The Ultimate Camping Checklist for a Comfy Night Under the Stars

Plus a detailed, downloadable version that you can use for your next campout

Collage of camping gear, including tent, kayak, and s'mores

Use this packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything for your next camping trip.

Illustration by Emily Blevins

Camping means different things to different people. Some travelers relish the idea of roughing it on a backcountry trip through a national park with only their hiking boots and camping essentials, while others load up for car camping with every possible creature comfort (think air mattresses, chargers, camp stoves, and more). I prefer a happy medium for our outdoor adventure packing list: All the basics plus a few creature comforts (a chair for stargazing, some fire starters, a fluffy camping pillow, maybe a cast-iron skillet for the perfect campsite breakfast, and lip balm) for a weekend outdoors.

For casual car campers—those who prefer to drive to a campsite rather than hiking or biking in—you’ll still need all of the essentials: a camping tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes, food, and a way to cook it all. But you also have the space to bring a bit more than just the basics, like trash bags, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and other personal items. To make sure you’re prepared and comfortable, use this camping checklist to guarantee you pack everything you need.

Tip: Download or save the printable camping checklist below to use for your next camping trip.

First-time camping tips

Before I jump into the camping checklist, let’s get some basics out of the way. The idea of camping is romantic—you never immediately think of the things that could bring discomfort like, say, some unexpected rain or a noisy crew at the neighboring site. Buying gear may seem like the biggest task, but make sure you know where you’re going to be camping first. Choosing a location is very important, as you want to know what kind of weather to prepare for, as well as the wildlife that also calls the area home. Once you determine those factors, narrowing down your gear will be easier.

Take the time to read customer reviews on the big-ticket items, like tents, hiking boots, camp stoves, and car camping structures. If needed, give retailers a call to talk through your options. More often than not—especially at shops like REI that celebrate outdoor communities—the staff will have opinions and experience using various pieces of gear.

Many campsites are on review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp—if you’re curious about amenities, it’s best to refer to those who have experienced the spaces firsthand. (It also doesn’t hurt to consult the Reddit community r/Camping.) You can also search for the campsite on Instagram and scroll through tagged photos to better know what to expect.

Camping checklist, organized by category, handwritten

Tip: Download or save this camping checklist to use for your next camping trip.

Illustration by Emily Blevins


To set up your campsite, you’ll always need a shelter, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad, which can help you stay warm at night by keeping you off the ground. Other items—like chairs and pillows—add an extra touch of comfort. Also: Check your campground amenities before you pack. Most drive-up campgrounds will provide a picnic table and firepit and sell firewood on site.

    • Tent, with footprint and stakes
    • Sleeping bags
    • Sleeping pads or cots
    • Camping chairs
    • Headlamps
    • Lighting, like a lantern and string lights
    • Lighter
    • Pillow

    You may also want

      • Camping table
      • Hammock
      • Games
      • Firewood (aim to buy locally sourced wood close to your campground to avoid introducing invasive insects)
      • Duct tape
      • Extra batteries
      • Axe or hatchet (for chopping wood)
      • Multi-tool
      • Tent repair kit
      • Trowel

      To keep everything organized, consider packing everything in a dedicated camping gear bin or box, like the foldable Thule Go Box ($130).

      Toiletries and first aid

      When packing toiletries for camping, it’s more about being prepared for cuts, bug bites, and basic hygiene. If you’re only camping for a night or two, you might even skip showering entirely—though that doesn’t mean you can’t stay clean(ish). A simple body wipe and a stick of deodorant can do wonders after a night in a tent. Try to skip the paper towels (less trash!) and use quick-dry towels or a washcloth instead.

      You may also want

      • Camp shower
      • Flip-flops (if your campsite has a shower)
      • Clothesline


      As a kid tagging along on my brother’s Boy Scout campouts, I learned that you should always, always, bring an extra set of clothes and shoes. No, not because it was part of the Boy Scout manual, but because I could never manage to make it through a night of s’mores without getting marshmallow all over myself. Bottom line, first-time campers: The unexpected happens in the great outdoors, so check the forecast and pack clothes that will keep you warm and dry during cold weather and at night and cool during the day.

      • Short- and long-sleeved shirts
      • Pants and shorts
      • Warm jacket for evenings
      • Boots or shoes for hiking
      • Socks
      • Sandals for lounging around the campsite
      • Sleep or loungewear
      • Sunglasses
      • Hat

      You may also want

      • Rain jacket
      • Gloves or mittens
      • Swimsuit
      • Earplugs

      Camp kitchen and cooking

      Sure, you could get creative with nothing but a roll of tinfoil and a campfire to cook your meals (hello, fire-baked potato). You’ll also want to bring along a few other camp kitchen essentials for cooking and cleaning up after, for those campfire taco dinners and pancake breakfasts.

      Keep in mind that if you’re camping in bear country, it’s a good idea to bring a bear-proof canister to store your food (some coolers, like the Yeti Tundra, can be used with bear-proof locks). However, drive-in campsites will often provide metal lockers to keep your food safe from bears and other wildlife.

      You may also want

      • Trash and recycling bags
      • Filled water jugs (if your campsite doesn’t have potable water)
      • Grill and charcoal
      • Cutting board
      • Tablecloth
      • Bottle opener
      • Tinfoil
      • Water container or reusable water bottles
      • Can opener (if you’re bringing canned foods)


      It’s also helpful to plan what meals you want to make while camping and draft a food shopping list beforehand. Oatmeal, freeze-dried soups, sandwiches, and hot dogs are always easy-to-cook camp classics. If you’re looking for more inspiration, I love the delicious camp-friendly recipes (like a tinfoil shrimp boil or skillet pizza) in The Campout Cookbook ($19).

      Don’t feel like prepping and shopping for your camp meals? Patagonia Provisions supplies such items as dried fruit, dehydrated bean soups, and even canned mussels that you can pack for a weekend of low-fuss food.

      This article originally appeared in 2019. It was updated on May 23, 2024, to include current information.

      Jessie Beck is a San Francisco–based writer and associate director of SEO and video at Afar. She contributes to travel gear, outdoor adventure, and local getaway coverage and has previously lived in Washington, D.C., Malta, Seattle, and Madagascar.
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