What to Pack for Camping

Continuing this week’s mini-series on camping, today I’m sharing my “annotated” packing list. I first compiled this list years ago when we were primarily tent campers.

I’m sure your list will differ from mine, but hopefully this will give you a starting point. I would highly recommend customizing it for your family’s needs. Some of the equipment is redundant and some you may not have or need. You’ll want to plan your menu before deciding what you need to take for cooking. More on that tomorrow.

I’m using Amazon affiliate links for some items to show you what I’m talking about. (That means if you end up ordering from Amazon I might get a small commission.) Also, I’ve added a printable list at the bottom of the post.

From Little Golden Book: Smokey Bear and the Campers, circa 1961

Campsite Equipment

  • lanterns
    • We have a Coleman lantern that takes fuel, as well as a couple of battery-powered lanterns with removable side panels. We like to use the Coleman lantern on the picnic table for playing board games after dark. The battery lantern is great for inside the tent when you’re getting ready for bed. You can take the four sides off so each person has their own piece. It’s is also great for after-dark treks to the outhouse because it has a wider beam than a flashlight.
  • small propane tanks
    • These are super handy with this little single-burner set-up for heating water or anything else in a small pot.
  • ax
  • flashlights
  • spare batteries
  • camping chairs
    • Bag chairs are most convenient for transporting, but Lyle has a “recliner” that he especially enjoys.
  • hammock

Shelter and Bedding

  • tent
  • folding canopy
    • We set this up over the picnic table for extra shade and shelter in case of rain.
  • tarps
    • For ground cover under the tent, or could be tied to trees as shelter if you don’t have a canopy. We also keep one to throw over the firewood if it rains.
  • rope
    • It’s just one of those things you never know if you’ll need… for a clothesline if nothing else. And you’ll definitely need a clothesline if there will be swimming going on, for those wet swimsuits and towels.
  • sleeping bags
  • pillows
  • air mattress
  • air pump
    • Either a hand pump or one that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter.
  • whisk broom
    • It’s amazing how much debris gets tracked into a tent.

Campfire Gear

Cooking Equipment

For Meals

  • insulated mugs (for hot beverages)
    • The blue granite mugs are cuter–and we do have some–but I like the insulated mugs for coffee or cocoa because they aren’t too hot to hold, plus they keep your drink hot longer.
  • granite ware dishes
  • flatware
  • tablecloth
  • pitcher
  • dishpan
  • drain rack
  • dish towels
  • dish cloths

Consumable Supplies

  • firewood
    • Wood is generally available by the bundle from the campground host or local convenience stores, but we usually buy a half-cord or so at the beginning of each camping season and then just take what we need for each trip. It’s a lot cheaper this way.
  • ice
  • garbage bags
    • Some campgrounds have a dumpster. Others have a “pack-it-in-pack-it-out” policy.
  • insect repellent
  • paper towels
  • paper plates
    • Yes, we have reusable camp dishes but we still use paper a lot to save on washing dishes, particularly when we need to conserve water.
  • dish soap
  • plastic bags
  • heavy-duty foil
  • Lysol spray
  • toilet paper
    • Campgrounds often have pit toilets and for some reason, you just can’t count on them always having toilet paper.
  • hand sanitizer
    • For when soap and water is not convenient.


  • soap
  • washcloths
    • If the campground doesn’t have showers I’ve been known to fill a dishpan with water and have what my mother calls a “cat bath” with a washcloth and a bar of soap.
  • towels
  • shampoo
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • deodorant
  • combs
  • wipes
  • first aid kit


  • jacket
  • underwear
  • socks
  • tennis shoes or hiking boots
  • flip-flops
    • Especially if you’ll be using the public showers.
  • shorts
  • t-shirts
  • long pants
  • sweat shirts
  • hat or ball cap
    • I rarely wear a hat in general, but I’ve found I do sometimes want one when camping for keeping the sun off my face.

Swimming Gear

  • swimsuits
  • floaties
  • sunblock
  • beach towels
  • beach umbrella

For the Dog

  • leash
  • chain set up
  • dog food
  • food and water dishes


  • binoculars
  • camera
  • bikes
  • frisbee
  • reading material
  • board games
  • card games
  • Bible
  • paper and pens
  • glow sticks
  • walkie-talkies
    • Many of the campgrounds where we stay are “off the grid” with no cell phone service. Walkie-talkies are especially good if you have kids who like to go exploring.

Did you notice food was missing from my packing list? I didn’t forget! Tomorrow I’ll be sharing our camping menu plan and shopping list. See you then!

Printable Packing List

Camp Packing List

Other Posts in This Series

How to Plan Your First Camping Trip

Camping Menu Plan

Camp Cooking

Camping with Kids

How to Build a Campfire

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