The Must Have Checklist for Camping

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! For more information, please visit our Privacy Policy.

Summer is approaching and that means one thing – Vacation! My husband and I both grew up in Michigan and our summer vacations revolved around camping.

In the only place where “Up North” is considered a destination, we have become accustomed to sleeping in tents, hiking, cooking over a campfire, and basking in the warm night air.

There is something very nostalgic and alluring about camping. To be out there completely on your own away from the everyday clutter and constant distractions, it makes you feel challenged and at the same time at peace.

Out there in an unfamiliar environment looking at the stars, hearing and smelling the elements of nature, it replenishes us.

Our bodies are designed to move and function in a world other than an office.

Our bodies are not meant to stare at screens sixteen hours a day.

camping across country

Last year, my husband and I camped across the United States traveling from coast to coast, and we had an incredible time not to mention we’ve become pros at camping.

There was something very liberating about getting up and being unconcerned with my wardrobe, make up, or hair. We would make coffee over a campfire then head out and hike at sunrise.

If you have never hiked at sunrise, I suggest you put this on your bucket list. Climbing up a mountainside in the brisk morning air only to be warmed by the slow climbing amber glow as it makes its way into the sky, there is nothing like it.

You feel part of the earth, you feel connected to this strange, huge, wonderful world in a way that you can’t find in movies or TV or even books for that matter.

Hiking while camping

In a weird way, camping always reminds me of yoga. You learn to just “be”. You just relax into your body and exist. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or the evening, or the next hour.

Just be in that moment, allow yourself to feel everything and learn to just sit with it. We distract ourselves with so much nonsense that I think we dull our senses. The sounds of the phone and TV drown out the sounds of nature.

Our eyes are always checking the clock and looking for new messages in the inbox pulling us away from the sight of our children growing right before us.

Our bodies are sore and ache from constantly sitting trying to get one more email done, one more bill paid, one more thing off the to do list.

camping with kids

Needless to say, I go camping every summer and return to some kind of natural state and just exist in this world even for just a weekend.

With a decent amount of camping experience under my belt, I have compiled a list of the must haves for your next camping trip or maybe even your first!

My husband and I have camped in campgrounds that are pretty much equivalent to hotels, campgrounds where we had to hike miles in to reach a spot to stay, and lots of places with bears, mountains lions, and all that other great stuff in nature.

We’re even well versed in camping with young children and how to keep kids happy on their first camping trip.

The Essentials Camping Checklist

Tent – depending on your type of camping, you can get a light weight pop up tent that sets up with little assembly or a huge, incredible canvas tent that substitute as makeshift cabins.

Be sure to think it through and pick the one that will best suit the kind of camping you’ll be doing.

camping view from tent

Rope – always, always, always bring rope. For some reason there is always a need for rope.

Camping Knife – Comes in handy for lots of other things like cutting small pieces of kindling or cutting rope! There are lots of small pocket options that are easy to carry.

Sleeping bag – self explanatory. There a countless styles and materials. Remember it can get extremely cold at night when you’re sleeping outside no matter where you are.

Bug Spray – my husband is unbothered by bugs, but I look like I have broken out with hives as soon as I enter the woods. Bring bug spray and skip any scented lotion, shampoo, deodorant, etc.

They have a multitude of spray including ones for babies. Check out which will work best for you and your campers.

Matches/Lighter – you’re going need something to sit around at night and cook your food with. Be sure to check with the campground before you light a fire.

Depending on the area and the fire danger level you may not be able to light one. You also might need to purchase specific wood from the ranger station to burn. Always check.

Tarp – it isn’t really camping until it rains. It always seems to rain once you have decided to live outside for a week so bring a tarp to help keep things dry. Even the best of tents leak sometimes so it is always a good idea to have something extra to stay dry.

Flashlight – Helpful for late night trips for calls of nature.

Lantern – perfect for a constant light source to play games, get ready for bed, or those times when you have to set up camp after dark.

solo stove for camping checklist

Cook Stove – if necessary. You can cook a lot of food over the campfire, but if you have the room to bring it, you can opt for a portable stove and enjoy pancakes and the like. Also, a helpful tip.

Never put food in your tent! If you can keep it in a car, lock it in the car. If you hiked in bring a container to store food and don’t put it where you are sleeping. Many campgrounds offer metal food bins right at the campsite.

Animals will smell it, and it is always better if they don’t tear through your tent to get it. I have personally seen a bear tear off the window of a topper on a truck, reach in, and happily take the cooler.

Liquids Container – bring a jug for water and make sure to bring a smaller container for hikes or enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

The Zojirushi Vacuum Mug is perfect for camping. With a vacuum insulation, lid safety lock, and sleek design it keeps beverages hot or cold for hours. It is corrosion resistant and repels stains which is exactly what an avid camper needs.

Now go camping and get back to nature!