Camping Checklist: Don’t Forget These Must-Have Items

A handy guide for remembering everything you need to go camping
Laura Lancaster Avatar
Big Agnes is one of the best tent brands

Your checklist should include everything from essentials to luxuries. Big Agnes

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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

We tested the best camping tents.
Car camping allows for big, spacious tents and plenty of gear. Laura Lancaster

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.

Tent 

See the in-depth reviews: Two-person tents, 8-person tents, budget backpacking tents, rooftop tents, camping tents

Sleeping Bags

See the in-depth reviews: Sleeping bags, sleeping bags for camping, backpacking quilts

Sleeping Pads

See the in-depth reviews: Camping cots, camping mattresses for couples, backpacking sleeping pads

See also: What is R Value? Its Why Your Sleeping Bag Doesn’t Keep You Warm 

The Kitchen 

Stove

See the story: Camping Stoves

Cookware

See the story: camping cookware

Cooler

Read the full reviews to see which products are best for your camping checklist: camping coolers, small coolers

Water Container

See the story: water containers

Camping Dishes

See the story: camping dishes

Camping Utensils

See the story: camping utensils 

Camping Accessories

Setting up for our first night of camping at Spencer Spit State Park in the San Juan Islands.
Setting up for our first night of camping at Spencer Spit State Park in the San Juan Islands. Laura Lancaster

Lantern

See the story: camping lanterns

Flashlight or Headlamp

See the stories: headlamps, flashlights

Hammock

See the story: camping hammocks

Blanket

See the story: camping blankets, wool blankets for camping 

Games

Read the full review for more options to add to your camping checklist: camping games

Camping Table

See the story: camping tables 

Shower

See the story: camping showers 

Power Bank

See the story: power banks for camping

Solar panel

See the story: solar panels for camping

FAQs

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. 

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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.