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Primitive Camping Checklist: A Beginner's Guide

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Going Tent Camping for the First Time?

Are you contemplating going camping for the first time? Then you are at the right place! I am here to give you a complete checklist of all the camping gear that you will require when you drive to a primitive campsite out there in the wilderness.

If you are an adventure lover and can do without some of the luxuries of life, for a few days then primitive camping is just the thing for you! Maybe "primitive camping" is a bit deceptive for the checklist which I am about to share since primitive camping implies camping in complete wilderness (in an unprepared campground). The modern-day definition of primitive camping would be a campsite without electricity and running water, farther away from civilization, that charges a nominal fee for tent camping.

You can still go camping, of course, if you don't want to go "primitive." Some family campsites today offer cabins with electricity, running water, and bunk beds, and some camping resorts offer log cabins and bungalows as well as amenities like swimming pools, playgrounds, kid's programs, horse riding, canoeing, fishing, guided hiking, and biking.

But if it's primitive tent camping, let me prepare a checklist for you, with specific categories so that it is easier for you to go through them. I have split the list into five different categories:

  1. Shelter
  2. Cooking and Eating
  3. Clothing
  4. Personal
  5. Miscellaneous

1. Shelter

  • Tent, stakes, and poles (stakes and poles usually come with the tent). If you have never pitched a tent before I would suggest that you practice once in your backyard so that you are not struggling to pitch it once you are at your campsite. As a beginner, you should probably buy a cheaper tent. When I went tent camping for the first time I bought the Ozark Trail Dome tent. We came across some rough weather in the Pocono mountains at night and the tent did just great!
  • Tarpaulin or ground cloth
  • Nylon ropes
  • Sleeping bags. I bought Ozark Trail sleeping bags as well.
  • Sleeping bag pads, or air mattresses and air pump.
  • Sheets, blankets, and pillows. Some sleeping bags do not come with pillows and it is advisable to carry extra sheets and blankets due to the unpredictable weather.
  • Hammer
  • Axe (if you are allowed to chop wood at the campsite)
  • Flashlights (don't forget the extra batteries!)
  • Lantern, fuel lantern hanger, extra mantles
  • Candles
  • A mat to place at the tent entrance, dustpan, and brush
Tent Camping at Mauch Chunk Lake Park, PA

Tent Camping at Mauch Chunk Lake Park, PA

2. Cooking and Eating

  • Cooking stove and fuel
  • Firestarters, newspaper, lighter fluid
  • Firewood, if you aren't sure it will be available at the site. Do not rely on cutting your own wood as many campsites do not allow you to do that.
  • BBQ grill
  • Wire brush to clean the grill
  • charcoal briquettes if you are going to use a charcoal grill.
  • Skewers
  • Tongs
  • Cooking oil or oil spray
  • Matches or lighter
  • Large water container. Make sure you have enough water with you as you may not find piped water or vending machines at a primitive campsite.
  • Water bottles
  • Coolers and ice
  • Thermos flask
  • Plates, spoons, knives, forks, glasses. I would suggest that you bring disposable items.
  • Plenty of paper napkins
  • An old rag
  • Cooking utensils (spatulas, serving spoons, pots, pans, mixing bowls)
  • A plastic tub for cleaning utensils
  • Dishwashing soap and scrubber (scotch brite)
  • Coffee pot
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Seasonings, sugar, spices
  • Camp chairs
  • Folding table and tablecloth
  • Knives, peelers, can openers, bottle openers
  • Cutting board
  • Oven mitts/potholders
  • Zip-lock bags and airtight containers to store food
  • Trash bags. Always use trash bags to dump your leftovers and dump the trash bags in the space provided at your campsite. This is because bears or other animals could come and scavenge through your leftovers. Do not ever attempt to feed or pet the bears! And if bears do visit your campground you will see plenty of signboards telling you the same thing.
  • Shovel

3. Clothing

  • Shorts
  • Jeans. Even in the summer, carry a pair of jeans with you.
  • Lightweight, comfortable t-shirts
  • Swimwear
  • Towels
  • Sleepwear
  • Hats, caps, bandanas, sunglasses
  • Shoes, boots (waterproof ones are recommended), socks
  • Flip flops
  • Rain jacket/raincoat
  • Sweatshirt/hoodie/jacket
  • Sufficient underwear. Always have extras with you.
Log Cabin at Mauch Chunk Lake Park, PA

Log Cabin at Mauch Chunk Lake Park, PA

4. Personal

  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash
  • Shampoo, conditioner
  • Body soap bar or body wash. If you are bringing a soap bar get a plastic case to store it.
  • Moisturizer
  • Shaving kit for men
  • Feminine products
  • Comb/brush
  • A small mirror
  • Deodorant. You don't want to stink while camping!
  • Wet tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper

5. Miscellaneous

  • First-aid kit. If you are on any required medications bring them all with you.
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera, video camera
  • Books, magazines
  • Cards or other games to play if it rains and you are forced to be inside.
  • Fishing equipment if you plan to fish.
  • Binoculars
  • Clothesline
  • Laundry detergent, in case you need to wash underwear or clothes
  • Laundry bag
  • Clothespins
  • Notepad, pens, pencils
  • Umbrella
  • Cell phone and charger. You can use the alarm clock on your cellphone if your campsite has electricity or you can use a car charger. Otherwise, bring a battery-operated alarm clock with you.
  • Maps of hiking and biking trails. Get a printout of all the necessary documents that you may need during your stay.
  • Bicycles, if your campground has biking trails. You may also have the option of renting bikes. Check your campground's website for all the specific details.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Jess on September 02, 2020:

Going this weekend for my birthday! I didn't want to forget anything. This is the best list EVER!

MW on May 29, 2020:

This list is the best list I have ever seen

Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on January 25, 2020:

Your lead photograph looks so inviting and relaxing, and it is next to a large body of water where certain technology does not work. Then there is the bouncing off the satellites. Anyway, thanks for sharing your checklist. It reminded me of the few peaceful days I've had in the last almost decade - in "paradise." (Smithville Lake, Missouri)

Rotsucht from Everywhere on July 16, 2019:

Great article :) Thorough list, but everyone can adapt it to their personal needs and preferences.

Edward on April 25, 2019:

I have a solar phone charger or for any USB device. I also have a Luci Light which has been great. I recently got a zero grav chair which is really a luxury, but is now my favorite piece of camping gear!

sara on August 03, 2018:

although list needs some improvements it is helpful if you have none or very little electricity and this will give you the basics ofwhat youll need

Mindy on May 10, 2018:

Although the list is long the subject is camping for beginners! I appreciate this list. I hope it will help me to step out and go on my first tent camping trip! Appreciate you taking the time.

Brian on May 01, 2018:

this isn't primitive ,too much stuff.Think about what you can carry,this is like moving in

David on April 22, 2018:

This is not a first time camping list. This is years of car camping and adding things on.

Dylan on June 15, 2017:

this is not primitive at all. Primitive camping is go out with the basic stuff like fishing rod, rope, fire starter, a few bottles of water, maybe a blanket. Go hunt/catch your food, skin it and cook it on a fire. And for sleep make a hammock in between trees

EA on September 09, 2016:

I would not go anywhere w/o bear spray and I don't see it listed here.

Ponx (author) from USA on June 18, 2013:

Absolutely Randalito!

Randalito on May 18, 2013:

If you go with a companion, don't forget the guitar, shakers, flutes, fiddles, or djembe!

jimmar from Michigan on August 05, 2012:

Quite thorough! I'm a light weight minimalist, only what I can fit in a canoe or carry on my back, but nice article none the less.

Ponx (author) from USA on July 26, 2012:

@Will....suggestions are always welcome! Thanks!

will on July 16, 2012:

The only thing I would suggest would be using hiking pants instead of blue jeans. While blue jeans are comfortable and warm in the cold, if they get wet it takes forever for them to dry out. Hiking pants are made out of a nylon outter shell that is usually backed by a polyester inside lining. just a suggestion.

Ponx (author) from USA on November 03, 2011:

Thanks robyna!

robyna from Michigan, USA on October 20, 2011:

Great Hub! It's a creative way to present the information with the "primitive" theme. Is there really any other way to camp? :) I've added it to my hub "Best Tents for Camping" for my readers' reference.

Ponx (author) from USA on August 22, 2011:

Thank you Butch45

Ponx (author) from USA on August 22, 2011:

Thank you Butch45

Butch45 on August 22, 2011:

Great hub I have made a list for camping on my camp table hub but it is more the basics for safety. But not as large as your hub. Good work I will give a thumbs up for sure.

Ponx (author) from USA on June 29, 2011:

Absolutely Gus! Thanks for your comment.

GA Andereson (Gus) from Maryland, USA on June 29, 2011:

Good checklists! I use a camping checklist everytime I go. It's no fun finding important items were left at home.


Ponx (author) from USA on January 11, 2011:

Thank you Robin!

Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on January 11, 2011:

Great Hub! Looking forward to meeting you at HubCamp NY!

Ponx (author) from USA on October 28, 2010:

Thanks for stopping by onegoodwoman. For me this was the first time and am glad that you found the list thorough as you are more familiar with camping out.

onegoodwoman from A small southern town on October 27, 2010:

My husband and I frequently pack the bikes and head out, knowing we will have to find a camp for the night.

Your article is quite through and well presented. I can't see that anything has been left out of the equipment or gear.

Ponx (author) from USA on September 29, 2010:

Thanks KoffeeKlatch! Appreciate that you stopped by.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on September 29, 2010:

Welcome to hubpages. You have done a wonderful job with this hub. It well written, detailed, love the pictures.

Congrats on becoming a HubNugget Nominee.

Ponx (author) from USA on September 27, 2010:

Thanks elayne and sugarloaf. Wow taking your tv for camping is really something :).

sugarloaf10 from Kentucky USA on September 27, 2010:

Great comprehensive list!

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on September 26, 2010:

Congrats on your nomination. You have put together a great hub on camping. Very useful and good luck. FYI here in Hawaii, people almost take their whole house for camping including the tv, music, picnic tables and all - it is really something.

Ponx (author) from USA on September 25, 2010:

Thanks Nobo :)

I would not like to go primitive camping and this list is keeping in mind those who wouldn't want to either! But your personal opinion is to be respected :).

Thank you Jayne. Glad that you would want to recommend this to all who would like to have a checklist before they go for camping.

Jayne Lancer from West London, UK on September 25, 2010:

I'd recommend this Hub to anyone going on a camping holiday. I won't be, and never will be, but I'm bookmarking this just because of the great list; Personal and Miscellaneous are useful for anyone who travels.

Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination!

John Holden on September 25, 2010:

ponx, in fairness, I first went camping in my early teens, if you couldn't carry it on your back it didn't go and there was no lightweight gear.

I've never really adapted to luxury camping even after I became a car owner and had the space to be more generous with what I took. Lets say I don't think your list has too many items but I can't think of anything to add :-)

Nabanita on September 25, 2010:

Great checklist here.

Ponx (author) from USA on September 24, 2010:

Thanks ripplemaker for the compliment and also for the info! :)

So John you think the list has too many items? :)

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on September 24, 2010:

Checklists are very helpful to make sure all the necessary things you need are remembered without the pain of panicking! Great hub!

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets Nomination. Read this forum post for the instructions and follow the link to Patty's hub where you can read more and vote! Best of luck!

John Holden on September 24, 2010:

Blimey! That's more stuff than I have at home--and I do go camping :-)

Ponx (author) from USA on September 22, 2010:

Thank you De Greek!

De Greek from UK on September 22, 2010:

Good stuff :-)

Ponx (author) from USA on August 31, 2010:

Thank you SteveoMc....

SteveoMc from Pacific NorthWest on August 31, 2010:

Your hub looks great. This does not look like a beginner. Well developed theme and Amazon items that match. Good placement of ads and well described. Plus, a couple of well placed videos.