21 Essential Camping Items You’ll 100% Regret Forgetting

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 07/11/2023

Pack These Camping Essentials & Rest Easy…

Camping Essentials

OK, I’ll admit it…

I forgot to pack the sleeping bags for our weekend camping trip a few years ago.

Yeah. Not fun!

But the good news is:

That “Bone-Head” mistake lead me to put together the following list of essentials.

That way, I’ll never have to regret forgetting the items that make camping so much more enjoyable!


↓(click to skip ahead)↓

1. Shelter (Tent/RV)

2. Water Containers

3. High-Quality Survival Knife

4. Medical Supplies

5. Sleeping Bag or Blankets

6. Warm Rainproof Clothes

7. Insect Repellent

8. Camping Chairs

9. Lots Of Firewood

10. Air-Tight Containers

12. High-Performance Cooler

11. Sunscreen

13. Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress

14. Survival Tools / Gear

15. Campsite Lantern

16. Survival Hatchet or Axe

17. Toiletries

18. Fire Starters

19. Warm Thick Socks

20. Cooking Utensils

21. Camping Stove

A Few Non-Essentials

Want a Downloadable and Printable Version Of This Camping Checklist? Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

1. Shelter (Tent/RV)

I know what you’re thinking; shelter, duh!

But unless your shelter is your vehicle (like an RV or van), you’ll want to triple-check that you packed your tent.

Now, if you don’t already own a tent, you have a lot of choices.

For example:

You could go with a survival tent, a cold-weather tent, or even a canvas tent.

Unless you’re one who enjoys sleeping under the stars without a tent.

If you’re only planning a single camping trip, you might be able to get away with borrowing one.

But if you’re looking to make this a regular hobby, investing in a high-quality tent is essential.

Or you could even go in a hammock if the weather’s nice.

Just use your sleeping bag in the hammock and sleep off the ground and under the stars.

Or you could invest in a survival hammock tent.

But what happens if you forget your tent, hammock, and sleeping bag?

TACT Bivvy In Hand

In the name of preparedness, you should have a backup emergency shelter such as an emergency survival blanket or bivy sack.

The Tact Bivvy is a life-saving survival device and an excellent backup camping essential.

Toss one in your glove box, and you’ll never be without protection from the elements – whether it’s while camping or in a roadside emergency.

Check out why we like The Tact Bivvy so much:

↓ Skilled Survival’s TACT Bivvy Review

Wishing Well With Wooden Bucket On A Barren Landscape

2. Water

Have you thought about your camping water plan?

Will your campsite have a public water pump?

Or is it a remote site near a lake or creek?

What if your campground doesn’t have any drinkable water nearby?

You need to know what the water situation is before you go.

You’ll need to plan differently for a site with potable water vs. a remote place in the desert.

Either way, you’ll want to have a large water container and leave it at your campsite for daily use.

You’ll need it for tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and extinguishing your campfire.

I recommend you get a few water bricks for this purpose.

These containers are perfect for camping.

They fit into any sized trunk, and BPA free and convenient.

Each one contains 3.5 gallons of water, they are stackable, have a handle for easy carrying, and are virtually indestructible.

↓ 5 WaterBrick Uses You Haven’t Considered

Boot Knife

3. High-Quality Survival Knife

While camping, you may need to cut a rope, fillet a fish, or whittle a walking stick and a high-quality survival knife is ideal for these tasks.

Invest in a survival knife that can pierce, slice, and do some chopping as well.

I always keep my survival knife on me, just in case.

As a survivalist, I always recommend a trusty survival knife anytime you head into the wilderness.

If you want a survival knife that can take a beating but is lightweight and compact, get a neck knife (this one is my favorite).

Pocket knives work well for everyday tasks but can’t handle anything more demanding.

↓ Survival Neck Knife Review – Can Your Knife Do This?

Survival Medical Kit Image

4. Medical Supplies

MyFak-IFAK-EmergencyWe go camping to get away from it all.

But getting away also means emergency items like gauze, bandages, and painkillers are not as close as the corner store.

So you need to take some emergency medical camping supplies with you.

You can build your own DIY first aid kit or invest in a good one.

Either way, never hit the road without this critical camping essential.

↓ My Medic MyFAK – Walkthrough & Review

Want a Downloadable and Printable Version Of This Camping Checklist? Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Cold Weather Tent With Man Sitting Outside

5. Sleeping Bag or Blankets

Sleeping bags go with camping like peanut butter goes with jelly.

I even take mine during warm summer camping because there’s always a chance it gets really cold in the middle of the night.

And if you’re unprepared, you could wake up freezing in the middle of the night.

Then you’ll have to scramble to add multiple layers of clothes to stay warm – not fun.

So get a nice warm one for those cooler nights.

Worst case, if your sleeping bag is overkill on a hot night, you can always sleep on top of it.

Then if you get cold, quickly slip inside.

I recommend investing in a warm one instead of suffering the frustrations of a cheap one.

6. Warm Rainproof Clothes

Heavy coats are warm, but they can be uncomfortable on a rainy camping trip.

It’s better to pack lightweight, rainproof, waterproof, breathable clothes as a top layer.

That way, you’ll avoid overheating in warm, humid weather but keep the rain off in wet weather.hiking waterproof jacket

It’s all about properly layering to prepare for any weather conditions.

Look for design details like armpit zips, mesh pockets, and cinched hoods to protect you from the elements.

You won’t enjoy your camping trip unless you keep yourself both dry and comfortable.

7. Insect Repellent

Maybe it won’t be buggy, but if it is, watch out!Insect Repellent

I’ve tried a few of the alternative repellents, but for me, deet is the only thing that works.

Yes, deet is a nasty chemical, so I try to use it sparingly on my skin.

But it sure does keep those pesky skeeters away.

It’s one of the more important essentials on this list!

Forget it, and you’ll pay the price.

camping chairs

8. Camping Chairs

Sitting on the ground sucks.

I’ve done it many times on minimalist camping and backpacking trips because chairs are too heavy and bulky for such trips.

But NOT for car camping.

If you’re going camping, you’re probably taking a vehicle to get there.

So make some trunk space for a good camping chair or two.

Your butt and back will thank you.

stack of firewood

9. Lots Of Firewood

Some of you may be wondering why firewood wasn’t higher up on this camping basic gear list.

Isn’t firewood a camping staple?

Yes, it is, but you may not want to pack it.

It depends on your particular camping situation.

Experts recommend you buy your firewood locally after you get to your campsite.

And in some circumstances, it can be illegal to transport firewood across state lines…

Also, if it’s been a dry summer, you might have a fire bane to contend with.

The bottom line is

If you happen to forget firewood before you leave, you’ll typically be able to find some after you get there.

But do your research before you leave.

Because camping without a campfire isn’t the same.

10. Air-Tight Containers

If you’re planning on camping for a few days, you’ll need a few easy camping meals.

But remember:

You’ll be cooking and eating with wild animals around, which means you need to respect them.

bear food vault

Never leave your camp food out; instead, put it in air-tight containers – like this bearproof food vault.

These containers ensure you end up with raccoons and bears sniffing their way into your campsite.

Airtight containers trap food smells and protect them from hungry animals.

Want a Downloadable and Printable Version Of This Camping Checklist? Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

landscape sunset

11. Sunscreen

I don’t know about you, but camping and hiking go hand in hand. 

When camping I spend nearly all my time in the great outdoors.

I don’t understand people who go camping and only hide in their tent or RV all day.

My favorite day is fishing in the morning and hiking in the afternoon.

And being outdoors more than normal is a recipe for a nasty sunburn.

And you can still get burnt even if it’s a cloudy day.

So you’ll want to ensure everyone in your group is wearing some SPF protection.

Consider getting the waterproof kind if you’ll be out on the lake all day and re-apply often.

12. High-Performance Cooler

A lot of people forget to pack a cooler.

A cooler keeps your food safe from the outdoor elements and animals.

It’ll also keep you from illnesses like food poisoning – so it’s absolutely essential and worth every penny!

A high-performance cooler will keep your foods fresh and cold for at least three days after being opened.

Plus, a good cooler helps keep your campfire beverages cold.

And I like the coolers where you can grab what you need (beer) without having to sort through your food items in the dark.

I own a large, sturdy cooler that doubles as an extra seat for your friend who forgot his camping chair!

Oh, and I hope it’s obvious – if you’re taking a cooler, you need to get some ice for it…

↓ Yeti Hopper Soft Cooler Review

13. Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress

If you’ve slept on the floor, you know how terrible you feel the next day.

Now, imagine trying to sleep on the hard, cold, uneven ground!

Set yourself up for success by investing in a sleeping pad or camping air mattress.sleeping pad

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you want to enjoy your trip instead of ruining your back.

Also, take a comfortable camp pillow with you as well.

I can’t sleep well without proper neck support.

And quality sleep is a must to enjoy your camping trip.

14. Survival Tools / Gear

No one wants to end up in a wilderness survival situation. But every year, thousands of people do.

And if they had some survival gear with them, it would help keep them alive.

So instead of listing each of these tools out individually, I’m going to list the ones you should take with you camping – just in case.

Check out our ultimate survival gear list to ensure you’re always ready.

Want a Downloadable and Printable Version Of This Camping Checklist? Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

LED Lantern

15. Campsite Lantern

You should take an LED lantern.

That way, your group can play cards, set up evening snacks, or light the trail to the restroom.

If you forget to pack a good camping lantern, trust me, you’ll notice.

The good news is you can get super bright ones at such a low cost nowadays!

rusty hammer and axe

16. Survival Hatchet or Axe

Estwing Survival AxeA survival axe does the one thing that even a good survival knife can’t.

It can split a ton of firewood fast.

Good luck trying to do that with a knife.

You can also chop down a few small trees (if allowed at your campsite).

So get a good heavy-duty axe and add it to your camping list.

17. Toiletries

Some campgrounds include restrooms with flush toilets and TP – while others do not.

If you’re heading to a remote campground – consider taking your own portable camping toilet.

Either way, having a few rolls of toilet paper packed is ALWAYS a good idea.

You never know and being without is less than ideal.

In fact, it’s pretty crappy.

Also, if you like clean teeth and showers, etc., you’ll need to pack those essential items as well.

Like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.

Fire Survival Skill

18. Fire Starters

I’m a fan of practicing survival skills like starting a fire with sticks.

WetFire Fire Starter

But there’s also nothing as frustrating as spending hours trying to get your campfire lit.

And your family and friends don’t care how you get it going so long as it doesn’t take all night.

I recommend trying these WetFire Tinder Cubs to get those marshmallows roasting asap.

19. Warm Thick Socks

Socks are one of the most underrated essentials on this camping list.

If you’re planning many adventurous activities, having thick socks is important to keep your feet dry and healthy.smart wool socks

Don’t pack thin ankle socks, which will cause blisters.

Thick long socks will protect your ankles and feet from ticks and mosquitoes.

Also, don’t wear the same socks over and over – bring a fresh pair for every day you’re there.

Are you not sure which brand of camping socks to go with?

I wear Smartwool socks.

20. Cooking Utensils

It’s hard to enjoy a great camping meal if you have to eat your food without a plate or fork.

So make sure you have some cups, bowls, plates, forks, knives, and spoons.

There’s no real way to improvise these items, so pack them, and you’ll set yourself up for some excellent camping meals.

Also, don’t forget your telescoping forks for cooking hot dogs or marshmallows over your campfire.

21. Camping Stove

Colman Classic Propane Stove

Colman Classic Propane Stove

Yes, a portable camping stove is essential because you cannot 100% guarantee you can have a campfire to cook with.

I discovered this the hard way.

We showed up at a campsite with our Dutch oven and a campfire grill grate, only to find out there was a fire ban!

We end up borrowing a fellow camper’s Colman Classic Propane Stove.

Thank goodness for random campsite friends.

Lesson learned – always have an alternative way to cook your meals – pack a camping stove.

Side Note:

If you plan to winter camp, then you’ll definitely want to look into getting a tent stove.

Side Note #2:

Will your site have a built-in picnic table? If not, you may want to take a portable camping table.

How About A Few Non-Essentials

Why would I put “nonessentials” on this list of basic camping gear?

Well, because some things are really, really nice to have!

So I figured I’d toss out of few of my favorite camping nonessentials to wrap things up.

Here are a few of my extra luxury camping items:

Final Thoughts

Camping can be an amazing experience, but only if you’ve properly prepared for such a trip.

You see, the key to having a good camping trip vs. a nightmare one is all in preparation.

Make sure you have all these camping essentials to keep it fun and relaxing – instead of frustrating.

Experienced campers know this and have created a system to ensure they don’t forget anything.

Now you have this list to double-check before you rush out to the wilderness.

But remember:

Every campsite and every camp trip is unique.

Research the campground before you go.

Rules and regulations are different for dispersed camping vs. national parks.

You need to know what amenities are in place such as washrooms, electricity, and more.

Next, learn these 21 amazing camping hacks to improve your camping life.

Prepare, Adapt & Overcome,

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