Camping essentials are items that I would regret leaving behind. Forget packing them and your trip could either be annoying or miserable.
These items will upgrade a decent trip to an amazing one if you know what the essentials are.
Everyone gets lost in the bustle of packing, so its good to have a checklist, and to follow a procedure.
This post will lessen your confusion by showing you the must haves for camping. Also, these items may vary depending on your camping approach, and where you intend to go.
Are you minimal? just a water container, pot, pan, stove, fuel, and some tools. A cooler keeps your foods fresh but isn’t always needed depending on your duration / items you bring.
Not minimal? Then you could bring items like portable refrigerators which have revolutionized the way people camp!
Knowing and bringing the essentials will make your trip more fun and relaxing, so let’s begin with the ten essentials.
The ten essentials
The ten essentials are items hikers never neglect because they are essential for their safety and health on the trail.
The ten essentials are also important for average campers. These items will keep you safe, and make your trip more enjoyable.
To properly utilize the ten essentials, its good to know how to use some of the gear. For example the compass, first aid bandages, and repair kits.
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (water resistant matches/lighter/candle)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag waterproof tent layer)
- Pro tip: Have a checklist, and check it twice to make sure you bring everything you need.
Use the ten essentials as the overarching megastructure and branch all of your related items underneath it.
For example, under Fire, you would add a fire starter, an axe, firewood, and maybe a knife for kindling.
Under the insulation / extra clothes category you can also add socks, under sun protection you can add a hat. Add any categories to the ten essentials if need be.
I would add a footwear category to the ten essentials if you plan on doing any long hikes. Good hiking boots are definitely essential and will make or break your hike.
The ten essentials covers everything except good footwear, that makes 11 essentials. These 11 essentials can help you mentally categorize all of your camping essentials into just three words.
First aid equipment
Medical equipment is easy to customize for each individual. Prepare for any threats in the area you will be hiking. Does the area have snakes? Then bring a snake kit.
treatments for blisters,
adhesive bandages of varying sizes,
over the counter pain medications,
pen and paper,
some disinfecting wipes,
and any special items for the place you intend on hiking.
Pro tip: Make sure essentials like a first-aid kit are always readily accessible.
Another great backup item is a locator beacon or satellite messenger. These devices can locate your position in case you are lost, and the beacon will work without phone access.
A compass and map will help you stay on target, and it will keep you from getting lost. Learn how to use one by reading my article, how to use a compass.
Headlamps are best to bring for backcountry travelers because you won’t need to hold them in your hand.
Pro tip: Always carry extra batteries for your headlamp, and take them out so the headlamp battery doesn’t accidentally turn on in your bag.
What is the SPF (sun protection factor) of your sunscreen? It should be at around SPF 50 or higher. This is a little high but better safe than sorry.
If its a little high SPF then you can get by for a little longer in case you forget to apply it again quickly.
Also, you won’t need to apply sunscreen as much with a higher SPF than with a lower one.
The sunscreen formula should be able to block both UVA and UVB. If you want to have maximum protection, then generously apply sunscreen to your exposed skin.
There is no specific time range for applying sunscreen, so remember to apply it frequently.
Cooking and water
Firestarter: It could be (old newspaper, commercial fire starters, lighter fluid). You cannot improvise these items unless you find a couple of sticks and you happen to be a good bush-crafter.
Plan smart by bringing a few backup options to start your fire. Its good to know how to make a campfire, and most importantly to know how to extinguish it.
Bring some large water containers and leave them near the site for daily use.
Water storage (a 5-gallon cube is ideal for car camping)
Personal water bottle (one for each camper) or bring a water bladder for hiking.
Bring extra water in case you stay a few days longer.
You can buy water blocks for camping, they store plenty of water in them and they are easily stackable.
You’ll need it for tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and extinguishing your campfire.
Eating utensils (fork, spork, or spoon; one per person.)
You could bring a minimal amount of food or decide to eat abundant 4-course meals.
A moderate meal between these two extremes tends to work out best for family campers.
Bring some non perishable snacks for the way back, or in case dinner doesn’t work out.
There is no way to know for 100% certainty that you can have a campfire to cook with due to regulations, or even poor weather.
Don’t discover this the hard way. It would be awful to show up at a campsite with a campfire grill grate only to later learn that there is a fire ban where you are camping!
Dry seasons come and rangers prepare by placing fire bans over these areas. Know in advance if there are any active fire bans throughout the year, and be prepared just in case anything changes once you show up.
Camping stove: Remember – Plan wisely by bringing another way to cook your meals – be smart, bring a camping stove.
Axes are best for splitting a ton of firewood logs fast. Its very time-consuming to try accomplishing this task with most knives.
Cooler/ice: Having fresh cold food will prevent you from getting food sickness. Of course, don’t forget to bring ice…
Airtight containers that trap food smells and protect them from reaching the nostrils of hungry animals.
Wildlife is everywhere, if you don’t want to be raided by raccoons then you know what to do.
Firewood: You should definitely get your firewood locally. Most campsites require you to use their local firewood to prevent environmental harm.
You should know that in some circumstances, it can even be illegal to transport firewood across state lines…
Know your water situation before you go and plan differently for a site with potable water vs a remote location.
Pro tip: Verify that you have clean treated water coming out of your spigot by contacting some land managers or rangers.
Using natural water sources means you have to treat the water yourself.
Emergency Water Filtration:
Personal water bottle / bladder camel-pack
5 gallons of Water blocks / containers
Hiking shoes / sandals for the camp site / supportive running shoes for short hikes.
Tent, with ground cloth and stakes
Sleeping pads or cots
Headlamps / Flashlight / extra batteries
Lighting, like a lantern, some string lights / light sticks.
Cooler/ice (or a portable fridge)
(Cooking / fire)
Firewood (buy wood close to your campground to avoid transporting harmful insects)
Moderate amount of food
A Camp stove
Fire grill / grate / dutch oven
Trash bags to clean up your mess
A compass and map
locator beacon or satellite messenger.
(Hygiene / Toiletries)
Sun protection /bug protection
(First aid kit)
A snake bite kit if you are going into places with snakes. Anti itch / poison ivy treatment if the area has those hazards.
Wool synthetic socks, an extra pair
Bring extra clothes
The Tact Bivvy is a life-saving survival device and an excellent backup camping essential.
Its a smart move to rent pricey items such as your tent, sleeping bags, and pads. A tent is the best emergency shelter item you have, so decide carefully.
If you want space, and have 1-2 people then a 3 person tent is a great choice.
Practice setting up your tent at home first, that way you can set it up quickly if you are caught in the rain.
Also, your trip will just be easier if you know how your tent works.
A ground cloth can catch rainwater and redirect it underneath your tent. Ground cloths can also help prevent your tent from being punctured.
You need a warm Sleeping bag / but its summer! No problem, just sleep on top of it if you’re too hot.
Sleeping pad: Don’t sleep on uneven ground, a pad is the way to go if you want to sleep well.
You don’t have to get an expensive pad, just one that will be comfortable. Good sleep is essential to a fun camping experience.
Bivvy bags and space blankets will keep you warm and protected in an emergency.
They are one of the greatest if not the greatest backup items you can bring for your safety.
Pro tip: Ultralight bags and pads are pricey (and for backpacking), you won’t need them. Instead, find a nice warm sleeping bag for camping.
Pro tip: A higher insulation value (known as the R-value) — means your bag will be warmer and cozier.
LED lantern / camping chair: Make space for a camping chair and a lantern.
That way you can comfortably play cards, set up evening snacks, or light the trail to the bathroom with some light.
You don’t want to be looking for something in the middle of the night without a light.
Pro tip: Research before you go. Know everything the campsite offers regarding amenities, electricity, water, and more.
Lightweight, waterproof, breathable clothes are the best top layers.
Its the perfect balance that will keep you comfortable during heat or rain.
Thick long socks will protect your ankles and feet from ticks, and mosquitoes. Wool synthetic socks are the best for camping.
Also socks are just as important as boots because a good pair of socks will prevent your skin from getting blisters.
A fresh pair of socks
What to do next
That covers all of the essentials. Your next trip will be a lot more fun and enjoyable if you remember to bring these items along.
Don’t forget anything, make a checklist, and if you are in a hiking group make sure everyone else has a checklist as well.
Since you are going camping, you might want some yummy foods for your picky kids. Read this article, listing 37 yummy foods that your kids will love.
Also if you want to get started hiking and backpacking then you should read this article, how to start hiking.