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Camping Essentials for New Campers

Camping Essentials for New Campers

Camping is the perfect activity your whole family can enjoy as a vacation option this summer. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy nature and spend some quality family time together (unplugged!). But if you’re going camping for the first time, it can be daunting to know what to bring. Whether you choose car or RV camping, use this  checklist of camping essentials so you are prepared, organized, and ready to have a good time.  

Camping For Beginners

As a camping beginner, it is important to know the different types of camping. Keep in mind the main purpose of your shelter is to keep you safe, dry, and warm.

  • Tent camping is by far the simplest form of camping and a great option for beginners due to the portability and adaptability of a tent. Tents are also relatively inexpensive and an affordable option if you are just getting started. However, if you have rambunctious pets, are disabled, or are an older adult and find sleeping on the ground difficult, tent camping may not be the best option for you.  
  • RV camping is another popular camping option for beginners. One of the benefits of an RV is that you don’t have to assemble the RV as you do with a tent. RVs are great for all-weather use, and are equipped with heat and air conditioning. If your family travels often, consider camping RV style and take your home on the road.  RV camping is a bit more technical than tent camping requiring some prior experience setting it up as well as some technical knowledge about plumbing, electrical and general mechanical maintenance.  And if you’re not ready to buy an RV, you can also rent one in most parts of the country. 
  • Rustic style cabins are also a great option for a new camper. Rustic cabins have grown in popularity, and as a result, many campgrounds offer this type of accommodation to guests. Typically, a rustic cabin is a sturdy shelter that includes beds, tables and chairs, and (sometimes) electricity. Private bathroom facilities aren’t always available in a rustic cabin requiring campers to use a central bathhouse. Camping in cabins is a great way to get your feet wet as a new camper since there is no up-front equipment like a tent or camper that you need to purchase before your trip. 
  • Glamping (glamorous camping) is another type of camping you may want to try for your first camping trip. This unique experience eases new campers into the camping experience providing an already set-up tent furnished with comfortable furniture, a real bed and other interior decor like chairs and area rugs. Some campgrounds have taken glamping to a whole new level offering renovated tree houses, yurts, and train cabooses as guest accommodations. While not as budget friendly as tent camping, glamping will certainly give you a taste of what camping is like. 
Campfire S'mores

The Camping Essentials Checklist  

If the thought of camping for the first time gives you anxiety, remember the key to any trip is good planning. Preparing for your first successful camping trip starts with knowing what to bring and how to use each item. If this is your family’s first camping trip you may want to borrow supplies from more experienced camper friends before investing in good quality gear. If your family catches the “camping bug” after the first trip then you can level up to more sophisticated camping gear. Just make sure to invest in good quality camping gear that will last several seasons.  

Also, make sure to test your gear at home before you take your trip to make sure it is in good working condition and you know how to use it properly. 

Planning a camping trip for your family vacation can be overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Follow this camping checklist organized by categories to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything essential.  

Tent Packing List

  • Tent or camper. A good rule of thumb to allow for enough room, especially if you’re camping with your family, is to aim for a tent that sleeps 1-2 more people than you need.  
  • Tent pegs to keep the tent in place  
  • Hammer or mallet to pound in the tent pegs 
  • Tarps large enough to put on the ground under the tent as a moisture barrier and to hang over the tent or nearby as a rain barrier
  • Duct tape 
  • Outdoor electrical cord 
  • Battery-powered lantern and headlamp 
  • Small dustpan and broom to sweep out any sand or dirt that gets into the tent 
  • Outdoor rug to put on the ground by the tent entrance 

Sleeping Gear

  • Sleeping bag and pillow 
  • Air mattress because no one likes sleeping on a hard tree root or sharp stone. 
  • Hammock if you plan to sleep under the stars or just nod off in the afternoon


Campsite Accessories

  • Camping chairs and a foldable table 
  • Lantern and flashlight 
  • Clothesline to hang up wet clothes and towels 
  • Trash bags  
  • Bundles of approved firewood  
  • Lighter fluid & matches 
  • Firestarters 
Smiling child inside green sleeping bag with flashlight

Kitchen Equipment

  • Large water container for drinking water  
  • Camping cookstove or small grill. Many campgrounds provide charcoal grills at each campsite so be sure to check beforehand. 
  • Cookstove fuel or charcoal 
  • Low wattage appliance like an electric skillet (not necessary but nice to have in case of a rainy day)
  • Coffee percolator 
  • Dishpans to wash and rinse dirty dishes  
  • Dishcloth and dish towel 
  • Dish soap 
  • Cooler with plenty of ice to keep perishable food cold 
  • Cutlery including a sharp knife 
  • Tableware like bowls, plates, and cups.  
  • Can and bottle opener 
  • Roasting forks (think s’mores and hot dogs)
  • Potholder 
  • Pots/pans 
  • Tupperware container to store food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated 
  • Food 
  • Aluminum Foil 
  • Snacks 

Health and Safety Camping Supplies

  • Personal medications 
  • First aid kit 
  • Insect repellant 
  • Hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes
  • Pocket knife 
  • Paper towels and roll of toilet paper 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Portable cell phone charger 

 Personal Packlist

Recreational Items

  • Deck of cards 
  • Book or magazine 
  • Yard games your family loves to play 
  • Sand and beach toys 
  • Bike 
  • Fishing gear 
  • Binoculars for bird watching 
  • Backpack for hiking excursions 

If you’re wondering where to go camping, you can start by exploring and reserving a space on, which includes a list of campsites in national parks. Many have bathrooms with flush toilets and coin-operated showers, which are also welcome amenities for first-time campers.

Being prepared for your camping trip is important but don’t forget to leave a little wiggle room for adventure and spontaneity as you enjoy the beauty nature has to provide.  

About The Author

Erin Evans

Erin Evans is a seasoned homeschooling mom of four from West Michigan. Her blog, Mommy Suburbia is about family, faith, food and fun with some life adventures sprinkled in. If you are looking for a simple kid’s craft project, homeschool advice, parenting tips or a delicious recipe you are in the right neighborhood!

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