Must Haves Camping Checklist:

Anything You Can Imagine Needing on Your First or Fiftieth Camping Trip

by S.B.

for Advanced Composition, ETSU, Spring 2009





If you have never camped before, you might worry about forgetting something important. The first time that forgotten item crosses your mind is when you pull into you camping destination. To be honest, it happens to all of us eventually. We unroll our tent and find we do not have any stakes. The skillet we thought we packed is at home on the stove. The weather turns cold and we remember we should have brought extra clothes.

      If you are like me, there is only one way to avoid such forgetfulness: make a list. Do this well in advance of your campout, assessing your needs, and creating a list of things you want to be sure to take with you. Then, after you have gathered everything for your trip, check off the items you have and be sure nothing is missing. Then double-check the list again for good measure.


Double Bracket: Some items—such as matches, toilet paper, a flashlight, and rain gear—should be packed for every trip.



            What you need will depend largely on what type of camping trip you are planning. If you are driving to a campsite, for example, you can take whatever your vehicle will hold. Do some research ahead of time, that will help you determine what items to pack. Does your campsite have running water? If not, you will have to carry water or a means of making it potable. Unless you are camping in the winter, I suggest you take some kind of snake repellent. Most people are not aware that mothballs are very good at repelling snakes. Insect repellent is a must to keep the mosquitoes and ticks away. Just use your head when determining what to pack and what to leave at home.      

            My checklist has developed after many trips both tent camping and RV camping at Big South Fork and different smaller campgrounds around Tennessee and North Carolina. The very first time my family and I camped, we bought many items, but you soon realize it takes a while to accumulate all the necessities. Some items—such as matches, toilet paper, a flashlight, and rain gear—should  be packed for every trip, regardless of whether you think you might need them or not. When camping at Big South Fork, many items can be left at home. All of their campsites are within walking distance of running water, hot showers, and outside sinks to do you dishes in. Therefore, you can leave the toilet paper, dishpan, and portable showers at home. However, when camping at other campgrounds some of these amenities are not provided. Other items like fishing tackle, playing cards, and binoculars may or may not need to go depending on your plans once you reach your destination. Please do your own research because my must haves list is sure not to cover everything you will need on your next adventure, but here is a helpful list you can use to check off some items. Use it as the basis for creating your own list that you can refine as time goes along.



            The first items on my list are what I call "Essentials." It is possible I will not need one of these items on a particular trip, but if I do (and chances are, I will), I will have it. Every camper will probably need these important things eventually. A great tip is to pack most of you items in Rubbermaid containers. They will keep your stuff organized, dry, and once you have items accumulated, you can leave them packed for the next trip.

Personal Items

            In this category, I include clothing, toiletries, and other items each person in the group should bring. Everyone should pack the necessary number of items needed for the duration of the trip. The exact items will vary according to individual needs, time of year and other factors. I have found that packing each days attire in a separate bag keeps things organized and dry. For example, take a pair of socks, underclothes, shorts or pants, and a shirt folded neatly, and put them into a large Ziploc bag. Each day you can just pull out a bag of clothes along with a towel and a washcloth and head out to the washhouse. 

Clothing (always pack an extra outfit)

·        Belt

·        Gloves

·        Hat, cap, toboggan

·        Jacket, coat

·        Nightwear

·        Pants, shorts

·        Shirts

·        Shoes/boots

·        Socks

·        Swimwear

·        Underclothes



·         Sunscreen, lip balm

Camping Gear

      If you are staying in a trailer or RV, you may not need to worry about many of the items listed below. However, I will list some items you may want to bring if you intend on tent camping.


Plan your meals before leaving home, and make a list of all food items you will need using your menus as a guide. Some campers like to have elaborate outdoor meals, while others prefer not to cook at all. Either way, here is a list to help you remember some of what you might need.

Cooking, Food Service and Cleanup

            The items you will need for preparing meals, serving them, and cleaning up will once again vary greatly according to your own preferences. Here are some items to consider for your list.

·        Aluminum foil

·        Camp stove, fuel

Emergency Gear

            Always be prepared just in case something unexpected happens by having on hand a tool kit that includes a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches; a repair kit that contains such things as duct tape, wire, nylon twine, superglue, and rope; and a first aid kit that includes all or some of the following basic items. We have a small first aid kit that we carry in our backpacks when we hike, but we also have a shoebox size Rubbermaid container where we keep all qualifying first aid items. This list can be condensed to just a first aid kit when tent camping.  


            Finally, you should consider what items will keep you comfortable and amused on your camping trip. If you are car camping and have the space, you can make your campsite luxurious with such items as hanging camp lights and a hammock. Books, a radio, playing cards, your journal, art supplies, board games, and musical instruments all add to make you feel like you are staying at the Hilton.

            What extracurricular activities will be part of your camping trip? Make a list of things you will need like, a camera, field guides, binoculars, fishing tackle, hunting gear, hiking gear, bikes, and kayaks. If you are leaving the campsite during the day, add a daypack or backpack to your list. As you noticed, I occasionally put the same item in different categories. Depending on the room you have when packing, it might come in handy to have the same item packed in different places and under different headings. If you have very important items listed in different sections of you checklist, chances are you will not forget them.   

            The rest of the checklist I will leave entirely up to you. However, do not forget to do it. Having fun and relaxing is what camping is all about. Now that you have a good idea what you need to pack for your trip, you can add those luxury items that are sure to help you enjoy the experience even more.


Summary Blurb: The article lists packed full of items you might need on your next camping trip. The article can also serve as a checklist for campers who want to make sure they have everything they need for a delightful camping experience.


Sarah Bell lists items needed for your next camping trip.