A Beginner’s Camping Checklist: What to Pack for Your First Camping Trip

Wondering what to pack for your first camping trip? This beginner’s camping checklist will take you through all the camping essentials to get you started.

Glamping is luxurious, but traditional tent camping has its own special perks. Ready to give it a try? Whether it’s on your New Year’s resolution list, you recently met someone who is passionate about camping, or you just want to test out the camping waters, this camping checklist can serve as your packing guide. This is the basic camping starter kit, and we will continue to advance in future posts. But for now, here’s the basic camping gear you need.

*I have personally tested out all the items I recommend in this post. If you make a purchase through one of the Amazon links below, I earn a very small commission. A travel girl gotta eat! If you do make a purchase, thank you so much for supporting this blog.

Me with my backpack full of camping essentials

1. Tent

Coleman dome tentYour first time setting up a tent can feel daunting. So many sticks and holes, which goes to which? A lightweight tent with easy setup can be expensive, whereas the heavier and more complicated tents tend to be cheaper. As a beginning camper, I suggest thinking about your budget first–you don’t need the most expensive tent if you’re not sure how often you’ll use it. Second, consider the number of people who will be sleeping in a tent. I am still using this Coleman tent. It was the first one I ever purchased, and I am very happy with it. It is a little bit on the heavier side and takes time to pack back into the bag, but it is a good starting tent and not too expensive.

2. Sleeping Pad

Restful sleep is determined by the quality of your bed. For first-time campers, a sleeping pad is a must-have item on your camping checklist. If you are doing car camping–driving out to a campsite and setting up a tent to sleep in–I recommend a heavy sleeping pad. You will feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud in nature. I recommend this very comfy self-inflating sleeping pad, which has a very easy set up.

3. Comfy Pillow

Bring a pillow from your own bed or try out this camping pillow. Like a sleeping pad, this item is a major player in your beauty sleep routine in nature. The advantage of a camping pillow is that it also comes with a stuff sack, making it easy to pack.

4. Sleeping Bag

First-time campers are often surprised by how cold it can get at night, so keeping warm in your tent is a top priority. I highly recommend a winter sleeping bag that can handle colder temperatures. When purchasing a sleeping bag, make sure the length is right for your height and wide enough to let your legs to move around.

Sleeping pad, camping pillow, and a sleeping bag - camping checklist

The holy trinity of camping essentials for a good night’s sleep

5. EXTRA Blanket!

Continuing with step 4, sometimes a sleeping bag is not enough to keep you warm at night. Always pack spare blankets just in case.

6. Bath Wipes

After a long day of exploring nature, you might come back to a campsite where showers are not available, or you might not have the quarters needed to pay for one. In these instances, bath wipes will come in handy. Even without running water, you can wipe away the day and feel refreshed and clean before you climb into your comfy bed. I like these bath wipes, because every wipe is large enough to cover ALL the areas.

7. Headlamp

To see or not to see, that is the question, and this headlamp is the answer. I recommend a headlamp over a handheld flashlight, because it frees up your hands to do other things. Not only is it useful if you need to navigate your campsite after dark, it’s also an important safety item. Don’t leave this item off your camping checklist!

8. Reusable Water Bottle

Campsites always have drinkable water fountains, but you’ll need to bring your own reusable water bottle. This stainless steel, vacuum-sealed reusable water bottle will not only help reduce plastic waste, it will also keep your water cool throughout the day and night.

Bath wipes, headlamp, and water bottle - camping essentials

Stay clean, safe, and hydrated with these three camping essentials

Once you’ve checked these items off your beginner’s camping checklist, you’re ready to go on your first camping trip! I hope you enjoy it and come back for more camping tips in the future.

Looking for a great place to camp? Check out my National Park blogs for inspiration and more outdoor travel tips!