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The ultimate packing list for summer camping (so you’ll never forget a thing!)

From TP and trekking poles to playing cards and pancake mix, here's everything you'll ever need in the wild

A view from the inside of a tent looking out on a campground.
Scott Goodwill / Unsplash

Three words we’ve so longed to hear: Summer. Is. Here! It’s about time to break out all of your best camping gear from the garage and head out to enjoy nature. Chances are, you haven’t looked inside your gear closet or storage bins in a while, and some things may either be broken, outdated, or not particularly useful to you anymore. (In which case, here are the best ways to discard your unused gear.)

To help you out, we’ve put together our ultimate camping packing list to ensure you’re ready for a good time in the great outdoors. From the essentials (a tent, sleeping bag, and sunscreen) to the nice-to-haves (playing cards and pancake mix), here’s everything you might ever need to camp this summer.

The fundamentals

Camper sitting outside his tent
Marek Piwnicki / Unsplash
  • A reliable camping tent (with at least 10 stakes)
  • Tent footprint or tarp (if your tent didn’t come with one)
  • Tent rain fly and/or sunshade (if your tent didn’t come with one)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Foam or inflatable sleeping pad
  • Folding furniture (based on your specific needs and headcount)
  • Light sources with batteries (think flashlights and/or headlamps)
  • Sunscreen (at least SPF 30)
  • Lip balm (at least SPF 15 with a moisturizer)
  • Any required camping/backcountry permits or parking passes
  • Paper map of the area where you’re staying & exploring
  • Guidebook of the area
  • Camera
  • High-quality sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • General repair kit for sleeping bags, pads, and tents
  • Your favorite multi-tool
  • Some cash and a credit card
  • Matches/lighter

Outdoor clothing

Hiker with a backpack in silhouette walking over stones against the setting sun
Usman Omar / Unsplash
  • Moisture-wicking shirts and underwear
  • Quick-drying bottoms (hiking-ready pants and shorts)
  • Wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
  • Boots or shoes suited for the terrain
  • Water shoes
  • Cheap pair of flip-flops
  • Packable waterproof jacket (even if the forecast is 90 and sunny)
  • Socks (synthetic, quick-drying, and/or wool)
  • Quick-drying, packable towels
  • Waterproof gloves (based on the weather/adventure)

Camp kitchen supplies

A camp stove cooking food with a desert landscape blurred in the background
Alex Moliski / Unsplash

The right food and beverages can turn a good camping trip into a great one. This is one area of your camping packing list that you don’t want to forget a thing.

  • Lightweight camp stove
  • Appropriate fuel for stove
  • Waterproof matches
  • Windscreen
  • Firewood (check with local regulations first)
  • Cast-iron pan or pot
  • Portable coffee and tea maker
  • Hard-sided camp cooler
  • Ice
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Water jugs (limit smaller bottles to limit campsite footprint)
  • Trash bags
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Lightweight, insulated cups (one per person to limit campsite footprint)
  • Plates and utensils (biodegradable or light metal)
  • Paring knife
  • Chef’s knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Skewers
  • Can opener
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Collapsible water container

Camp food (will vary based on specific needs)

Camping food grilling over an open flame with a blurred couple seated in the background
Myles Tan / Unsplash

What food you choose to pack all comes down to personal preference. You’ll likely want to consider how long you’ll be camping, any food allergies or sensitivities, and the adventures you have planned. If you’re planning on high-energy activities like hiking or mountain biking, for example, consider packing easy-to-prepare, high-calorie foods.

  • Coffee and tea
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Peanut Butter
  • Energy bars
  • Cooking oil/spray
  • Meat
  • Grilling vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Salt/pepper
  • Spice kit
  • Trail mix (your favorite kind)
  • Pancake mix
  • Drink mixes
  • Graham crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate bars

Personal items

Row of toothbrushes lined up against a wood wall outdoors.
Henrik Lagercrantz / Unsplash

These will vary from camper to camper, but there are some essentials that most of us just can’t do without.

  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Brush/comb
  • Eye mask
  • Ear plugs (especially if you’re a light sleeper)
  • Insect repellant
  • Deodorant

Add-ons

Young campers playing cards in a tent
luckybusiness / Adobe Stock
  • Backup battery or portable power station (with correct USB connectors)
  • Playing cards
  • A good book
  • Water toys
  • Notebook/journal
  • Packable poncho
  • Trekking poles

Pro tip: Pack with an app

Unless you’re a packing nerd (this humble author proudly raises his hand), you probably don’t enjoy packing, and you probably enjoy making packing lists even less. But we’re speaking from experience when we say that they can literally make or break a camping trip. That’s why we highly recommend downloading a good packing list app to do the hard work of remembering everything for you.

A little preparation can go a long way because when you’re miles from anywhere, hopping over to the nearest store to grab something you forgot might be impossible. Make one camping packing list (or steal ours) of everything you might ever need for your camping trips and live by it. We promise you’ll never forget anything ever again. Scouts honor!

Bonus tip: Pack these to elevate your s’mores game

Homemade s'mores with marshmallows chocolate, and graham crackers
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Let’s face it: A camping trip isn’t complete without s’mores. That’s why we included the classic s’mores ingredients of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars on our basic packing list for food. But what if you want to up your s’mores game?

We’ve got that covered. Try these tips for next-level s’mores on your camping adventure.

  • Substitute Oreos for the graham crackers
  • Add peanut butter to the mix, or substitute peanut butter cups for the chocolate bars
  • Since everything is better with bacon, put a piece of bacon in your s’more for an incredibly savory and sweet experience
  • Spread some strawberry or raspberry jam onto the graham crackers to blend fruit and chocolate (and if you use peanut butter, you get a PB&J s’more)

As you can see, there are many ways to elevate the humble s’mores, so just make sure you add all the necessary ingredients to your packing list.

Happy camping!

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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