Camping Packing List: a great guide on what to take

by Jan

Camping for the first time?  Not sure what to take?  This camping packing list will guide you through the essentials for your trip, as well as giving you the optional camping kit, for making your trip more comfortable.

Camping is an amazing way to have a low-cost holiday and spend quality time with family or friends outdoors.  However, if you haven’t been before, it can be a minefield knowing what to take.

In reality, there is no one list fits all for camping.  Your equipment list will depend on who is going, where you are going and the type of camping you want to do.  Furthermore, you’ll need to decide exactly how many of your home luxuries you are prepared to do without!

The camping checklist below tells you all the equipment you could possibly need for a family camping trip.  You can use it as your starting point and adapt it to suit your needs.

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Shelter

View of different tents at campsite

Tent

At the top of your camping packing list has to be a tent.

However, tents come in many shapes and sizes and the price can vary enormously. Before purchasing a tent, you should decide:-

  • How many people will be sleeping in it?
  • How long are you going away for?
  • Where are you going?
  • How are you getting to the campsite?
  • What type of camping do you want to do?

Honestly, if you are going camping for the first time, it might be worth borrowing a tent or going somewhere with pre-pitched tents, or even a pod.

Tent Accessories

  • Pegs – These will come with the tent. For hard ground you need rock pegs.
  • Mallet – A rubber mallet for banging the pegs in.
  • Peg pull – For pulling the pegs out
  • Ground sheet – Most tents actually have a fitted ground sheet.
  • Duct tape – for emergency repairs

Wind break and gazebo

Neither of these are essential for you camping packing list, but are useful if you have space.

  • A windbreak – Many campers use a wind break to create their own zone and provide more privacy.
  • A gazebo – These are great for socialising in the evenings.  They also provide a useful area for preparing food, if the weather isn’t great.

Sleeping

Sleeping bag

Another essential item for your camping packing list is a sleeping bag.

Choose your sleeping bag based on the destination, season and weather conditions you are camping in.

view of snowy field and forest from two sleeping bags in tent

Pillows

Although you can buy travel pillows, we always bring our pillows from home.

Alternatively, if you have limited space, you can just roll up some clothes.

Camping mat

There are 3 main options for something to sleep on.  Although not essential, it will make your camping far more enjoyable if you are not on the ground.

  • Camping mat – A foam roll mat is a cheap, basic option.  It will provide basic comfort and lessen the impact from the rough ground.  It will also provide some insulation from the cold.
  • Self-inflating mats (SIMs) – These mats self inflate when they are rolled out and just need an additional manual puff of air.  They will provide more comfort than the basic camping mats.
  • Air bed – An inflatable matress will provide the most comfort at night,  but is the most expensive and bulkiest option.  Check your tent is big enough and you have spare space in the car.  And don’t forget the pump!

Cooking

T-Bone Steaks cooking on Tripod Charcoal BBQ
Tripod BBQ
Sausages cooking on a Cadac gas grill on camping trip
CADAC Gas BBQ

There are a number of options for cooking at the campsite.

  • A disposable BBQ – This is probably the cheapest, simplest option and fine if you want to stick to basics, such as sausages and burgers.
  • Gaz stove – Another cheap, simple option is the Camping Gaz stove.  This work with cartridges, in the same way as a gas hob.  You can get single or double options.
  • Tripod BBQ – We love our tripod BBQ.  You can cook on the hanging grill or even put tin foil wrapped food in the embers.  In the evening, you can use the BBQ as a fire pit to keep warm.
  • Cadac – If you are a  more experienced camper, you may wish to invest in a Cadac, which is a low-pressure gas BBQ.  These come in different sizes.  You will need to bring a gas cylinder if you choose to take a Cadac.

Cooking equipment

  • Pots and Pans – You will need pots and pans to cook your food in.  You can bring these from home or buy a compact set that are easy to store.
  • Kettle – You can bring a kettle to put on the hob.  Alternatively, if you have electric hook-up, you can bring an electric kettle.
  • A colander – You can buy an Outwell collapsible colander, or just use a lid.
  • Matches, firelighters, gas cylinders (as required)

Cooking utensils

  • BBQ tools – If you are planning to BBQ, a spatula, tongs and a fork are very useful.
  • Wooden spoon – For stirring
  • Chopping board – For food preparation
  • Sharp knives – For chopping
  • Aluminium foil – For cooking and storing

Food

You probably won’t have room for lots of food, but you could bring basics.  Definitely pack a packed lunch or some snacks for when you arrive at the campsite.  Some ideas for starters:-

  • Teabags
  • Milk
  • Cooking oil
  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereal

Eating & Drinking

Table

  • Foldaway TableCamping tables come in all sizes and are very useful.  We usually have a small one in the tent for storage and a larger one outside.  We use the big one for food preparation and eating, though often we just eat off our laps.
  • Side tables – You can even get tiny side tables for your drinks and nibbles in the evening, but don’t think that this can be considered essential kit!
Plate of Camping food

Chairs

  • Foldaway camping chairs – I consider this to be a camping packing essential.  We try to get fairly light ones, that we can carry to the beach.

Plates & bowls

  • Plates and bowls – Plastic plates and bowls are perfect for camping.  Take enough for everyone in the family.
  • Serving bowls – You could also take a few extra plates and bowls for serving food.
  • Cups and beakers – I have some old china mugs from home, as I prefer not to drink my tea out of a plastic cup.  Plastic beakers are ideal for kids though!
  • Cutlery – First time campers can just bring this from home.  We have a cheap set that we keep in the camping box.
  • Wine glass – A plastic wine glass is another essential item!

Storage

Cold storage

There are several options for keeping your fridge items (milk/butter) cool when camping.

  • Cool Box – This is used with ice packs to keep your items cool.
  • Electric cool box – A good option if you have chosen a pitch with electric hook up,

Water storage

You will need something to collect water in.  This could be a water carrier/jerry can or just a very large water bottle.

Tent storage

It is really important to have some sort of system to keep your tent tidy.

  • Hanging tent tidy – Some larger tents will have an multi-pocketed hanging tent tidy with pouches.  Alternatively, you can buy one to keep small items in.
  • Storage boxes – We usually stack some empty plastic containers in the car and then use them for storage when we arrive.  We always have one for shoes by the front door.
  • Tent cupboards – Tent cupboards, wardrobes and kitchen units are all available, but really are very optional luxuries.

Lighting

Camping Torch

It is very useful to have a light for your tent, though make sure you don’t leave it on, as you will attract insects.

  • Torch – an essential packing item, especially if you are heading to the toilet block in the dark.
  • Lantern – battery operated
  • Hanging light – if you have electric hook-up
  • Citronella candles – these are useful for keeping insects away in the evening
  • Fairy lights – Children will love some magical lights around your tent at night.
  • Solar panel lights – We take a couple of these for the entrance.

Personal Items

Clothes and footwear

Of course, the family will be far happier if they are warm and dry.  Ideally, lots of layers are best and don’t forget your waterproof.

Now, Flipflops or crocs are great for the shower rooms and heading across the field in the morning.  Alternatively, if you have little kids, you may want to bring their wellies.

Swimwear – if the site has a pool or your are near a beach

Wash kit

Don’t forget your wash bag with toiletries.  Men and ladies will have separate wash blocks, so bring 2 sets.

You will also need to add towels to your camping packing list.  If you are short on space, bring microfibre travel towels which roll up really small.

First aid kit

You only need basic items:-

  • paracetamol/calpol
  • plasters
  • antiseptic cream
  • anti-histamine (if needed)
  • insect repellent
  • bite relief cream
  • sun cream
Red First Aid Kit

Cleaning

  • washing-up bowl
  • washing up brush/cloth
  • scrub pad/brillo or BBQ brush
  • washing up liquid
  • anti-bacterial wipes
  • tea towels
  • bin bags
  • kitchen roll
  • dustpan and brush (for sweeping the tent out)

Leisure Activities

Before you go, you should consider how you will entertain the family on the camping trip?  Do you intend to spend a lot of time at the campsite, or go out on day trips?  Either way, you will still want some leisure items for when you are back at base.

Teddy Bear Camping

Inside the tent

Pack a few games for inside the tent.  This could be for a rainy day or some quiet time.

Outside fun

There are plenty of ideas for outside fun at the campsite.  Some ideas include:-

In addition, you may wish to bring a beach bag or rucksack and travel rug if you plan on days out.

Camping Leisure activities - Boules

For ideas on how to entertain kids at the campsite, read

Camping activities: 77 fun things to do when camping

15 best travel games for families

Luxury Items

  • Tent carpet – yes, this really is a thing!
  • Electric hook-up – a mains kit for hooking to the campsite electric

Conclusion

As you can see the ideas for a camping packing list are never-ending.  If you are a beginner, it really is not worth spending loads of money until you know that you enjoy it.

We have accumulated equipment over many years and upgraded as we’ve gone along.

It is wise to remember that the more you take, the longer it takes you to pack and unpack!

For more helpful hints on camping and campsite reviews, check out our camping guide:

We hope that you found this essential camping packing list useful and that it has helped you prepare for your own camping trip.

What are the camping essentials that you couldn’t go without?  Please comment below.

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