Each time I visit a National Park, I always always always camp, and I might maybe sometimes forget what to pack. So I made this packing checklist to help me! Sleeping outside in nature, soaking up the sunshine and fresh air I feel free, relaxed, and connected to our beautiful planet. But the first few times, I had no idea what to pack. So I decided to make a packing guide for when I go camping in the National Parks.
Here is Your Packing Checklist for Camping!
In this post you will: Learn what you should bring for Camping Essentials when staying in National Parks. What to pack for camping – These are important items for your camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp | + all other gear essentials for what to bring camping for beginners.
My friends that have never been camping in their life before, always ask me the same question – what to pack. On National Park camping trips we coordinate as a group on what to pack in order to save space. It was entertaining watching them stumble through what they thought they might need (20 lbs of clothes, and no sleeping bag- maybe they were going to just wear lots of layers?) So I helped them narrow it down to only packing camping essentials.
Explore my adventures through these amazing National Parks and experience the unique ecosystems, animals, and flora.
Getting to most National Parks from Michigan, requires a flight. Unless you want to spend 1-2 days driving there… No thank you. So how to pack, and what to pack make a huge difference on how the trip goes. Which is why I made this packing guide for what camping gear you need. My budget travel enthusiasts will appreciate the cash they’ll save by camping instead of staying in hotels.
What do you eat when you’re camping?
But what do we do for food?!? The best part about camping outdoors means cooking meals in cool places. After all, what’s better than dinner with a view? The sky’s the limit on where you choose to eat your meals. Last year I went on dozens of camping trips- forgetting something when you’re camping can be a huge pain in the ass (this one time we couldn’t find fuel, so our meal depended on if we could get the water boiling over a fire- not impossible, just time consuming, and after 5 days- that’s a lot of work) – most times we’re in the middle of nowhere, so you’re out of luck if you do. When we go to the National Parks – there are typically no showers, stores, or restaurants so we’ll bring a couple freeze dried meals and stop at a local grocery store for non perishables / fresh fruit / veggies / snacks / canned soup / gallons of water + fuel for the road trip.
The Best Camping Gear for Your Packing Checklist
I’ve created a packing guide to avoid that, broken up into camping essentials that you cant be without- down to what is nice to have if you have the packing space/weight. I usually try to fit my gear in a carry on so I don’t have to check a bag on the flight. Helping me save money!
What to Pack for a National Park Road Trip
My REI Half dome plus tent is the perfect size for me and my travel companion. With a door on each side it makes it easier to enter + exit without disturbing my sleeping partner.
Sleeping Bag + Pad
Sleeping on the ground isn’t always the most comfortable, a good pad can make a huge difference when it comes to a good night sleep- plus it keeps you warm when the temperatures drop. The sleeping pad I use is nice because it self inflates- and after a long day of hiking, I’m lazy and need all my air. The marmot sleeping bag I use is awesome- it has a hood at the top that not only keeps your head warm- it keeps your pillow from sliding away at night.
It’s always ideal to set up camp during the daylight hours- however somehow when we go camping, we always manage to end up at our campsite when it’s dark. Holding a flashlight (or your cell phone) while trying to set up your tent for the night is difficult- add this to your packing list because you NEED to get a head lamp. Yes it looks silly, yes you will be extremely grateful you brought one.
Study the park maps and pick out what hikes you’re going to do the day before so you can see if there are any restrictions before you get to the trail head.
The backpack I take on my trips is better classified as a travel backpack than it is a backpacking backpack. What I love about it is it opens like a suitcase/duffel. PLUS the outer small daypack is the removable- great for carrying my water bladder or camera gear on my hikes.
Food is one of the largest expenses when traveling. Cooking your meals while camping will help cut down costs tremendously ($5 usd a meal vs $15 usd eating out). I bring my stove and cookware with me on longer hikes and cook my meal with a view at the summit- just don’t forget your spork (that’s happened to me several times). The cookware kit I have comes with bowls/pots/pans/spork and a stove.
Tip: Conserve water and use the leftover water from cooking to clean your dishes.
Footwear for Camping
Don’t forget footwear on your packing list! I have two different types of hiking footwear. My Tevas are designed specifically for a woman’s foot in order to provide unmatched comfort and performance in the water. I’ll also wear them in hot climates or sand hiking.
For more aggressive terrain such as rocky trails, I’ll wear my Salomon Women’s X Ultra hiking boots. These shoes are specifically designed for a woman’s anatomy. It holds your foot in place even during technical descents, and prevents slippage so you can enjoy more stable and safer descents.
Still Have Space?
If you are planning on backpacking and hiking to your campsite every oz of weight matters- you have to carry your bag for miles. These next items are SUPER NICE to have, but you can get by without them if you don’t have them or are trying to save space & weight.
Hammock & Slap Straps
There’s nothing better than kicking back in my hammock after a long day on the trails. I keep telling myself one night I’ll pull in my sleeping bag/pad and sleep under the stars (But then things like coyote’s howling at all hours of the night prevent that from happening- imagine that.) The slap straps I have are easy to use and make set up happen in seconds.
Pillow & Chair
I’m not gonna lie… camping without a pillow or camp chair can make for an uncomfortable night. I use my pillow on the airplanes (and sleep the entire flight 99% of the time). Sometimes I’ll forget the pillow, and I have to get creative for an alternative. Most times I make a ball out of clothes or the sweatshirt I’m wearing (I don’t recommend that). This lightweight camping chair takes up minimal space, and makes those nights around the campfire that much more enjoyable.
Some campsites don’t have picnic tables so when I get stuck sitting on the ground or finding a good “butt rock”. I always regret not bringing one.
Packing cubes are perhaps the most genius travel invention ever. If you don’t have a set- pay the $10 and get yourself some. They will change the way you travel forever. The cubes keep your clothes separated, keep your bag organized, and make packing things up fast and easy.
Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them, you’ll fit a lot more in.
Cocoon & Lifestraw
I use my cocoon in the summer months- it’s perfect for warm nights and keeps my sleeping bag clean if it’s a dry shampoo type of day. The lifeproof straw is nice to have if you plan on doing longer hikes (6 + miles). My water bladder holds about 3 liters- and I get pretty close to running out on harder treks. I bring the lifeproof straw in case of emergency- it filters out 99.999999% of all the bad stuff, so you can drink from a freshwater source in a pinch.