A big factor of what makes camping so appealing is minimalism. We don't need a ton of gear to enjoy the outdoors. Plus, let’s be honest—it's also nice to have a simple, comfortable, and cozy campsite to hang out in. On the other hand, being outside also means exposure to all the elements and possibly even extreme weather. You also lack access to amenities that we often take for granted, which make modern life so comfortable.
We have broken down this guide into two categories so that you can determine the balance you want to bring to your campsite between the Must-Haves (essential items on your packing list) and Comfortable-to-Haves (items meant to enhance comfort and provide convenience but not explicitly necessary).
Some may argue that there's nothing wrong with “cowboy camping” (sleeping on the ground with nothing but a sleeping bag under the open sky), but we count a tent as essential for camping. The weather can always be unpredictable, and, especially in the summer months, you probably want to keep a protective layer between you and the critters and insects that roam about while you are sleeping.
Even in the summer months, you will also need something to curl up in that will keep you warm at night. Instead of packing linens and blankets from home, we recommend investing in some good sleeping bags. Find a high-quality material that is right for your climate. Don’t forget the kids! Get them their own personalized sleeping bags as well.
A good quality sleeping pad or inflatable mattress can also ensure you have a good night's rest so that you can enjoy your day in the great outdoors. Bringing a tarp is also on the essentials list for its multi-purpose—we guarantee you'll find a use for one at your campsite. If you are in a damp area or expecting rain, lay the tarp down on the ground before setting up your tent. This will also help smooth the ground and make it more comfortable to sleep on. If you are in a very bright and sunny area without much shade nearby, use your tarp as an extra shelter to take breaks from the sun’s UV rays.
Speaking of UV rays, don’t forget to bring sun-protective clothing and sunscreen. Even if you don’t plan on swimming during this camping trip, a UV protecting rash guard can be a great moisture-wicking option to wear while hiking. Bring a few lighter breezy, comfortable layers, such as a linen or jersey dress to wear and keep cool during the day around your campsite. Wear some sturdy hiking boots for your adventures but bring along a pair of flip-flops for lounging around or for showering if your site has running water. Merino wool socks are considered an absolute staple among outdoorsy folk for their ability to keep your feet warm and dry in any condition. They are also moisture-wicking and have anti-microbial properties, so they can be worn a couple of days in a row. Bring a hoodie or some flannel pajamas to wear at night when the temperatures dip. And don't forget to pack a comfortable camp chair if your campsite doesn’t have a picnic table.
Of course among the essentials, you should also bring plenty of food (kept safely inside a bear canister, depending on what part of the country you are in), a lantern or flashlight, and a first-aid kit. Bring along lots of water, or invest in a backcountry water filtration system if you know you will be staying near a spring or river.
f roughing it isn't your style, you'd like to enjoy the outdoors without having to survive on beef jerky, and granola bars, the first front-country amenity we recommend is a camp stove to cook your food on. Cooking over an open fire sounds romantic, but realistically it can be difficult, and often many campsites don’t even allow open fires. Don’t forget to bring your packable and reusable cutlery, cups, and plates as well so you can eat like kings and queens while in the great outdoors. If you are a coffee drinker, a French press is a great addition to any camping kitchen kit.
Another comfy investment we recommend is an inflatable camp pillow. Sure, you could just roll up your comfy hoodie under your head and try to fall asleep, but bring a pillow from home and take your zzz's to the next level.
While you’re at it, why not bring some glamping energy into your campsite? Bring an outdoor rug to throw on top of your tarp. Place a doormat in front of the entrance to your tent to keep your sleeping space dirt-free. Use cozy throw blankets and throw pillows on your camp chairs. Some solar-powered LED fairy lights can also give your campsite a sweet, dreamy vibe at night.
We love good old-fashioned entertainment, so bring some spooky books to read around the fire at night, or some cards to play while getting ready for dinner. You could even bring classic outdoor games such as cornhole or horseshoes for a fun competition.
Camping is a fantastic way to get outside this summer and spend some quality time with family and friends. Get out there and adventure in state and national parks, at private campgrounds, deep in the backcountry, or simply in your own backyard. Just double-check your list of essentials and luxuries and make sure you have everything you need to ensure a great time.