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The Best Camping Checklist Ever Written

Gus has been an avid camper for 50+ years, and a Boy Scout leader for 8. During those years he was a frequently requested storyteller

Make the List You Actually Use

A camping checklist is one of the most important things you can use to make sure the experience you are expecting is the one you get. It only takes one missing piece of important camping gear, or one important but missing camp food ingredient, to turn your outing into a struggle instead of a pleasure.

This master list is a group of mini-lists for gear, food, and preparations. It will not only help make your trip a success, it will also remind you of things you forgot, or didn't know you needed.

Tent Camping With a Campfire

Tent Camping With a Campfire

The Wisdom of a Camping List

Like using car seatbelts, the wisdom of using a camping checklist is undeniable.

You may be a veteran camper that knows your needs by heart, but can you be certain you'll never forget to think of something that can make or break your trip? Like those extra lantern mantles you left on the workshop table?

Or you may be new to camping and aren't sure what you need. In either case, using a list to check off (or bring to mind) those things you need for an enjoyable outing can be the difference between success and make-do.

The best checklist will be the one that has everything you could possibly need for an overnighter or a weeklong trip, from a public campground stay to a primitive mountain top retreat.

That best list will also have dozens of things you don't need for every trip, but when you do need them, they are there as a reminder.

And the list will have things you didn't even know you needed, or didn't remember you needed. Like those replacement lantern mantles.

The best camping tip you can get is to use a checklist.

A Camping Checklist

A Camping Checklist

Checklist: Do You Need One?

Yes you do. Even experienced campers use checklists.

Did you remember that you needed new lantern mantles after that last trip? Or that you used the last bottle of propane for the camp stove? Or that you used your last two spare tent stakes?

Checking that list will prompt you to remember.

As for new campers: did you even know you should take those extras? Or that your camp stove didn't come with its own fuel?

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One Big List is a Group of Mini-Lists

A master checklist can be intimidating. Multiple pages of everything anyone could possibly need for any camping trip, and dozens of things you don't need for your trip.

That is why a good camp list is broken into groups:

  • Shelter and bedding
  • Personal camping gear
  • Lighting and camp tools
  • Camp kitchen and cooking
  • Food and drink
  • Trip-specific things

Breaking that big list into smaller ones is the first step. And remember to pick and choose only what you need for this trip. You probably won't need everything on each list.

Shelter and Bedding Checklists


Tent with guy-lines and stakes

Tent ground cloth/tarp

Sleeping bag

Sleeping pad

Should Have

Tent light

Small whisk broom/dust pan

Stake mallet and puller

Extra tent stakes

Sleeping bag stuff sack

Camp pillow

Personal Camping Gear


Backpack/duffel bag

Clothes (personal checklist)


Drinking cup

Should Have 

Camping knife

Water bottle/canteen



A note about the following "handy but optional" checklist items: they are very dependent on your plans and desires for each camping trip.

For instance: if there are no showers, you won't need shower shoes, and if it is the dead of winter, you won't need insect repellent.

Handy But Optional 

Shower shoes/flip-flops


Camp shoes/slip-ons


Camp chair or stool

Headlamp/hat light


Pocket First Aid kit

Extra batteries



Fire sparker


Personal toilet paper

Insect repellant


Lip balm

Deck of cards



Personal Toiletries Mini-Mini-List

Just For You 

Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss





Pocket mirror

Face cloth, hand towel

Razor, shaving cream


Nail clippers

Special needs products

Feminine products

Camping tools and hammock

Camping tools and hammock

Camp Tools and Accessories

This list will include more than you need for every trip. Just use it for the camp tools and gear you need on this particular trip.

Should Have

Campsite First Aid kit

Camp axe and/or hatchet



Green wood saw

Camp water bucket (5-gallon pail)

Potable water container(s)

Camp gloves

Tarp for gathering/eating area

Tarp guy-lines, rope, and stakes

Camp shower

Camp wash basin

Camp chair(s)

Portable toilet

Clothesline rope w/clothespins

Extra rope and lashing cord

Camp Lighting

Should Have

Camp lantern

Lantern fuel

Extra lantern mantles

Flashlight (large)

Lantern (battery)

Extra batteries

Citronella candle - table-top or pole

Matches ("strike anywhere")

The Prepared Camper 

Assorted S-hooks


Duct tape

Tent repair kit

Hand pliers

Assorted bungee cords

Boy Scout handbook


Camp Kitchen and Cooking Gear

This mini-list is one of the most important ones. It will be a lot harder to "make do," or "struggle through" when such a major part of your camping experience is impacted by a forgotten item.

Forgetting a pan lid might be a small inconvenience, but forgetting something as simple as a spatula could be a big one. And forgetting extra fuel for your cooking stove could stop you in your tracks.

Campfire cooking cookware

Campfire cooking cookware

Camp Kitchen Basics


Camp stove

Camp stove fuel

Campfire cooking grate

Campfire gloves

Firewood/Fire starters

Charcoal/lighter fluid

Nice To Have 

Griddle plate

Dutch oven

Campfire tripod

Dutch oven lid-lifter

Coffee pot

Pie iron(s)

Dish wash basins

Dish soap

Dish washing cloth

Dish washing scrubbie

Cookware Basics and Utensils

Should Have


Pots/pans (and lids)


Knife (large and small)


Cutting board

Can/bottle opener

Measuring cup(s) & spoons

Campfire roasting forks

Basting brush



Personal mess kit



Trash bags

Paper towels

Toilet paper

Wet-wipes towelettes

Campfire Camping Meal

Campfire Camping Meal

Camp Food and Meals

Frequent campers will have a basic cache of staple camp food supplies that are't specific to any particular meal or menu plan, things like; salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc. Some avid campers actually have a chuck box for their camping trips, sort of like a portable kitchen pantry. For others it might just be a couple milk crates.

This mini-checklist is for your camping chuck box.

Camp Cooking Chuck Box Supplies

Basic Supplies

Salt and pepper

Cooking oil



Powdered creamer

Hot chocolate mix

Powdered cold drink mix

Cooking oil spray

Favorite spices

Camping Meals

Planning your camping menu and the food you will need is so dependent on the meals you pick that a generic checklist won't work. It will require a list of ingredients and quantities of its own.

But there is help. Menu planning and grocery list forms for this task are available online. You just have to decide on the meal selections first.

My website has printable food checklist forms that you can print and take to the grocery store with you. But short of that, it is pencil and pad time.

Do each meal, one at a time, and list every thing you need. From basic ingredients, (like the chicken or potatoes, or bacon and eggs) to preparation ingredients (breadings or sauces), and all spices and seasonings needed. Don't forget salt and pepper, or the butter.

When each is done, combine common ingredients, (like butter or chicken or eggs, etc.), into one grocery list for everything needed for all meals.

The Last Mini-List: Trip Specific Items

Some outings may have items that are only used for that specific trip, such as bathing suits for a camp by the lake or seashore, or bicycles for a site with bike trails.

Whatever the trip-dependents might be, they will probably have associated gear; such as bath towels and swim goggles, or bike helmets and elbow pads.

That is where your trip-specific mini-list comes in. And it is probably just a notepad list instead of a multi-item checklist. Just don't forget that you will need it.

© 2018 ga anderson

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