If you are planning to take the family camping this summer, the first decision you will have to make is what to bring with you. Just Google™ camping list and you will get in excess of 50 million different opinions on exactly what it is that you should be taking and, while most of this advice is probably okay, a lot of it (even at some big-name outdoor companies) is written by freelance writers who may, or may not, have any actual camping or backpacking experience.
Any camping list is going to vary depending on whether you are car camping (carrying all of your gear in a car) or backpack camping (carrying all of your gear on your back). If you are carrying everything on your back then weight is a primary factor in your gear selection and you can justify the premium price that you will pay for lighter gear. For example, an REI® Halo down-fill bag weighs just under two pounds and is $250. An equivalent synthetic bag, like the REI Zen, is less than $150 but weighs over three pounds.
A sleeping bag is part of the core set of camping gear that you will spend the most money on:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Camping Stove
- Ice chest
The ice chest is only for car camping, but the rest of this gear is available in lightweight versions that are more suitable for backpacking. Of course, you could go with backpacking gear even if you are car camping, but it will cost a lot more money and you will be giving up some comfort. There is a huge difference, in both cushion and warmth, between a ¾-inch thick foam sleeping pad (10 oz.) and 3-inch thick insulated foam and air sleeping pad (6 lbs. 10 oz.).
In addition to the core set of gear you will also need a set of cooking gear for preparing meals and cleaning up:
- Matches and lighter
- Fire Starter / Tender
- Garbage bags
- Paper Towels
- Wet Wipes
- Dish Soap
- Coffee pot or tea kettle
- Sauce pan or dutch oven
- Cooking Oil for Treating Cast Iron
- Aluminum Foil
- Frying pan or griddle
- Hot Pads or Mitt
- Plates, bowls and cups
- Knives, forks and spoons
- Spatula, ladle, paring knife
- Large Sealable Bags for Food Storage
- Large Table Cloth (many picnic tables are 8-feet long)
- Wash tub
- 5-Gallon Drinking Water Container
Of course, if you are backpacking then size and weight is a primary concern. Instead of packing pots, pans and a stove, there are integrated cooking systems like the Helios™, from JetBoil®, that packs inside its own cooking pot.
Likewise, there are a number of small, integrated plates, mugs and utensil sets from companies like MSR® that will save weight and space in your pack. The final list of gear that you will need for camping is for safety and comfort items:
- First aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Toilet paper
- Small ax or hatchet
- Small broom or whisk broom
- Camp chairs
- Extra Batteries
- Notepad and Pencil
- Soap, Shampoo and Shower Shoes
Some of the items on this camping gear list may sound a bit overkill, but even if you are backpacking it is nice to be comfortable at the end of a long day. Companies like NEMO™ make lightweight pillows that can add the little extra bit of comfort to a night’s sleep in the backcountry.
When you are trying to save weight and space, multiple-use tools are essential. A Gerber® Back Paxe™ weighs just 19 oz. and can be used to chop firewood, stoke the campfire and pound tent stakes. Note that this camping gear list is not meant to supplant the backcountry essentials, like water and food, that everyone should carry with them. A printable copy (PDF format) of the camping gear list is available for download How to use an ice chest