Ultimate-camping-checklist-feat

Ultimate camping checklist

After years of packing and re-packing in preparation for various expeditions, I’ve finally got it nailed – to the point where I have a spreadsheet with all my gear listed alongside its weight (full and empty) so I can predict how heavy my pack will be. Most campers are likely far less pedantic, but there’s no denying we all feel pride in getting our kit just right.

To help campers get their gear in order, I’ve put together the ultimate camping checklist – intentionally comprehensive so that everything you need is listed, whether it’s for a weekend backpacking trip through the wilderness or a longer family break.

The list is designed to be used in layers. The 10 essentials apply to everyone. After this, you can focus on different sections depending on your tastes and needs. These sections are organised as follows: backpacking checklist, family & car camping checklist, clothing checklist, kitchen & campfire checklist, toiletries / personal checklist, miscellaneous checklist.

Where relevant, I’ve linked to specific products I use and recommend. In the UK, I do nearly all my outdoor shopping at either Cotswold Outdoor or Ellis Brigham and buy all my maps from Stanfords in London. If I’m in the US then I recommend either REI or Backcountry. Check out our travel resources for more information.

Download a printable version of our ultimate camping checklist [PDF].

The 10 essentials

First conceived in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, the “classic” 10 essentials were updated in 2003 to keep up with modern equipment and now take a “systems” approach (i.e. map and compass became the navigation “system”). The below should always be packed whenever you step into the wilderness.

A map and compass forming part of the ultimate camping checklist

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp / flashlight)
  5. First aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches / lighter / candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Backpacking checklist

These are the fundamental items for camping when backpacking. Personally, I always try to keep things as light as possible (well below 15kg/33lbs), so often don’t take everything on the list depending on climate and terrain. I tend to just take one cooking pan (which I usually eat out of) and a cup for my morning brew. I usually forego the trekking poles and daypack, compressing my main backpack for day hikes and summit bids.

ultimate camping checklist

I currently backpack with a lightweight Wild Country Zephyros 2 tent

Family / car camping checklist

If you’re unrestricted by weight and space then there’s almost no end to the luxuries you can take with you. The below should certainly ensure you have a comfortable time under canvas. Again, you may not need everything on the list depending on your circumstances and campsite facilities.

Ultimate camping checklist family

Unrestricted by weight and space you can pack more luxuries for your camping trip

  • Tent (pegs and guy ropes)
  • Tent footprint
  • Tent-pole repair sleeve
  • Sun shade, tarp or screen
  • Camping toilet
  • Toilet tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads or mats
  • Air mattresses
  • Pad / mattress repair kit
  • Air pump
  • Pillows
  • Multi-tool and / or pocketknife
  • Daypacks
  • Food & drink: see kitchen & campfire checklist
  • Child carrier
  • Rolling jogger
  • Folding chairs
  • Folding table
  • Cots
  • Mallet or hammer (for tent pegs)
  • Headlamps (spare batteries)
  • Flashlights (spare batteries, bulbs)
  • Lanterns
  • Lantern fuel or batteries
  • Water filter or treatment tablets
  • Pet food
  • Bikes
  • Bike trailers
  • Inflatable boat with paddles and PFDs
  • Fishing gear (and license)
  • Canoeing / kayaking gear

Clothing checklist

Depending on the climate and terrain, you may not need everything on the checklist. I’ve not included extreme weather or technical clothing for high altitude mountaineering, ice or rock climbing. Whatever activities you have planned, choosing the right footwear is essential.

Ultimate camping checklist - family

  • Hiking boots or hiking shoes (relative to terrain)
  • Socks (synthetic or wool) plus spares
  • Gaiters
  • Rainwear (jacket, trousers)
  • Fleece jacket or vest
  • Wicking underwear (base-layer)
  • Wicking t-shirt (mid-layer)
  • Wicking long-sleeve t-shirt (top-layer)
  • Quick-drying zip-off trousers
  • Long-sleeve shirt (optional for sun and bug protection)
  • Sun-shielding hat or cap
  • Bandana or buff
  • Thermal underwear
  • Warm hat, skullcap or balaclava
  • Waterproof gloves and / or mittens

Kitchen & campfire checklist

If you’re not backpacking then meal times when camping can be so much more than indistinguishable freeze-dried macaroni and cheese or chicken noodles. With the right equipment and planning there’s no end to the culinary delights available. Make sure you bring everything you need to build a campfire for a glorious night spent around a campfire beneath the stars.

ultimate camping checklist

Lightweight high-performance firelighters like Zip will give you the best chance of a successful campfire

  • Firelighters
  • Matches / lighter
  • Pocketknife
  • Axe or wood saw
  • Grill
  • Stove
  • Windscreen
  • Fuel
  • Fuel bottle(s)
  • Cookware (pots, pans & kettle)
  • Frying pan or griddle
  • Pot grabber
  • Food storage canister
  • Cold box / cooler
  • Water bottles
  • Plates, bowls
  • Mugs / cups (measuring cups)
  • Utensils (with knife)
  • Collapsible sink or container
  • Portable coffee / espresso maker
  • Foil
  • Trash bags
  • Washing-up liquid

Toiletries / personal checklist

The below list depends on where you fall on the bushman-scale. How clean do you want to be during your camping trip? Pick and choose to meet your requirements.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen and anti-sunburn
  • Lip balm
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Alcohol or antiseptic wipes
  • Spare eyeglasses / contact lenses
  • Mirror
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Toiletry bag
  • Cosmetics
  • Brush / comb
  • Eyeshades and earplugs
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Shower water bag

Miscellaneous

I wouldn’t regard any of the below as essential but they may be useful depending on the activities you’re planning. Some of the the items will make your time camping more comfortable, others are additional safety measures that are worth considering.

Ultimate camping checklist misc

What have we missed? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll continue to update the camping checklist.

(Additional photography: Dreamstime)

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