Camping Checklist Essentials: Must-Have Items

What do you REALLY need and what’s just extra stuff that would be nice having? The follow camping checklist essentials will help you know what’s really important to bring while camping!

We’ve gone camping together so many times throughout our relationship, yet we STILL forget some basic necessities! Whether you’re backpacking or staying at a campground, we’ve compiled a camping checklist essentials with all the items we think are pretty important for a comfortable stay outdoors.

Camping Checklist Essentials | The Necessities You Need When Camping | Shelter, Cooking, Personal Items, & Misc.
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Camping Checklist Essentials

1. Shelter & Comfort

Camping Checklist Essentials | The Necessities You Need When Camping | Shelter, Cooking, Personal Items, & Misc.


This may seem like an obvious choice for any camping checklist essentials, but you’d rather have it checked off to be safe than sorry!

✔Ground tarp

Putting a waterproof ground tarp before you pitch your tent is always a good idea. It helps prevent water from getting through and rocks, sticks, and other debris from tearing the bottom of your tent.


Always be sure to check the weather forecast before you go camping. Determine what kind of night it’s going to be – and then use a sleeping bag that you think you’ll be most comfortable in. We have made the mistake a few times of either packing too warm of a sleeping and bag, and then other times that we didn’t pack a warm enough sleeping bag! 

✔Sleeping Pad / air mattress

Sleeping pads and air mattresses allow you to be extra comfortable while sleeping in the great outdoors. We get it…air mattresses are a bit more “glampy”. But, if you have the room for it (aka you’re NOT backpacking), then we’d suggest bringing one – the Intex Air Mattress is one of our favorite camping essentials!

Sleeping pads, however, offer the same effect. They really make the difference of getting a good nights sleep so you don’t wake up a grumpy mess in the morning (trust me…I have experience with that!). If it’s colder out, use an insulated sleeping pad, such as the Klymit Statik v2. We use this brand all the time when camping outdoors and they work amazing!

2. Cooking Necessities

Camping Checklist Essentials | The Necessities You Need When Camping | Shelter, Cooking, Personal Items, & Misc.


Ok, of course you have to bring food, right? But, we can’t tell you all the times we’ve forgotten to pack the essentials, like something for breakfast, and then wind up having to either go hungry or go to a local restaurant or store.

There are tons of easy foods to cook and grill. Don’t forget to bring something for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as some snacks for late night munching!

Bring foods that are easy to cook, such as eggs, bacon, soups, and hot dogs. For snacks, don’t forget the marshmallows, Hershey Bars, and Graham crackers to make some mouth-watering S’mores!


We like to always pack quite a few bottles of water! We often go hiking when we’re camping so you’d be surprised how fast you go through water. If there isn’t any running water at your campsite, it’s also useful to bring for washing dishes, your hands, or putting out a fire.

SEE ALSO:   Contingency Plan For Injuries While Traveling: Your Go-To Guide

If you’re tight with room and don’t want to bring tons of plastic water bottles, find compressible water containers at a local sporting goods shop!

Don’t forget to bring some other drinks (we personally love Gatorade since it helps us stay hydrated). But, remember…don’t pack more than you’re willing to carry. Drinks can be heavy!

✔Cooking Utensils, Dishes, & Silverware

You can find a small set of dishes and utensils that are plastic on Amazon for a reasonable price. They’re light and super easy to pack.

✔Camp Stove

We actually have a small, lightweight, and very portable camp stove. This makes it easy to heat up water or a pan for simple cooking.


If you’re planning on having cold drinks, frozen food, or bringing anything else that needs to be cold, packing a cooler is essential. If you’re bringing a cooler, don’t forget to buy ice! Yeti Coolers are our favorite. They are super insulated to keep your food and drinks cold for a long period of time. They also have the ability of being almost indestructible, making them great for keeping out bears!

✔Dish Soap

This isn’t as necessary as some of the other items on our camping checklist essentials, but it’s still something to think about. If you’re going camping for a few days, we’d recommend bringing some dish soap to clean your dishes quickly and effortlessly.

✔Paper Towels

There have been so many times where we’ve gone camping and forgot to bring enough paper towels! Paper towels will help you clean dishes, your hands, wash your face, and start a fire. Make sure you bring some (and enough)!

3. Personal Items

Camping Checklist Essentials | The Necessities You Need When Camping | Shelter, Cooking, Personal Items, & Misc.

✔Everyday Clothes

Pack clothes based on the weather. If it’s going to be cold out, be sure to pack lots of layers!


I have a tendency to forget clothes to sleep in when I go camping! And, if I do, they’re almost not appropriate for the weather. Look at the forecast and then determine what to pack. Is it going to be super hot all night / morning? Or freezing? Maybe it’ll be in between…no matter what the temperature is, try packing accordingly for the night. It’ll make all the difference between you being miserable and having the best sleep of your life! 


You don’t need a ton of shoes when camping. One pair should do just fine! It’s best to pick a shoe depending on the weather(ex: for rain, you’ll need boots) and what your plans are for the current or next day (you may want to bring hiking boots if you’re exploring!).

✔ToothBrush / toothpaste

We don’t like going to bed with unbrushed teeth and I’m sure most of you will agree! You have to add a toothbrush and toothpaste to your camping checklist essentials! They’re super lightweight, but easy to forget!

4. Random Essentials

Camping Checklist Essentials | The Necessities You Need When Camping | Shelter, Cooking, Personal Items, & Misc.

Head Lamp & Flashlight

My head lamp was such a great investment. Attach it to your head and you’re good to go! A lot of the newer ones allow you to change the intensity of the light so you won’t have to worry about blinding anyone!

SEE ALSO:   When To Go Camping & Rock Climbing in Rumney, New Hampshire

✔Fire Wood

You can generally find fire wood all around the town that surrounds a campground. However, if you go a bit more off the beaten track and look a bit further away from the campground, you’ll find MUCH cheaper firewood!

✔Magnesium Bar and Flint

I mean…unless you want to do it the hard way! We have a small keychain kit that works great for us!


This one is self-explanatory…like we said previously: Do you want to light that fire the hard way? You can buy a pack of 4 Bic lighters off Amazon for dirt cheap!

✔pocket knife

This will be a helpful tool whenever you need to open or sharpen something. It’s also a good safety tool to have, just in case on an emergency. Get a pocket knife with a stainless steel and SHARP blade! You want to ensure it’ll do the job without getting dull or rusting.


That wood isn’t going to chop itself! Although, we wish it did! Bring yourself a well-made hatchet that won’t break after a single use.


With camping comes lots of bugs. I mean, what do you expect, you’re in the woods. Bring some bug spray to try and prevent those nasty, itchy bug bites! Personally, we love unscented OFF! Insect Repellent!

✔Toilet Paper

This is more for the ladies out there and I’ve written about the importance of this item before in two of my other articles, the 4 Things You Need To Know When Backpacking Near NJ and When To Go Rock Climbing in Rumney, New Hampshire. If you’re a newbie to camping, you’ll soon come to discover that not all campgrounds have toilets! And, if they do, they’re not always going to be close to your site and DEFINITELY not going to be those fancy ones that flush! Just be prepared! Even if there is a toilet or outhouse close to your site, pack some extra TP in case they have one! You’ll thank me later!

✔Hand Sanitizer, Wipes, or Soap

You can either wash your hands with soap or bring a small thing of Purell hand sanitizer. Both take up barely any room, so bring whatever is your personal preference. We like bringing hand sanitizer to clean up really quick before bed, eating, etc.

✔First Aid Kit

Accidents happen…We’d recommend getting a First Aid Kit that contains band-aids, ointment, bandages, and other safety equipment handy in case you need it.

✔ Hammock

Hammocks are easy to set up, light, and compressible. We have an Eno two-person hammock that we set up whenever we can. Similarly, you can find a cheaper and equivalent brand called Eagle Nest. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity, so always bring one just in case, if you have it! However, don’t worry if you don’t have one…it’s not the most vital item on our camping checklist essentials!

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21 Replies to “Camping Checklist Essentials: Must-Have Items

  1. What a great post! These surse are some essentials. One time I forgot to pack flashlights, luckily we had them on our phones. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. These are all really great and essential items to have when going camping. We use to go alot growing up and had such a fun time. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a great list! I loved camping with my family when I was a child. Now our kids are starting to get to that age, and I’m so excited about it.

  4. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a real outdoor camp. This checklist is very helpful. I’m going to bookmark this for future use.

  5. Actually I have some of these ready 🙂 The hammock is something I have been looking out for some time now.

  6. This is a good list, even though I have not been camping. Thanks for sharing it and the chicken looks yummy cooking in the pan.

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