Your Ultimate Camping Checklist

Here are the absolute basic necessities, adaptable for families and experienced campers alike.

3. All the Permits

Camp safely and legally by making sure you have all of the right permits for everything you want to do — camping, fishing, hunting, whatever.

4. First Aid Kit

Because you don’t really want to have to have to do the Survivorman thing. Here’s a list of 10 things that should definitely be in there, from Outdoor Life. Here’s a list from the American Red Cross.

And with help from Positively Splendid, you can make a cute little holder for everything.

5. Flashlight and Extra Batteries

(Headlamps are useful too…and you can use that trick where you attach it to a gallon jug of water to use as a lantern.)

6. Sunscreen

Bring it, wear it, and wear it right. No excuses.

7. Rain Gear

Check out this video to figure out what to pack in case it rains. Or reschedule if there’s a bad forecast.

8. Insect Repellent

Gotta keep those buggers from bugging you. The Frugal Girls have a list of the best non-nasty-smelling things you can use.

9. Campfire Starters

So you can spend more time roasting marshmallows. Toilet paper rolls and dryer lint are an inexpensive DIY project.

10. Matches

To help your fire starters along. You can keep them in a mason jar for cute storage, with a sandpaper top.

11. Weather-Appropriate Clothing

CHECK THE WEATHER. If it’s supposed to be cold one night, you don’t want to freeze!

13. Tent

Adorable bunting optional.

14. Your Tent’s Rain Fly

Your tent probably comes with one, and if it starts raining you’ll definitely want it to keep you and everything inside your tent warm and dry. Also, make sure you’re using it properly.

15. Sleeping bag

Backpacker magazine has a handy guide for finding the right sleeping bag. If you’re backpacking and hiking, you might want to opt for a super lightweight one. Or you can go Juicy Bits’ route and glamp.

16. Ground Cloth or Tarp

If you bought a tent, it probably came with one. If not, you can just use a tarp. It will (if used the right way) help keep the rain out! Bonus: if you use a tarp, you can possibly turn it into a big tarp shelter.

17. Extra Stakes

Ok, so this is a little optional. But I’ll never forget the time I went camping without extra stakes and one of my tent mates had to rig up something with some extra marshmallow skewers. These titanium tent pegs might be overkill, but they’re easy to spot in a sea of leaves.

18. Mallet to get those stakes in the ground

If the ground’s damp you’ll be fine, but if the ground’s harder, you’ll have a tough time getting those stakes in the dirt. You can always try to use your foot to press it in, but better to be safe than sorry.

19. Camp Pillow

You can get a fancy one at REI, or just use the bag that your sleeping bag came in stuffed with your down jacket.

20. Lantern

Because you’re going to want to read after the sunset’s over and you’re stuffed full of caramelized marshmallows. Go for something that won’t start a fire.

22. Toothbrush and toothpaste

Sew up a cute little pouch, like this one from Simple Things, Sweet Life.

23. Toilet Paper (and Hand Sanitizer!)

DIY yourself a Nature Calls (which is just a theoretical product design, not something you can buy) like Gizmodo suggests, with a plastic bag and two-liter bottle.

24. A Shovel

You know why. And for fending off intruders, obviously. Here’s a collapsible one for easy carrying.

25. A Camp Shower

Optional, of course. Here’s a DIY version from Instructables.

26. Towels

A little one to always carry, a little one to keep at camp, and then a bigger one to towel dry just in case. Microfiber towels are lightweight and super absorbent.

Also, have you heard of the InstaKilt? (Yes, that’s a towel in the picture).

28. Water. Water Water Water.

Either find a way to purify it yourself (boil it!), go to a campsite that has water spigots, or bring it with you.

29. Cooler with Ice

For keeping all of your perishable food safe! The USDA has some tips for keeping your food safe while you camp.

You can splurge on the ice chest in the photo here, if you feel like it.

30. Firewood

If you’ve never chopped it yourself, just buy it, unless you have someone with the know-how in your party.

31. Cookware

Yes, you should plan your meals in advance, of course. Whether you’re going to use your fire, a camp stove, or a charcoal grill at your campsite, you won’t want to forget your utensils (and charcoal, if you need it). Love to Know Camping has a handy slideshow with all of your options.

32. Can Opener

Because nothing’s worse than looking forward to some baked beans and not being able to open the can.

33. Plates, Forks, and Knives

You can use disposable plates, as long as you’re careful to collect them and bring them back with you to an acceptable trash disposal spot. This also includes marshmallow skewers if you don’t feel like finding sticks long enough for roasting.

34. Stuff for Washing Dishes

Suite 101 has 10 steps to help you get those dishes clean! Just make sure not to dispose of your soapy water in the river or on the ground.

Pretty camping dishes on Row House Nest.

35. Aluminum Foil, Paper Towels, and Garbage Bags

Not so much for the backpackers in the audience, but if you’re with kids, paper towels are an absolute essential. You can even set up this Handwashing Station. Just make sure you put your trash in the right place!

37. Pack of Cards

For good, clean fun. Or King’s Cup (or whatever your campus happens to call it). Helpful if your campsite has a picnic table.

38. A Scavenger Hunt List

But make sure you take pictures of things, instead of removing them from nature. Plus then you can put big things on your list, like bears (actually, please don’t put a bear on your scavenger hunt list. Thanks). The Creative Homemaker has a good starter list for a kids’ hunt.

39. A Friend with Moderate Music Talent

A campfire is hardly complete without a guitar to sing along with.

40. Binoculars

David Trood / Getty Images

First for looking at wildlife, and then for (amateur) stargazing. EarthSky has some tips for stargazing with binoculars.

41. Tampons

Tampons can be an essential part of a first aid kit. You can use them as bandages, crude water filters, and fire starters. The Art of Maniless has 10 ways you can use a tampon to survive, just in case.

42. Glowsticks

Because why would you spend the night in the dark without colorful glowsticks??? Childhood Beckons has some cute games for kiddos or possibly tipsy adults.

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