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A Beginner Camper’s Checklist for Things to Bring Along

Richard Clayton
Many beginner campers like to imagine their imminent time in nature like an episode of “Survivorman,” where they fashion tools from sticks and rocks, hunt and forage for food and create their own shelters in caveman-style.
However, while some experienced outdoors men can survive for brief stretches with minimal supplies, as a beginner camper, you certainly cannot.

That means you need to bring along the exact right gear to keep you alive and thriving. In case you were wondering what those materials and supplies entail, here’s a checklist for your convenience.


You aren’t going to find a perfectly good cave, and you won’t have the time or energy to build a shelter from logs. Instead, you need to bring along a tent that will keep you safe from wind or rain, and hold in the heat during the long, dark, cold nights in the wilderness.
Since you’re a beginner, you probably don’t need to worry about weight, but you should get a tent large enough to fit all the people on the trip. Coleman tents are great starter options, and they are available at most box stores, like Walmart.

Sleeping Stuff

Your mind might go immediately to sleeping bags, but in reality, you don’t really need a sleeping bag nowadays — as long as you have a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads come in a variety of forms, from roll-out foam cushions to blow-up air mattresses.
Pads add a significant amount of comfort, but you should approach them like Goldilocks, trying out your options in person to find the right fit. Then, you can make your pad with regular bedding, as long as you aren’t camping in extreme weather.
If you are planning to head out into an area of extreme weather, like temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it is worth investing in a proper sleeping bag. You must consult a worker at an outdoor store like REI for assistance.

Cooking Stuff

Again, your dreams of roasting a fresh catch over an open fire might be a bit misguided. Unless you have ample experience of fishing and/or hunting, you shouldn’t plan on acquiring all your food around your campground.
In fact, there are tragic stories of novice adventurists who attempted that, only to end up dead. One such famous case is featured in Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild.”
You need a cooking device, like a propane camping stove, and cookware like pots and pans. You should pack mixing bowls, cooking utensils and tableware, like plates and forks. These should be easy to clean and should withstand high heat without burning you.
Ideally, you will bring along easy-to-assemble meals that you’ve made before; think of all the tools you use to make those meals and pack them with your camping accoutrements.


Packing in your food doesn’t mean relying on tasteless, dehydrated parcels. Your first camping trips should be car camping, which means you should have ample space for a large cooler, where you can stash perishable food like meat, eggs, veggies and the like.
There are dozens of cooler brands in the market, but high-quality Yeti coolers and accessories should be your first pick. You might bring along a second cooler full of your favorite beverages — because happy hour is especially fun while camping.

Light Source

Nature is dark. You can’t bring your campfire into your tent — and many campgrounds nowadays have strict rules regarding campfires, even prohibiting them.

Bathroom Stuff

Unless you are heading to an organized campground — which isn’t a bad idea for your first camping trip — you won’t be able to find a toilet in the wilderness. What’s more, it’s not a good idea to answer nature’s call just anywhere; leaving the smell of human waste near your campground is a good way to attract unwanted guests, like racoons and wolves.
The easiest solution is to act like a cat and bury your scat. Bring along a small trowel, like one used for gardening, and dig a hole before you “go”. Then, bury the stuff up before you leave. There are other solutions, like portable camping toilets — even a DIY option — if you don’t like to squat.
Regardless, you should collect any used toilet paper in a garbage bag and bring it back to civilization to throw it away at a proper place.
Camping is a fun break from civilization, but only if you are properly prepared. You may expect your first camping trip or two to be rough — that’s why they call camping “roughing it.” Still, you will experience exceptional beauty in nature and return with memories that would last a lifetime.