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Camping can be such a great time, full of s’mores, hiking, campfires and lots of time to chat and relax. However, the packing and prep work for camping can be a real killjoy. You spend hours grabbing all the essential items for camping while yelling at various family members to grab this or pack that. You get to the campground only to realize you forgot bug spray and now you are going to be forced to spend five times the regular price at the campground store if you don’t want to go home covered in bug bites.
It doesn’t have to be that way! Camping can be fun and relaxing without the painful preparations if you will spend just a little bit of time one afternoon writing out a camping checklist that you can use for every family camping trip to ensure that you don’t forget camping essentials. And I am going to make that time spent creating a list even less by giving you a downloadable PDF copy of our family’s Camping checklist for free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter.
Essential Items For Camping: Plus Free Printable Camping Checklist
Before you read the list, you need to know that what you need to pack won’t be the same as my family. Packing needs vary depending on the size of family, the age of kids, length of trip, what the weather will be like, amenities at the campground and of course what you are camping in. If you camp in a tent, you will need different supplies than those that camp in a travel trailer, and those that camp in a travel trailer may have different needs than those that travel in a pop up (or tent) trailer.
That is why my free downloadable essential items checklist has blank lines in it that allow you write in other items you might need that my family doesn’t. The free printable list also does not contain my notes on specific items.
We camp in either our minivan or our 27-foot travel trailer depending on the length of our trip. It is a fair amount of work to haul out and hitch up our big trailer when it is only the two of us going camping for a night or two, so we save the big rig for trips longer than two nights in one place. I did try to generalize the list for all types of camping, but some items may reflect our style of camping.
Custer State park explored during Week 22 Of Our 22 Week RV road trip
Sheets or sleeping bags
Mattresses–in our minivan we use these tri-fold memory foam mattresses and they are incredibly comfortable. Two singles fit perfectly side by side in the back. If you want something a little more compact, try a self-inflating sleeping mat.
Something to sleep in–we started out in a Coleman 6-man tent similar to this one almost 20 years ago and it is still going strong. Although we don’t use it, our children still do at least once a season.
Kolob Canyon: Explored during week 21 of our 22 week RV road trip
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Comb and/or hairbrush
Hair elastics, barrettes, etc.–My favorite “camping hair, don’t care” go to accessories are my yoga headbands that are very similar to these. They make even the messiest of hairdos look presentable.
Body wash or bar soap
Baby wipes–these are a camper’s best friend, especially if you are camping in a place with no showers. Get the unscented ones, so you don’t smell like a baby’s bottom. When my kids were smaller, I used them to wipe off their feet before letting them crawl into their beds. Now they do it themselves.
A few unmentionables–just in case you don’t know what unmentionables are, here is what I mean.
Lightweight camping towels–we recently purchased these lightweight fast-drying camping towels hoping to avoid towels that never seem to get dry and then start smelling bad before a weekend of camping is even done. We haven’t tried them out yet, but are planning to soon.
Zion National Park: Explored during week 20 of our 22 week RV road trip
Any medications family members will need to take
Pain relievers–such as Ibuprofen or Aleve. Nothing is worse than having a slamming headache while being away from the darkness and quiet of your bedroom.
Cough drops–camping makes people sleep in close quarters, which means if one is coughing, all are awake. Our family uses these cough drops; they are super effective.
Vapor rub–another thing that can keep an entire tent full of people up is one tent mate who has the case of the sniffles. Our family uses this all natural brand of vapor rub to put an end to that problem.
Bandaids and Neosporin
After bite cream–at home, we use the baking soda and ice trick on bee stings, but when we are camping that simply isn’t possible so we make sure we have a tube of after bite cream to soothe bee stings and mosquito bites.
Benadryl–one of our children swells up pretty bad from any bug bites and another child is mildly allergic to some types of pollen, so we carry Benadryl tablets.
Yellowstone National Park: Explored during week 19 of our 22 week RV road trip
Now you might like to camp without any electronics and that is okay. As for my family and me, we pack a few electronic essentials since we are more glampers than campers.
Kindle or tablet with a reading app and charger–my husband and I love to read around the campfire. Plus, sometimes I find it difficult to fall asleep at the campground and it is then that I find my kindle paperwhite super handy for reading without waking the rest of the family.
All cell phones and chargers
Camera and accessories
Earbuds (or headphones)–if you can’t sleep and the Netflix show you downloaded to your phone is calling you, earbuds are a way to give into your craving without waking up the rest of the family.
Car chargers–if the campground is primitive, meaning without power, car chargers will make it possible to keep your phone and tablets charged during your camping trip.
Death Valley: Explored during week 9 of our 22 week RV road trip
Create a menu and then grab groceries
Don’t forget the makings for s’mores–here is a twist on the classic that our family likes.
Fontainebleau State Park: Explored during week 5 of our 22 week RV trip
Basic Food Supplies
Milk–when it is just my husband and me camping we keep our milk cool all weekend long by keeping it in a thermos. If we are going with the kids, we need more milk, but it sure does save space in our small fridge when we can do that.
Coffee and/or tea–I am not a fan of powdered coffee so I bring a ceramic pour-over coffee dripper and a few filters.
Salt and pepper
Butter and/or oil
Water jug–we purchased a 2 gallon insulated beverage cooler to fill up with water for our weekend camping trips. Not only can this be used for drinking, but also comes in handy if you are camping somewhere that doesn’t offer water.
Little Talbot Island State Park: Explored during week 3 of our 22 week RV road trip
Depending on what you like to do while camping this list will vary so on the printable version I left it blank so you can fill out what items your family likes to bring for the activities you do on your camping weekends. Here in this post, I will mention the ones we bring.
Daypacks for hiking
Bikes and helmets
Kayaks and paddles
Deck of cards or a compact board game
Living Forest Campground in Nanaimo: Explored during week 13 of our 22 week RV road trip
Winter hats–even in summer campgrounds can be chilly places in the evening and morning hours.
A sweatshirt or a light jacket for everyone
Pants or shorts or both
Henderson Beach State Park: Explored during week 4 of our 22 week RV road trip
Paper Stuff and Financial Needs
Atlas–yes, phones are handy for getting directions, but sometimes you lose signal or you want a bigger picture of where you are going. In those cases my family likes to use an inexpensive road atlas.
Money–believe it or not, micro-town businesses near campsites sometimes still even now cannot take anything for payment except cash.
Extra keys for camping trailer stored somewhere else than in the trailer itself–trust me, this comes in handy. While you are at it, decide where to put a spare set of vehicle keys so that they are out of sight, but not in the vehicle or lockable travel trailer.
Grand Canyon National Park: Explored during week 8 of our 22 week RV road trip
Matches or lighter
Paper for firestarter or firestarter
Camp chairs–we like this style of camp chairs with a place for your drink and book. They are slightly larger than some other styles, which makes them comfier in our opinion.
Small blanket for around the campfire–I get chilled at night so I like a blanket on my legs as I snuggle up to the campfire, but I don’t like to have to use it later to sleep under because it smells like smoke. To solve the problem, I pack a small spare blanket just for evenings around the campfire. And yes, I am super careful about not getting too close to the fire with it.
A source of light for night time–this could be a flashlight or a headlamp our you could purchase a set of LED Lanterns. Our family did recently and we are amazed at how bright they are.
Small tool kit–my husband likes to have basic tools on hand like a hammer, a set of screwdrivers and duct tape, of course!
City Of The Rocks State Park: Explored during week 7 of our 22 week RV road trip
What kitchen supplies you need really depends on what you are cooking, but here are the basic ones our family usually packs.
Camp stove and the required source of fuel for it
Roll of paper towel
Lodge grill–you don’t need this, but my family uses our lodge grill on top of our propane stove to grill meat instead of bringing a barbecue.
Kettle–you can make do with boiling water in your cooking pot for coffee and tea, but if you have the room, a kettle makes pouring without spills easier.
An unbreakable cup for each person–we use stainless steel tumblers so that we can use them both for cold and hot drinks.
Paper plates and bowls and/or real ones–we often will top real plates with an inexpensive paper plate to make clean up easier, but still give us a sturdy plate to cut our food on.
Large cutting knife
Large serving spoon or ladle
Measuring cups and spoons
Dish bin–even if you have an RV with a sink, a dish bin can come in handy for many other uses besides just washing dishes. If you are short on space, they now make collapsible ones.
A Few Quick Camping Packing Tips
Whew, that was a long list! It made me tired just typing it all–but do not get overwhelmed by it. Here are a few ways to make packing for camping go faster.
Use A Master Camping Checklist
This is, of course, what this article is all about. You can create one yourself using mine as a guide or just use mine and add additional items you might need in the blank spaces provided. Either way, sign up for my weekly newsletter to get your copy.
Store All Your Camping Supplies In On Place
Consider buying large plastic containers with lids and use them to store all your camping gear in one place. That way you can just grab them and put them in the back of your vehicle when it is time to go.
Buy Duplicates Of Kitchen Items And Other Items For Camping Purposes Only
If you can afford it, purchase bowls, plates, frying pans–basically anything you need for your camping kitchen–and place them with your other camping gear so that you can just grab and go instead of find, maybe clean, pack and then go.
Our family did this with towels and bedding too. We saved money by buying at yard sales when we could.
Make a Master Menu For Camping Weekends
Our family tends to eat the same type of meals over and over when we camp so this year I am planning to make a master camping menu and then a master camping grocery list to go with it. That way all I have to do if my husband comes home and says, “Hey, I have the weekend off, let’s go camping.” is grab my lists and head to the grocery store while he and the children pack up the rest of the camping gear.
I hope these tips help streamline packing for your camping adventures!
3 More Posts On Camping:
- 10 Ways To Keep Children Busy When Camping In The Rain
- 10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Camping
- How To Go Camping With Young Children And Keep Your Sanity
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