What To Bring On A Camping Trip

By Mike Boisvert.

What to bring on a camping trip?

Much of this is optional, and much will depend on where you're going and what you're doing. Please adapt the list to suit your needs. Remember that what you take-including any humans-has to fit into your car, and despite your careful packing efforts, the content will expand before you return home!

If you're new to camping, you might want to know what to expect. This information is down below. 

Use our Forums if you have any questions.

Campsite Equipment
  • Tent, poles, tent stakes, tie-downs
  • Plastic ground tarp for under the tent
  • Plastic tarp for over the tent (if tent is leaky)
  • Air mattress & pump
  • Sleeping mattress
  • Sleeping bag
  • Blankets
  • Pillow
  • Lantern
  • Lantern fuel & funnel (if gas)
  • Flashlight & batteries
  • Portable shower
  • Trash bags
  • Rope (clothes line and 1000 other uses!)
  • Clothes pins (amazing what a little wind will do!)
  • First Aid kit
  • The Camp Site
    • Pitch tent on highest spot
    • Use under-tent tarp-always!
    • Be considerate of your neighbors
    • Will the spot be too noisy? (i.e. near busy restrooms)
  • Small shovel
  • Hammer
  • Scissors
  • Camping knife, army knife
  • Camping saw
  • Screw drivers
  • Wrenches
  • Waterproof matches
  • "Fire starters"
  • Fire wood
  • Camp stove
  • Camp stove fuel & funnel (if gas)
  • Grill for fireplace
  • Camping pots with lids
  • Tea kettle or coffee pot
  • Frying pan (cast iron?)
  • Cooler & ice
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Spoons, knives, forks
  • Plastic or tin mugs
  • Plastic or paper cups
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Serving spoon
  • Spatula
  • Dish towel
  • Sponge/scrubber
  • Dish pan
  • Nature-friendly dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • Sandwich bags
  • Plastic food storage bags or containers
Food, etc.
  • Some good almost-non-perishables:
    • Muffins
    • Bread
    • Chips
    • Peanut butter & jelly
    • Cocoa
    • Tea & coffee
    • Powdered drink mix
    • Pancake mix
    • Oatmeal, granola
    • Fruit (apples, pears)
    • Pasta (Lipton Dinners)
    • Sauce
    • Pop-Tarts
    • Beer/Wine
  • Non-perishables
    • Canned goods
    • Steak, Chicken, Kabobs, Burgers, Hot Dogs
    • Onions, Peppers, Mushtrooms for grilling
    • Eggs, Bacon, sliced canned potatoes (for home fries)
    • Salsa
  • Avoid glass containers, if possible
  • Water
  • Salt, pepper, seasonings
  • Cooking oil
  • Ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, etc
Personal Items
  • If hiking, see the Hiking Gear List
  • Cash (in the local currency)
  • Identification: Passport, license, birth certificate
  • Towel (beach & shower)
  • Wash cloth
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Sandals 
  • Lounge chairs
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • IPod, radio, etc.
  • Trail guides, maps
  • Day pack
  • Water Bottle
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Prescription medicine
  • Sweater or light jacket
  • Heavy coat
  • Rain and wind gear
  • Hats & Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing suit
  • At least 2 pairs of footwear
  • One "nice" outfit
Fun Stuff
  • Water Floats, Tube 
  • Frisbee, soccer ball, volleyball, etc.
  • Board Games (Uno, Family Feud)
  • Deck of cards
  • Books
  • Camera & film
  • Binoculars
  • Bird & Plant ID Books
Campground Features to look for...
  • Tent spots available?
  • How many cars, people, and/or tents allowed per site
  • Pool/swimming, ball courts, other amenities
  • Adult only or are children allowed?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Fire places at each site
  • Picnic tables at each site
  • Camp store? Firewood?
  • Camp activities (hayrides, etc)
  • Discounts to local attractions
  • Proximity to what you'll be doing
  • Good restaurants and places to pick up supplies in the area
  • Cost should be reasonable
  • Trailer hookups?
  • Hot Showers
  • Laundry facilities
  • "Quiet time" hours
What not to bring camping...
  • A loud radio
  • Firearms
  • Anything valuable or easily damaged
  • Pets (if not permitted)
"Be Prepared"
Camping is wonderful. There's nothing quite like sleeping in the outdoors or the almost out-of-doors. In preparing to head out camping, you must balance your needs with what you can carry. Consider what is available where you are going: If you're going to a campground, maybe you won't need that portable shower.

Just use your common sense. If it's going to rain, you can stay at a hostel, motel or B&B. If cooking is a hassle, bring along food that doesn't require preparation or just head out to a restaurant.

It's up to you how you want to enjoy your camping experience! Be safe, and have fun!

Camping Sites on the Internet
  • Campmor - Camping/Hiking outfitters
  • REI - Good gear
  • EMS - Carries the best outdoor gear and clothing for outdoorzy guys
  • L.L.Bean - The place for everything...
  • Backcountry.com - Full Members Receive 20% off everything; Top name brand gear and apparel


For the first-timers...

Doing something new presents way too many questions!

Camping for the first time is no exception. Some guys call staying in their cozy trailer "camping," but real camping is a bit different.

  • Unlike a trailer camping, you need to have your stove, lights, refrigeration, shower and bathroom facilities, and other things trailers usually have.
  • Trailers offer shelter from wind, rain, and snow.
  • Trailers have heat.
  • Trailers can shield you from noisy nights, especially at the Salisbury Beach Camping Area...(don't ask what it's like there at 1am when the bars shut down...)

Car camping (i.e. bringing a tent) offers many advantages, though:

  • Campgrounds are all over the place.
  • Tents and the other equipment work out to be much less than an outfitted trailer.
  • Today's tents are easy to set up and weather resistant.
  • Sleeping bags, matts, and blankets keep you warm.
  • It's easy to move a tent around, so you get to stay in lots of different places.
  • Most private campgrounds have laundry, hot water for showers, and even stores and activities. Some have lodges with warm fireplaces.
  • If things get hideous, you can sleep in your car or in a nearby hotel.

Backpacking (where you hike with your tent and sleep out somewhere) involves being more self-sufficient, but I won't get into that here. Events to Acadia and other GayOutdoors camping events, unless specifically called backpacking, are car camping events. We'll have showers, so don't worry!

Your first time camping will likely involve bunking with someone. We don't expect you to have your own equipment. Many of us have large tents that can fit a few guys, a stove, a lantern, utensils, and a bunch of other stuff on the Hiking and Camping Gear Lists. Other folks in the Group do as well. The important thing is to make sure you have a confirmed spot in someone's tent, else you may wind up in the car. Other forgotten or needed camping hardware can usually be purchased locally or borrowed or shared.

There are things you absolutely need when you're going camping. This is pretty much the "personal stuff."

  • Sleeping bag. Depending on the time of year, you may want a heavier bag. They are rated by weight and degrees of protection. Mine is a 4-pounder, safe to about 30 degrees or so. These can even be found in K-Mart for short money, or you can get the $600 bag which'll be good to -40, it's up to you. If you think you'll be doing trail camping, you'll want a special bag, not a K-Mart special, so keep that in mind.
  • Sleeping pad. You want something between you and the ground. Roll-up matts are relatively cheap, and they're little more than flexible foam-like material. I have a Thermarest self-inflating sleeping pad, and it's great-but expensive.
  • Blanket or 2nd sleeping bag. Just in case it gets that cold, you'll want another blanket. Note that inside the tent-especially smaller tents-it'll be warmer than outside by several degrees.
  • Personal items. Towel, wash cloth, soap, toothbrush, and so on. Remember there's no maid service. You may also want to bring sandals for your feet, as I find that I like to wear them while I'm showering. Oh, bring dimes and quarters for the showers, as most you need to pay for. Usually a whopping 25 cents will do it.
  • Warm clothing. You'll want 2 pairs of shoes, a couple of changes of clothes, and even warm underthings. If we're camping inland during summer months, then the warmer things aren't critical. Acadia-any time of year-yeah, you'll need to cut down on the wind at the least, as it can be foggy/cold/clammy up there most any time of year.
  • Rain gear. I can't stress this enough! If you're going camping, bring some rain gear. I have a Gore-Tex jacket which is great, but ponchos are available in Wal-Mart. Nothing puts a damper a camping trip more than being cold and wet.
  • Jackets. Colder areas and times of the year mean warm jackets. Layers are the best, though, just as with hiking. For Acadia wind and waterproof outer things are essential. The weather is very changeable, so clothing items which can be stashed in a backpack are great.
  • Day pack, water bottle. You'll need hiking gear, of course. In general this means a day pack and water.
  • Food. Food is always tricky. What do you bring? For lunch, I suggest you bring stuff that doesn't need refrigeration, and that you concentrate on things you'll need hiking. Bring bread, PB&J, and fruit like apples for this. Meals are a different story, and it's better to get the perishables locally shortly before cooking. Pasta, canned goods, etc, are easy to cook, as is pancake mix and powdered milk or Coffee-Mate for breakfast time. Steak, chicken, kabobs with a side of rice are GREAT  dinners. Easier to cook are the standard burgers and hot dogs. For breakfast you can keep it simple with oatmeal or do it up with eggs, bacon and home fries.  

There are some other things to consider.

  • Bring only what you will need. My car is notorious for appearing big but filling up when all the camping gear is in there. And gear expands by the time you head home-trust me on that one!
  • Medicines, dietary requirements. Remember that you won't be at home, so any medicine or special dietary requirements should be a consideration.
  • Camping is little more than staying away from home and hiking. Generally if you have necessary hiking gear plus a few personal items, you're all set. That is providing that someone else will be bringing the tent and the other hardware.
  • Pitch in. Everyone must help!
  • Drinking. OK, someone made up this story that camping is a great excuse for drinking. Yes, some people do, but I suspect the vast majority of folks might have a few pops but not go to excess. Can't see the stars when you're blurry-eyed! And if you're hammered, you will likely find yourself outside on the ground sleeping (read: "Not in MY tent, man!")

OK, you're up there. What do you do? Why the heck do I want to do this anyway?
I hear you asking these questions!!! Camping gives you a sense of accomplishment. You're there with just "your stuff," and you're doing for yourself. You're somewhere that's usually in the woods and quiet, usually within walking distance of a trail. All campgrounds have campfire rings, and you'll find yourself gazing at the stars and solving the world's problems until all hours of the morning-just be careful not to melt your soles in the fire! Your friends are there, but you can walk away and be alone for a while. There's too much cooperation, too much humor, and too much fun. You sleep like a rock. Everyone has a bad hair morning, so you're all "even." Everyone contributes, everyone helps.

Camping is more than something to do. It's a way to have a great time with great people. It's a change of atmosphere. It's a stress reducer. It's fun!

Is it hard work? Yes, if you think of it that way. Setting up the site can be a pain, but that's all usually done in an hour. Cooking is a pain, but cleaning can usually be done using the camp's facilities.

I won't talk about having to get up out of bed to use the facilities at 2am. That can be interesting on a cloudless late August night, which is notorious for being very chilly.

Who shouldn't go camping? If you like things "just so," then don't go camping. If a bad hair day of your own or of someone else bothers you, then camping is not for you. Camping is out if you do not like bugs or mud. If you don't like to help out or pitch in, then camping is not a good idea for you. If stargazing bothers you, or if you hate sitting by a warm fire at night, or if you don't enjoy the sounds of the woods overnight or in the morning, then the rest of us will just have to enjoy these things, because that's what camping is all about.

After your first camping event or two, you may decide to head out and buy your own equipment. By experiencing things first, you'll know exactly what to buy which'll work out the best for you. Let us old-timers make the mistakes, and you can learn from them!

Use our Forums if you have any questions.

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