Car Camping: What to Take

Car camping allows you the comfort of taking some urban amenities into the wilderness. In that respect it’s the perfect compromise: You get in some hiking, you sleep outside — but you don’t have to give up your pillow. Below, we’ve put together a list of necessities (plus some luxuries) that you won’t want to forget. Be sure to customize what you take according to the season, the weather, the surroundings, and everyone’s personal needs.

Just print out this list and check items off as you pack them. If you want a more specialized list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your own computer and add your individual essentials.


  • Daypack or backpack (with good padding on the back panel and shoulder straps)
  • Bottled drinking water (you’ll be able to get refills; most campgrounds have running water or pumps)
  • Waterproof matches
  • Firestarter (for lighting wet wood)
  • Pocketknife
  • Wilderness first-aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Map of the area
  • Compass
  • Flashlight with fresh bulb and batteries
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle (to call for help in an emergency)
  • Trash bags
  • Park, fire, and camping permits (if required)
  • Cell phone and charger
  • GPS
  • Water filter or purification tablets

Food and Cooking Gear

  • Energy bars
  • Gorp (“good old raisins and peanuts”) or trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, M& Ms)
  • Raw veggies or fruit
  • Hot chocolate, tea, instant coffee
  • Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars
  • Juice
  • Wine
  • Meals
  • Resealable plastic bags for food storage
  • Camping stove and fuel
  • Lightweight cooking and eating utensils
  • Cups and bowls
  • Cooking pots and pans
  • Pot holders
  • Corkscrew
  • Cooler
  • Biodegradable dishwashing soap
  • Dish scrubber
  • Paper towels

Clothing and Outerwear

  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Raingear
  • Gloves
  • Long underwear
  • Extra underwear
  • Quick-drying swimsuit (if you’ll be near a lake or swimming hole)
  • Fleece or thermal shirt and pants
  • T-shirt
  • Shorts
  • Change of clothes


  • Hiking socks
  • Extra socks
  • Hiking boots or shoes suited to the terrain
  • Gaiters (to keep loose stones or snow out of your boots)

Personal Items

  • Toilet paper
  • Shaving gear
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Tampons
  • Washcloth
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Comb
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Small towel
  • Handkerchief or bandanna
  • Lip balm (with sun protection)

Camping Gear

  • Tent
  • Rain fly
  • Tent stakes
  • Ground tarp
  • Sleeping bag (in a waterproof stuff sack)
  • Self-inflating sleeping pad
  • Tent-repair kit


  • Watch
  • Moleskin (for blisters)
  • Camera and film
  • Hiking staff
  • Duct tape (for repairs to the tent and other gear)
  • Cord (for hanging food, if necessary)
  • Reading glasses
  • Field guide to vegetation, wildlife, terrain, etc.)
  • Binoculars
  • Newspaper, kindling, firewood
  • Lantern with fresh batteries or gas
  • Camp chairs
  • Fishing gear (rod, tackle box, bait, waders, net)
  • Tablecloth
  • Bicycle
  • Playing cards
  • Frisbee
  • Hackysack
  • Money


American Hiking Society, “Hike Smart: Playing it Safe on the Trail.”

Berger, Karen. “Hiking and Backpacking: A Complete Guide,” W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1995.

© HealthDay

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