A Packing List For Your First Camping Trip

There are many such lists online. Here’s mine.

I’m assuming car camping, which means driving up to your camping spot and parking right there; good weather (no rain, no extreme temperatures); no or little experience; essentials only.

I have a blog post with some links to both essential and extra stuff I’m happy I bought for car camping. Nothing is affiliated, I just like my stuff.

Sleep system

A “sleep system” refers to the gear you’ll be using for sleep.

  • Tent. The rule of thumb is to count the number of people +1 person. If you’re camping alone, get a 2-person tent; if you’re a couple, get a 3-person.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping pad. In summer you can get away with using a yoga mat.

Here is my advice on beginner’s sleeping systems, with non-affiliated links to products. Here is a more lengthy post on sleeping bags.


  • Hammock. If your camp has trees, I strongly recommend getting a hammock. They are fun during the day, and they are actually comfortable to sleep in!
  • A pillow. Buy a camping pillow, or bring one from home.


Check if your campsite allows campfires and has a grill. If it does, the only things you need are:

  • A fire-proof kettle. Make sure the lid and the handle don’t have any plastic components.
  • Bowls and plates and mugs and cutlery. You can get away with disposable paper plates and plastic cutlery but you do need bowls and mugs.
  • Food. The easiest is to take instant food such as ramen or instant potatoes or instant oats. Boil water and you’re good to go. It’s more fun to make campfire food! Here are a few super basic ideas, suitable for the very first camping trip.
  • Coffee and a coffee-making device. I like my Aero press.
  • Paper towels/napkins.
  • Salt
  • Trash bags. Take extra because you’ll want to take out trash often so as to not attract animals and bugs.
  • A cooler. If you have an insulated lunch bag, it will probably work to keep a pack of sausages for a day.
  • An oven mitt.


  • Dishwashing liquid and sponge. Or you can just wash your dishes at home.
  • Grilling sticks. Just picking a stick in the woods works, but I’m happy I bought mine – and they’re inexpensive.
  • A camping stove with fuel, if campfires are not allowed.
  • A can opener.


  • Boots or gym sneakers. Be careful if you’re using sneakers as they don’t support your ankles.
  • Socks. I hike in running socks or special socks for hiking.
  • Extra underwear. You’ll want to change after a hike.
  • Workout pants or shorts.
  • A t-shirt. Don’t bring cotton as it takes forever to dry. It’s better to bring a workout t-shirt.
  • A hat.
  • A water bottle.
  • Snacks: a trail mix, a sandwich, an energy bar.


  • A lightweight hoodie and a rain jacket. I’m assuming you’re going to be hiking in good weather in summer, but that’s what you might need just in case.
  • An electrolyte mix.

Hanging out in the camp

  • Light shoes. Don’t wear your shower flip-flops in the camp because mosquitoes will get to you!
  • A long-sleeved r-shirt and pants. Same reason: mosquitoes.
  • Warm socks to sleep in.
  • A fleece in case it gets colder in the evening.
  • A headlamp and/or a flashlight.

Personal hygiene

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste.
  • A towel.
  • Travel shampoo/conditioner/shower gel.
  • Flip flops to wear in the shower.
  • Case for contact lenses and disinfecting liquid if you wear them.
  • A hairbrush.
  • A deodorant.
  • Wet wipes.
  • Toilet paper.
  • A shower bag.


  • Wood. Check if you can buy it on site. Usually, that’s what they prefer you to do.
  • Cash.
  • Bug spray and citronella candles.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • A first aid kit.

Mariegoescamping.blog is a resource for novice campers and backpackers. Marie is a millennial Marylander who spends her time in nature when she’s not working on her PhD. Read my other blog posts here.

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