The author McKenna Mobley next to a clear and yellow tent, one of the camping essentials mentioned

Camping Essentials (22 Things You Might Forget to Bring)

👉 Jump to: Camping Essentials Checklist | Clothing to Pack | Packing Tips | FAQ

Excited about your upcoming camping trip but wondering what camping essentials to bring? I’m here to help!

Your camping gear should always include your shelter and sleeping equipment. Depending on where you are, you should also bring a variety of clothing layers and special seasonal items.

As a camping fanatic myself, I have years and years of experience knowing what gear to pack and what should be left at home.

Here is my complete camp travel checklist of the necessary items to bring next time you embark on a big camping adventure.

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Camping Essentials Checklist


A camping excursion without a tent has definitely gone awry. Don’t forget to pack the most important part of your adventure! The Big Agnes Fly Creek is one of my personal favorite lightweight tents.

Big Agnes also has lightweight 3 and 4-person tents like the Tiger Wall UL 3 to accommodate larger groups. If you’re carrying a heavy load, you’ll be thankful Big Agnes tents weigh hardly anything.

Sleeping Bag

Our Pick
REI Co-op Magma 30 Sleeping Bag - Men's

The perfect 3-season bag for camping. Its water-resistant property keeps you covered in any unexpected condition.

Regardless of whether you’re camping in the winter or the summer, a good sleeping bag is always part of your camping gear essentials. Summer nights can be cold and breezy but the REI Magma sleeping bag will keep you toasty.

This bag is ideal as a 3-season bag and its included hood ensures maximum comfortability and full warmth coverage.

Sleeping Pad

Make sure to add an air mattress to your camping checklist, otherwise known as a sleeping pad. After many trials and tribulations with different sleeping pad brands, Therm-a-Rest is my go-to.

The NeoAir XLite sleeping pad is one of the most comfortable sleeping pads on the market. You are guaranteed to wake up without any kinks or muscle aches from the night before with Therm-a-Rest.


Our Pick
Osprey Porter 46L
Never check a bag again with this travel bag. Fit all of the essentials in this 46-liter bag including your tent and sleeping pad.

Depending on whether you are hiking or just camping, you can either go for one of our best backpacking backpacks or a travel backpack. Either way, a backpack is the foundation of your camping gear essentials and should stand the test of weight. Osprey is a top-selling backpack company in the U.S.and a Travel Lemming favorite. In fact, we have a whole Osprey Porter review for you to check out!

The Porter 46 backpack model features lockable zippers and comfortable straps, which is important if you are hiking into your campsite for the night.


You’ll realize you forgot your headlamp as soon as the sun sets. Headlamps are the most important camping equipment, so make sure yours is packed before you embark on your epic journey! 

The Petzl Actik Core headlamp is a personal favorite thanks to its rechargeable battery feature. This head torch also takes regular batteries, giving you extra options in case of an emergency.

First Aid Kit

Our Pick
Protect Life First Aid Kit Amazon

At least one person in every camping group needs a first aid kit for emergency situations. This complete first aid kit takes up no space in your pack.

Don’t forget to pack a first aid kit on your camping trip. This small first aid kit may not have some of the objects as bigger, more complete kits but it is sufficient for a short trip.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to be prepared for anything in case of an emergency. Having a first aid kit ensures your safety and the safety of those around you until you can get to a hospital if need be.


Get the best night’s rest possible by bringing a camp pillow. The Nemo pillow is my favorite because it compresses to a very small size and takes up hardly any room in my backpack.

The air nozzle and compress features are the best things about this camp pillow because you can blow up the pillow to your desired softness. 


There’s nothing more satisfying than a morning cup of coffee as soon as you step out of your tent. The best way to enjoy a warm cup of joe all morning long is by keeping it hot in a thermos.

Hydro Flask thermoses make great camping gear because they keep beverages hot or cool to your liking. You can also use them in the summertime to keep your ice water cool throughout the entire day.

Bug Spray

Our Pick
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

Regardless of your destination, being primed with bug spray will help you sleep at night. This Deet-free spray gets the job done without compromising your health.

Make sure bug spray is on your camping checklist. There’s nothing that ruins the fun on a camp outing more than pestering insects.

This deet-free bug spray keeps bugs off of you while you’re hiking, setting up camp, or cooking and doesn’t harm your body with heavy chemicals. Mosquito head nets also work wonders in keeping bugs away.

Sleeping Bag Liner

You will need a bag liner on your next camping trip if you run cold and are camping in the winter, late fall, or early spring months. The Sea to Summit liner is the best one that I’ve tried and works well for men and women alike.

Usually rated 15-25 degrees Fahrenheit, sleeping bag liners add warmth to your sleeping bag and are ideally used in cold environments or for individuals who run cold.


Our Pick
Osprey Daylite Daypack
Trek through forests, scale mountains, and have picnics by the river with this perfectly-sized day pack. With enough compartments for all your gear, you won’t have to skimp on the essentials.

Leave all of your heavy camping gear in the tent as you go explore your surroundings. The Osprey Daylite is a Travel Lemming favorite and has come out on top against all other daypacks.

This pack can be connected with the Osprey 46, making the two a match made in heaven. Get the best deal for your money with this Osprey duo.

Camp Chairs

Our Pick
Amazon Basics Padded Camping Chair

The perfect camping chair doesn’t have to break the bank. Comfort, mobility, and a cup holder feature are the most important aspects of a camp chair.

Remember to pack your camp chair for sitting around the fire or relaxing with a good conversation at camp. There are chairs on the market for hundreds of dollars but this Amazon Basics Camp Chair gets the job done just the same.

This is a comfortable camp chair with a convenient cup holder. It truly is the perfect chair and doesn’t dent your wallet. 

Cooking Camp Stove

Not every campground will have public stoves. You will want to pack your Jetboil stove just in case yours doesn’t. 

At only 7.1 ounces, this stove is one of the lightest on the market and takes up almost no backpack space. Take this stove car camping or to the top of a high California mountain summit with no problem.

Water Filtration Bottle

Our Pick
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This bottle is a Travel Lemming favorite. Filter any bacteria and sediment out of camping water sources like rivers and lakes within seconds.

Avoid unnecessary bacteria in your stomach with a water filtration system while camping. There’s nothing worse than being sick out in the backcountry.

The LifeStraw filter water bottle allows you to filter with each sip and is the best way to leave no trace. You also avoid single-use plastic by using the innovative technology of the LifeStraw. 

Cooking Utensils

Make sure you have the correct utensils to taste your deliciously cooked camp meal. The Sea to Summit utensil camp set is economic and gets the job done.

This easy-to-pack, BPA-free utensil option makes it easy to remember to bring all three- your spoon, fork, and knife. 

Shower Supplies

Showers are the main priority for most campers on multi-day trips. Be sure to bring your shower shoes, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and razor if you are keen on staying clean while you camp.

In instances where there aren’t showers available, Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes will be your best friend. Made specifically for multi-day excursions, these all-natural wipes will help you feel squeaky clean without the need for water or a shower head.

Fire Equipment

Our Pick
Natural Pine Fire Starters

Campfires complete any trip to the great outdoors. Fire starters will help you build the perfect fire for roasting weenies or marshmallows.

Nothing seals the deal on the perfect camping trip in the great outdoors like a campfire. Don’t forget a fire starter, your firewood, and maybe some fire fuel to build the ultimate campfire for roasting marshmallows.

This fire starter gets the job done as quickly as possible so you can enjoy camp stories around your roaring campfire.

Folding Table 

Our Pick
Rock Cloud Portable Camping Table

Be prepared with your own camping table in case you don’t encounter picnic tables. Folding tables minimize packing space and are the perfect option.

If no picnic table is available at your campsite, you will be grateful that you over-prepared by bringing your own folding table. The Rock Cloud Portable Table is ultralight and takes up minimal space in your car.

A camp table is the best place to hang out, play cards, or prepare camp meals, so you don’t want to accidentally leave it behind. 


Our Pick
Adasion High Definition Binoculars

If where you’re going has animals you’d like to see (from afar), then don’t forget a way to view them. Bring binoculars to witness the wildlife from a unique perspective.

Get well acquainted with the natural ecosystem by bringing a good pair of binoculars on your next camping excursion. The more powerful the better, which is why these Adasion Binoculars are the optimal pair to bring camping.


While a tent is sufficient enough for a shelter, bringing a hammock on your camping excursion is pure leisure. You’ll be happy you brought one when it’s time for your afternoon nap but you still want to take advantage of the sun.

Eno Hammocks are the most lightweight, packable hammocks on the market. They come in single or double sizes, unique colors, and top-quality materials to ensure usage time and time again.


If you have a lot of sun exposure, then sunburns exist even in the winter. A good sunscreen that’s high in Zinc will keep you protected all day.

I spend a lot of time outdoors and stick to using Thinksport sunscreen. Thinksport was designed for athletes like mountaineers and surfers who spend all day in the sun. Let Thinksport take care of your skin. 

Camping towel

Camping towels are one of the most forgotten camping items. The Packtowl is a quick-drying towel that won’t let you down when you need to dry off. It also packs down exceptionally, making this one of Travel Lemming’s favorite camping checklist items.

Clothing to Pack for Camping

The author with a friend beside a Mount Whitney Trail signage
Me camping in California

So what clothing should you pack for camping? Here is a quick clothing checklist for camping:

  • 1-2 pairs of shorts
  • 1-2 pairs of pants
  • 3-4 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of thick wool socks
  • 2-3 short sleeve shirts
  • 2-3 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 thermal pajama top
  • 1 thermal pajama bottom
  • 1 ball cap or sunhat
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes/boots
  • 1 pair of camp sandals or comfortable shoes
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 1 scarf or neck gaiter
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 4-6 t-shirts
  • 1 swimsuit

Packing the right layers really makes a difference on camping trips. The best time to go camping in your destination may vary depending on the season but it’s best to be prepared for anything, including a storm in the summer or 90-degree weather in the winter! Also, be sure to check out our beach packing list if you plan to camp on the sand.


Our Pick
KUHL Freeflex Roll-Up Pants - Women's

Good base-layer hiking pants are essential for most terrain. These pants can withstand a poke from the spiky-est plants and keep you protected from the elements.

Kuhl keeps you protected against the elements. You will want a strong pair of hiking pants that are UV-protected and durable.

The Kuhl Freeflex roll-up pant does just that. The sun-protective feature of this pair of pants allows you to hike and camp under the sun all day without needing to apply sunscreen.

Sun Hat

You will want to wear a sun hat while camping, especially during the summer. This is the best way to prevent heat stroke while you’re out in nature.

This Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat keeps your head and neck protected from the elements. The cute design is also unisex and suits every adventurer.


Our Pick
The North Face Etip Recycled Gloves - Men's

Keep base-layer gloves like these in your backpack at all times just in case. If you’re in a temperate climate, then the weather can be unpredictable and you will be glad you brought your gloves.

You will be happy you brought your “just in case” gloves camping when you wake up shivering. Even during the summer, camping can be chilly in the wee hours of the morning.

The North Face Etip gloves provide the perfect amount of warmth for any camping season. You can even use them as a base layer glove in the winter months.

Rain Jacket

Our Pick
Outdoor Research Aspire II GORE-TEX Jacket - Women's

A gore-tex rain jacket is the best gear to face hard weather. This rain shell does the trick.

A big misconception is that waterproof or water-resistant jackets will keep you dry during a heavy storm. They may keep you dry for a bit, but you will eventually wind up soaked, and nobody likes wet clothes.

Gore-tex materials are a must if camping during a rainy season. This Outdoor Research Aspire jacket has been tested at extremes. It has proved to stand the test of hard outdoor conditions and won’t let you down on your camping adventure. 

Hiking Shoes

Our Pick
Salomon X Ultra 4 Low Hiking Shoes - Women's

This is the only hiking shoe I use. Lightweight and gore-tex, these shoes can handle any terrain. 

Whether I’m camping in Colorado, or camping by San Diego, Salomon hiking shoes are my tried-and-true pair of shoes. I’ve tried many brands on the market but these are the most comfortable and the best fit for my feet.

The Salomon X Ultra 4 shoes won’t let you down whether you’re dispersed camping, car camping, or backpacking to your campsite. 

Camping Packing Tips

The author posing for a photo during one of her hike at winter season

Always Plan For Unexpected Weather

Regardless of where you travel to, being prepared for all weather conditions can make or break a trip. Plan for unexpected weather by packing extra clothing options like tank tops and rain jackets, or have a plan-b. 

Always consult weather websites before you go camping to avoid running into any unwarranted weather.

Nights Can Be Cool

Unless you’re camping in the tropics, many destinations cool down at night. Make sure your whole group packs adequate-rated sleeping bags to avoid waking up shivering in the middle of the night.

See If You Need A Camping Permit

Many American campgrounds require permits for camping. This is especially true in California’s national parks. Don’t ruin your camping experience by not having the right permit and getting turned away from your dream campsite.

Check the Fire Regulations Before You Bring the Wood

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, then you know wildfires are a big issue these days in many destinations. If you’re camping in the backcountry, chances are you won’t be allowed to have a fire. 

If you’re set on having a campfire, you should book an official campsite with already-established fire rings, and make sure you keep up to date with any regulations.

Leave No Trace

This phrase is a good reminder to leave your campsite as clean as you found it. If you prefer camp cooking, make sure to bring trash bags to discard all your camp kitchen waste. 

🎁 Buying Gifts for An Outdoors Lover? See our outdoors gift guide for her!

FAQs About Camping Gear

What are the basic camping necessities?

You don’t need a lot of camping gear to have the best outdoor adventure possible, just the basics. All the camping gear you really need is a tent, tent stakes, a sleeping bag, an air mattress, camp kitchen essentials, and potable water to have the best camping experience.

What do I need for a 7 day camping trip?

Food and water are the most important things you need on a 7-day camping excursion. Besides your shelter and other sleeping equipment, you will also need to bring a camp stove, and the little things like personal hygiene, personal medications, lip balm, and extra stakes.

What should you not bring on a camping trip?

Don’t bring extra objects that will take up space on your camping trip. This includes too many clothing items, electronics, and other bulky, non-essential items.


Now that you have the complete camping essentials checklist, you are prepared to take on the great outdoors! Be sure to also check out the camping in California sites and tips.

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