The Essential Camping Checklist For Beginners
The Essential Camping Checklist For Beginners
Interested in camping but don't know where to begin? We got you covered with a checklist of camping essentials to help get you out to the door and into the woods.
I am surprised by the number of people I have encountered that are interested in going on a camping trip, but never make it happen because of a feeling of intimidation and uncertainty about where to begin. This is a common feeling. If you didn't grow up going on camping trips with someone to show you how to pack and set up camp, then how would you ever know how to do it yourself?
My name is Nathan Baller, I am the founder of Abode Outside, and my dad was an avid outdoorsperson who took my two brothers and I on annual camping trips into the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota. These are serious camping trips deep into a wilderness area away from cell service and motorized vehicles. My dad taught us what gear and clothes to pack, how to pack a backpack and showed us the different water filtration methods we would be using. He showed us the maps and the routes, even if we didn't fully understand it at the time. We learned how to portage a canoe at a young age, build a fire and pitch a tent. These childhood trips sparked my love of the outdoors. This love lead me to get certified as a wilderness first responder from the National Outdoor Leadership School in 2012, and in 2020 I launched Abode Outside, an outdoor clothing brand dedicated to protecting nature. Needless to say, I've spent many nights sleeping in tents, and many hours researching, developing and testing clothes for the outdoors.
Below is a checklist I put together for beginners to get you going on your first 2-3 night camping trip in the Spring, Summer or Fall.
HERE is a printable checklist you can download and print out for your next adventure.
(HINT: there is a 30% discount code on the printable checklist!)
- Research an area of interest. For beginners, I highly recommend checking out state and national park campgrounds near your area of interest. There are also a lot of great private campgrounds.
- Reserve a campsite. I recommend reserving campsites for a few trips until you feel more comfortable using free, dispersed campgrounds.
- Inform someone of your travel plans. Always tell someone the time and place you will be traveling.Ever seen the movie 127 hours? That whole ordeal could have been avoided.
- Buy a map. Buy an actual hardcopy of a map of the area you will be staying and recreating. Digital maps are unreliable especially in the wilderness.
- Make sure your vehicle is road ready. Make sure all basic maintenance is up to date. Oil, Headlights, Tires, Brakes, Fluids, Heating and A/C. Car troubles can ruin a trip real fast.
- Have a checklist and begin to pack. We got you covered. Get your downloadable checklist below:
(2-3 night Camping Trip in Spring, Summer or Fall)
- When camping or recreating outdoors, avoid wearing clothes that are made with 100% cotton. 100% cotton garments are not breathable and they are slow to dry which is bad for sweat and rain, and can ruin an outdoor experience. Wear clothes made primarily with wool, recycled polyester, recycled nylon and Ecovero viscose.
- Waterproof Boots: Footwear is so important, and a good pair of waterproof boots is essential for any camping trip.
- Camp Shoes: This is non essential, but it is nice to have something to wear around camp and easily take on and off when going in and out of the tent.
- Hat or Beanie: Nights can be cold in the spring and fall. A beanie is always good to have.
- 3-4 pair of poly or wool socks
- 2-3 pair of pants of shorts
- 1-2 Short sleeves: Try the Everyday Tee or the Sightseer
- 1-2 Long Sleeve Shirts: Try the Backpacker, the Explorer or the Campfire
- 1-2 Hoodies: Try the Woodland, the Trekker, or the Huntsman is a heavier option.
- Lightweight, Waterproof Jacket
- Neck Gaiter: A neck gaiter is a great camping accessory that can be used in many ways for many different reasons. I have commonly used a neck gaiter for protection from snow, cold, dust, sand, bugs and smoke. The Abode Neck Gaiter is a great option that features a one-size-fits-all draw cord to securely fit all sizes.
- Bug Repellent: Not necessary all over the country but definitely in the Northwoods. I like Murphy's because its natural, non-toxic and effective.
- Sunscreen: Always wear sunscreen. I like Sun Bum because they care about the planet and animals.
- Tent: Consider how many bodies will be using it. Choose the most lightweight, minimal version. I typically share a tent with one other person and dog.
- Sleeping Bag: For most Spring, Summer and Fall camping you will need a sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees.
- Sleeping Pad: Find a balance between lightweight and comfort.
- Headlamp and Lantern: You will want a light that points where you are looking and a light to luminate your camp.
- Camp Chair: I prefer something minimal likethis.
- Handsaw: For cutting firewood.
- Hatchet: Small hatchet for chopping wood and pounding stakes for tents and tarps.
- Weather Radio: Need to know the weather. Also fun and nostalgic. Background noise. Here is a good option I use.
- Map: Buy a physical, detailed topographic map of the area. Too much liability using digital maps.
- Camp Towel: A basic option will do just great, or you can get a more stylish option.
- Eco-friendly Camp Soap: You will need a biodegradable soap that is eco-friendly for washing yourself and your dishes. This is a good option.
- First Aid Kit: Have a basic first aid kid that includes band aids, sanitary wipes, antihistamine, Ibuprofen, and your prescription medication.
- Essential Hygiene: Tooth brush, eco-friendly tooth paste, biodegradable soap.
- Wood: Most campsite require campers to purchase local firewood to avoid spreading invasive species. So remember to buy local firewood near your campgrounds if you want a campfire. Campfire cooking is fun, but it takes time and is dependent on the weather. So you should also pack a lightweight camping stove as a backup.
- Camp Stove: You will want something to boil water for drinking and cooking camp meals. I’ve had the same jetboil system for almost 10 years. I like the basic “zip cooking system” that comes with a small stove and .8 ounce cooking cup.
- Waterproof Matches: A lighter will run out of fluid but good to have as a backup.
- Pan: You can survive with a Jetboil, but you'll want another pan for cooking bacon and pancakes.
- Water Container: A large container for storing clean, purified water for cooking and drinking. I prefer to use a soft-sided bag that I can hang and is easy to pack, like this.
- Water Bottle: Have a personal water bottle to drink out of around camp.
- Camel Back: This is the best method to stay hydrated while recreating like hiking, paddling, biking etc.
- Coffee Mug: Coffee is a camp essential in my book. Tea, hot chocolate or apple cider are good alternatives. You'll also need to consider how you will brew the coffee. Here is a common method.
- Camp Utensils: Get a good set of camp utensils like this.
- Food: If you want to avoid bringing a big cooler of ice and food, you should try dehydrated camp meals. My personal favorite is the local Camp Chow brand made in Northern Minnesota, but there are many other options for camp food.
My favorite things to do around a campfire are read, write and play music. Never bring a speaker into the wilderness, but definitely bring a ukulele or harmonica to play around the campfire.
Preparation is key to having a good time. The more prepared you are, the less likely something unexpected will happen and the more fun you will have. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with camping questions.
Hope to see you out on the trails,
Nate | Founder