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Camping Checklist: Everything You Need for a Cool Time in the Wild

Campsite at sunset

Never try to pack for a camping trip without a car camping checklist. No matter how hard you try to remember everything, you’ll never manage to bring it all without a little help. For beginner campers this is especially important. It ensures that even if you forget a few luxuries or personal items, you know you’ve got all the car camping essentials. But even if you’ve been camping for years, the one time you fail to consult your car camping checklist is guaranteed to be the time you forget something major, like your sleeping bag!

A camping checklist is something that will evolve over time. Some things on this list might not apply to you or your camping conditions. Equally, you might find that as you become an experience camper you will add items to your car camping checklist that may not be essential for survival, but are essential for comfort or increased enjoyment.

Having a camping checklist will also save you a shed-load of time when packing, and minimise the worry and stress that you’ve forgotten something.

When it comes to planning your camping menu you will need a whole other list, so take a look at out camping food checklist for some ideas.

So to try and be as logical as possible, I like to set up my camping checklist in categories. The list starts with the car camping gear that, once at camp, needs to be accessed first. So this gets packed into the trunk of the car last. The categories look like this:

Everyone has their own way of setting up camp, but for me, this order works nicely. It is efficient and organised, and no time is wasted faffing around looking for things that you’re sure you packed… somewhere!

A complete car camping checklist

There’s a quick checklist of things to pack for lightweight backpacking and camping  at the bottom of this article, but for those who have the luxury of a car to pack up, here’s our essential car camping checklist. Tick the item when it’s packed or cross it if you don’t need it on your list at all.

For a printer friendly version, you can download this car camping checklist pdf.

Printable camping checklist

camping-checklistPeople setting up items on a camping checklist

Setting up camp

There are loads of little extras you might want, to make your temporary house as homely as possible, but for your basic camping checklist, make sure you have the following:

Getting settled in

Set up your portable cafe and get the kettle on. To make the most of a relaxing afternoon you will need:

Cooking at camp checklist

Cooking at camp need not compromise your ability to feed an army. So make sure your camp kitchen is well equipped for whatever features on your al fresco menu:

Cleaning the dishes

There’s just no getting around the grub and grease of big meals. Make the clean up as easy as possible by roping in your whole crew and setting up your cleaning station before all the mess is made:

People sat around a campfire

Campfire equipment

Chop the wood and get the fire set before the sun goes down and the campfire songs get louder. For the perfect evening round the fire you will need:

Camping toiletries

Keeping yourself clean is not for everyone when camping, but for those who prefer not to neglect their personal hygiene, I suggest bringing the following:

Other useful camping gear

Not quite essential items, but you’re bound to need them if you don’t have them! So pop them in, just in case:

Camping fun

All of these camping games are essential items for optimal fun at the campsite. No more to say on that!

Lady camping by a lake

Lightweight backpacking checklist

For lightweight camping, there is a different packing list altogether – a list for backpackers and trekkers that has been written and rewritten after many trips of over-packing and carrying useless kit for too many miles.


Split the tent with whoever you’re sharing it with and get compression sacks for your sleeping bag and sleeping pad.


Storing things inside each other will help save space. Plan one pot meals for use on a lightweight stove. Your cooking pot can then be doubled up as your dinner bowl.

Personal stuff

Use small travel bottles for liquids and store it all in a compression sack.

These are by no means definitive camping checklists, and there may be things you know you can’t live without at camp that haven’t made these lists. If so, then I’d be interested to hear what they are – I hate the idea of missing out!

Happy camping!

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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