Ah, the great outdoors! From scenic scapes and curious wildlife to campfire moments and adrenaline-pumping adventures, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as long as you know what to pack for camping comfort.
Outdoor trips are being encouraged now more than ever. With minimal contact between visitors and no shortage of space to roam, camping makes for the perfect socially-distanced vacation.
Although intimidating to newbies, packing up the car for a camping trip can actually be pretty seamless if you have the right gear on-hand. The part that gets a bit gray is what exactly you should have packed up and ready to go.
Naturally, the intensity of your pack will vary based on the length and intensity of your trip, but when it comes to the basics, there are a few absolutes you can bear in mind.
Here are some basic packing tips for beginners to embark on their first outdoor adventure with confidence. These tips align with wilderness safety standards, and are broken down into three essential categories: food, shelter, and warmth.
What to Pack for Camping
Whether you’re out in the depths of the backcountry or car camping just minutes from your own backyard, having plenty of delicious eats (and drinks) is an absolute must. Of course, when you’re setting up a home away from home out under the stars, packing light is of the essence.
Opting for backpacking meals is a good way to go if you’re especially short on space. These freeze-dried meal kits pack plenty of protein and essential nutrients you’ll want to have readily available, and they taste pretty good too!
If you’re more of a culinary camper, consider these simple yet satiating camp meal ideas:
- Coconut vegetable curry + instant rice
- Pre-packaged homemade soup (just heat and serve)
- Fajita foil packs cooked over the campfire
- Mac and cheese (a classic camping staple)
- Oatmeal (super easy and filling)
- Overnight oats
- Wraps and sandwiches (great for taking on day hikes)
As for cooking and eating utensils, try to stick to the basics as much as possible – you can repurpose more than you’d think! Not only will being mindful of your cooking tools lighten your load, but it can also help you simplify your packing and shopping list.
Here are the most important items to get your hands on:
- Mess kit with basic pots, pans, and cooking utensils
- Portable camping stove
- Stainless steel tumblers (can double as mugs or bowls for serving)
- Reusable utensil kit
- Mini seasoning packs
Now that you’ve got sustenance covered, let’s talk about shelter. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible when sleeping or kicking back at your campsite, but there’s no need to overdo it.
When it comes to finding the right camping gear for your adventures, try to look for items that are compact and multi-purpose, these will give you what you need to create the ultimate shelter without taking too much space or time to pack and unpack.
With that said, check out this pared-down yet perfect packing list for all your shelter needs:
- Sleeping bag (30+ degrees for the summer, 15-30 for all seasons, minimum 15 degrees for winter)
- Headlamps and/or table lanterns
- Table for stove, eating, games, hangout
- Camping chair
- Sleeping pad
- Water filter
- First aid kit
If you’re looking for a little more luxury, add these extra items to your packing list:
- Bluetooth speaker
- S’mores kit
- Solar cooker
- Portable charcoal barbeque
- Shower bag
If you’re adventuring in the heat of the summer, spending the night outside still gets pretty cold. Even in the middle of the blistering heat of the great American Southwest desert landscape, nightfall can be ruthless if you’re not properly prepared. It’s always better to be on the safe side when it comes to warmth.
Here’s what to pack for camping warmth:
- Knit hat
- Puffy blanket
- Fleece sweater
- Warm wool socks
- Lighter fluid
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on food, shelter, and warmth, it’s time to get to planning! Luckily, there are plenty of National Parks, forests, and secret spots to explore throughout the U.S. Not sure where to go next?
Check out these inspiring outdoor ideas:
- Zion National Park, UT
- Big Sur, CA
- New River State Park, NC
- F.D. Roosevelt State Park, GA
- Fair Haven Beach State Park, NY
- Green Mountain, VT
- Havasupai, AZ
- Brown County State Park, Indiana
- Sawtooth National Forest, ID
- Uinta National Forest, UT
- Yellowstone National Park, WY
- Carp Lake, MI
- Waiʻanapanapa State Park, HI
With the right gear and good company, camping can be the perfect weekend getaway or even long-term vacation. No matter where you’re headed, always keep food, shelter, and warmth in mind, and don’t forget to pack out whatever you pack in, leaving the place better off than you found it.
Whether your a beginner or a bit more experienced, you can use this guide to help you remember what to pack for camping. And feel free to share your experience with us in the comment section below!