Camping & Hiking

What to Pack for Camping [The Ultimate Guide]

Are you about to embark on a camping trip, but have no idea where to start or even what to bring?

Whether you’re camping with friends and family or by yourself, it’s always best to go fully prepared because things might not go as you planned.

The last thing you want to say is “why didn’t I bring that!?”.

We’re only human, and sometimes it’s easy to forget things, especially if we have other things on our minds.

This guide will show you in detail what to pack on your next camping trip. It should be pretty epic! Take notes, or print this camping checklist out if you must.

backpacking 101

Acquire Appropriate Equipment and Clothing

Camping gear is essential when engaging in any outdoor activity.

Although the amount of clothing, food, and equipment ultimately depends on the length and duration of the trip and how physically demanding it’s, you should always carry certain items to increase your chances of survival in case an unexpected event occurs during the hike.

Items such as:

  1. Navigation tools
  2. Sun Protection
  3. Shelter
  4. First Aid Kits
  5. Fire Starters
  6. Food
  7. Water
  8. Lightning
  9. Clothing
  10. Survival Gadgets

These items can truly make a difference between a pleasant camping trip and a gruesome outdoor ordeal.

However, other items, like water filters, stoves, and kitchen supplies, can be used to further reduce the stress when camping or hiking.

Additionally, your hiking clothes must be appropriate to the current weather conditions and the probable changes that happen as the day goes by. Because of this, your garments should follow this layout:

  1. Base Layer (Underwear): Must be made of fabrics designed for “wicking” (transfer moisture to outer layers) to reduce chaffing and improve comfort. Cotton fabrics are a bad option because they absorb water, but nylon, polyester, and merino wool are great choices that repel perspiration.
  2. Middle Layer (Insulation): This layer protects your body from temperature fluctuations that occur during the day. Nylon pants and fleece jackets are able to retain heat, but also offer a wide range of motion and breathability.
  3. Outer Layer (Weather Resistance): The final layer provides shelter from certain weather conditions, such as strong winds and heavy rain. Usually, these jackets or coats are water-proof and repel gusts of wind.

Prepare Beforehand

Hiking can be rather demanding to beginners, especially if they don’t engage in regular physical activity. You can feel fatigued ahead of time, or your muscles can become sore more easily if you don’t prepare beforehand.

Because of this, you should try small pre-hikes nearby to assess your physical condition. You can also carry a backpack with 20 to 30 pounds in weight so you can grow accustomed to the weight on your back.

Preparation also includes knowing how to use the tools in your backpack. Therefore, you must know how to read a compass and map, set up a mini-burner or stove, apply first aid, and put up your tent.

Imagine trying to do all this for the first time at night after a strenuous hike.

Some locations also require permits before you are allowed to enter the premises. Therefore, you must check with local authorities if certain documents or permits are needed.

Finally, you should always inform a family member or friend about your whereabouts for obvious safety reasons. They should know where you are going, when you plan to leave, the number of days you are staying, and when you are coming back.

Although you may carry a cellphone for communication, networks can be pretty bad depending on the location.

things to pack camping

What to Pack for Camping?

The amount of tools, clothing, and equipment required for your camping trip is determined by the duration of the excursion, how far the endpoint is located, and certain weather conditions that may occur along the way.

Because of this, an organization known as “The Mountaineers” designed a camping checklist called “The Ten Essentials” that all campers must carry to ensure their safety and survival in the wilderness.

1. Navigation

Exploration devices are helpful because they determine your current location while you are hiking, but also track your progress and time management. Nonetheless, they’re most important because they can guide you back in the right direction if you get lost.

Some basic items include a topographic map and compass, but you can also add a GPS device or an altimeter watch. However, the best option for emergencies is a personal locator beacon.

This tool sends your location through government satellites to local authorities in case someone is injured, or assistance is needed.

2. Lighting

Illumination is critical when hiking to avoid stepping on loose rocks or getting sidetracked from the trail. Therefore, you should always carry a flashlight and a headlamp to improve your vision capabilities. Additionally, it can also help perform other tasks, like pitch up your tent, or cook.

You should always bring a backup flashlight, and extra batteries in case it gets damaged along the way or the batteries run out. It can be scary and dangerous to walk in the woods without lightning, especially at night.

3. Sun Protection

Usually, people go hiking during summer, and excessive exposure to sunlight is harmful to your health. The ultraviolet rays can damage your eyes and skin, causing sunburn and blurred vision.

Studies have also shown that UV rays can result in premature aging and certain types of skin cancer.

For this reason, you must carry sunscreen, sunglasses, and sun-protection clothing. SPF 30 is the preferred filter when partaking in any outdoor experience, while dark glacier glasses are recommended to block out ultraviolet rays, and prevent eye injuries.

Also, don’t forget a hat, this will keep your face from getting sunburnt.

4. Survival Gadgets

These gadgets range from knives, scissors, duct tape, a small shovel, and safety pins.

Their function is to aid you in doing certain tasks, like digging a hole, preparing your food, and building a campfire. These items may also come in handy if you need to repair anything.

Some people like to carry swiss army knives because they have various tools in one compartment, such as scissors, can opener, and screwdriver.

5. Fire

You need to carry a lighter, flint, or water-proof matches to start a campfire, or to cook your food. If you have a small light-weight mini-burner, it’s also a good option.

You can also collect firewood from your surroundings, and use your stove as an emergency heat source. If your water filter gets damaged, you can also heat up your water to sterilize it.

6. First Aid Kits

In simple terms, first aid kits are necessary to treat any wound that occurs along the trail. It can be a small scratch on your hand or a cut on your foot.

Most basic kits include bandages, alcohol, tape, and ointments. You should also invest in other items, like gauze pads, pain medication, and disinfecting creams.

7. Water

As you may know, your body is made up of approximately 65% water, and most bodily processes require water to function adequately

Thus, hydration must be maintained at all times, especially when performing moderate exercise in warm temperatures.

You should have a water bottle and a reservoir to keep freshwater. It’s best to drink 250 ml of water every 30 minutes or so to keep you hydrated, because if you’re feeling thirsty, this is actually a sign of dehydration.

If you’re using a river as your water source, you must have a water filter or chemical treatment (pills) to sterilize your water.

8. Clothing

You should carry clothes that are lightweight and offer comfort, flexibility, and breathability. Also, some clothing options must be water-proof or weather-resistant in case harsh weather conditions occur. You should always carry an extra pair of clothes, just in case you fall in a river or trip over in mud.

9. Shelter

Any camping trip requires a tent for you to sleep in and a sleeping bag to have a good night’s sleep. You can also purchase sleeping pads to improve comfort while also retaining heat, in case the temperature drops too low. You can invest in a new tent, or borrow it from a friend or family member.

10. Food

Food is required to maintain your energy level as you hike up a mountain or walk through the woods. You should always carry enough food for the number of days you plan to camp, plus an extra day to avoid food shortages or accidental spills.

Other items that you may take backpacking are hiking boots, waterproof shoes, extra kitchen supplies, emergency tools, cellphone, and a small repair kit.

How to Pack Your Camping Backpack?

It’s important that you pack your backpack efficiently to ensure that the weight is distributed evenly and everything fits.

This way, you can reduce stress on your back, minimize pain, and create a more pleasant hiking experience.

You can buy a backpack from your local camping store or borrow one from a friend or family member. An efficient backpack has a huge array of pockets and compartments that allow you to pack your items more adequately.

Although there are many methods to secure your camping gear, you can use the following distribution for weight control and comfort:

  1. You should place your sleeping bag, pads, clothing, and other items that you’ll not use at the bottom because as a cushion and absorb shock from heavier items and protect your back.
  2. Next, you should place heavier items, like your food supply, stove, water reservoir, and fuel. These items should be located between your shoulder blades, because they provide a gravitational point for balance.
  3. Lightweight items should be at the top as they should available for easier access. This includes your water-proof jacket, first-aid kits, water filter, sun protection, and toilet necessities.
  4. Some backpacks have an easy-access compartment at the top of the backpack, where you can place handy snacks, sunscreen, a map, compass, flashlight, and bug spray.

Finally, there are various pockets available where you can place other things, like shoes, a water bottle, and repair kits.

It’s recommended that you lay out all your items on the floor, and then pack your backpack beforehand, to assess the amount of space available. This will ensure that the weight is distributed evenly for your comfort.

What Food to Pack for Camping?

Remember that you should avoid easy perishables and refrigerated food products. These tend to spoil quickly and can cause food poisoning.

Here’s a list of the types of food to pack on your next camping trip:

  • Dehydrated Foods
  • Nuts and Protein Bars
  • Cup Noodles (you can place in a sealable bag to reduce space)
  • Dried Fruits
  • Beef Jerky
  • Oatmeal
  • Tea Bags and/or Coffee
  • Bread
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Trail Mix
  • Vegetables
  • Instant pancake mix
  • Canned products (beans, tuna)
  • Powdered Milk
  • Chocolate
  • Seeds

You can carry other food products, as long as they fit inside your backpack, and dont’ increase your weight average in general.

Design your Meal Plans

Proper food planning will provide your body with enough fuel to keep up with the possible physical obstacles that come with walking through the wilderness, or climbing a mountain.

A couple of lunches, breakfast, and dinner are sufficient for an overnight or weekend trip. However, greater amounts of food are needed if we are talking about longer time periods.

Remember that you should always carry extra food as an emergency supply.

Unless you plan to carry a heavy cooler in your hiking adventure, it’s best to avoid perishable items, like eggs and milk. Dried food is, without a doubt, the best option because it’s lightweight and allows you to carry bigger amounts.

However, they’re quite expensive, and cause a dent in your budget. Because of this, you should resort to your local grocery store for fresh produce.

Some meal options include:

  1. Protein bars
  2. Oatmeal
  3. Packaged products, like noodles or rice
  4. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  5. Coffee
  6. Tea Bags
  7. Sport drinks
  8. Bread
  9. Canned food

Additionally, you must take some safety precautions when carrying your food in your backpack.

It’s advised to place it in a food canister and wrap it in some nylon wrap to avoid attracting wild animals such as bears and rodents. Some people even keep it in a cloth sack and hang it from a tree, so animals are not tempted to steal your food, which does happen!


It may seem that camping and backpacking can be quite a hassle if you don’t prepare ahead of time.

However, it’s one of the best experiences in the world being able to reconnect with nature and marvel at the beauties of our planet.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to disconnect from our everyday life in order to find inner peace. Having fun at the same time makes it even better!

If you really want to escape from the turmoil of urban life, participating in an outdoor activity. like camping or backpacking, can purge your mind and soul from stress and recharge your batteries!

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!