What to Bring to Camping

Pelican Flyer  |  May 25, 2020

Due to the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19), some of the ideas listed here may not be appropriate to try at this time. Please refer to guidance from your local health authority.

Time spent in nature is never time wasted, which is why camping is one of America’s favorite pastimes, drawing over 40 million participants a year. Heading off the grid puts you face-to-face with the simple pleasures of life — inspiring natural landscapes, conversation around the campfire and replenishing fresh air — while keeping the stressors of life back home. But, given the intentional lack of amenities, camping takes a little more preparation than other kinds of getaways, but we’re here to help you simplify that part.

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Pick Your Strategy

There are two ways you can look at your packing strategy for a camping trip: the minimalist’s approach (best for backpackers and those traveling via bike or boat) and the maximalist’s approach (best for those with a vehicle or camper of any sort). By nature, so to speak, both strategies require three basic components: food, shelter and emergency preparations. If there’s room, a few extra comforts items can be considered as well.

The Minimalist’s Approach: Backpack Only

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When you can only bring what you can carry on your back (or on your bike or in your canoe), you have to keep things extremely lightweight and limited. There’s no room for camp chairs, firewood or a full-scale propane stove, but not to worry. Smart packing will help you get the most out of the space in your backpack or duffel bag. Here are the essentials you need for backpack camping.

  • Food and Kitchen Items
    • Dense, protein-rich snacks
    • Small soft cooler for fresh food and water
    • Soft or collapsible water bottle
    • Portable water filter or water treatment tablets
    • Portable mini stove (canister camping stoves are ideal)
    • Portable mini pot
    • Plate or bowl
    • Spork
    • Mug
    • Biodegradable dish soap
    • Mini sponge
    • Small trash bag
    • French press, percolator or drip coffee maker (optional)
    • Coffee (optional)
  • Shelter, Warmth and Protection
    • Tent
    • Sleeping bag
    • Pillow
    • Ground cloth
    • Stormproof matches
    • Firestarter or tinder
    • Hammock
    • Insect net
    • Extra clothes
    • Extra socks
    • Sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Rain jacket
    • Bandana
    • Hat
  • Emergency, Health and Safety Items
    • A rechargeable flashlight or LED headlamp for light
    • Multitool
    • Duct tape
    • Cord or rope
    • Extra batteries
    • Paper map and compass
    • Phone
    • GPS system
    • Solar phone charger
    • Compact first-aid kit (you can make one yourself)
    • Repair kit for tent, sleeping bag, etc.
    • Bear bag or box (if required)
    • Emergency whistle
    • Prescription medications
    • Over-the-counter medications
    • Powdered toothpaste
    • Toothbrush
    • Towel
    • Toilet paper

The Everything-Plus-the-Camp-Sink Approach: Car, Truck, RV or Camper

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Driving to your campsite? Load up the extras! When you’ve got a trunk or truck bed to fill, you don’t have to be quite as picky about what you pack. Go ahead and pack your hard coolers to the brim with the beverages and hot dogs. With that being said, space is still limited, and over-packing can weigh you down and cause you to be disorganized. Here are the essentials you need to pack when you’ve got a little extra room.

  • Food and Kitchen Items
    • Food
    • Cooler (Wheeled if not parking at your campsite)
    • Water
    • Portable water filter or water treatment tablets
    • Camp stove and fuel
    • Pots and pans
    • Cooking knife
    • Cups and mugs
    • Silverware
    • Plates and bowls
    • Napkins
    • Draining receptacle for dishes
    • Sponge
    • Camp sink or wash bin
    • Towels
    • Trash bags
    • Bottle opener or corkscrew
    • Cast iron pan (for campfire cooking)
    • Campfire grill (for campfire cooking)
    • French press, percolator or drip coffee maker (optional)
    • Coffee (optional)
  • Shelter, Warmth and Protection
    • Tent (if needed)
    • Sleeping bag
    • Air mattress
    • Lanterns
    • Pillows
    • Ground cloth
    • Stormproof matches
    • Firestarter or tinder
    • Hammock
    • Insect net
    • Extra clothes
    • Extra socks
    • Firewood (pick up near campsire, do not transfer across state lines)
    • Folding camping chairs
    • Sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Sun shade or tarp
    • Rain jacket
    • Bandana
    • Hat
  • Emergency, Health and Safety Items
    • A rechargeable flashlight or LED headlamp for light
    • Multitool
    • Duct tape
    • Cord or rope
    • Extra batteries
    • Paper map and compass
    • Phone
    • GPS system
    • Solar phone charger
    • Regular phone charger (if the site has electricity)
    • Compact first-aid kit (you can make one yourself)
    • Repair kit for tent, sleeping bag, etc.
    • Bear bag or box (if required)
    • Emergency whistle
    • Firearm in locked, hard-sided case
    • Prescription medications
    • Over-the-counter medications
    • Powdered toothpaste
    • Toothbrush
    • Towel
    • Toiletry kit
  • Comfort and Extras
    • Bluetooth speaker (make sure your music is downloaded)
    • Folding table (if no picnic table)
    • Plastic tablecloth
    • Board games
    • Football or soccer ball
    • Fishing pole and supplies
    • Photography equipment
    • S’mores supplies
    • Cutting board
    • Canopy tent
    • Marshmallow roasting sticks
    • Binoculars
    • Notebook and pen
    • Hiking poles

Leave it As You Found It

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Remember, while you’re bringing a whole lot of stuff out into the wilderness, it’s vital that you take it all out of the wilderness when you’re done. Strive to leave no trace, always cleaning up your campsite behind you. We also recommend thoroughly cleaning all your camping gear before you pack up or right when you get home so it’s ready to go the next time you want to head out for an off-grid getaway. Happy camping!

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