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Tent Camping Checklist—What to Take on a Camping Trip

Dolores and her family enjoy primitive camping on an island in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Essential camping items.

Essential camping items.

What to Bring on a Camping Trip

Half the fun of primitive camping is roughing it. With tents, tarps, food, and other supplies, your camping trip will be so much easier if you keep the equipment list simple. More stuff just means more work. But you will need a lot of camping supplies.

Try to get along with as little as possible and adapt yourself to simple living. The basic necessities are plenty when you are living outdoors. Think of what you will need ahead of time. Try to find things that can do double duty. Make a list of supplies, but don't get carried away.

Here is a list of some of the things that you will need to make your camp site convenient and cozy.

Young man in front of a tarp while camping. If it rains, you need covered space for eating or just hanging out. (Sorry to interrupt your reading, son)

Young man in front of a tarp while camping. If it rains, you need covered space for eating or just hanging out. (Sorry to interrupt your reading, son)

What You Need to Make Your Camping Trip Comfortable

While RV camping may seem comfy and convenient, tent camping is for those hearty souls who want to dance in tune with nature. Tent camping requires you to pare down on equipment, food, clothing and the extraneous junk of modern life.

Here is a list of essentials to make your tent camping experience comfortable and rewarding.

General Equipment

  • Tent (with screens and windows), poles, stakes and a mat for outside the door
  • Sleeping bags, air mattress and pump or camp pads
  • Lantern, fuel and extra mantels
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Ground cover and tarps
  • Rope, cord, twine, or clothesline
  • Multi-purpose tool or knife
  • Ax – if you are allowed to cut wood for fires
  • First aid kit
  • Old towels and rags
  • Insect repellent (dryer sheets work well)
  • Rain gear (poncho)
  • Toilet paper
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Small folding shovel
  • Clothing that can be layered
  • Sunblock


  • Cookstove and fuel (matches in a sealed plastic bag)
  • Folding table (or not) (we never take a table just improvise)
  • Camp chairs or stools
  • Plates and mugs (those thin enamelware plates stack nicely and are so cute)
  • Coffee pot
  • Sharp knife
  • Frying pan and large pot
  • Cooking and eating utensils (large spoon, spatula, knives, forks & spoons)
  • Can opener
  • Zip-lock bags, trash bags & tin foil
  • Cutting board (a large one on top of a cooler makes a nice little table)
  • 5-gallon water container (full of water)
  • Water bottles for hikes
  • Large plastic containers with tight-fitting lids (food storage)
  • Cooler
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Small plastic tub for dishwashing and storage

Extra Stuff

  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Cards, paper, pencils and pens
  • Fishing gear
  • Books – novel, puzzle, or wildlife identification books

Be creative. Find multiple-use items (mug as a bowl, spork, folded jacket as a pillow). Learn some card games and paper and pencil games in case it rains. If you’ve forgotten something, don’t panic, you’ll adapt. Nothin’ you can’t do with a nice stick – fork, stake, pole, pry-bar, stirring implement, hanger for flashlights, towels, jackets, etc. Learning to make-do is half the fun of camping. Enjoy!


Be thoughtful of your trash. Use foods and beverages that create as little waste as possible. Compress and pack all trash to carry out of the campsite when you leave. If you have a campfire you can burn some trash.

When using biodegradable soap or shampoo remember to dispose of it properly. Do not dispose of biodegradable soaps in or near waterways. Dig a hole well away from streams or lakes and throw your soapy water there. Cover it with dirt.

Do not waste food or throw leftovers into the woods. Eat, bury, or burn leftover foods.

Having the right stuff can make your camping trip comfortable. If you forget something, adapt.

Having the right stuff can make your camping trip comfortable. If you forget something, adapt.

Tarp shelter

Tarp shelter

Preparation is Key

Well, don't they look prepared! And it was a good thing because it rained all weekend. Yet all had a wonderful time. Rain is beautiful in the woods, as long as you stay dry. Though this tarp-covered area may look a bit primitive, it was a lot of fun to erect. You should not take any food into a tent so you need a covered area for meals if it's raining.

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.


Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on July 15, 2010:

Hammock - yes, a hammock would be a great addition. But I was trying to keep the list down. Thanks!

Portable Hammock on July 14, 2010:

Great list, especially for those first timers. Another thing I might want to add is a hammock to the list, but it certainly isn't a requirement.