Friday, 14 May, 2021

Your ultimate guide to summer camping trips, including how to find a campsite and everything you need to bring

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  • For car camping or short hike-in sites, a camping checklist is crucial for a happy and safe trip.
  • For a backpacking trip, you'll need a lighter, more heavy-duty packing list than this.
  • Car camping essentials include what you'll wear, where you'll sleep, and how you'll cook.
  • Read more: The best campsites across the US for a scenic outdoor getaway
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Sitting around a campfire and looking up at a blanket of stars from a cozy sleeping bag has long been a favorite pastime of many Americans. But after the pandemic, camping has become more popular than ever: One-fourth of the North Americans who camped in 2020 said it was their first time ever camping, and nearly two-thirds said they plan to get back out there in 2021, according to Kampgrounds of America's 2020 annual North American Camping Report.

We're all for new faces at the campgrounds - a weekend under the stars allows you to enjoy a break from your phone, reconnect with nature and its many benefits, and potentially indulge in that social connection we've all been missing for the past year.

However, sleeping and living amongst the elements for any amount of time requires some preparation, whether you're hiking into a wild campsite or car camping at a developed campground. (And it's important to continue to monitor how safe travel in the U.S. is.)

We would know: Our travel editor, Hannah Freedman, and outdoors editor, Rachael Schultz, have spent countless days on every kind of camping trip over the years. While each trip is different and requires its own specific items, we've both gotten our go-to camping checklist down to a science.

Here are all the camping essentials you absolutely need for an overnight or multi-day trip, as well as a few nice-to-haves that will make sleeping on the ground a lot more fun.

Table of Contents: Static

Updated on 4/30/2021: Re-organized all the information presented; added new picks to all the categories below; updated camping information for summer 2021

How to set up your campsite
Photo by mixetto/Getty Images

When camping, there are two categories of items to pack: need-to-haves and nice-to-haves. The real secret to enjoying your time outdoors is double-checking that you have all of your camping essentials, and being realistic about what nice-to-haves on the camping list are important for you to be comfortable and happy.

When it comes to setting up camp quickly and ensuring a good night's sleep, you know you absolutely need a tent and a warm sleeping bag. It's also important not to skimp on a sleeping pad, which is filled with air to not only make you more comfortable but also to keep you warmer by lifting you off the ground. An all-purpose tarp can also act as a blanket to sit on, a water barrier under your tent, or a roof to shield your campsite from an unexpected downpour. And don't forget to pack a comfortable camp chair, and either a headlamp (better) or a flashlight (cheaper).

A few nice-to-haves that can really change how easy it is to set up camp are a stake hammer to help secure your tent on dry, hard ground; a nice pillow (stuffing your clothes into a bag is fine in the backcountry but truly not enjoyable otherwise); and a collapsible table to cook on if there's no picnic bench. Tables are also great for playing cards on or holding s'mores supplies.

Below is a list of everything we recommend you bring to set up a comfortable camp.

2-Person Sundome Dome Camping Tent (medium)Magma 30 (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best sleeping bags

Klymaloft Sleeping Pad (medium)Ultra-Light Aeros Inflatable Pillow (medium)Headlamp 330 (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best headlamps

4 AAA COB LED Rubberized Flashlight (4 pack) (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best flashlights

Flexlite Camp Chair (medium)Hondo Base Camp Chair (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best camping chairs

MRS Tent Stake Hammer (medium)Pack-Away Outdoor Folding Table (medium)Outdoor Products All Purpose Tarp (medium)EFK Emergency Fire Kit (medium)

Read Business Insider's guide to the best fire starters

Blanket (medium)Yeti 400 (medium)

Read Insider's guide to best portable power stations

What clothes to pack
Photo by Pekic/Getty Images

Packing for camping is not like packing for any other trip. You need to be protected from the elements, which may be drastically different from day to night. Even in the summer, the desert and mountains can be blistering hot during the day but get down in the 30s and 40s at night.

That means your focus is much more on practical than cute (although more and more brands are bridging the gap there). What's more, it's actually smart to overpack (assuming you're not backpacking) in order to bring just-in-case items like a rain jacket or thermal layers. 

You want breathable, sweat-wicking clothes for the day (read: no cotton, which gets wet and stays wet), including a sun shirt and hat in case you get sunburned on day one and need to protect your arms or face.

Whether you want to hike and lounge in shorts, leggings, or hiking pants for men or women is up to both you and the intensity of the terrain you'll be adventuring on. No matter what season you plan to camp, it's smart to pack a warm base layer and a lightweight fleece to help you on unexpectedly cold or windy days — and they double as easy pajamas on crisp evenings, especially if your sleeping bag turns out to not be as warm as you need.

Always pack a wool beanie and warm socks,  too — these are invaluable if you're chilly sitting around the campfire or get cold while sleeping. Also helpful are sturdy sandals to wear around camp (they also do well to give your feet a break from hiking boots). And don't forget the SPF; we recommend sport sunscreen so you can sweat or play in the water without worrying about it rinsing off.

M's Capilene Thermals (medium)W Capilene Thermals (small)

Read Insider's guide to the best base layers for men and for women.

Active Pursuits T-Shirt (Men's) (medium)Active Pursuits Tank Top (Women's) (small)TPS 520 GV Hiking Boots (Men's) (medium)Forge GTX (Women's) (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking boots for men and women

Silver Ridge Convertible Pants (medium)Saturday Trail Convertible Pant (small)

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking pants for men and women

Cloud Layer Pro (Men's) (medium)First Ascent Women's Cloud Fleece Full Zip Jacket (small)

Read Insider's guide to the best fleece jackets for men

Pace Breaker Short (medium)Rectrek Shorts (medium)Torrentshell Packable Rain Jacket (medium)Torrentshell 3L (Women's) (small)Hike Medium Crew Socks (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best hiking socks

Knit Beanie (medium)Universal Trail Sandals (Men's) (medium)Universal Trail Sandal (Women's) (small)

Read Insider's full review of Teva's Universal Sandal

Dipsea (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best polarized sunglasses

Ultralight Mini Hip Pack (medium) What toiletries to pack
Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Beyond the essentials of your toothbrush and comb, a thorough toiletry bag is essential for both safety and comfort. Items like sunscreen and moisturizer can help protect your skin from being out in the elements 24/7, while nice-to-haves like hand sanitizer and deodorant wipes will help you feel fresh when you're anything but.

Travel Kit (medium)Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen (SPF 85+) (medium)Advanced Hand Sanitizer Soothing Gel with Aloe and Vitamin E (medium)Wilderness Wipes (medium)All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best first aid kits

Deep Woods Bug Spray (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best bug sprays

Effaclar Face Wipes (medium)Triple Action Eye Drops (medium) What to pack for day hikes
Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

If you're going camping, chances are you'll at least embark on a short day hike or walk around a park. For a hike of any length, it's smart to bring a sun shirt, hat, sunscreen, water, and snacks.

If your adventure is going to be more than 5 miles, make sure you bring a first aid kit, as well as some extra water and food.

Ultralight Stuff Pack (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best packable daypacks

Wide Mouth Water Bottle (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best water bottles

Sherpa Hat (medium)Variety Pack (4 bars) (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best plant-based protein bars

How to prepare your meals
photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Camp cooking can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. While you can nosh on dried goods all weekend, a simple camp stove and pot or pan lets you boil water for low-lift freeze-dried backpacking meals or go full sauté. If you need to buy groceries for camp cooking, check out the best places to buy groceries online and the best backpacking food you can buy.

Don't forget plates, cups, and cutlery, which you can either bring from home or buy an all-inclusive set that you don't have to worry about getting beat-up or breaking.

Any major campground, like a KOA or those at National Parks, will likely have a sink for you to wash dishes in. But medium-sized campgrounds and wild campsites won't, so be sure you have your dishwashing system dialed in as well (see below).

Performance 48-Quart Cooler (medium)Tundra 75 Cooler (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best coolers

Pinnacle Camper Cookset (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best camping cookware

Titanium 3-Piece Cutlery Set (medium)PocketRocket Deluxe Stove (medium)

Read Insider's guide to the best camping stoves 

Triton 2-Burner Stove (medium)Coffee and Espresso Maker (medium)Pocket PourOver Coffee - Single Serving (medium)

Read Insider's guides to the best coffee makers for camping and the essentials you need to make delicious camp coffee

Trail Water Jug (medium)Folding Double Wash Basin (medium)Biodegradable Concentrated Soap in Nalgene Bottle (medium)Multi Towel Lite (medium)Travel Pack (medium) What to consider before your trip
Photo by Ascent/PKS Media Inc./Getty Images

Planning a camping trip comes in two parts: picking your campsite and deciding what to pack. What you need for a camping trip depends entirely on who's joining you, where you're going, when you're going, and for how long. Consider:

How do I find a good campground?

If you're looking for a campsite to enjoy, consider starting with our list of the best campsites across the US. However, with the uptick in interest for camping, many federal campsites are booking up fast. Not to worry, we also have you covered with a list of less-known places to check for last-minute camping reservations, including private campsites. And if you're eager to bring your four-legged friends with you, be sure to check out our tips for camping with dogs. 

If you're a more seasoned camper and want to try your hand at free camping, you'll have to look beyond national parks and developed campgrounds. Dispersed camping is available for free on most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS) land; check out their websites for how free dispersed camping works.

Who all is camping? 

This list is a great starting point for car campers and tent-pitching newbies but you'll want to make sure you create your own specific list based on several key factors.

First, think about how many people you're going with. If it's a family camping trip, you may want a four-person tent or two separate tents so adults and kids can still have their own spaces. If you're heading out on a solo experience, a medium one-person tent works just fine, or an alternative like hammock camping. 

Where will you camp?

What type of campsite you're going to and how long you plan to camp are both vital considerations. Will the campsite have running water or will you need to bring your own jugs of water? Is it off a main road or deeper into the backcountry where cell service may be nonexistent?

If it's the latter, you'll want to factor that in when making decisions like how extensive your first aid kit should be. It's also smart to plan out meals and snacks ahead of time to make sure your food needs are covered no matter how long you're gone.

What's the weather forecast?

The season and weather also make a world of difference when it comes to what you're packing. Most casual campers generally go during warmer months when lighter layers and less heavy-duty gear is preferable.

If you plan on camping in the winter, or somewhere that still has snow, you'll want to add items like snow pants, gaiters, and warm gloves to your list. Packing an extra pair of socks and spare blankets won't hurt either.

What do you plan on doing? 

Finally, don't forget to think about the activities you might want to do. If you're headed to a river where fishing is permitted, throw in a fishing rod and a tackle box. If you're camping with friends, consider bringing a deck of cards or other easily portable games. If extensive hiking is on the agenda, be sure you've broken in your hiking boots beforehand and have trail maps on hand.

If this sounds overwhelming, don't sweat just yet. This extensive camping list will help you cover all the basics. From campsite gear and cookware to clothing and toiletries, check off the items on this packing list and you'll be plenty prepared to hit the great outdoors.

Our expertise

Our travel editor, Hannah Freedman, grew up in New Mexico where she spent many weekends of her childhood pitching a tent with her family and making homemade breakfast burritos on a camp stove in the morning. Her love affair with the outdoors has continued and, as she's gotten older, she's gone on more ambitious trips, tackling long treks in Patagonia and rafting down the Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, one of our outdoor editors, Rachael Schultz, car camped around the country for four months and regularly heads out for weekends under the stars from her home base near Aspen, Colorado.

Read the original article on Business Insider

By: [email protected] (Hannah Freedman,Rachael Schultz)
Title: Your ultimate guide to summer camping trips, including how to find a campsite and everything you need to bring
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Published Date: Mon, 03 May 2021 19:50:42 +0000