What to Pack for a Camping Trip

021113 - Tent

As a kid, I trotted around the United States exploring the national parks and learning to appreciate our country from the comfort of a car. During the day, we wandered along hiking trails and explored quirky and significant roadside attractions, but by night we always camped. At least a few weeks out of every summer I slept in campgrounds. I learned to love the smoky taste of baked beans and hot dogs for dinner, and I grew comfortable sleeping on an orange inflatable mat in a tent shared with my sister and dad.

A number of years have passed since those days, but my love for camping has been a constant. I received a hand-me-down tent from my dad while I was in college, and I slept in my bulky sleeping bag for a long time before I upgraded at an REI garage sale just a few short years ago, though I still own that orange inflatable mat. Because my love for camping continues to flourish, my husband and I seek out opportunities to pitch our tent every year. For lots of people, camping is a production. They have to acquire gear, find a way to pack it into the car and then hope to high heck that they didn’t forget something.

Our camping skills have been fine tuned over the years, and now packing up for the weekend is as easy as grabbing our “camping bin”—a large plastic tub of gear that we’ve tweaked, added to and taken away from over the years. Every time we return from a trip, we restock things we’ve run out of or that need replacing so that we can always just grab and go. We don’t think much about it—it’s just the camping bin—but on my recent road trip with my girlfriends from the Peace Corps, one was so ecstatic by our strategy that she made a complete list of everything in the bin so that she can replicate it. It got me thinking that maybe we’ve got a pretty good strategy going with our camping bin and accompanying gear for simple campground stays (not backpacking). If you’re not sure what to pack for a camping trip, start with this list:

In the camping bin:

Pot holder
Pan lid
Coleman propane grill
Propane lantern
Two small propane containers
Water container – 5 gallon
Hard plastic egg holder (put into the cooler when needed)
Camp sink – collapsible
4 bowls
4 plates
A few knives, forks and spoons
4 sporks
Dish sponge
Dish soap
2 pots, big and small
Plastic cutting board
Knife, spatula, large slotted spoon, can opener
4 mugs
First aid kit
Chamois for dish drying
Paper towels
Duct tape
Showering travel towel
Tall kitchen bags
Dust broom/pan
Toilet paper
Newspaper for kindling
Plastic bags
Baby wipes
Ear plugs
Ziploc bags
Batteries – AA and AAA
Hand sanitizer
Deck of cards
Air mattress pump


One large propane tank and connecting tubes
Sleeping bags
Inflatable air mattress
Collapsible chairs

We also have a 2.0 camping bin that we pack when we’re going on a super extended road trip, which includes things like a water purifier, mattress pad and coffee press, but for a quick jaunt for a weekend, this is what we pack.

Happy trails!

4 Responses to “What to Pack for a Camping Trip”

  1. Ruth (Tanama Tales)

    Love the list. My husband and I are huge fans of REI’s used gear sales. We have gotten a lot of clothes and gear at rock bottom prices. We even got two bags with wheels that can be converted to backpacks. Since they are carry on size, we use it them every time we travel.

    • JoAnna

      I admit to being a bit of a gear head myself when it comes to REI garage sales, and my husband and I also have many items that we have used into the ground.

  2. Sonya

    Fab list! I’m always dreaming about my next camping trip and packing for it. (and the latest camping gear on the market)

    • JoAnna

      We have definitely perfected the camping gear list. Now we just fine tune it every now and again.


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