When you go out in the woods, the basic necessities for camping will get you pretty far, but how do you know what to bring and what to leave at home? You want to pack light, but you want to also make sure you have everything you need. How can you decide?
The more remote the location, the more exciting the trip can be, but also more challenging. Until you’re out in the forest, you won’t really be able to appreciate how important a headlamp or a thing as tiny as a lighter is.
To make sure that you don’t forget anything essential, here is a list of camping essentials that should help guide you when planning what to pack.
The 6 basic necessities for camping:
Your tent is your shelter in the outdoors and is absolutely necessary to make your trip not just comfortable but, more importantly, safe. It should be able to protect you from the elements that you encounter during your trip, and unless your tent is able to protect you, it’s next to useless.
Considerations When Looking for a Tent
The material, shape, and durability of your tent matter, so invest in one that will give you peace of mind. If you’re camping in winter, for example, you’ll want to bring a tent that’s waterproof and dome-shaped to prevent any snow or ice from collecting on top of the tent.
You want it dome-shaped, so that moisture can’t seep through the material. That is unless you want to experience a freezing cold night.
The size of your tent is also important. Make sure that each person can fit inside the tent comfortably, with sleeping bags, pillows, and baby carriers, should you need them.
When buying a tent, make sure it’s not too big or too heavy. You don’t want your pack to be too bulky and heavy that you’d have a hard time carrying it around. Thankfully, there are tents that are durable yet lightweight, so you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
You also want a tent with good ventilation. You’ll be spending about 6-8 hours in it, so it’s important that you are able to breathe normally and comfortably, given how many people can fit inside.
2. Sleeping Bags
Sleeping bags provide enough insulation to make sleeping on the ground comfortable. Even in summer, nights can be pretty cool, especially if you’re sleeping outside in a tent. Some tents do have insulated floors, but they are not very common.
So either you insulate your tent by adding layers of blanket or sun shade or simply choose sleeping bags that fit snugly and keep you warm. The latter is the less fussy and more space-saving option.
How To Choose the Right Sleeping Bag
To choose the right kind of sleeping bag, check for season ratings that tell you what kind of season and temperatures a sleeping bag is for. In particular, seasons 1 and 2 are for summer and autumn, which means the material is lighter and designed to keep you cool.
Seasons 3 and 4, on the other hand, are for cold to freezing temperatures and are designed to keep you warm.
If you have to pick just one sleeping bag, though, the safest bet is to choose sleeping bags designed for colder temperatures. It’s much easier to cool down in a warm sleeping bag because you can simply unzip it, rather than keep warm in a cool sleeping bag.
3. First-Aid Kit
In any outdoor activity, it’s best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You never know what type of injuries you will encounter in the outdoors, which is why you should never go on a camping trip without a first-aid kit.
Your first-aid kit should include the following items:
- Antiseptic solution for wounds
- Sterile gauze pads
- Clean cotton rounds
- Adhesive tape
- Allergy medication for kids and adults
- Latex gloves
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Anti-itch lotion
- Fever medication
Before your trip, make sure that all items in your first-aid kit are not expired. Also, if you have any maintenance medication, don’t forget to include those in the list.
For a more in-depth look at what to bring, read: What Should be in a First Aid Kit for Camping?
4. Utility Kit
The utility kit is one of those essentials that is usually forgotten. Most of the stuff that you find here is so small that if you don’t deliberately make sure that they’re packed, chances are you will forget them. The items in this kit include those that you will need to set up an inflatable mattress, start a fire, open a bottle, or keep your electronics going.
This is what your utility kit should look like:
- Lighter or fire starter
- Chargers and extra batteries
- Utility knife
- Headlamps and flashlights
If you’re planning to do other activities, like rock climbing, during your trip, all necessary gear and equipment should be included here as well.
5. Food and Mealtime Equipment
Making food and eating at camp are two of the most exciting things to do. Not only is eating outdoors an entirely different experience, but it also can be a great bonding experience. But to make that happen, you need to make sure you’re ready to whip up those camping dishes.
Here’s what you will need:
- Portable stove
- Stainless steel or enamel camping mugs for making coffee and hot drinks
- Stainless steel cookware
- Extra butane, depending on the duration of your trip.
- Water bottles
- Canned food and easy-to-prepare food items like cereals and sandwiches.
6. Hygiene Kit
Not everybody is the same when it comes to how long you can stand without taking a bath. But even when you can’t have a full shower, there are ways to rub yourself down that won’t use up a lot of water or take too much time.
Regardless of preferences, here is what a basic hygiene kit should look like:
- Toilet paper
- Natural bath soap and shampoo bar that’s biodegradable
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Bath towel
- Face towel
- Water heater (optional)
- Portable shower (optional)
- Shower tent (optional)
- camping toilet setup if needed
The portable shower and shower tent will come in handy when you’re camping in remote areas with no access to public bathrooms and if you’re going camping for a few weeks. However, you must be extra careful with water usage, as showers can eat up much of your water supply.
Also read: How Do You Poop While Camping? (The Complete Guide)
Why Rough it? Bring at Least the Basic Necessities for Camping
The basic necessities for camping include a tent, a first aid kit, and a utility kit. You’ll also need sleeping gear, cooking and mealtime equipment, and a hygiene kit. And while it might not be a necessity, you might want to bring a portable power bank to power any electronics you have.
Not all camping trips are alike, though, and the duration of your trip, as well as who you’re going with, affects what you pack.
When you’re camping, you must rely entirely on your own pack, especially if you’re planning to camp in the woods. However, if you’re camping on public camping grounds and in national parks, you have better access to some supplies and amenities.
Camping is fun, but it sometimes can be a challenge. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be difficult or, worse, problematic, as long as you remember to pack the important things. And when all your things are good to go, don’t forget to put on a good attitude and look forward to an exciting adventure.
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David Parnell is the founder and lead editor at Trail and Summit, who enjoys writing on a wide range of topics from travel trailers to trail running. He’s an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.