What to Take when You Go Camping

A camping trip for our family can often be a rather spontaneous event. It’s Friday afternoon, our Saturday plans have been canceled, and the weather forecast looks great – let’s go camping!

Having a list of camping essentials handy makes it a whole lot easier to be able to go on an impromptu trip without forgetting anything important. This article is not going to tell you how to camp (or how to choose a tent or anything of that nature) but it should remind you what to bring for your camping weekend.

Unless you’re camping in a van or a cabin, you will need your tent. You will want a ground cloth underneath (to prevent ground moisture from coming up through the bottom of the tent; you will also want a fly or tarp over the top of the tent. Tent stakes and ropes (to tie down the fly) should be on your list.

You will need bedding of some sort. This may include inflatable camping mattresses (don’t forget to bring whatever you’ll use to inflate the mattress; even for a tuba player, blowing up a large mattress with lung power can be grueling (I know this from personal experience), sleeping bags, sheets, and / or blankets. Don’t forget your pillow, or bring an extra sweatshirt to roll up and use as a pillow.

Other items you will want in your tent include a flashlight and water bottles.

Will you be cooking over a campfire or with a camp stove? If you will be cooking over a campfire, consider bringing your own firewood or charcoal. You may also want to bring an axe or hatchet. If you will be using a camp stove, bring fuel. Don’t forget the funnel.

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Bring whatever pots and pans you think you will need. Bring cooking utensils, including a spatula and one or two large stirring spoons. Hot pads are useful for dealing with hot pots from the fire. Bring aluminum foil too; this can be useful if your grilling surface is not very clean. Bring eating utensils, plates, and bowls for each person. Bring a drinking cup for each person. Don’t forget paper towels or napkins. Consider bringing a table cloth in case there is a picnic table. You will want a sponge and dish soap for washing the pots and dishes.

Plan each meal in advance. You don’t want to haul in too much food, but you also don’t want to go hungry. If this is a fishing trip, plan your meals as though you won’t catch any fish (because there is always that possibility). The farther you will be from civilization, the more food you will want to bring, just in case. I know from experience that bears can get your food! If you are not near your car, bring a backpack and a rope to tie the food up in a tree.

You may want to bring a ground cloth of some sort to sit on for your meals, or you may want to bring portable chairs.

For your toiletry supplies, bring toilet paper, environmentally friendly bar soap, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, and a towel. You may want to bring deodorant and lip balm. We also bring environmentally friendly dish soap to use as shampoo.

The non essentials can make your trip more enjoyable as well.

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Don’t forget your camera, and consider bringing any reading material you may want to have with you.

Extra clothing, rain gear, a change of shoes or boots, are all good ideas as well.

Don’t forget the fishing gear; rods, reels, tackle box, fish net, stringer, and a bucket or cooler in which to bring home the fish. If you plan on filleting the fish there, bring your sharp knife.

A map and compass could prove useful, as well as a radio to keep abreast of changing weather conditions.

Other extras that I bring include matches, candles, a ball of twine, a clothesline, swimming suit, bug spray, and sun block.

I recommend printing the following list and then customizing it to suit your needs.

Ground cloth
Tent fly
Ropes for tent fly
Tent stakes

Camping mattresses or pads
Something with which to inflate the mattresses
Sleeping Bags

Water bottles (for the tent)

Camp stove (or firewood)
Axe or hatchet
Pots and Pans
Cooking utensils (spatulas, large spoons)
Hot pads or oven mitts
aluminum foil
Food with planned menu
Eating utensils
Plates and bowls
Paper towels and napkins
Dish soap
Cleaning sponge
Backpack and rope to tie food in a tree (if needed)

Marshmallows and sticks for roasting them


Reading material (including Bible)

Fishing equipment (including rods, reels, tackle, net, stringer, and bucket to bring fish home)
Fillet knife

Toilet paper
Bar soap
Tooth brush
Tooth paste
Lip balm
Bug spray
Sun block


Ball of twine or rope
Swim suit

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Change of clothing
Rain jacket
Hat (protection from sun)
Change of shoes / boots
Enough socks to keep your feet dry

And don’t forget to bring a great attitude! If you enjoy the camping trip, your kids will enjoy it as well.