Packing for a camping trip is easier said than done. There are so many things you need for survival and comfort in the great outdoors. While bringing along too much can really slow you down, you want to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything that will make your outdoor adventure a grand success. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 supplies for your general camping tote to help you wade through what would fall under the ESSENTIALS category and what wouldn’t. To have all your safety and comfort bases covered, follow the list below (in no particular order)! Keep in mind that this list is for items that would go in a large plastic tote/bin that would accompany you on an RV vacation, so you won't find a tent listed below.
1. Sunscreen/Insect Repellant:
Hopefully your camping trip will be filled with bright, warm sunshine and you’ll return home with a healthy summer glow. Even if you tan easily, you should always apply sunscreen to avoid too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays that cause skin cancer and premature aging of your skin. If you’re only camping for a few days, bring along a travel-sized bottle from the store or make your own by filling a reusable plastic travel-sized bottle with your favorite sunscreen. Also pack insect repellant to make yourself unattractive to disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than painful blisters from a sunburn, itchy bug bites from head to toe, or the threat of skin cancer or the Zika virus!
2. Inclement Weather Clothing:
Even if you’ve checked the weather 10 times and every day has the big sunny icon on it, plan for the possibility of rain by packing a raincoat that folds flat and thin. Also be ready for falling temps at night and bring along some warmer clothes, such as wool socks, long pants, and a lightweight, packable coat with insulation. It feels weird to pack an insulated coat for summer camping, but believe me, if you’re camping by the ocean or in the mountains, the temperatures can really drop in the evening and a long-sleeved T-shirt won’t be much help in staying warm!
So you’re not fumbling around your campsite in sheer darkness, bring along a flashlight or headlamp (or both). I recommend a headlamp because of its hands-free usage. Just strap it to your head and your hands are free to build a fire, rummage through your backpack, or make a hobo pie!
4. First-Aid Kit:
You knew this one would be on the list, didn’t you? It’s a no brainer that you need a first-aid kit in the great outdoors because you never know when you might need medicated ointment for a cut, antihistamine for a bug bite, or tweezers to pull out a nasty sliver. Purchase an already-assembled one at a store, or make your own with bandages, ointment, tweezers, antihistamine, gauze pads and tape, pain relief medication, medical information cards, and other supplies you think you’d use for an emergency.
5. Campfire Starters:
If you’ve been on a survival reality show and have mastered making a fire by rubbing sticks together, then you can skip this one. But if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll need to bring along fire starters if you want to get a fire going. In a waterproof container, pack a bulk-sized package of matches (they’ll keep for years) or a lighter so you can easily get a fire going once you collect firewood. A campfire ensures you will be warm and you can boil water for drinking.
Don’t plan on using the GPS function on your cell phone when camping. When you venture off the grid, your phone goes off the grid too, leaving you with spotty, if any, cell service. Instead, bring along a compass (or make your own) and map of the area you’re in so you don’t find yourself lost and whimpering in the forest.
7. Knife or Multi-Tool:
While small in size, a knife or multi-tool is large in usage! When camping, a knife or multi-tool can be used to prepare food (peel fruit, cut up meat, open boxes), make shavings for dry firewood, cut bandages to fit wounds, cut cord, and so much more. And if your multi-tool has a bottle opener, you can kick back and enjoy a cold beverage once your work is done!
8. Water Bottle:
If traveling light, you won’t be able to bring the gallons of water you’ll need for your trip. But you should bring along a water bottle in which you can pour the water that you boil over a campfire or filter using a filter or purifier. Choose a high-density polyethylene one for chemical-free water and one that is lightweight for easy packing. If you want hands-free drinking capabilities, purchase an adapter that turns a high-maintenance hand-held water bottle into a clever hands-free one.
From rock climbing and tent pitching to hanging laundry, ropes and cords have so many uses in the great outdoors. Depending on your needs, bring along a variety of ropes, such as braided, climbing, guyline, and bungee ropes.
10. Portable Food:
In addition to the meals you'll be making over your campfire, you'll need some portable snacks that will be easy to grab and go with when hiking, biking, or heading off for a day of kayaking. Pack some healthy granola bars, energy bars, nuts, beef jerky, fruit, and more.
Did I miss anything? Is there something that always makes it into your camping essentials tote that I didn’t include here? Let me know in the comments!