Paul and I love to camp. I’ve mentioned that before. :-) We started camping together last summer, but I grew up camping with my family as a child. It’s so easy to bring tons of stuff with us when you go camping, and it’s so annoying to have to lug it out of the car and to the site! So we are constantly trying to think through everything, deciding what’s necessary and what isn’t. Also, we don’t have the biggest trunk in our car and we’re somewhat limited to space. The first time we went camping we brought way too much; we’ve cut down a lot since then. This list below is what works for us; we’re always adjusting it so it could look completely different at the end of this summer! (It’s targeted to tent camping in non-electric sites.)
I always start off with a camping checklist. I add and remove items from it to meet the needs of the specific trip. It’s important because it’s so easy to forget things! You can see the Word document I use here, or download a PDF here.
(You can click on any of the pictures below to see them bigger)
TENT – We have two tents. We got a pretty big one last summer, but we realized it was a little too big. It will be the perfect tent to grow into, but for now it’s more complicated than we need. One thing I like about it is that it’s close to 6 feet tall in the middle, so I can stand up completely. I always said that it would be nice if it were ever to rain while we were camping. We bought the other tent (the orange and gray one) a month or so ago, a cheap Wal-Mart tent. It fits the two of us perfectly and is simple to set up.
FOOTPRINT/TARP – To protect the floor of your tent and extend its lifetime, it’s important to put something in between the tent and the ground. We have a footprint for our big tent that actually buckles into place so it doesn’t move. For the smaller tent, we just use a tarp, which works just as well. Just make sure that whatever you use is smaller than the tent itself – you don’t want water to collect and go underneath the tent if it rains or mists heavily.
SLEEPING BAGS – We turn our sleeping bags into a double-bed by zipping them together. You can do this if the sleeping bags unzip all the way. We also use throw pillows from our old couch – they’re smaller and easier to lug around than our regular pillows, and I don’t care if they get ruined or dirty! We have sleeping pads to cushion the hard ground, but some people like to use an air mattress.
BLANKETS – It’s always a good idea to have a throw blanket or two; sometimes temperatures can dip down, especially in the spring or fall.
LIGHTING – The amount of light you want varies by person/family. We have several lanterns. We started with a small battery-powered one, and a solar one. The former gives better light but the latter can be recharged during the day. They are also useful for lighting the tent when we go to bed at night. We decided that we need another bigger lantern for lighting the campsite and playing cards, etc. so we got a family-sized one. Also, we each have a headlamp which is especially useful for when you need to do things in the dark like put up the tent or do dishes. We don’t actually have a flashlight, but we don’t feel that we need one with the headlamps.
CLOTHES, SHOES – Layers are the way to go while camping because the daytime can be hot while the nighttimes chilly. I bring shoes for hiking and sandals for easy removal when around the campsite. I like to bring sturdy clothes that can get dirty, as well as a bathing suit if there’s swimming. I always tuck a plastic bag in our suitcase for dirty undies and socks – to be honest, I’d rather not have to do a sniff test for those. :-)
TOILETRIES – We share a toiletries bag which is actually an old purse I used in high school. It works really well. I bring the minimum needed for a weekend – face soap, contact solution and case, toothbrushes and toothpaste, brush and/or comb, and my glasses. If we’re spending more than one night and there are showers available, I’ll bring shampoo and conditioner. If nothing else, I like to take a quick shower to wash away the dirt and bug spray before climbing into my sleeping bag. No hair styling stuff or makeup needed for a weekend camping!
WATER BOTTLE – I recently acquired a waist pack with a water bottle and a compartment for my keys and cell phone. It’s perfect for hiking, and a lot easier to carry than a backpack. I get headaches if I don’t drink enough water, so this was definitely a must for me.
Eating and Food Prep
CAMP STOVE – We have a double-burner camp stove that’s new to us this summer, and we love it! Before we had a single-burner stove/grill that didn’t work all that well. The two burners help speed up the meal prep time. Right now we don’t have a grill – we use the fire if we need to, or just cook on the stove. Also, don’t forget to bring extra fuel for the camp stove!
DISHES AND UTENSILS – We bring a picnic basket that includes two of everything. It also has a cooler, which we use for food (in addition to another cooler). Recently, we got some camping utensils that are a spoon, fork, and knife on a single item. Really cool, and it’s a lot less to keep up with! Recently, Paul turned a water bottle into a cup so he could put ice in his drinks.
TOASTING STICKS – We were given two sticks for toasting marshmallows and/or hot dogs. These are nice to have because I can’t bring myself to use a stick I pick up off the ground! You can also make sticks out of wire hangers.
COOLER AND ICE – For anything that needs to be refrigerated, including drinks.
TABLECLOTH – Because campsite tables aren’t always the cleanest! One that is plastic will be easier to wipe off.
DRINKS – I like to buy a case of bottled water because it’s easy to grab. I also bring those Crystal Light drink packets which have enough powder mix for a bottle of water. This is great because you can just bring water and each person can then decide how to flavor it.
FOOD – The subject of camp food goes beyond the scope of this post, but I’ll just summarize the meals we have. We like simple, easy-to-fix meals that take as few ingredients as possible and can be cooked either on a camp stove or over a fire. We also try to bring along snacks to munch on during the day.
BUCKET AND MISC. ITEMS – I have a bucket that I bring for carrying water and doing dishes. For transportation, I stick inside a paper towel roll, a box of ziploc bags, and a box of garbage bags. I’ve found each are good things to have around! I also keep a sponge, dish soap, and dish towel in here for washing dishes.
BOOKS/GAMES – Whatever you like to do for fun. I always throw a deck of cards in the suitcase, and a book for lounging during the hottest part of the day. I have a guidebook to local campgrounds that we refer to all the time, and I like to spend the afternoons making notes in the book.
CAMERA – And extra batteries if your camera needs it (my camera has a rechargeable battery so this wouldn’t help me).
TARP, ROPE, MATCHES/LIGHTER – Just good things to have along. Useful for making shelters, clotheslines, and fires.
BUG REPELLENT AND SUNSCREEN – Bring them!!
FIRST AID KIT – It’s a good idea to have one, since when camping you’re often far away from stores (though rangers and campground hosts should have supplies on hand). We got a handy kit that has all the basics. Also important to include are tweezers, for pulling out ticks and splinters.
RUBBING ALCOHOL AND/OR HYDROGEN PEROXIDE – You can bring one or the other for cleaning wounds. Also, rubbing alcohol is useful for removing ticks. (We removed ticks from our dog every time we camped with her.)