Here it is – my checklist from years of car camping! Every time I forgot something, the missing item gets added to the list. Just last weekend, I forgot the propane adapter for my camp stove, so I added it to the list.
I don’t bring each item on the list each time I camp. It would be a little silly to bring sleeping pads, cots and an air mattress.
I simply print out the checklist and cross out the items I don’t need. Once I gather all my camping gear, I check off all the items that I am bringing.
Here are two downloadable versions of the list:
Also, check out my matching Camping Menu Planner.
Here’s the complete list, along with my tips and recommendations.
Before you leave:
- charge air pump
- charge rechargeable batteries
- charge camera battery
- charge led lantern
- freeze blocks of ice
I use a food storage container to freeze several blocks of ice for my cooler. Then I release the blocks by running hot tap water over the container. These blocks take forever to melt and make it easier to pack the cooler.
- get cash
You’ll need smaller bills to pay for firewood, entrance fees and your campsite.
- grocery shop
Buy near campsite:
To avoid spreading Emerald Ash Borer (and breaking the law), buy firewood near your campsite.
- more ice
- cold beer
Things that start cold, stay cold. We like to drink local beers when we’re traveling. On our last camping trip we picked up some New Glarus and Potosi brews.
Nearby in the car:
My phone’s GPS has a meltdown when we’re driving on country roads. Print directions as a back-up.
The tent camping guides from Menasha Ridge Press are great. I can’t recommend them enough.
- reservation info
Billy gave me a camp blanket like this for Christmas. It’s great for snuggling up around the campfire and we also throw it over our sleeping bag on cold nights.
- clothes line
- clothes pins
We have a Eureka! Northern Breeze Screen House. It seems like it will last a lifetime, and it is great when the bugs are bad or when there are few trees to block the sun.
- canopy poles
- canopy stakes
Chilling food & beverages:
- beverage cooler
The beverage cooler gets opened (and left open) a lot. Bring a separate cooler for food.
- food cooler
- water jug
I use my parents’ Coleman water jug from 1984. The camping tradition continues…
- torch lighter
To pull hot coals out of the fire for cooking.
To keep your firewood dry.
I love, love, love my tent. It has huge windows, so I never feel claustrophobic. I have the older version of this tent. And just so you know, a 4 person tent will only fit two people and a dog comfortably.
- tent footprint
- tent poles
- tent stakes
We picked up this mallet at Menards a while back. It’s lighter than a hammer and makes hammering and removing stakes a lot easier.
- sleeping bags
We got a double sleeping bag recently, and we love it. For warm-weather camping, it’s a lot better than being twisted up in a mummy bag.
- pillow cases
Mini pillows are big space savers in the car. Or, you can just bring pillow cases and stuff them with clothes.
- sleeping pads
- air mattress
We have been through a lot of air mattresses. The cheap ones get holes really easily. It may be best to avoid air mattresses if you have a dog.
- air pump
- entry rug
I use an old rag rug. Great for taking off shoes and keeping dirt out of the tent. Plus I can just throw it in the wash when we get home.
Look for camp stoves at garage sales. I picked up a great vintage one for $5, and have seen a few others since then.
- propane adapter
- cooking grate
An inexpensive grate is useful for cooking over the campfire. A grate is especially useful at more primitive campsites that don’t have a fire ring with a built-in grate.
- Dutch oven
You’ll want a camp dutch oven with feet.
- Dutch oven lid lifter
This really comes in handy when there are hot coals on top of your dutch oven.
- pot with lid
We make pasta a lot when we camp, so I like spaghetti pots with built-in drainers. I have this pot and this insert. I like that I can also use the insert as a colander for fruit or veggies.
- cast iron pan
We have this cast iron pan. It’s around $15 bucks at most stores and will last a lifetime.
Save your nice cookware for home. Goodwill has tons of saucepans for $3 or $4.
- s’more roaster/pie iron
We just tried this s’more maker for the first time. It’s only $4.88 and it makes perfectly toasted s’mores. We also have this pie iron. It’s an original 1960’s design, made out of heavy cast iron. Don’t forget to season it before you head out.
- potholders/oven mitts
- cooking spray
- salt & pepper
- hot sauce
- garbage bags
- aluminum foil
Heavy duty aluminium foil works best for cooking in the campfire.
Vinyl without a felt backing works best.
- paper towels
- cutting board
- chopping knife
- can opener
- measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- serving spoon/ladle
- dish pan
- dish soap
- dish sponge
- dish towel
- storage containers
- coffee/instant coffee
Starbucks Via instant coffee is expensive, but it tastes great.
- hot chocolate powder
- bottle opener
- rain jacket
- hiking boots
Bring some flip-flops that will work as shower shoes.
- backpack/waist pack
- first aid kit
- water bottles
- bug spray
- cell phone
- cell phone charger
- camera charger
- pocket knife
- hand warmers
Opt for LED flashlights and headlamps to save on batteries.
- hand sanitizer
- hair brush
- baby wipes
I use generic baby wipes for wiping off my hands as well as cleaning. I also like to bring Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes for my face.
- face wash
- body wash
- shaving cream
- chap stick
- toilet paper
- nail clippers
- contact case
- contact solution
Nice to have for putting in/taking out contacts.
That’s my list. Am I missing anything? Are there any other items that you can’t live without?