The Ultimate Camping Checklist – Everything You Need For The Perfect Camping Trip

Posted on

Are you looking for the ultimate camping checklist? 

I’ve been camping since the day I was conceived (a story for another time) but grew up around a campfire. From family camps to girl guides, I’ve camped in every configuration including outdoors, tents, small trailers, to large motorhomes. But no matter how many times I head out to a campsite, I always forget something! 

The Ultimate Camping Checklist Must Haves Essentials

So I put together this ultimate camping check list so that we can print it off, everyone in the family can divide and conquer, and we can have the truck loaded up and on the road in under an hour (no joke, we have this system figured out!). So if you’re looking just for the free printable camping list so you can grab and go, it is right below. But if you’re looking for a deep dig into each item and what I recommend, I also want to give you that insight. 

At the end of the article I also share some of my best recommendations for camping essentials including where to go camping in BC, and fun alternatives like oTENTiks.

Ultimate Camping Packing List Free Printable Checklist

Camping Checklist

Here is my custom-designed, ultimate camping gear checklist! Feel free to right-click and hit print! I recommend dividing this among your family, so that everyone is responsible for helping pack up for the trip, and you can be more efficient. 

Mom Hack: When my kids were younger and couldn’t read I would take their portion of the camping checklist and draw out what they needed. Little shirts (and how many), same for pants, shoes, etc. That way they got to experience the autonomy of packing their items and helping the family. 

Camping Checklist By Category


sleeping bags hanging up
  1. Sleeping Bags & Extra Blanket – Sleep is essential to a good camping trip so be sure to pack everyone a sleeping bag, and I like to add an extra blanket. You can use the blanket in the car to keep warm and cozy or to cuddle up around the fire. If it’s too hot at night you can lay the sleeping bag under yourself and use the blanket on top or if it’s too cold you can wrap yourselves in the blanket and then go in the sleeping bag for extra warmth. 
  2. Pillow – Often one of the most forgotten items, no one likes to sleep without a pillow! If there’s space I prefer to bring the pillow from my bed, but if not I have camping pillows that take up less space and are just as comfortable. 
  3. Sleeping Toque – Keeping your head warm in cold weather is one of the best ways to ensure good sleep, so I always have a sleeping toque when we camp. I also pack a longer toque that can double as an eye mask, which is always helpful on summer mornings when the sun is awake before I am! 
  4. Air Mattress/Sleeping Pad – Everyone needs some cushioning for good sleep, but depending on your level of glamping will determine the type of air mattress you want to invest in. From basic foam bedding to air-inflated mattresses, to full-on 2-foot off-the-ground family-size beds, there are many options on the market. It comes down to your request for comfort, the space in your tent, and your budget. My advice is simple is best and unless you’re going to do a lot of camping, some of the splurges aren’t always worth it (but if the items will double at home as beds for sleepovers then they are worth it). 
  5. Air Pump/Repair Kit – Have you ever arrived at a campsite only to realize you forgot your air pump at home? I have… more than once. It’s happened so often that I always keep an air pump in my vehicle (the kind that plugs into my truck). So yeah…don’t forget this item!  
  6. Special Stuffies for the Kids – There’s nothing like a stuffy who likes to go on an adventure and be sure to bring the little guys along on a camping trip! It’s the perfect comfort item for settling in for the night. 
  7. Sleeping Diapers for the Kids – If you have little littles, don’t forget these essentials… as there’s nothing worse than a wet sleeping bag with no way to clean it the next morning! (if you camp lots this may be a good item to stash in your car in case you need backup).


campsite with a tent, tent trailer and other camping gear
  1. Tent Or Trailer – Having a cozy place to bed down is important and as obvious as it sounds to pack the tent, there’s a reason it’s on this checklist! (yes I forgot once, yes I had to turn around to go home and get it).
  2. 2 Tarps – This is important if you are camping in a tent, as you’ll need 2 tarps. One tarp will go on the ground, underneath the tent. Make sure no edges are sticking out because if it rains, the water will go on the tarp, under your tent, and seep into your tent. You want to keep the inside of your tent dry. Your second tarp can be used for two things, either an additional layer inside your tent (on the ground to protect against the cold), or if it is going to rain, you can hang it over your tent for rain protection. 
  3. Axe & Hammer – If campfires are allowed then an axe to cut firewood is a great tool, and you’ll appreciate having it so you can cut up kindling. A hammer is another great tool to put spikes in the ground for your tent. If you don’t have a hammer a big rock can often be sourced and is a great tool. 
  4. Mat for Outside the Tent – If we are staying for a couple of days, I do love to have a mat that goes outside of the tent entrance. This is a place where everyone can transition from shoes to the tent, without bringing their dirty shoes inside. 
  5. Dustpan and Broom – One of my favourite pieces of camping equipment is a tiny dustpan and broom that I picked up at the dollar store. It’s small, but it packs away nicely and allows me to clean the tent before I put it away, which means I always get to open up a nice and clean tent on our next trip.

Cooking Essentials for Camping

camping cooking items
  1. Cooler/Ice – Having a cooler (and knowing how to use it) is essential. It’s the best way to keep your food cold and ensure food is kept at the best temperature for food safety. A video from Parks Canada introduces the concept (that was new to me) of how to cool down your cooler to prepare it before you pack it! Also, if you can, blocks of ice are preferred over ice cubes as they hold a more consistent and longer temperature for your cooler. Check out the Parks Canada learn-to-camp series here.
  2. Camping Cabinet – One of the best purchases I ever made was a plastic drawer set, like one that you would use as a garage organizer. Instead of a big bin where everything gets lost, I have three drawers, where my camp kitchen stays nice and clean. The best part? I can pull out a drawer and use it as a washing bin if I’m stuck for space! 
  3. Stove with Propane/Fuel – I’ll start with fuel as a stove is useless without it! (okay, there’s another story about the time I showed up to camp without fuel… I believe we had smores for dinner that night). When camping with the family I prefer a larger surface two burner stove, as it allows me to have two separate cooking surfaces to use to maximize output (aka, less time cooking).
  4. Matches/Lighter – I’ve had to beg and borrow a light before, as unless you have a starter on your stove, matches or a lighter is a necessary tool to make your stove work. I like the longer, child-safe lighters that keep your hands away from the flame.
  5. Firewood (if campfires are allowed) – Before you head out for camp be sure to research if you need to bring camp firewood, buy your camp firewood at the campground, or if campfires are even allowed. The general rule in the camping community is to “burn where you buy” so that you are not bringing invasive species, insects, or soil from one ecosystem into the next.
  6. Fire Starters – When camping in cooler weather (which is often when fires are allowed) I love having a fire starter as a base for starting up my campfire. We either make them at home or you can buy them… which is helpful when looking to strike fire and get everyone warmed up.
  7. Large Water Jug – This has become an essential piece of gear for me as it allows me to load up at the campground’s water station and do everything from filling pots for boiling water to filling bins for dishwashing after a meal. If you’re stuck for space you can get a soft-sided collapsable one, which I love!
  8. Tablecloth – This was new to me as an adult and I love how it’s transformed our campground. A tablecloth instantly gives us a clean surface and a family dining room (albeit outdoor) feel. I go for the red and white checkered ones to give the Canadian camping vibe.
  9. Clothesline/Clothespins – From dishcloths to bathing suits, to wet towels that need to dry, there’s nothing like a clothesline hanging in the trees to give you the perfect place to dry items out.
  10. Plates/Bowls/Cups – Okay this one is obvious, but what kind you choose to invest in, well that’s up to you. I used to love the metal plates and bowls (as they are resilient) but when you’re serving hot foods (think soup) to small hands they aren’t ideal, and plastic ones are better. When you invest, think long-term. My set is almost 20 years old.
  11. Utensils – I like going with something that we can use for a long time. And I’ve always loved a good multi-purpose tool like a spork! 
  12. Trash Bags/Bin – A clean camp is essential to keeping your sanity and the animals away. Have a place for trash (I prefer to reuse bags that food comes in so I’m not bringing additional trash bags, chip bags and hot dog bun bags are awesome!)
  13. Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil – A Staple in my cooking bin, I always have heavy-duty aluminum foil in my camping kit. 
  14. Paper Towels – I love having these at camp… goes with my whole motto, a clean camp is a happy camp! 
  15. Dish Soap – I grabbed a dollar store-size bottle with a hand pump and keep it in my camping cabinet for all things cleaning. It’s a nice and small bottle that doesn’t add extra bulk to the bin.
  16. Washing Bin – There are two options for this. If I’m camping with a bigger group (another family or friends), I like to have three bins to do dishes in, because of the quantity. And it allows us to do a rise, wash, and bleach system. If it’s just me and the family then I will leave the washing bins at home and use the bin from my camping cabinet as the rinse/wash, and then a hot pot of water for the final sanitization. 
  17. Cooking Spray/Oil – An easy one to forget but one that can make all the difference! Pack it at the beginning of the season and thank me later. 
  18. Pot Holders – Cooking on the stove can be quite hot with a small area for heat to go, so pot holders are great. My pots actually have metal handles (which wasn’t a great purchase) so they are literally essential for me! 
  19. Food Storage Containers – Pack your dry food in a sealable food storage container that you can easily move inside your car overnight or when you’re not at camp. 
  20. Pots/Frying Pans – This may seem obvious but the thing to confirm before you head out is to make sure that you have the right configuration for what you are cooking (you don’t want to have spaghetti on the menu, only to discover you didn’t pack a pot to cook it in). One of my favourite purchases was a flat-top griddle that goes over both burners so I can push out a lot of pancakes/grilled cheeses at a time! 
  21. Cooking Utensils – The trick to camping cooking utensils is to only pack the essentials. It can be tempting to buy all the kitchen camping gadgets but all I ever need is a flipper and a large spoon. 
  22. Mixing Bowl – From pancakes to salads, a mixing bowl can come in handy. But if your packing space is tight, you could skip the mixing bowl and just use a big pot! 
  23. Skewers/Grill Forks – I only bring these along IF it’s a part of a food / friends / family meal and an activity. Otherwise it’s a ton of work for one person and not how I like to spend my time camping.
  24. Can Opener – Another item I have forgotten waaaaaay too many times is the can opener, and it’s one that really is essential. Therefore I have two in my camping kit that never come out… one to use and one as backup! 
  25. Cutting Board – I have a couple of different cutting boards that I like to keep in my camping kit because I often prepare something like a fruit platter and use the cutting board as the serving tray. I prefer lightweight boards of various sizes. 
  26. Dish Rags/Towels – My go to choice when camping is the blue J-cloths. They are good, wash out well, and I can use them for a whole week without replacing them. 
  27. Scrub Pads – Not often used, but when you need it, you’ll be happy to have that little silver scrub pad! Keep it in a ziplock just in case! 
  28. Condiments – I’m a saucy girl, I like ketchup, BBQ Sauce, and maple syrup… and they all taste better at a campsite (I swear!). At the beginning of the camping season, I buy the smaller bottles and keep them in my garage fridge and only use them for camping and picnic season. 
  29. Seasonings – I’m not a chef and you won’t find seasonings in my home, so you won’t find them in my camping bin. However, a lot of people like the basics (salt and pepper) and others prefer to have a mini-stocked spice kit! (Can you invite me to your campsite?) 
  30. Food and Drinks – Camping food is the best! Load up on all your favs, a few treats, and have fun with it!

Personal Camping Items

personal toiletries for camping
  1. Shampoo/Conditioner – Personal preference. I normally pack one bottle of each for the family and we share. 
  2. Soap – Personal preference. When I’m camping I normally just tell everyone to use the shampoo. 
  3. Toothbrush/Toothpaste – While I pack them, it’s funny how often the kids “forget” to use them. But after a quick reminder, they do. #MomTruth 
  4. Comb/Brush – If you choose to brush your hair… I always go for braids or buns under my hat! 
  5. Razor – Skip it, you’re camping. 
  6. Lotion – I am always surprised how dry my hands get from washing dishes, or how I want lotion after a day in the sun. So I bring a neutral Vitamin-E cream camping that the whole family can lather up in if they need to! 
  7. Bug Spray – Definitely an essential in our family, and can make all of the difference if there are mosquitos around, stock up and stay stocked up! 
  8. Sunscreen – Let’s hope your camping days are filled with sun and you need more bottles of sunscreen to keep you safe. Eco-Friendly Tip: Buy reef-friendly sunscreen!  
  9. Toilet Paper – While most of the places you visit should have their own stocked bathrooms, I’ve had to pull out my emergency roll enough times that I’ve restocked it. That’s all I’ll say. 
  10. First Aid Kit – At the beginning of the camping season I go through my kit and restock it so that it’s ready. That includes the obvious (band-aids, bandages) and our family’s comfort items like afterbite, polysporin, gravol, advil, and some emergency meds. 
  11. Personal items – You know what these are, the items that your family needs like prescription glasses, contact lenses, etc.
  12. Antibacterial Wipes/Hand Sanitizer – Access to water and soap for handwashing isn’t always available, so we like to have wipes or hand sanitizer around as back up.

General Campsite Necessities

camping tent, pop up shelter and camping chairs
  1. Camping Chairs – An essential for comfort and I always make sure everyone in our family has their own. I prefer simple, lightweight, and easily collapsable. 
  2. Extra Pop-Up Tent Shelter – If it’s going to be raining I like to bring my 10X10 utility tent shelter to set up over the cooking/eating area.  
  3. Lantern with Fuel – I love hanging a big lantern in the middle of my utility tent shelter to light up camp and help with late-night snack supplies. 
  4. Flashlights/Headlamps – Fun for kids and practical for parents (especially for those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips!), headlamps (especially those with the red lights) are a great camping tool. 
  5. Extra Batteries – Don’t forget to check the batteries and bring extras if you need them. I’ve shown up to camp without batteries and had to sacrifice my lights for my kids! 
  6. Camera – If you’re okay adding one more thing to be responsible for, bring the camera. If not, your cell phone will do! 
  7. Books/Magazines – I love picking up some good travel magazines to read around the campfire! And that book on my nightstand that never gets read always seems to come out at the campground and I love it! 
  8. Maps/Directions – When heading into areas with little or no cell reception, paper maps are a great resource to add to your trip kit. 
  9. Sunglasses – Summer vibes! (don’t forget the kid’s glasses!) 
  10. Cash – Some campsites only take cash for things like wood (or snacks at little general stores), so it’s always good to have a bit on hand. 
  11. Marshmallows, Chocolate & Graham Crackers – Because no camping trip is complete without s’mores! (#facts)
  12. Roasting Sticks – I don’t like to pack sticks, I prefer kids find their own and then we sharpen them with a knife. 
  13. Pocket Knife – A treasured essential that’s been passed down from one generation to the next, we have a family pocket knife that always comes with us on camping trips! 
  14. Coffee Pot – While I don’t drink coffee I’ve been with friends who do, and let’s just say I learned my lesson when I showed up for camp without coffee! 
  15. Bikes/Sports Gear – If you have space and there are trails, bring the bikes and head out exploring on an outdoor adventure. Some of my favourite memories as a kid are biking through campgrounds. 
  16. Kids Quiet Activities (crafts, colouring games) – Perfect for early risers or mid-afternoon downtime. 
  17. Dog Necessities (bed, dog food, bowls, leash, doggy bags) – I don’t own a dog so don’t take this list as complete, you know what your pooch needs!

Camping Clothing

  1. Runners/Boots/Sandals – Good sturdy footwear is important when hitting the paths around the campground. Check the weather report before your trip and pack waterproof footwear if necessary.
  2. Pants – Choose fabrics that are quick drying (avoid jeans, as they soak up and hold moisture). We also like to have long pants for the evenings when the sun goes down and the bugs come out.
  3. Shorts – For those warm summer days!
  4. Short & Long Sleeve Shirts – We like to have both, as the evenings can get chilly, even in the summer.
  5. Socks & Underwear
  6. Shoes/Hiking Boots – Many campgrounds are surrounded by fabulous trails to explore.
  7. Sweatshirts – Layers are always a good idea.
  8. Hat & Gloves – Don’t forget your sleeping toque!
  9. Jacket/Raincoat – Always good to have one, even if the weather report looks warm and dry, you just never know.
  10. Pajamas – Look for polyester fabrics (cotton holds moisture and can make you cold at night).
  11. Bathing Suit & Towels – We like to pack 2 swimsuits each, in case they don’t dry quickly between uses.

Where To Go Camping

woman walking towards the door of an oTENTik

If you’re new to camping or new to camping in BC we’ve put together this extensive guide on Best Places to go Camping in BC that you may like.

If you like the idea of camping and want to explore our National Parks I recommend you check out a Parks Canada oTENTik. They offer glamping experiences in some of the most beautiful places in the country. They have lush beds for six people, a table and chairs, full protection from the elements, and some are even heated!

Tip: If you’re interested in this type of glamping, be sure to book on the opening day of reservations, as oTENTik’s are popular and book up quickly.

So there you have it, the ultimate camping checklist along with a detailed explanation of my favourite items to bring and why, along with some anecdotal stories from our 40+ years of experience! Remember, if you are new to camping, or aren’t a regular camper, reach out to friends and family to borrow camping gear. Pack up what you have, fill in the essential blanks, and head out to camp!

Please join me on Facebook to stay connected to trips, tours and family adventures! Click here and “Like” our page.

Here are Some Great Articles to Inspire Camping Adventures

About The Author
Jami Savage
Jami Savage
Jami Savage is one of the top Family Travel Writers in Canada, and has been featured on CTV and Vancouver Sun, and more. Go here to read our families story about how we went from backyard adventurers to world travelers, and how you can do the same. If you want to send Jami a quick message, visit her contact page here.
Related Posts


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Jami Savage

Full Time Travel Writer, Mom who is passionate about empowering and educating travelers on how you can use your own tourism dollars as a catalyst for positive change worldwide. Click here to learn more about us, our family, and how we lead an adventure filled life!

Follow Us on Social
Recent Posts