First up, tents and sleeping gear

This may sound like an opening for a camping for dummies checklist, but picking the correct tent and sleeping gear is almost as important as remembering to put it on your camping packing list in the first place. Whilst working out what is a luxury and what is not when looking for a tent and sleeping gear, you need to ask yourself a few questions: 

How big do I want my tent to be? If going with children, how many tents will I need? 

The type of experience you want from a tent can play a massive part when deciding what to bring camping. It’s widely believed that 60cm is the minimum sized tent you need per person. However, while some people only see their tent as a sleeping pod, others see it as their home, a place where they can spend a large part of their trip, especially those who are taking their family camping.

So, whether it’s a tent that is a dome or a tunnel, has its own separate bedrooms, its own living room space or even just the number of doors, making these decisions early getting this right will save time, effort and maybe even money, when going camping. 

Along with the size of your tent, if you are bringing your children camping, you’ll need to decide whether they will be in the same tent as you or their own private lodgings. This could depend on their age, how keen they are on learning about building and living in their own tent. 

What level of comfort am I looking for?

When it comes to adding comfort items to your camping checklist, it will vary depending not only on the size of your tent, but also on the way you get to the campsite. If you’ve got a convertible or travelling by train, overloading yourself with items that aren’t camping must-haves may make your experience a tricky one.

First of all, make sure you have a sleeping bag that you find comfortable, both size and temperature wise. What you then add to your setup completely depends on what you need to sleep, but the usual is a sleeping mat or an inflatable mattress, and a suitable camping pillow. Some even bring earplugs for an easier night's sleep.

There is also the matter of campsite comfort. While many make gazebos and portable showers part of their list, when it comes to camping essentials, all you really need is camping chairs and a lantern. It’s also wise, in terms of staying in the know about your campsite, to bring along a camping guide book. 

What kind of experience do I want to have when packing it all away?  

Setting up a tent, unfurling your sleeping bag and creating your own mini campsite is usually the easy part. But then when you want to make a quick getaway at the end of the trip and still be respectful to the ‘leave no trace’ camping ethic, choosing items that are easy to pack away is a very smart move. Depending on the size of your travelling party, you want to choose tents and sleeping gear that is as easy to set up as it is to take down. That may mean opting for a pop up tent if there's just one or two of you, or opting for an inflatable tent if there are five of you. 

Tent essential checklist

  • Tent & pegs
  • Groundsheet / waterproof sheet
  • Flysheet (extra protection from the rain)
  • Windbreak (for protection from the wind, and for some extra privacy)
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping mat or inflatable mattress
  • Camping pillow
  • Camping chairs
  • Lantern and/or Torch (and extra batteries)
  • Camping guide book

Clothes to bring camping

Getting the right mix of clothes to bring camping can be tricky. You don’t want to over-pack and bring clothing that you’re going to get zero use from, but then you also don’t want to be caught outdoors without enough layers. The clothing apparel that you go on your camping checklist can heavily depend on a large range of factors, from the time of year to the type of camping you are undertaking. With that in mind, here are some questions you should think about before packing clothes. 

What essential clothing do I need to pack, regardless of the weather? 

Whatever the weather, camping is sweaty business. Owning clothing that is made from moisture-wicking materials such as polyester and merino wool will help stop both sweat and water becoming absorbed in the material. 

Also whatever the forecast, rain can come. Packing waterproof and quick-drying clothing are key to a pleasant camping experience, as even if the weather was to turn, your clothing will not be ruined. This will also apply to footwear, so make sure everyone in your party has either a pair of walking boots or wellies. 

Another essential that needs to be remembered when thinking about what to take when going camping is sleepwear. Even when it’s hot during the day, temperatures do drop at night, so having warm clothing for when you sleep will be one of the things to remember when going camping. 

How does the clothing differ depending on my camping trip? 

It firstly depends on what time of year you’re going camping and secondly, what you will be doing during your trip. Although it’s not ideal, when thinking about what you need for camping, assume the worst of the conditions. If it’s going to be warm weather, make sure you pack clothing that is both sweat resistant and is able to keep certain parts of your body out of the sun during its hottest times. This includes packing caps that keep you shaded and long sleeve t-shirts that will keep your arms protected.

If you’re camping during the colder seasons, make sure you pack enough layers to keep you warm,comfortable and dry, along with clothing and footwear that can handle mud and slippery terrains. If, during your camping trip, you’ll be walking through woodland areas, it may also be worth packing walking gear made from Nylon, as it is good for handling abrasive obstacles such as trees and shrubberies. 

Camping checklist for clothes

  • Moisture-wicking underwear
  • Moisture-wicking T-shirts
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Quick-drying trousers
  • Lightweight fleece or jacket
  • Boots
  • Socks (synthetic or wool)
  • Sleepwear
  • Rainwear
  • Long underwear
  • Warm insulated jacket
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Swimsuits
  • Water sandals

Must have camping supplies

When setting up a temporary home in the great outdoors, one of the most important things to remember when camping is to prepare for the worst, both for human injury, camping wear and tear, and also the right sanitary equipment. As with tents and sleeping arrangements, you want items on your camping packing list that are essential, and also economical sizewise. 

Here are some questions to consider about your camping essentials.

What if my belongings I'm camping are already damaged?

There is always the possibility that with borrowed tents and camping essentials, that it might be worn out or even damaged. It’s smart to double check everything before you leave, whether that be inspecting any tent damage in the garden, to making any first aid items aren’t out of date. If any of your gear is already damaged, try to fix it before you leave, and if it is still causing you problems, look to replace it with gear that won’t fall apart when you’re out in the wilds. However, the majority of camping equipment has a good shelf life and may need some maintenance or repair. 

What type of toiletries should I bring? 

Similarly to many types of travelling, you want to keep your products small, essential and preferably recyclable. Remember that use of tap or water source will be irregular or minimal, so choose items that don’t need a ton of water.

Do I know how to administer first aid? 

If you aren’t a hundred percent sure how to use any of the items below or are certain that no one in your camping party has first aid training, it is worth finding a training course local to you. The skills you learn there could end up being very helpful and also serve you well in other non-camping sitiatuons. 

Campsite essentials checklist

  • Headlamps or flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • Multi-tool
  • Duct tape
  • Cordage
  • Tent-pole repair sleeve
  • Pad/mattress repair kit

Health and toiletries checklist

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Menstrual products
  • Prescription medication
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Insect repellent
  • Lip balm

What should be in a camping first aid kit?

  • Irrigating syringe 
  • Medical gloves 
  • Tweezers 
  • Antibiotic ointment 
  • Hydrogel pads 
  • Bandages and gauze 
  • Athletic tape
  • Medication (depending on who you are going with)

Cooking whilst camping must-haves

Part of the joy of camping is being away from everything. This usually includes supermarkets, restaurants and also places reachable for delivery. That means that whilst living amongst nature, any warm meals will have to be cooked, and all cooking equipment will need to be on your camping packing list. It may well be worth checking ahead about whether the area you are intending to camp has a fire pit. 

What are the big don’ts of campsite cooking? 

In terms of packing, the most important two things to do is to check all your cooking equipment out before you leave, and making sure you have the correct cooking apparatus for your intended meals. To check that your equipment works, test the quality, how long it takes to function and how much it is capable of cooking at one time. 

What foods are ideal for my camping trip? 

It’s best to avoid any fancy foods when making your camping checklist. Over complicating the cooking can mean carrying more equipment than necessary. Make sure certain food is pre-made and packed in Tupperware boxes, as they will keep for longer. As long as you are bringing along a cooler box, ideal foods for camping include eggs, cheese, beef, chicken, milk, bread, butter, noodles and carrots. 

Cooking camping checklist 

  • Stove and fuel
  • Matches/lighter/firestarter
  • Firewood or coals
  • Cook pots and pans
  • Eating and cooking utensils
  • Plates and bowls
  • Tupperware
  • Cups
  • Cooling box 
  • Ice
  • Water bottles
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Pot scrubber
  • Trash bags

Other things to remember when going camping

Just to remind you…

  • Credit card and/or cash
  • ID
  • Cellphone
  • Campsite reservation confirmation

What about the kids?

Of course when thinking about how to pack for family camping, all the above applies. However, this may well be the first time your little ones have ever been camping, so they may need more home comforts than usual. While you’ll be planning on having them connect with nature during the day, there will be time in the evenings where keeping them entertained may involve a little bit more than just naming trees and staring into the stars. 

Camping with kids activities checklist (optional)

  • Bubbles
  • Glow sticks
  • Favorite games, coloring books & crayons
  • Deck of cards
  • Books for bedtime
  • Camera
  • Binoculars 
  • Kids fishing rod (don't forget your license) and bait