This checklist is intended for campers who will be camping in a tent. It doesn’t necessarily apply to cabins, RVs, or other types of camping. While this doesn’t include supplies for every situation or every camper, it includes the things that I like to take with me to make sure the trip goes well.
You definitely want a tent to keep dry and warm, a sleeping bag, a portable cooler, fire-starters and warm clothing/blankets.
The optional items you can live without or buy on the spot if you forget them, although some are pretty important. Take a sleeping pad to cushion your dream spot. You might need extra clothing although one to two outfits seem to be enough for me for a weekend trip. Save yourself some money and pack left-overs or food items such as condiments from home. Tools for cutting up food if you go fishing for example are handy. Pack a flashlight to see in the dark. Last, but not least, pack toiletries. You can’t count on the campground to have an adequate supply of toilet paper and soap.
Some items are specific to your trip. If you plan on going swimming often, don’t forget your swim trunks! A beach towel is useful as well. If you plan on going hiking often, take good shoes and pants. Perhaps a hiking stick if you wish as well. A first aid kit doesn’t hurt for those adventurous types. A simple gauze, disinfectant spray and band-aids should suffice.
Back to the essentials. Before leaving your house, make sure you have a complete tent set. That means you should have the physical tent body, poles to stand the tent up and any additional poles for mounting doorways, etc. It seems like poles would be a no-brainer, but on a recent camping trip I encountered campers who had forgotten the poles at home. Their tent was useless without and they had to buy the correct poles from a nearby store at a great hassle to them. You need stakes to secure the tent to the ground. You’ll regret not taking them if you find yourself in a really windy area. A rain-fly is typically standard with most tents, but make sure it’s in the pack before taking off. Just check to make sure you have all that; things get misplaced. Take any additional items for the tent such as a tarp if you know you’ll be in a muddy area or hanging shelves if your tent comes with them.
If you’re coming from an emerald ash borer or other pest infested area, never bring your own firewood, for fear of spreading the beetle that threatens ash trees and other problem insects. A guide to state-by-state firewood restrictions can be found here.
Bring your own fire-starters such as lighters/matches, newspapers, or lighter fluid if you need some help starting the fire. Firewood is almost always available on the spot and some campsites even provide them for their campers at a small fee. Expect to pay anywhere between $2 to $6 per bundle depending on the amount of wood.
Additional items (the fun stuff): a deck of cards, books/journals, camera, sports gear (I like to bring badminton rackets or a frisbee), swimsuit, beach/wash towel, wine/beer bottle opener, bikes, extra cash, fishing rods, iPod for the road,
The shorthand checklist (in order of importance):
- Sleeping bag
- Warm clothes/shoes
- Tools for cutting/preparing food i.e. pots/pans, aluminum foil, knife, plates & cutlery
- Some food from home (potatoes, sausages, mustard/ketchup, fruit, snacks)
- Toiletries i.e. toothbrush/paste, soap, towel
- Sleeping pad
- Swim suit/trunks
The optional stuff:
- Camera or a sketchpad if you like to draw
- Sports gear (rackets, ball and mit, frisbee, fishing poles, beach ball) -Bottle openers
- Cash money
- iPod/CDs for the car
- Extra engine oil just in case
- Band aids