Camping Guide: What to Pack + Free Packing Checklist

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Camping Essentials when staying in National Parks. What to pack for your road trip - Important items for your camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp | + all other gear you need as a beginner camper.

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 these 20 amazing national parks and experience the unique eco systems, animals, and flora.

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.

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.

What do you eat when you’re camping?

What food to pack for 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.

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

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!

Download your FREE Camping Gear Checklist HERE!

What to Pack for a National Park Road Trip

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

Tent

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.

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

The towel I bring is ideal for backpack camping. The light weight, compact towel comes in handy for showers, swimming, travel, or backpacking. It dries fast and is designed for multiple uses daily.

Sleeping Bag + Pad

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment
What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

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.

Head Lamp

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

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.

Download your FREE Packing List for camping here!

Pro Tip:

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.

Backpack With Removable Daypack

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

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.

What camping essentials to pack when staying in National Parks. Includes FREE camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp| + all other gear essentials to bring on your road trip. #campingessentials #freechecklist #camping #campinggear #campinghacks #campingoutfits #nationalparks #travel #destinations #free
What camping essentials to pack when staying in National Parks. Includes FREE camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp| + all other gear essentials to bring on your road trip. #campingessentials #freechecklist #camping #campinggear #campinghacks #campingoutfits #nationalparks #travel #destinations #free

Camp Stove/Cookware

What to pack | Camping | Packing Guide | Packing List | Checklist Camping Gear | Best Camping Equipment

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. 

Pro Tip:

Tip: Conserve water and use the leftover water from cooking to clean your dishes. 

Footwear for Camping

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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.

What camping essentials to pack when staying in National Parks. Includes FREE camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp| + all other gear essentials to bring on your road trip. #campingessentials #freechecklist #camping #campinggear #campinghacks #campingoutfits #nationalparks #travel #destinations #free

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.

What camping essentials to pack when staying in National Parks. Includes FREE camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp| + all other gear essentials to bring on your road trip. #campingessentials #freechecklist #camping #campinggear #campinghacks #campingoutfits #nationalparks #travel #destinations #free
What camping essentials to pack when staying in National Parks. Includes FREE camping checklist: Tent | Sleeping Bag | Sleeping Pad | Camping Pillow | Headlamp| + all other gear essentials to bring on your road trip. #campingessentials #freechecklist #camping #campinggear #campinghacks #campingoutfits #nationalparks #travel #destinations #free

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.

Pro Tip:

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

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.

Pro Tip:

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.

Professionally Edit Your Camping Photos!

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44 thoughts on “Camping Guide: What to Pack + Free Packing Checklist

  1. It’s been a while since I have ventured out camping but I do love the million star nights. Your tips will make my next trip much more comfortable.

  2. This is a great list! I haven’t been camping in years but I REALLY want to get back into it this summer and this is so helpful for starting to think about what I’ll need to get before going. I’ve yet to try packing cubes but I think I need to give them a try. I also would always pack a bunch of junk food on camping trips and just feel so gross afterwards, so I really need to make sure to bring some healthier snacks this year!

    1. Growing up in Michigan the majority of Michiganders spent their summers camping throughout the state – we have a whole different set up for “car camping” around MI. But these items – packing cubes especially, are great for maximizing space when you’re flying or camping in the National Parks. The cubes also make it easier to keep your clothes organized as you jump from site to site. We’re also guilty of the junk food road trip dilemma hahaha

  3. I’m a long-time camper and your list is fantastic! A good list makes all the difference in the quality of a camping trip, especially if you are far from town. Can’t wait for summer to get back out there!

  4. I have “camped” lots in the National Parks, but most recently in a motorhome so I guess that does not count! Some great ideas here. I already have those exact same hiking boots and concur: they are great. I am also a convert to packing cubes – takes the stress out of finding your knickers! The most annoying item I forgot when tent camping was matches. Out in the middle of no where and trying to rub two sticks together to make a fire was not fun!

    1. ohhh nooo! Matches/a lighter are a lot more important than you would think right? 😂 We forgot fuel for the stove one time, trying to boil water over a fire in the desert, that you can’t get started because you don’t have a lighter is something that i’m familiar with too 😂 PS we’re boot twins now, and they truly are the best pair i’ve ever owned.

  5. Great list here for those who want to camp in the national parks. I haven’t done any camping yet over there but done a lot of camping in central Europe. Packing cubes, I so laughed at these a few years ago when I first came across them, now i can’t live without them. They just make life so easy, not just for camping but any sort of trips (mainly when I need to put a case in the hold).

    1. Oh my gosh, Danik. I was the exact same way… I laughed about the cubes and thought they were an unnecessary ridiculousness, until I bought some for camping. Then I fell in love and couldn’t believe I had gone that long without getting them 😂

  6. This is a great list. With international travel shut down, I’ve been exploring more domestically. Good to have a packing list!

  7. Great post! We did loooads of camping in 2020, and I really hope we can do the same in 2021…it is so fun (and I totally agree about cooking near amazing views.)

    I find the things we pack are a bit different depending on if we are car camping, or heading into the back country and carrying our camping gear. I sort of love car camping for the extra luxury of bring a proper pillow…

    1. hahah I agree! We do car camping around MI all the time and we just load up the car with any and everything 😂 but for the flights to get to the National Parks we have to pack only what we absolutely need due to space constraints. But as we get older.. we’re starting to not enjoy sleeping on the ground as much as we used to 😂 it’s a much more budget friendly way to travel too.

  8. This is so going into my notes cos I am planning to hike and camp a lot. I have the hiking shoes (my boyfriend got them for me, he LOVES camping) and they are the best thing ever! I wear them like everywhere hahahaha. Thank you for the list! I’ve got some buying to do 😉

    1. Do you have the same ones I do?!? My boyfriend bought me mine as well 😂 he was tired of me complaining about my old ones on all our hikes. Thesalomonn boots are 10x better than my previous pair. I hope you enjoy all your exciting outdoor adventures you’re going to have! My boots have soil on them from alllll across the world, it’s pretty special when you think about it.

  9. My favorite part about camping outdoor of course is experiencing nature and beauty but I also love to cook. Dinner with that view surely makes my heart the happiest. Nevertheless, great guide on packing stuff. I always use packing cubes for my packing woes.

  10. It’s great to have a camping packing list to follow.Then there will be no missing items at the camping site.This camping list is with all necessary items.Thanks for sharing.

  11. This list is so helpful! The life proof straw will come in very handy, I’ve never heard about it till now. I will be purchasing one, it’s always nice to have just in case. I love the packing cubes as well, those will come in handy for the boys clothes.

  12. This is such a comprehensive guide. The sleeping pad is a must. I don’t mind sleeping in a sleeping bag but I also need some cushion otherwise I’m in for a most uncomfortable night.

    1. tell me about it. the area you set your tent up in is also a huge factor (as I experienced this last week). Gravel/rocks/uneven surfaces = not good Moss/Grass/Sand = great

  13. What an awesome list! I agree, packing cubes are (one of) the most genius travel invention ever, it’s really helpful! I should definitely keep this list handy for my next camping trip. Thanks for sharing this! ~ Ola @ WanderWithOla

  14. Camping is one thing i would want to experience. It must be kinda thrilling to sleep not in your usual bed and wake up with the sound of bird and even insects.

    1. It is so important to have a list of essentials to bring along if camping outside. I loved camping as a child and hope to do the same with my boys in future.

    2. I just returned from a week long camping trip with my partner. We slept on our sleeping pads in the tent every night. Before bed we would look up into the night sky and see it just LIGHT UP with more stars than I’d ever seen. As our eyes adjusted we started to see shooting stars. So many magical experiences happen in nature.

  15. This place looks beautiful. Thank you for sharing the list and tips on what we need on camping. it’s really helpful. I always forget something while packing . So thank you..

  16. I’ve never gone camping, as I do really love the comfort of my own room with a bathroom! However, it looks like a great adventure, so maybe this article will help me change my attitude! 🙂

  17. I had always found camping to be of too much trouble, but this year I decided to do it at least once! The national parks in the US are so well maintained that they look like some amazing travel destinations! I think I’ll have to settle for a lake or hill station for camping around Mumbai! Thanks for all the tips! Saving for later!!

  18. That first image of Peyto Lake! Brings back memories of me visiting two summers ago 🙂 I camped at Lake Louise and Jasper National Parks. These are some great camping tips!

  19. Now that my kids are getting a little older, we can actually look at going camping. This is a great list of supplies, especially to learn about the new things that have come out since I’ve last gone camping many years ago.

    1. oh you must! There are so many different “types of camping” nowadays too. Glamping, Rustic, fully equipped, resort style. There’s something for everyone that wants to spend time outdoors 🙂

  20. What a lovely place to camp! The list is helpful. I’d be all about glamping here, but I won’t sleep on the ground and I’m not a fan of being outside for long periods of time.

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