We all have that active, outdoorsy friend who constantly bugs us to go on a camping trip with them every time a long weekend comes by. Then after their relentless pestering, you finally cave and give in – oh why not.
Now, you’re on the horns of a dilemma trying to figure out what to do and desperately searching for a list of camper must-haves to bring with you on your first adventure.
Luckily for you, I do happen to be “that friend” in my group of friends and in my family, so I present my list of nine things every good camper needs, not just for you’re first, but every adventure you embark on.
Camping tent at night against an amazing sky full of stars and milky
This one is quite obvious because you can’t go camping without a tent or some form of shelter. The trick is to look for a good, high-quality tent that is waterproof or water-resistant, so you have protection no matter what.
Take the time to think about what you need when looking for a tent-like how many people will be using it, the weather of the area you’re going to, and the accessories and special features it has.
My advice is to get a waterproof tent, no matter what, because the weather nowadays is really unpredictable.
I remember way back during my early adventure days, my husband and I insisted that we didn’t need a waterproof tent since we were out during the summertime.
Then one night, it started to rain really hard out of nowhere! You can guess what happened then. We spent the whole week after that nursing a cold from being soaked in the rain all night. So get a waterproof tent!
TIP: Don’t always believe what the manufacturer says about tent capacity because that is the absolute maximum. For a comfortable fit, remove one person from what is listed.
#2: Sleeping Bag and Insulation Pad
The next thing that you will need, of course, is something to sleep on. You cannot go camping without a good sleeping bag.
Get the best one that you can afford so that you have a good night’s rest. How you sleep at night is going to affect how great or awful your experience will be. You don’t want to wake up sore and stiff or frozen in the middle of the night.
When purchasing a sleeping bag, it will have a temperature rating, which is the minimum temperature you will be able to stay warm while inside the sleeping bag. Just like tents, be careful when selecting the temperature rating.
A good guide is to add about 10 degrees to the temperature rating to be extra sure!
You can also lean towards an air mattress if you want that extra touch of comfort. Try to find lightweight ones so you won’t have a difficult time carrying it or packing it away.
Remember to purchase a sleeping pad – this is essential. The pad gives you a soft surface to sleep on for extra comfort while also providing additional heat, keeping you warm during those extraneously cold nights.
The secret to packing food is to plan it ahead of time. Count how many days you will be staying and how many meals you will be eating throughout those days. Be sure to include snacks to munch on as well.
Try to go for easy to prepare, no-fuss food, especially if you’re planning to cook meals yourself. Although, if you are camping for the very first time, I suggest that you go with packed, ready-made food instead.
Companies like Mountain House make a bunch of dehydrated food where all you do is to add water and presto, you then have a ready-to-eat meal. You can also go for other ready foods like oatmeal, tuna, jerky, nuts, and so on.
REMINDER: Before you go to sleep, make sure you properly clean up and store your food, especially if you are going somewhere with bears and other wildlife. Or else you may way up to animals rummaging through your food!
You can lock your extra food in your car trunk or in designated lockers that your campsite may have. If not, just pack up and store your food away from your tent!
#4: Fire Starter And Water Purifier
Having a fire starter and water purifier is handy to have at all times, even if your campsite offers free water or matches. These aren’t just camper must-haves; they are emergency and survival essentials as well.
I have the CamelBak Eddy+ BPA Free Water Bottle that makes use of UV light to purify your water. I carry it along everywhere I go, so I’m always sure that I will be able to have water even if my campsite runs out or doesn’t have any available!
- 25 percent more flow: flip open the bite valve and sip
- Leak proof: leak proof when closed, spill proof when open
- Easy to carry: two finger carry loop handle
For the fire starter, get a magnesium fire starter since they are small, portable, and easy to use. Mine is from Dimples Excel because it has a woven paracord lanyard that can be unraveled and used as a rope for emergencies.
How to use a magnesium emergency fire starter!
#5: Portable Cooker or Cook Wear
A portable cooker is a must if you want to prepare freshly cooked meals. My husband and two sons prefer when I make them a nice hot meal when we camp so this is something we take with us all the time.
Do your research ahead of time and find one that is reliable and specially made for the outdoors? You can get a portable cooker that runs on butane since butane is cheap and easy to find, and you get a close feel to cooking with a stove.
The cool thing about this is that it converts the energy from the fire into electricity to charge your phone. I also have this cooker for when I want to cook over a fire!
Finally, don’t forget your cook wear such as a frying pan and a kettle to boil water or coffee. If you’re trying to save space, you only really need a small pot since it can function as both frying pan and kettle.
It is going to get dark at night, especially if your campsite is more “primitive” or does not have modern features like electricity. Bringing some form of light with you will help you move around at night.
LED lamps are good because they are cheap and bright. Select rechargeable lamps that make use of backup batteries, just in case your campsite doesn’t have electricity. Or, you can look for solar-powered lamps instead.
There are so many different types of lamps that utilize a variety of energy sources, so you will be able to find one that will fit your budget!
A cooler is important to have if you plan on using fresh food that you want to cook at the campsite. It is important to keep raw meat cold so that bacteria won’t grow, and you don’t end up getting sick.
It is great to take with you if you have space and don’t need to go on a long hike so you can enjoy cold drinks. Nothing compares to the feeling of drinking ice-cold lemonade after a day of fun activities!
TIP: Freeze ice in large containers like plastic bottles or old milk cartons. It will last longer!
Although if all your food comes from a packet, this isn’t always necessary, and you can leave it at home to save you some space and the energy of having to carry it or pull it with you.
#8: First Aid Kit and Personal Items
You should never be anywhere in the wilderness without a first aid kit because accidents can happen no matter how careful you are. This is especially important if you are on special medications, have allergies, or have kids.
Some first aid essentials include a triangular bandage, allergy medicines, hydrogen peroxide, Bandaids (especially for kids), and burn ointment. Make sure that all medicines are up to date and not expired.
TIP: Note down any hospitals or clinics near your campsite, so you know where to go in case of a major accident.
Also, pack a whistle for emergencies. It is important to give one to your kids so they can whistle if something happens or they get lost. Just tell them to use it only for emergencies, or else they’ll end up annoying other campers.
Pack your personal items and toiletries along with sunscreen and insect repellent because there will be a lot of bugs, and you will spend most of your time under the sun.
#9: Fun Things
Finally, add some fun things to do in case you get bored. Your kids will love you more, and they will learn to enjoy the whole experience if you give them fun stuff to play with.
Bring your kids’ favorite toys, board games, a kite, cards, hacky sack, Frisbees, and whatever else is fun for you. My sons never allow me to leave the house for a trip without some kind of toy to play with.
Even if you don’t have kids and maybe just your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or friends, adults can enjoy games as well.
You’re Ready To Go
Once you have those nine things, you’re ready to embark on your first ever camping trip! Remember your maps and GPS, if necessary, along with any reservation forms that you may have.
If you want to save space, try to find multi-purpose items like a water bottle that functions as a light or a utility knife with a fire starter, and so on – there are so many cool products to find these days, you just have to search!
Hopefully, this list will help you pack for your adventure to come! Camping is an unbeatable experience that I really hope you will enjoy!
A final thing to bring with you is a sense of humor and adventure, along with a positive attitude! So don’t forget to pack a smile along with these nine items and then come back and let me know in the comments how your trip went!