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Camping Checklist: How To Plan a Camping Trip

Updated on September 10, 2014
Camping Checklist
Camping Checklist | Source

Planning a Camping Trip is Easy with This Checklist

Even veteran campers use a checklist - they know it only takes one forgotten item or detail to turn fun into frustration. And camping lists are not just for the gear, they will also help with all the planning arrangements you need to deal with.

When planning a camping trip, there are a lot of things to consider, and questions that should be asked. Especially if it is a new and unfamiliar location. This camping checklist will help ensure all the T's are crossed and I's are dotted.

Deciding to go on a camping is the easy part. Making sure you understand what is needed for it takes a little more effort. Simple questions, like; can you have a campfire, can you drive up to the camp site, do you need permits, do the sites have campfire rings or BBQ pits, and many more, all require answers before you can know what to pack or plan for. It would be a pretty miserable time if you planned to cook all your meals over a campfire, and then discovered campfires weren't allowed when you got there.

These basic first-steps, and the linked checklist will help ensure you are prepared and properly equipped before you leave your driveway.

*A link to a free page-formatted printable camping trip planning checklist is provided below.

Planning a Camping Trip - The First Steps

You could try to keep a mental list of all the things involved in ther trip, (good luck with that), or you could just grab a pad and write down everything you need to arrange, (are you sure you thought of everything?). But the easiest way to make sure a camping trip is the fun-time you want it to be is as simple as taking the time to run through these brief questions, and then use a camping trip checklist to check off each completed task.

It doesn't matter if it’s a week-end trip or a week-long camping vacation, a little checklist planning will make sure you have what you need, instead of having to “make-do” because you forgot something.

Your planning starts with the destination and length of stay:

The camping trip you want.

Lakefront campsite with canoes
Lakefront campsite with canoes | Source

Destination Restrictions/Requirements:

  • Are there any seasonal restrictions, like; can you drive up to the site, or do you have to park somewhere and pack in? Are there campsite amenities, like bathrooms? Are they open? Is there campsite staffing, or wildlife or bug issues? Weather dangers or concerns, (flash floods, avalanches, etc.)? And many more little details to ask about.
  • Are camp fires allowed? Can "fallen" wood be used or must firewood be bought on site? *This is a big deal - many camping sites, and almost all State and National Parks prohibit bringing in out-of-state firewood, due to the potential for importing dangerous insect infestations.
  • Are there any special requirements, like; reservations, special permits, camping equipment or provisions, adults to minors ratios, tent sizes or number of campers per site etc.
  • Are pets allowed? Is shots verification paperwork required?
  • Are other wheeled vehicles allowed? Like; bicycles, ATV's, even skateboards. (yes, many young campers take skateboards to commercial and paved road camping sites)

These are just a few of the "First Step" questions you need to answer before you can begin planning your trip. They will all effect your camping agenda, equipment and camp food needs. *You can refer to the linked Camping Trip checklist for a more detailed listing.

Destination Amenities and Services:

The campsite amenities and available services are other considerations that will affect planning - and gear you will need.

  • Are campsite resources, like; water, electric, trash, and sewer hook-ups for RVers, bathrooms, bathhouses, gazebos, pavilions, etc. available? For each campsite, or as shared resources? Are there any extra charges or fees? Are there seasonal restrictions?
  • Does each campsite have a fire ring or BBQ pit, or picnic table?
  • Does the campground have a first-aid station or trading post? Or are local stores nearby? Can you buy stuff there or will you need to pack-in absolutely everything you need?
  • Are the campsites dispersed or centrally grouped?
  • Are there structured activities or facilities? Like; guided nature hikes, Nature museums, or even camp-wide group gathering activities?

As you can see, there is much more to planning a camping trip than just grabbing your gear, food, and hopping in the car. All of these questions concern details that will affect both your agenda, and what you will need to pack.

Destination Location and Time of Year:

  • Where will you be camping? Mountains or plains, heavily wooded or open terrain?
  • What is the typical weather at the camping site for the time of year you plan to go? What is the local extended forecast for your camping dates?
  • Are there season-specific concerns, like; wildlife, bugs, snakes? Or Foliage or groundcover?
  • Does the season and or location change the availability of campsite amenities or staffing? Or even accessibility of the site to the public, ie. washed-out or snow-bound access roads?

All of the above details and questions can quickly be ascertained or answered with just a little online or telephone call legwork. The majority can probably be answered with just one 10 minute phone call to the camping site. But however you get the answers, successfully planning a camping trip is impossible without them.

Did you plan for this?

Campsite disaster
Campsite disaster | Source

Planning a Camping Trip Details and Checklist

These are just the basic questions needed to begin planning, and there may be others based on your particular plans. Investing a little time and effort to get those answers will go a long way toward ensuring your camping trip is the exciting adventure you want it to be.

Sample of Planning a Camping Trip Checklist

Snapshot of the page-formatted Planning a Camping Trip Checklist
Snapshot of the page-formatted Planning a Camping Trip Checklist | Source

You can see a more structured camping trip list, with more detailed questions, and a free page-formatted printable and customizable checklist with the link below.

Gus aka GA Anderson
Gus aka GA Anderson | Source

About the Author

The author behind Camping with Kids is Gus, from An avid life-long tent camper that has camped in the mountains and on the plains, and in all four seasons - from 100+ to -10 degree weather. As a kid, with adults on week-long bear-hunting camps, and as an adult Boy Scout leader. Check the Camping with Kids profile to see more from Gus.

Image Sources and Citations

  1. Wikimedia Commons: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Kieth Parker.
  2. Wikimedia Commons: released into the public domain by its author, Benjamincash at the wikipedia project

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