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Even experienced campers have trouble remembering all the odds and ends that you need to set up your home away from home in the great outdoors. There are so many easy-to-forget items, like a pillow, matches, permits, that it makes sense to consult a camping checklist before heading out. We’ve put together a quick reference guide for campers and their families to consult before going off grid.
If you’re looking to plug some gaps in your setup, we’ve also rounded up our top picks based on dozens of in-depth tests of tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves, cookware, ultralight chairs, and more.
The Camping Checklists
The Master Camping Checklist
You’ve been camping for years, but you always seem to forget something. Review this list before you pull out of the driveway.
Camping Checklists for Kids, Dogs, and Reluctant Campers
Whether you’re bringing your kids, your dog, or your significant other for the first time, here are the camping checklists you need to make it a success.
Get the Camping Gear
When you’re ready to round out your camping gear checklist with some best-in-class options, we’ve done the testing to get you started.
- Our Top Pick: MSR Habiscape
- Beginner Tent: Coleman Skydome Camping Tent
- Family Tent: Eureka Copper Canyon LX8
- Overlander’s Tent: iKamper Skycamp 2.0
- Our Top Pick: Exped MegaMat
- For Beginners: REI Trailmade
- For Kids: Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest
- For Couples: Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe
- Our Pick: Coleman Eventemp 3 Burner Propane Stove
See the story: Camping Stoves
See the story: camping cookware
See the story: water containers
See the story: camping dishes
- Our Pick: Ust Klipp Utensil Set
See the story: camping utensils
See the story: camping lanterns
Flashlight or Headlamp
- Our Pick: ENO Doublenest
See the story: camping hammocks
Read the full review for more options to add to your camping checklist: camping games
See the story: camping tables
- Best Overall: Decathlon Quechua Solar Pressure Shower 500
- Also Great: Coleman OneSource Rechargeable Built-In Pump Camp Shower Sprayer
See the story: camping showers
See the story: power banks for camping
See the story: solar panels for camping
Q: Do I need a water filter?
Established frontcountry campgrounds will almost always have treated water available. The exceptions to this are some forest service campgrounds and campgrounds that are particularly arid climates. If you are unsure if your campground has water, call the forest ranger in advance with any questions. It is highly unusual for a campground to have available water, but for that water to be untreated.
Q: Do I need a reservation for camping?
If the campground that you are going to accepts reservations for all of its campsites, you will almost certainly need a reservation during the high season.
Q: What goes in a camping box?
A camping box is a catch-all bin that stores many of the odds and ends that people routinely take camping with them, typically focusing on camp kitchen supplies. What goes into your camping box will depend on you, but most have dishes, utensils, mugs, cookware, trash bags, collapsible sink, dish towels, paper towels, picnic table cloth, tongs (or other utensils for cooking over an open flame), cutting board, knives, matches, and extra fuel for your camp stove.
Q: How do you get a good night’s sleep while camping?
There are several tricks to getting a good night’s sleep while camping. The first is to have a best-in-class camping mattress, one that incorporates memory foam and has a high R value. High R-value mattresses will help protect you from the cold of the ground while sleeping, a frequent source of discomfort for first-time campers. Next is to have a high-quality sleeping bag or quilt. Look for a sleeping bag that has been rated under ISO standards and aim for a temperature rating that is 10 degrees below the coldest ove night temperatures you expect to encounter, 20 degrees colder if you identify as sleeping cold. Next, make sure you have a great pillow. I frequently bring my home pillow camping with me, but if you prefer to purchase a specific camping pillow, there are a number of excellent options out there. Finally, if you are a light sleeper planning to camp in a crowded campground, plan to bring ear plugs with you.
Why Trust Outdoor Life?
Since 1898, OL has been a leading authority in testing and reviewing hunting gear, fishing tackle, guns and shooting equipment, and much more. We have more than a century-long history of evaluating products, and we’re now bringing that expertise to online reviews. Our editors are experienced outdoorsmen and women, and most importantly, we’re trained journalists. We prioritize field testing and objective data when reviewing products. We conduct interviews with gear manufacturers and engineers as well as outdoor experts so that our readers have an understanding of how and why a product works—or doesn’t.
Advertising does not influence our gear reviews and it never will. While we always focus our coverage on standout products—because we want our readers to be aware of the latest and greatest gear—we also cover the flaws and quirks of any given product.
Final Thoughts on Camping Checklists
I always consult a camping checklist before heading out on an adventure. It’s saved me from getting all manner of things—toothbrush, first-aid kit, even my tent—and provides peace of mind before getting off grid. Keep this link bookmarked for easy future reference before your next off-grid adventure.