Looking for a quick and simple camping checklist?
It can be overwhelming wading through the internet noise to find the perfect one! We used to spend hours and hours reluctantly scrolling to find a camping checklist with the essentials.
We wanted something quick and simple that could get us out the door ASAP.
After lots of digging and no success, we decided to ultimately make our own camping checklist! That way, we can pack the car in record time and care about more important matters…like jumping in the lake!
We wrote this post to help you plan your own quick camping trip, without the hassle of packing your entire house in the car.
Read on for the perfect list for the first-time camper, or anyone who wants a simple camping checklist to help them get outside and do what they love best – being outside!
Camping With Coleman: The 10 Essentials You Need On Every Camping Checklist
This post was sponsored by Coleman in 2018, and updated in 2020
Before We Begin…You Need a Camping Location!
Your camping spot is just as important as the camping essentials you bring!
One way we like to search for camping spots is on an app called The Dyrt. It’s a website AND an app, which makes it really convenient to find locations on the go too.
We have a Dyrt Pro membership, which unlocks even more features like offline maps, BLM land, and road trip planning to find the best camping spots along our route. If you are on-the-go campers like us, we highly recommend this road trip planning app! If you want to try it too, try our code MANDAGIES90 for a 90-day free trial!
1. The Most Important Camping Essential Is A Quality Tent!
This one goes without saying, but you need a place to sleep!
You could technically sleep in your car, but for a totally classic camping experience, we suggest investing in a good tent. This way, you can be closer to nature, and maybe even have the chirping of crickets lull you to sleep at night.
We were so happy with this 6-person tent from Coleman while we camped over the Fourth of July.
Not only could it fit all of our friends, but the tent has Darkroom Technology, which blocks the light out so your tent stays cool and you can sleep in longer. Win-win!
Camping Tip: If it’s your first time with a new tent, try throwing a backyard campout so that you can practice setting it up before your big trip!
Read More: How To Survive Camping In The Rain
Need a small tent option? We have the REI Quarter Dome SL2, which is part of our backpacking packing list. It’s an extremely lightweight tent, but also pretty snug for two people! It’s a perfect option for multi-day backpacking trips and a simple and effective addition to any camping checklist!
2. Sleeping Bags
One of our favorite parts of camping is snuggling up in a cozy sleeping bag at night!
The right sleeping bag can be a perfect addition to a night under the stars, so make sure to pick the right one for your type of camping trip.
Camping Hack: Need to save some space? Ditch the bulky pillows and use your sleeping bag sack as one instead! Stuff it full of clothing and wrap it in a sweatshirt for a multi-purpose way to use your gear.
(And you’ll finally have a reliable way to keep track of that darn bag!)
Read More: 8 Steps For Planning A Flawless Weekend Trip
3. It’s a Camping Essential To Buy Local Firewood!
The heart and soul of any good camping trip is gathering around the fire. This is where you can roast s’mores, share stories, cook meals, and enjoy good company – oh and did I say s’mores? 😉
Berty is the master fire builder of the two of us, so if you need some tips on how to start one – send him a DM on Instagram! Make sure to bring some cash to buy some cords of wood on-site when you register at your campsite.
Pro Tip: Buy firewood where you are going to burn it. Transporting firewood has the potential to kill trees (eek!) and spread diseases. Read more about how you can help conserve our forests here!
Read More: The Essential Guide To Camping In The PNW
4. A Water Jug Is A Necessary Addition On Your Camping Packing List!
One of the most essential pieces on your camping checklist is a water storage container! Not only will you use water for drinking, but for cooking, staying clean while camping, and everything in between.
This is especially important if you are camping in a location that doesn’t have running water (very common in winter camping!).
We suggest packing a refillable water carrier like this one so you can use it over and over again. If you want to be extra prepared, try calling the local gas stations or state parks on your way, and see if they have stations to fill up your water.
Traveling Far? Here are 30 Road Trip Essentials You Must Pack
5. Make Sure To Bring A Cooler To Store Your Camping Meals!
A good cooler is an integral part of a great camping experience.
Not only is it perfect for storing groceries, but it can double as a prep station, a temporary bench (for the new friends you meet!), or even a way to keep non-groceries cool (like sunscreen on a hot day – how refreshing would that be?!).
We loved the chance to try this Red Steel Belted one from Coleman. It is super stylish, highly effective, and easy to clean after our weekend camping trip.
Berty and I can see ourselves using this cooler as a staple piece for tailgates, overnight car camping adventures, and gathering for summer picnics with our friends!
Read More: 10 Easy Camping Meals To Make On The Road
6. Portable Stove / Cooking Surface
Camping stoves make it super easy to cook meals for your entire campsite.
Personally, we own this two-burner one from Coleman (we put it on our wedding registry two years ago!) and it makes cooking quick and mess-free.
Berty’s quite the chef, so he loves caramelizing onions and flipping burgers for a perfect summer meal. We love that it closes up when we’re done using it, so we can store it packed away from curious wildlife in the area.
No stove? Don’t fret! You can use the grill on top of a fire pit, and a cast-iron pan to cook your meals. We cooked nearly all of our meals over the fire on our latest camping trip and it was so fun!
Read More: 10+ Easy Camping Meals To Make On The Road
7. Hot Water Heater
This piece of equipment can take on a lot of different shapes. You can heat up water over a campfire using a percolator, speed heat water with a Jet Boil, or simply use a camping stove and a pot of water.
Whatever way you choose, having a way to heat up water is useful for doing dishes, making coffee/cocoa and filling up water bottles for a cozy heat pack before bed.
Read More: How We Prepare Coffee On The Road
8. Deck of Cards / Board Games
Some of our favorite camping memories are when we’re sitting around the picnic table playing games!
Our favorites to add to our camping checklist are Mad Gab, Sorry, Dice, and Settlers of Catan. Make sure to pack a few decks of cards too – then you’ll have endless games to play.
On our last trip, we played Settlers of Catan not once, but THREE times! It was a really fun way to sit around the picnic bench and bond with our friends.
While it’s not the most common game to add to a camping list, don’t be afraid to bring your favorite games to share – no matter how complicated.
Read More: La Push, Washington and Beach Camping Tips
A good lantern is essential for those late-night bathroom runs, but even more important if you want to stay up late playing games.
Bonus if your lantern plays music like this one from Coleman for some perfect camping vibes. Just make sure not to disturb your neighbors and respect camp quiet hours!
We also used this lantern to explore during sunrise at Lake Wenatchee. It’s the perfect source of light for blue hour, and it helped guide our way through the rocky trails. (As you can see, I didn’t have the greatest shoes for this adventure, haha)
Want A Cozier Getaway? Read About Glamping In A Yurt!
10. Camping Chairs
No more sitting on log stumps and coolers!
Camping chairs are a must for us because of their ability to facilitate great conversations around the campfire. Bonus if yours has a cup holder for a nice cold drink!
We have been known to sit around the fire until midnight most times because we get lost in enjoying the visits with our friends.
If you’re feeling fancy, get an ultra-comfy camping chair with a built-in cooler! Not only is it great for the outdoors, but we could definitely see ourselves bringing this chair to parades, tailgates, and outdoor movies!
Read More: The Essential Guide To Camping In The PNW
We could go a lot more in-depth in this post, but we wanted to keep this post simple and attainable for any first-time campers.
We believe you don’t need a huge packing list for camping (though you totally could go all out, and that’s great too!) but we’re here to share a basic camping checklist with just the essentials in this post.
We hope that it can equip and inspire you to take your first camping trip (or your 100th!), and feel prepared to take on any outdoor adventure! So, let us know in the comments below…where will you go camping next??
Thank you Coleman for partnering with us for this post! Just a reminder, all opinions are completely our own!
What’s on your camping checking? What camping essentials would you suggest for a first-time camper? Let us know in the comments below!
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Want some more ideas for your camping checklist? Follow our Camping Board on Pinterest for more inspiration!