Posted in Helpful hints

Camping Checklist

We’ve done our share of car camping over the years. Bringing too much stuff is a hassle, while too little could be a disaster. Using a checklist helps avoid these situations. I also keep track of what we don’t use so I can gradually eliminate items from the list. With that said, here’s my minimum list of equipment for car camping (parking at or near the camp site and setting up a tent).

Our family camping experiences always included the dog.


  • Dome tent with poles, rope, and stakes in case
  • Extra stakes and rope
  • Ground tarp
  • Tent repair kit
  • Duct tape
  • Sleeping bags (per person)
  • Sleeping pads for underneath sleeping bags (per person)
  • Inflatable pillows (per person)
  • Small claw hammer
  • Mini-broom with dustpan

Food / Cooking

We’ve tried to simplify camp cooking as much as possible. Breakfast consists of a breakfast bar, muffin, or hot oatmeal and either coffee or tea. We typically have lunch on the trail; I bring cold trail food (beef sticks, dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter crackers, etc.) which I carry in my day pack. For our beverage, we add a sports drink drink mix (such as Sqwincher) to our water bottles.

For dinner, we bring MRE’s – military style meals sealed in pouches. Place a pouch or two (in case of a side dish) in boiling water for five minutes and it’s ready. The boiling water can then be used for tea or coffee. Simple to make, simple to clean up. Especially when you’re tired after a day of hiking.

Make sure that you pack your food in a separate bag that can be stored in the car away from the local critters.

  • Single-burner propane stove
  • Small cylinder of propane fuel (additional cylinders if you are going to be out for a while)
  • Flint and/or matches(for igniting burner)
  • Swiss army knife
  • Bowl (per person)
  • Cup (for hot beverage) (per person)
  • Set of utensils (per person)
  • Pot with lid and handle
  • Pot holder
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Small bottle bio-degradable detergent
  • Dish pan for cleaning up the dishes (it’s possible to get collapsible ones for camping)
  • Dish rag / sponge
  • Plastic garbage bag
  • 1.5 Gallon water jug with spigot
  • (Optional) 5 gallon water container (if no water on site)
  • Water bottles  (per person)

Medical / Hygiene

  • Tissue paper
  • Toilet paper
  • Deet
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun screen (wearing a hat with a brim can prevent sunburns, too)
  • Med kit (in addition to the usual bandages, disinfectants, etc., for camping consider adding mole skin for blisters, and ammonia for insect bites).


  • LED flashlight (per person)
  • LED head lamp (per person) – great for setting up camp after dark or for reading in your camping bag
  • Extra batteries
  • Weather radio
  • Smart phone – communication, GPS, entertainment (per person)
  • LI or AA battery powered phone charger (per person)
  • Camera (per person)


  • Clothing and personal gear (per person)
  • Flip-flops or other easy-to-put-on shoes for night-time hikes to the rest rooms. Also your tent will be a lot cleaner if you don’t wear your hiking boots inside the tent.
  • Day pack / lumbar pack / hiking gear (per person)
  • Due to the Emerald Ash Borer – purchase fire wood on site
  • Left handed smoke shifter

Camping with a dog

  • Most parks require that your dog be on a leash no longer than six feet; you can get leashes with a buckle near the handle that you can use to secure your dog’s leash on a picnic table’s leg during meals.
  • Kibble and your dog’s usual food treats
  • Bowls for food and water
  • A collapsible container for your dog to drink from when taking a break while hiking
  • A brush to help rid your dog’s fur of stickers
  • Bags for picking up and disposing of dog waste
  • A dog bed to keep in the tent with you; the ground can get very cold at night, so something that insulates your dog from the ground would be nice.
  • Remember to treat your dog with flea / tick preventative before you leave to go camping.

Feel free to tell us in the comments what you like to bring camping. If you are looking for some place to camp, our TrekOhio guide provides information about parks with camp sites. To access it use the regional menu items at the top of each page (Central Ohio, NE Ohio, etc.).

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

7 thoughts on “Camping Checklist

  1. …. I am a hiker, not a nature photographer. I am VERY pleased with this post. I prefer hammocks, but otherwise, your list is great for the style of hiking you do. Love it!

    1. Thanks, I hope its useful. Another thing I learned is to try to try pack in some semi-organized way. That way I can avoid another “Where’d we put the flashlights?” moment after it’s gotten dark.

    1. Freshly prepared camp food is better. But we’ve found that a cooler doesn’t stay cool long enough. MRE’s are about the same quality as canned food and much easier to prepare.

  2. I can’t imagine how much work is involved with these posts of yours. They are always useful and informative. What is the longest time you spent camping with just the above list of items?

    1. Thank you. This one was easy as I’ve had a camping checklist for years (though I keep tweaking it). We normally just go for a weekend, though we’ve spent as long as a week camping.

      Remember, this is a minimal list – we can and do add a few optional items. Also, add more clothing, MRE’s, etc. for long trips.

      When we started camping, we brought a cooler with ice and perishable food as well as canned food (though once neglected a can opener – D’Oh! That was the beginning of the checklist). When I return to camp at the end of the day from a long hike, the LAST thing I want to do is spend a lot of time preparing food. Dropping a few sealed pouches of MRE’s into boiling water is pretty simple and fast.

      The list could probably be pared down further. We typically go car camping. Most backpackers would look at the list and say that was far too much stuff!

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