Are you planning your next adventure and compiling your camping packing list? Striking a balance between over-packing and under-packing for a camping trip can be a daunting task—after all, you want to be adequately prepared, but you also don’t want to have to lug around unnecessary gear.
To help you out, I’ve rounded up the top camping essentials for tent camping, cabin camping, and RV camping so you can check the items off your list and set off on your adventure with confidence.
Top Ten Items for Your Tent Camping Packing List
Tent camping is the most “rugged” form of camping and requires well thought-out, efficient packing. This is especially true if you’re backpacking and need to carry your gear with you. Appropriate supplies will ensure a comfortable and safe adventure.
Packing your tent might seem obvious, but you never know what supplies might get lost in your packing shuffle! Your tent will be your home for the duration of your camping trip, so make sure to bring it. No one wants to make their way out to their site, only to find out that they have nothing to sleep in at night.
- Tent Footprint
2. Sleeping Bag
If your tent is your house while you’re camping, then your sleeping bag is your bed. Make sure to add a sleeping bag to your camping packing list since a miscellaneous assortment of blankets won’t cut it in the cold.
- Sleeping pad
- Camping pillow
3. Fire Starter
A fire starter is an absolute must for camping, especially in a tent. Fire will allow you to keep warm, cook food, and even signal for help in the case of an emergency. Remember, a fire starter is not the wood itself, so you’ll need to bring wood, purchase wood onsite, or gather wood where it’s permitted. Many campgrounds do not allow you to bring your own firewood, so always check ahead of time.
I personally bring multiple types of fire starter, including a Bic lighter, fireproof matches, and a little flint kit. It might seem like overkill but since I always keep them in my hiking pack anyway, and because they are lightweight, it doesn’t burden me in terms of pack weight or convenience.
- Duraflame Log—this is the easiest way to get a nice hot fire started in my experience. I don’t go on a single trip without one!
4. Pocket Knife
A pocket knife or multitool like a Swiss Army Knife will always come in handy when you’re on a camping trip. They can be used for nearly anything, including tent repairs, opening food supplies, and collecting kindling.
5. Cooking Set
While you can live on trail mix, canned beans, and assorted pre-packed snack foods, camping in a tent is much more enjoyable with good food. Bring a cooking set designed for tent camping so you can enjoy hot fireside meals that provide more sustenance than a pack of Pringles.
- Tin Foil
I’m a camping cooking minimalist and like to prepare potatoes or fish by wrapping them in tinfoil and throwing them on the fire. I promise, it’s delicious!
I never realize just how dark nighttime is until I’m gracelessly tripping over tree roots and rocks at oh-dark-hundred on a camping trip. Pack a flashlight with extra batteries on your next camping trip to avoid any unexpected trips, falls, and tumbles.
- Head lamp
7. First Aid Kit
It goes without saying that a well-stocked first aid kit is essential to tent camping, or any camping trip at all. There are prepackaged first aid kits at outlets like REI that include coagulation medicines (to promote blood clotting), antiseptic ointments, anti-inflammatory pills, and more. It is always better to be prepared in the case of an emergency.
8. Water Bottle
Water bottles are essential to bring on your tent camping trip, whether your campsite has running water or not. If you’re camping at a site that doesn’t have running water, you’ll want to fill your water bottle with the larger containers of water that you bring with you.
- Water filtration system if you plan on drinking creek water
- Thermos for tea or coffee
- Coffee making setup (if you’re a caffeine fiend like me)
9. Hiking Pack
It’s safe to say that if you’re going on a tent camping trip, you’ll probably be doing some hiking too. Bring a hiking pack that’s been professionally fitted to your torso and waist. This will make sure it is comfortable for you to wear and use. It also does double duty by holding some of your other essential camping supplies.
10. Weather-Appropriate Clothing
We’ve all driven out to a campsite wearing sweats, hoodies, and fuzzy socks, but these clothing items aren’t the only ones you’ll want to pack for your trip. Make sure to bring weather-appropriate clothing, both for the temperature itself and any forecasts calling for rain, snow, or unusual heat.
- Base Layers
- Hiking Socks
Top Ten Items for Your Cabin Camping Packing List
If you’re planning a cabin camping trip, chances are you’re looking for comfort levels that fall somewhere between tent camping and glamping. It’s one of my favorite ways to camp when I’m looking for the benefit that only four walls (and a space heater) can provide.
Because cabin camping is more accommodating than tent camping, you’ll want to bring some extra supplies to make the most of your trip.
1. Bedding Linens
Cabins have at least one bed frame and mattress set up, and some even include extra bunk beds. What they don’t provide are clean linens, so bring your own sheets, pillows, comforter, and blankets.
Cabin campsites also have showers included in either the cabin itself or in their communal bathrooms, so make the most of this opportunity for hygiene by adding basic toiletries to your camping packing list. Soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste are basic necessities you won’t want to forget, and I like to bring dry shampoo in place of liquid shampoo and conditioner to quickly freshen up my hair. I hate having a cold, wet scalp while out camping.
- Your own towels and washcloth
3. Chargers for Your Electronics
If your cabin has outlets, you’ll want to bring chargers for your cell phone, tablet, or laptop (if you bring them and there is Wifi or you’re using a hotspot).
- A portable charger bank
Camping in a cabin has its perks, including a sheltered space to enjoy some games after the sun has set. Pack board games, books, and even a laptop that has pre-downloaded shows and movies, in case your campsite doesn’t have a data signal you can use with a hotspot.
5. Lanterns and Flashlights
Even if your cabin has indoor lighting, it’s still a good idea to bring lanterns and flashlights on your trip. They will provide lighting at your fireside picnic table and on your way to the nearest restroom facility if you need to leave the cabin for that
6. Wood and Fire Starters
Wood and fire starters aren’t as essential to cabin camping trips as they are to tent camping trips, since the cabins naturally provide insulation and shelter from the elements. However, they’re still very helpful to bring with you for staying warm after dark and for cooking.
- Cooking Grate
Pro Tip: Some campgrounds will already have cooking grates. Be sure to check before you head out.
7. Kitchen Tools and Utensils
Some campgrounds have communal outdoor cooking stations that provide stovetops and outlets for your kitchen gadgets. Check for your campsites amenities before you embark, and even if your campsite doesn’t have a cooking station, still bring basic cookware. You’d be surprised how much you can cook over a campfire!
Items like a cast iron skillet, dutch oven, spatulas, and tongs will be very handy. Also bring bowls, plates, and basic utensils.
8. Food and Drinks
Your options for food and drink are expanded when you’re camping in a cabin. Take the opportunity to pack delicious, cookable food in a cooler and get to cooking. You can also bring chilled drinks of your choice, which I highly recommend.
- S’mores supplies
9. Storage and Disposal Items
The rule “leave no trace” applies as much to cabin camping as it does to tent camping. Bring trash bags, Ziplocs, and a cooler to ensure that all your belongings stay contained and are properly disposed of before you leave the campsite.
Cash is king in the camping world. It’s especially useful when you’re staying at a campground. Often there is a general store onsite where you can pick up any supplies you forgot, snacks, and even movie night admission out on their lawn.
Top Ten Items for Your RV Camping Packing List
When it comes to packing for an RV camping trip, you won’t necessarily have the amenities of a cabin campsite, which will warrant you bringing some tent camping supplies, but you will have the comfort and protection similar to a cabin. Another complicating factor? Your RV is a home-on-wheels with needs both similar to and different from your family vehicle. Be sure to pack the following:
1. Drinking Water Hose
A drinking water hose is a must-have for RV camping. It allows you to connect to potable water sources and have running water in your RV. This will be what you drink, cook, and bathe with, so be sure you don’t leave without yours.
2. Surge Protector
Safeguarding the electronics in your RV is a good idea, especially when you’re out in a rural area on a camping trip. Bring a surge protector to guard against any unexpected power surges from your RV’s power source—phenomena such as lightning strikes can cause a surge that damages your RV’s electronics. It’s a preventable way to prevent any shocking accidents on your camping trip. (Pun intended!)
3. RV Bathroom Supplies
One of the perks of camping in an RV is that you have a built-in bathroom—no need to trek out in the dark to use a Port-A-Potty in the middle of the night. Bring toilet paper that is septic tank friendly, a sewer kit, and appropriate RV toilet chemicals to keep your bathroom running smoothly.
4. Tire Pressure Gauge
You never know what could happen when driving your RV out to your campsite, so bring a tire pressure gauge to keep an eye on your tires. Whether it’s a nail on the road or cold weather causing a decrease in pressure, your tire pressure gauge will alert you to any complications so you can drive with peace of mind.
- Tire Patching Kit
- Spare Tires
- AAA card
5. Motor Oil and Transmission Fluid
It’s also a good idea to bring some extra motor oil and transmission fluid. After all, your RV is a recreational vehicle and benefits from practical car supplies like your everyday vehicle at home.
6. Kitchen Essentials
Because your RV is like a home on wheels, you can expand your camping trip kitchen pack list to include all the goods. Skillets, saucepans, cutting boards, cutlery, utensils, dishes, and a water pitcher, are all items that you might want to bring.
You can also pack perishable foods (hooray!) since your RV likely has a built-in fridge.
7. Cleaning Supplies
RV’s are confined spaces and can quickly get dirty while on the road. Bring general cleaning supplies to keep your RV neat. Trash bags, all-purpose cleaner, toilet bowl brushes, and a dustpan all come in handy when you’re out at a campground.
8. First Aid Kit
First aid kits are essentials on my list for all different types of camping, but it’s worth noting that you’ll want to pack a couple extra items if you’ll be camping in an RV.
A fire extinguisher is a must-have for kitchen fires and electrical fires, so pack a miniature one designed to fit under a kitchen sink when you set out on your adventure. I also recommend more intensive items like splints, saline solution, and thermometers—all items you might leave behind if you were tent camping or cabin camping.
9. Tool Kit
In addition to a first aid kit, you should also bring a tool kit with you while on an RV camping trip.
Basic tools allow you to repair small issues in the RV and are also multipurpose when hiking and exploring. Consider packing a hammer, nails, screws, screwdrivers, an Allen wrench, and duct tape on your next trip.
10. Bedding and Clothing
RV camping is the type of adventure where you can bring a range of comfortable clothes.
In addition to bringing your favorite PJ’s and lounge clothes for relaxing inside the vehicle, you should also pack hiking clothes (including good base layers, outer layers, and socks), swimsuits for any campsite swimming pools or nearby designated swimming areas, and even fancier clothes for taking photos while you’re sightseeing.
Whatever way you decide to set up camp on your next adventure, use these items to create your camping packing list and rest assured knowing you have the essentials that will keep you comfortable, safe, and equipped for whatever your trip may bring.
Hannah McKelson is a content writer and California-based adventurer hiking and camping her way across the West Coast. She loves tracking down the best-kept secrets of the beaches, forests, and mountains in her home state while sharing her adventures through her writing. You can follow her travels on social media @hannahmckelson and on her website at hannahmckelson.com.
Photo credit: Tyler Way