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Essential Camping Items

Updated on June 26, 2008
Setting up the tent.
Setting up the tent.

Camping trips can be a lot of long as you plan well and bring the right equipment.

Here is a list of essential items for a tenting trip, plus a few bonus items.

  • A good quality tent. Yes, this is an obvious answer, but it is an essential item! Be sure to purchase a tent that is big enough to comfortably sleep everyone, yet small and light enough to carry easily. At the beginning of each tenting season, you should double-check all seams, zippers and fabric for leaks and tears. Also, apply a weatherproofing substance, available from outdoors stores, to ensure your tent's material doesn't ooze water on to your head in the middle of the night!
  • A camping stove. You can cook much of your food on an open campfire, but a camping stove makes things much easier. It is also great for rainy days when you can't get a fire going. Don't forget the propane to fuel it.
  • Two flashlights. Guaranteed, if you only bring one flashlight, it will burn out! Always stock an extra one, preferably one that operates by hand crank rather than by batteries.
  • Bug repellant. There are always insects no matter where you go camping. Be sure to bring along a bug repellant spray, preferably with a high concentration of DEET, as this works the best against mosquitos and other biting insects.
  • Waterproof matches and/or lighter. You need these to start your campire, and to start your camp stove. Put matches in a empty used film canister to keep them dry.
  • Rain gear and umbrella. Even if you are not camping far from your parked car, a waterproof jacket always comes in handy when the clouds open and pour on you! You can wear it while you're packing up your tent to head to a nice, dry hotel.
  • A clothesline. For drying your clothes and blankets after the rain. Also, your sleeping bags can get musty if not aired out on a longer camping trip, so hang them on a line tied between two trees to refresh them.
  • A knife. No need to go Rambo-style, just a simple multi-tool knife will help solve many problems. Look for one with scissors, tweezers and a few different blades for ultimate versatility and convenience.
  • First Aid Kit. You can purchase a small one that fits under the seat of your car or tucks into a pocket of your backpack. Always be prepared for an emergency.
  • Warm sleeping bag. Sleeping bags come with different ratings on them, so look for one that fits into the temperature range that you expect to be sleeping in. When in doubt, buy a warmer sleeping bag, rather than opting for a cheaper, less-insulated one.
  • Water. Many public campgrounds offer drinking water but if you aren't sure, just bring your own. Outdoor stores sell plastic containers that can hold many gallons of water, but fold down into small squares when empty. Another option is to bring water purification tablets, so you can get water from lakes and streams, and purify it before you drink it.
  • Food! This is more difficult than it sounds, depending on where you're camping. If you're tenting out of your car, you can easily pack a cooler filled with lots of ice. Remember to eat the refrigerated food first, since the ice won't last very long, and plan for non-refrigerated meals later in the trip. If you are hiking to your tenting site and have to carry your food, you should look into dehyrdrated foods that can be re-constituted with water.

Handy Bonus Items: Big Ziploc bags, toilet paper, playing cards for rainy days, suntan lotion, aloe vera for burns and stings, large tarp to shelter the picnic table.


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    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      This seems to be a comprehensive list. I liked it very much. Survival in numbers work for me. I always camp near other campers - at a slight distance, but not very far off from them :-)

    • CeeGunn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Excellent suggestion, Landthatilove! It is important to know your terrain and the have a safety plan, especially with children. Thanks for the comment.

    • landthatilove profile image


      9 years ago from ohio

      What about stranger danger and trail safety? Depending on where you are going people can get lost in the woods. This should be discussed ahead of time just what will the family do if someone gets culled from the herd. Not trying to dampen any spirits here but there are real dangers in the woods or a place unfamiliar. Gather all the information you can from the local rangers or Forest service. You can get maps and topological information and very interesting places you don't want to miss out on.


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