Camping is a fun and cost-effective vacation that the whole family can enjoy, but there are a few important items that need to be included in your packing list to successfully navigate your way in the great outdoors. This is especially true if you're planning on venturing off the beaten path, as leaving an essential item behind when you're miles away from the nearest camping site can be a disaster. It takes time and careful planning to learn what things are really necessary when you're far from home, but a few items are essential for every trip to the great outdoors.
Unless you are intending on going to sleep every night soon after the sun has set, having a camping light will be indispensable. Getting up out of your sleeping bag in the middle of the night for a bathroom break is challenging enough without adding making your way over unknown terrain in the dark. A lantern is a perfect choice of lighting as it can stand on its own while casting light in every direction. It will also allow you to spend long evenings playing cards and board games with friends and family.
It may be tempting to practice your skills at starting a fire using only sticks while in the great outdoors, but the other campers would be far happier getting the fire going sooner with a more reliable method. All you really need to start a fire is matches, dry newspaper, and firewood. If you are camped in a forested area, finding kindling to assist in getting the fire going should also be a cinch.
You might have planned your camping trip for the height of summer, but no matter what the weather forecast predicts, make sure to take along a sleeping bag for every person. Forested areas can experience dramatic drops in temperature at nightfall, particularly on days that have been clear and sunny. Most are also light and easy to tote around while still providing enough insulation at night, make them much more convenient than blankets.
If you plan on doing any hiking or cycling while on your camping trip, you can expect a fair share of blisters and scrapes that will require the assistance of a first-aid kit. Nicks and cuts can easily become infected in an unprotected environment and will need to be treated with some antiseptic and covered in band-aids or bandages. To prepare for all eventualities, also pack your first-aid kit with pain pills, a thermometer, cotton swabs and a pair of scissors.
A cooler box is an indispensable item for any camping trip, particularly if you are going to be camping in the summer season. Not only will it make sure that your perishable goods remain fresh and safe to eat, but it can double as a food preparation surface and even as an extra seat. It will also help keep any wildlife from smelling and getting to your food. Remember to cool the food items in the refrigerator before packing them and then to fill the cooler with block ice as well as cubes for the small gaps between items.
A great deal of your camping trip will be spent sitting around a fire, involved in food preparation and consumption. Sitting on the ground for hours on end will very quickly become uncomfortable, so investing in a few camping chairs will be a lifesaver. Fold-up camping chairs will also easily fit into the trunk of almost any vehicle.
The outdoors are teeming with wildlife, including pesky insects. Most of them go about their business peacefully, but there are a few, like mosquitos and ticks, that can be a nuisance. Luckily, there are a number of topical repellants that are usually sufficient to deal with most of them. Anti-itch cream is also invaluable for the few that manage to get through the repellant, as well as for any unexpected encounters with poison ivy.
Although there are a lot of camping foods that can be eaten with your hands, there is also a fair amount that requires the use of plates and utensils. So be sure to include plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, bowls, and barbeque tongs, as well as dishwashing liquid and a sponge.
If your camping plans involve venturing far off the beaten path, you might need to make provisions for a supply of water. The further away from a campsite you wander, the further away you are likely to be from a reliable source of potable water. Whatever your travel plans, you can't go wrong with placing a large container of water at your camping site to use for drinking and decanting, as well as cooking and cleaning.
As you will need to keep your packing to a minimum, a few items of clothing will probably be all that it will be possible to take with you. And because you will have very few changes of clothing available, it will be important to keep the ones you have dry, especially if you are going to be camping in a cooler climate. A good choice is a lightweight rain jacket that will allow you to fit many layers of clothing beneath it. Remember to also include a rain bag if your backpack is not made of rainproof material.