Camping Checklist: Everything You Need for a Successful Trip

Pack for your upcoming trip, or put together a complete camping kit, with this handy gear list.

A group of friends cooking breakfast at their campsite with items off AAA's camping checklist
A simple packing list can make heading out for your next camping trip quick and easy. / Shutterstock

You don’t need much to set yourself—or the whole family—up for an enjoyable stay in the outdoors.

“The sky's the limit, but the less you take, the better,” says Jeff Wilson, a PBS travel show host who spends at least 10 weeks camping and backpacking each year. “After all, we go camping to ‘get away from it all,’ and ‘it all’ includes our stuff. Have good conversations, stare at the stars, sing songs, tell jokes, and wonder why you thought you needed all that stuff back home to be happy in the first place. You don't, and camping is just the thing to distill what really matters in our lives.”

Here are the camping essentials, plus a few luxuries—because you’re doing this to have fun, right?

Essential Gear:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag (and optional liner)
  • Sleeping pad
  • A source of light: lantern, flashlight, and/or a headlamp
  • Tarp
  • Water, a water filter if needed, and a water pouch or bottle
  • Camping food, including canned and freeze-dried goods
  • Cookstove and fuel
  • Cook set, including a pot, plates, sporks, and mugs
  • Biodegradable soap and sponge or washcloth
  • Bear canister, if in habitat
  • Fire starter: matches or a lighter, plus DIY or bought starter
  • Trash and recycling bags
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Menstrual products
  • Quick-drying towel
  • Toilet paper (and sanitation trowel if no toilets)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • First-aid kit and medications
  • Compass and paper maps
  • Utility knife, hatchet, or axe
  • Duct tape and small multi-tool
  • Pet essentials, if allowed
  • Your ID and AAA card

Essential Clothes:

  • Wicking base layers, including underwear
  • Wicking T-shirts
  • Quick-drying shorts or pants
  • Long-sleeve shirts for warmth and bug and sun protection
  • Lightweight jacket or fleece
  • Wicking wool or synthetic socks
  • Something clean to sleep in

Weather-Dependent Clothes:

  • Warm, insulated jacket or vest
  • Rain gear
  • Long underwear
  • Beanie or warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Gloves
  • Wool or fleece pants
  • Swimsuit


  • Cooler and ice
  • Condiments and spices: salt, pepper, sriracha, mustard, ketchup
  • Coffee filter or press
  • Dish wash bin or camp sink
  • Hammock
  • Camping chairs
  • Camping pillow, earplugs, and eye mask
  • Camp sandals or slippers
  • Reading material
  • Your journal and a pen or pencil
  • Playing cards and other travel-sized games
  • Frisbee
  • Binoculars
  • Sunshade
  • Firewood
  • Rug (or doormat) for tent entrance
  • Clothesline
  • Solar chargers and extra batteries for phones, cameras, and other personal electronics

Smart Tip: Pack Once

Put all of your camping gear together in a large bin or box with a lid. When it’s time for a trip, simply pull it out and make sure everything is still there and in working condition. When you get home, restock it and store it away, so you’re ready to grab and go anytime.