hand at camping and have done everything from backpacking, RVing, and boondocking to tent camping.
Every experience has been unique and fun.
But my camping gear has also played a big part. In fact, the choice of camping gear list has been the difference between a horrible and nice camping experience.
See, on my maiden camping trip, I made the mistake of leaving my sleeping pad. It was a miserable night.
Now, if you’re unsure of what items to bring or leave, you’re at the right place.
You don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
I’ll provide you with a camping checklist of everything you need to carry when you go on a long camping trip.
What Determines What Items to Bring on your Camping Trip?
From experience, three important factors determine the itemization of your camping gear.
1) Type of Camping
It would be a challenge to recommend a packing list of camping essentials without knowing the kind of camping you need to do.
For example, the essential camping gear for car camping may differs from backpacking.
A camping checklist for backpacking is made with convenience, lightness, and ease of packing in mind. It cuts down on some of the whistles and bells of a traditional camping list.
On the other hand, car camping is more of comfort creatures that can fit inside your cabin.
For example, if you’re RVing camping, an air mattress, complete with fluffy fiber pillows, doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea.
But I don’t think that would sit well with backpackers, who only need a utilitarian camping checklist.
2) Camping Location
Next, you need to consider your camping destination, with a huge focus on the climatic conditions.
For example, there’s a huge difference between camping in Northern Michigan and Southwest Texas.
There’s so much difference between the climatic conditions, which may influence the gear you need to tag along with or leaves.
For example, if you’re camping in a wet alpine climate, it would make sense to bring a rain jacket.
But on the other hand, a rain jacket would be unnecessary baggage when going out for burning man.
PI love the tour bikes, so rain clothing is a necessity. I don’t rely on it for precipitation, much as I do it for windbreak and everything.
In short, you must first educate yourself on the area you plan to camp and the existing climatic conditions.
While at it, consider the type of wildlife and the new “neighbors” to expect.
For example, if a region is known for ticks and bugs, a bug repellant should be at the top of your camping checklist.
If you’re heading to a bear country, carry a bear spray or a deterrent to keep the bears away.
Next, consider how far you’re from the local town stores, from a hospital, or the nearest signs of human life.
The answers to those questions will greatly determine what to bring and what you can get away with.
3) Consider your daily camping routine
Visualizing your camping routine is a great way to determine what to bring to your next camping trip.
It’s the most basic thought I usually have and helps me see if I’ve missed something; think about my day, and figure out what I will need.
Like, “ok, I’ll drive there and prepare stew for the night. Now, do I’ve all the pots and pans? Where will I serve my broth? How do I like eating my soup, standing or seating? Do I need a picnic table? Do I need to accompany the meat stew with a cold beverage?”
Next, move to the sleeping arrangement; consider whether you’ll sleep inside the car, on a mat, or a sleeping bag?
You get the idea, right?
The idea is to visualize your daily routine; while at it, I like to keep tabs on my every thought and write down everything that comes to mind.
I love to do it a few weeks before the buildup of the actual trip.
The “Big 4” Camping Items
Creating a camping gear list may entail as much or little as you’d wish. Of course, it depends on the camping situation and such.
For example, there’re days I’ve camped only with a blanket, some ropes, and a tarp. And I was fine.
On other days, I’ve packed a whole asosrtment of gear, and I still felt inadequate.
See, having all the camping supplies is convenient, but you might be surprised at how you can improvise with what you have.
Even then, I always advise campers to prioritize the basics, which in my opinion, are shelter, food & water, sleep arrangement, and backpack.
It’s not a surprise that these elements take up most weight/space and usually impact comfort most.
I suggest you even spend most of your budget on these items.
Once you’ve covered the basics, you can research and determine what to carry and what to drop.
If you’re on a backpacking trip, a nice backpack is your number one ticket to a comfortable trek.
I’ve Gregory Baltoro, and it’s incredible.
Now, the best thing you can do for your back is to get a backpack that fits you properly. It makes sense to try the backpack before buying one.
And don’t listen to anyone telling you that only weight matters. While a lightweight backpack is amazing, a backpack that fits properly is more convenient to use as it distributes the weight evenly across your body and is easier to carry.
Understand that we’ve different torso/back physiques, and the same with the packing list of camping gear you’ll put inside.
In short, too many variables make you want to choose a backpack based on lightness alone.
Now, there’re a couple of incredible backpacks, and I can’t make a solid recommendation without a caveat. However, the Osprey and Gregory brands are wonderful picks.
Some ultra-light options, such as Gossamer backpacks, are for those who need to keep everything under 30lbs.
Camping shelter options include tents and tarps.
Usually, the size and quality are the biggest considerations when choosing a camping tent.
Quality-wise, tents come in different materials, ranging from cotton, canvas, and nylon to polyester. I would suggest you choose natural materials over synthetics.
Most natural-made materials such as cotton have better insulation and better durability.
When sizing a tent, choose one that is sized one person extra. The “person” listing is usually tight, and a one-person tent may feel like a coffin.
If you’re solo-camping, I’d suggest you pick a two-person tent, and if you’re camping with your partner, choose a three-person tent.
There are awesome brands to choose from for your tent, but some of the high-quality ones to consider are REI, MSR, Big Agnese, Kelty, Eureka, and Sierra Designs.
3) Sleeping Bags/Pads
A sleeping bag is necessary to keep you warm and far better than an air mattress.
But if you’ve the budget and want to invest in a quality item, you could choose the down bag.
Down bags are dope, thanks to their superior warmth to weight ratio. Plus, they’ve better performance, feel lighter, and size down to a compact size.
Plus, they’re durable, and if well taken care of, they’ll last you for several seasons.
But whatever sleeping option you choose; should be accompanied by quality sleeping pads.
Sleeping under the stars sucks when you’ve to feel the rocks or sleep on unleveled ground.
A sleeping pad eliminates all those issues.
But more importantly, it provides a nice shield against the cold ground. The pad will eliminate the ground from sucking warmth from your body and the sleeping bag through conduction.
4) Water & Food
The ideal camping location should be around a water source; at least, that’s how I pick my camping location.
Now, when car camping, you can bring your water with you, but when backpacking, you need to survive on what Mother Nature provides.
And this is where a filter comes into play.
Even when camping at a natural water source, it’s important to purify it, especially if you’re using it for consumption.
Boiling is one of the traditional ways of purifying water, but it’s time and resources intensive. It also takes a lot of effort.
I use a Sawyer Squeeze as my main purification method. It takes some time to purify the water, but I’m always glad it saves me from Giardia and other gastrointestinal conditions.
The Sawyer Squeeze weighs less than a kilo, so it saves a lot on my backpacking weight and filters all the water I need.
With that said, let’s go into detail about the essentials you need for your long camping trip.
- Sleeping pad: If you find them expensive, you might choose to get cheap foam pads.
- Pillows: Your old home pillows are sufficient.
- Blanket: The weather conditions will determine whether you need to bring one, but I always have one whenever I head out.
- Towel: It’s a handy option for wiping down the buildup condensation on your tent or enclosed car. It can also serve other needs!
The human necessities are the toiletries you need when camping.
- Toilet Paper: When hiking in the North, the big leaves are toilet paper. However, it feels nice having some regular tissue paper. Alternatively, you could choose to use baby wipes. In my opinion, they clean much better and fast.
- Small shovel: You’ll need a shovel to dig up a cathole for burying your shit. Of course, you could use sticks, but remember, a shovel digs better, and this is necessary for burying the scent and everything.
- Trash bags: I can’t overemphasize the importance of a trash bag. It aligns with my LNT principles and ensures that I clean out everything before I head out. You can also bring some dry or laundry bags to store dry and wet clothes. A good thing with dry plastic bags is they pack nearly zero space.
- Hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizers are a convenient way to keep your hands free of germs and viruses. Plus, they come in handy when you’ve an itchy bug bite. It’ll help with the itching, so you don’t scrape your skin. It also has dual use and is a great fire starter. However, the flame is almost invisible, so you must be careful.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste: It’s easily overlooked, but you don’t want to have a foul mouth all day. A toothbrush and paste are usually not at the top of my backpacking gear list. A simple gaggle of warm salty water is enough. Other personal items for personal hygiene include:
- Shaving cream
The choice and amount of clothes and layering depend on the camping season and location.
For example, sunglasses, open shoes, and a hat are necessary if you’re camping during the hot summer.
But if you’re camping in the alpine and cold weather conditions, you need more heavy garments, including winter sports jackets, gloves, thick hats, and hiking boots.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is necessary and should have all the basic need medicine for headaches, stomach aches, and personal medications.
There should also be special equipment such as tweezers, antibiotic ointment, and bandage wraps.
While this isn’t “lifesaving,” I firmly believe in a campfire treat.
Having something to cook will make you happy, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy.
For example, I like to cook brats and steak over the fire in the camp. Plus, I usually bring with me a small flask of whisky.
As for the fuel, I would recommend using hardwood charcoal as a supplement to keep your fire burning throughout the evening.
Of course, you’ll also need the cookware, cooking utensils, and a few extra items such as:
- A Cooler
- Water Jug
- Hydro flask for keeping your items cold or hot
- A Stove
- Coffee pouches
- Collapsible Utensils
- Food: Always plan your camp meals before heading out, depending on what you’ll be doing for the day. I would also recommend you take some extra snacks because it’s easier to get hungrier than you think!
Other Outdoor Gear
- Headlamp: If you’re new to camping, a headlamp may save you from the rocky “point it here” to “top moving” situations, especially at night. I also like to bring a glowstick, which I hang from the top of my tent and provide safe lighting.
- Tire repair kit: If you’re car camping, it will make sense that you prepare for any tire damage. Bring a tire repair kit to reinflate the tires as needed.
- Camping chairs: Get some cheap and lightweight collapsible chairs if you prefer having a more comfortable stay during camping. Similarly, tag along with your folding camp table, especially if your location doesn’t have a picnic table. Most camp chairs and tables fold to a compact size, pack pretty small, and are useful.
- Water bladder: If you’re backpacking for a day and don’t have a nearby water source, you can bring a water bladder. It carries huge amounts of water and food for the day.
Other random gear to pack include:
- Phone Chargers
- Body Warmers
Items Hardly in a Typical Camping Gear List But Make Camping 100x Better.
Some items you won’t find in a typical camping checklist but will make your experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
These are, in my opinion, some of the outdoor gear list ideas to consider:
Board games and playing card games are usually underrated.
But my favorite game when camping with a group is the Star Realms deck-building game. It’s a crowd-pleaser and will fascinate even the least “nerdy” players.
A small dustpan and whisk broom come in handy when clearing the miscellaneous debris from your tent. A dustpan also doubles as a great tool for fanning a fire.
3) A front floor mats
It stops much of the debris from getting inside your tent.
4) Clean clothes
Nothing is more refreshing than finding new clothes in your tent or car after taking off the grubby camp dirty clothes and skipping into something fresh.
5) Welding glove
I know this might sound silly to some, but I always ensure I carry welding gloves when packing my camping gear.
The gloves usually come in handy when grabbing or removing logs in the fire. It’s much safer and more convenient than removing with sticks or tongs.
Plus, they make it easier to shut off a white gas lantern with a bad seal.
6) Running socks
The super thin and thin socks are vita for wicking away moisture much better than the wool and keeping your feet comfortable.
I love wool, but it can’t compare to the high-quality wicking of the synthetics. However, I usually put wool over the thin socks for warmth.
It’s also an awesome method of cool weather camping.
7) Tiny spray bottle
I usually fill it up with soapy water and vinegar, which has proved quite a handy solution when performing general cleanup and dishes.
It works well to eliminate bugs, especially ticks.
9) Christmas lights
Packing battery-powered Christmas lights may sound silly, but strung between trees on foggy evenings makes it easier to identify your campsite.
It also feels fun and always ends up with others feeling welcome to come over and talk.
It’s also romantic if you’re only the two of you.
10) A deep serving trays
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I’ve a bus tray to keep me from going back and forth from my car camper to serving.
It’s also awesome for cleanup.
11) Over-the-fire tripod
The tripod makes grilling a breeze for even cooking.
There’s less glam about the tripod, but it’s a must for me and very convenient.
12) Hot Water bottle
When camping over winter, I recommend you bring a Nalgene hot water bottle.
Simply fill the hot water bottles with warm water, and tuck them inside your sleeping bag. You’ll love how they radiate heat over a long period to keep you warm.
Quick Fire Gear Camping List Tips
- Pack like items in a similar bin or dry bag
- Keep your food in sealed containers all time not to attract wildlife
- Research your camping location
- Download Google Maps
- Always lock your RV or Car camping doors overnight
- Have fun
What Not to Carry
Ultralight backpacking has taught me that it’s always possible to get by with less.
Of course, there’re items that I can’t really compromise about, but I always avoid over-packing.
For example, a trip for 1 to 5 days in standard 3-season conditions should allow you to pack under 40 pounds. Above that, the fun factor goes down dramatically.
One item that most campers tend to over-pack is the food. Don’t get your backpack overstuffed with food items you’re not going to eat.
Similarly, don’t bring too much of your clothing.
I think it’s well to camp with just a little extra, but I recommend always taking less. For example, you don’t need to change your socks every day.
That said, I feel there’re some items you shouldn’t even consider bringing to your next camping trip.
I don’t think it’s insane wearing jeans on a hiking trip, especially if you’re constantly on trial and durability is an issue. My old man used to wear one.
However, I prefer the freedom of movement, and the stiff, inhibiting denim jeans don’t offer that.
The denim jeans are particularly challenging to use in wet conditions since they take days to dry.
Packing all your electronics may seem like a fancy idea, but you don’t need all of them.
After all, camping is about leaving civilization and getting closer to nature. Electronics will distract you from that and bulk up your backpacking gear unnecessarily.
You don’t need a computer, tablet, or iPhone when appreciating the great outdoors!
Avoid the white clothing
Packing white clothing for your camping trip is simply calling for trouble.
There’s so much that can go wrong with white garments, from falling in the mud, brushing against tree sap to splashing condiments.
While dark colors are ideal, they’re heat absorbers and will make you feel uncomfortable.
So, it would help if you picked semi-lighter colors.
Style and fashion don’t count in the wilderness. Leave your jewelry at home.
Plus, it’s easy for your braces and necklaces to get lost while roughing it out in the wild.
Don’t pack strong perfumes
Perfumes with strong odors and scents will likely attract wildlife to your camping site.
Your site mustn’t give off any odor, especially if you’re in bear country.
The strong perfumes may also be bug attractants.
Don’t bring anything you’re not willing to take back with you
Every conscious camper should follow the LNT guidelines-which I’m very serious about,
The cardinal rule of camping is to leave the campground as you found it- or at least don’t leave any trash.
There shouldn’t be any unnatural trace of your stay, so a trash bag is important for collecting and carrying any waste once you’re done.
Big knife and Hatchet
Unless you’re building fires, I don’t see the need for the hatchets and big knives.
Of course, it’s necessary to have a complementary source of fire, but my camping stove has hardly let me down.
And for the times I needed to start a fire, it was small enough where hand gathering is sufficient.
Unless you’re camping in a location with large predators, you don’t need weapons. I’m never worried about humans.
Bear spray is something I would consider, but again, bears aren’t a threat where I adventure.
Camping Gear List Tip for Beginners
I began camping as a kid and now camp tons.
Here’re some things to consider when packing your first camping trip.
My best advice if you’re starting is that you start super simple.
I know it’s tempting to make grand Dutch oven meals on your first camping, camp 50 miles into the backcountry, or erect a tent from found materials.
But that’s like running before learning even how to walk.
Instead, start with the basics. Invest in a simple tent. Carry packed food with you. Granola, instant oatmeal, sandwiches, and hot dogs might be a great starting point.
You could even buy or borrow a camp stove on your next trip.
Stick to Established Campsites & National Parks
Also, stick to the established campground sites for the first few camping trips. Ideally, I would pick one not too far away from a city, so when push comes to shove, you can always dash to the comfort of the town.
Write Down your Gear
It sounds ridiculous, but writing down what you need to pack before heading out makes sense.
And don’t overthink or spend too much. Start with what you’ve.
Rent or Consider Gear with a Return Policy
If you’ve time, you might consider exploiting the return policy of the big box store retailers. Walmart has a nice return policy.
I buy large items when I arrive and then return them on my way out of town.
Plus, you might even be surprised by the amount of new stuff campers leave. One day, I ground to score a new EZ-up that lasted a couple of seasons before it bit the dust.
Finally, be easy on yourself. Making a gear list shouldn’t be a punishment.
Keep a sense of humor, and always know that you’ll goof on your first few attempts. Even with my experience and everything, I always and often forget.
It’s also likely you’ll do something dumb. And so is you next door camp mate. So be gracious to everyone.
Camping Gear List Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How should I pack for the long camping trips?
A: First, identify your camping location and weather conditions, and then determine the activities you’ll be doing. It’ll inspire you on the type of gear to pack.
Q: What are the most important things for most camping trips?
A: The most important things usually revolve around safety (first aid kit), food, and shelter.
Q: What do you need for camping for four days?
A: You’ll need campsite essentials such as a tent, fire, enough food & water, a first aid kit, and enough clothes.
Q: What should you not bring to camp?
A: You shouldn’t bring jewelry, excessive electronics, potent perfumes, valuables, and anything you’re not willing to lose.
That’s a wrap, and I think I’ve covered all the bases you need to know about the gear camping list.
Generally, there are many ways to pack and plan for your next camping trip, but basic survival knowledge is also important.
That’s one thing that the Boy Scout taught me. You always need to be prepared for the worst.
Do some research on your location, and see what animals or plants are for consumption when push comes to shove and what are deadly.
Have some basic navigational skills, and maybe teach yourself how to get to the main road in case you lose contact with your group and are without a compass.
Also, learn basic first aid kit tricks and what to do when shit goes down.
It may seem like I’m asking too much of a simple day hike, but that shit is important.
Fortunately, I’ve created what many campers would consider a definitive list. I’ve shared what to carry and what to leave. I’ve also created a section to help you determine what camping gear to bring and what to leave.
Of course, you don’t have to pack all the items listed. Pick the one that you feel is useful to your camping experience.