What to pack for a camping trip – General supplies


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Last weekend we went camping.  We had a great time visiting with friends – although Little Chick did end up with some type of bug/fever towards the end.  I thought this would be a good time to review how we camp and what items we like to include on our trips.

Before I met Papa, I had been camping once in my whole life. In the last 20+ years, we’ve been camping every year, at least once a year. Our camping trips started off with nylon pop-up style tents like this one. Our last one met it’s demise on a trip to South Dakota when a windstorm kept blowing it down on top of us. Papa ripped a hole it to allow the wind to pass through, knowing that was the last time we’d used that tent.

Around that same time we started doing more Rendezvous camping. Rendezvous are re-enactment / primitive camping events with ~1840-style clothing and equipment. We stayed in a canvas wall tent, much like this one. That was a better experience as the wall tent never leaked (unlike nylon which is only water resistant), it was sturdy because of the solid wood poles (unlike soft aluminum). We used to sneak in two twin-sized mattresses, up on pallets to make our stay even more comfy and dry. My only complaint was that our tent didn’t have a window or other opening other than the door, so when it was hot it was stifling! We really liked that tent, but it was lost or stolen when we built our house in 2004.  What we really miss is the canopy that came with the wall tent; we’d often use that as shade and rain protection over picnic tables.

Potato Lake
our Jayco camper with good friend Lucy making toast 🙂

That next year we upgraded to an 8 foot pop-up camper. It was a used one, a few years old but in great condition for the price. I doubt we could ever go back to tent camping again. Many of our friends have gone even further and purchased big fifth-wheel campers or full-sized motor homes, but that’s not really camping (in our opinion). Yes, the bathrooms (albeit TINY bathrooms) would be nice. But the other amenities? Why do you need air conditioning and other luxuries when you’re camping?! We feel we’re living it “rich” when we have electricity.  Electricity means being able to use a fan when it’s hot or electric blankets when it’s cold :-).

Over time, we’ve learned a few things about what is needed to make a camping trip successful and enjoyable. Now you’ll have to keep in mind that we are “old”-er campers, staying in a camper, and we have a young daughter. It’s entirely possible to camp much more simply with only what you carry in a backpack, but we prefer at least a few creature comforts.

As you probably have learned, I love lists. Because we only get out camping a couple times a year, it’s easy to forget everything that we need to consider, so I’ve created a camping checklist that I print out for each trip.

Want a printable version of the full list?  Sign up for our newsletter for a Camping Checklist and a blank list you can fill out yourself! (Note: the Camping Checklist doesn’t contain everything listed in these posts – just a selection of ideas. I would recommend printing the blank list and coming back to read these posts make your own unique list!)

relaxing and fishing

General camping

Money. Unless you’re camping somewhere where there are no fees (like a friend’s backyard), you’ll need to pay for your camp site. We always bring some cash in case we need to pick up a few things (like when it’s hot and our ice runs out) but we usually pay our camp fees with a check. Keep in mind some campgrounds, especially smaller ones might not accept credit cards.

Wood. If you plan to have a campfire you will need wood. However, be sure you know the laws surrounding the area where you will be camping. In Wisconsin, we have issues with the Emerald Ash Borer and other insects so many areas you are not allowed to transport / bring in wood that was cut outside the county or more than a few miles away (another use for cash – to buy wood locally).  You will also need matches or a lighter and you may want some type of fire starter to help in case you end up with wet wood or it rains. A hatchet or ax may be needed if you are not supplied with kindling.

Every place we’ve camped has had a picnic table at the site. However you probably want to bring comfortable lawn chairs. It makes it easier to sit around the campfire :-).

Even if a picnic table is provided, some are less than ideal for eating directly off of. A plastic topped tablecloth is easy to wipe down before/after each meal. Tablecloth clips are necessary so it doesn’t blow off in the wind.

You’ll want bedding – sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. I highly recommend bringing extra blankets. We have been camping in August when it’s close to 90°F (32°C) during the day and had the temperatures drop into the 40’s (4°C) at night. I’d rather pack too many blankets instead of freezing … with socks and sweatpants under the covers (it’s happened!) When we’ve had sites with electricity, we sometimes bring our electric blankets 🙂

Speaking of electricity, if you plan to use it, bring an extension cord or two for easy access!

For washing dishes: a dish pan, dishcloths, scrubbing pads (for stuck-on food), and dish soap. It’s nice to have a metal bucket for heating water too. It can be heated over the fire – or on an electric or propane cooktop.

Some places will supply you with a trash can on your site, but you may need to bring your own garbage-sized trash bags and/or recycling bags.

Once it gets dark, it can get really dark with no street or city lights around. Be sure to bring a battery-operated flashlight or lantern for those late-night walks to the bathroom.



Every year I try and pack the minimal amount of clothing, but it’s tough. Even when we camp in August I still need to bring jackets or sweatshirts, because the temperature can get cool at night. When we used to camp early in the summer I’d also bring a turtleneck shirt. Sometimes I’ve ended up wearing all of them. Then there are the other years when it’s stifling hot. Or the years when it’s been soggy and we wished we had an umbrella or rain coat. You never really know what the weather will bring – even if you watch the forecast.

I always pack one shirt per day, shorts/capris, at least one pair of pants – even if the forecast is for hot weather, extra socks and underwear, pajamas, a swimsuit, and a daily hygiene kit (toothpaste, razor, contact supplies, hair brush, etc) and a first aid kit. We always throw in extra shoes in case it rains a lot and one pair gets wet – although we’ve gotten smart and usually that extra pair can also be used at the beach or in the shower (think: crocs, flip flops, or shower shoes).

Speaking of showers, if you plan to take one, bring your own towels and soap/shampoo. One place we camp has you pay in quarters to start the shower timer. Included in our packing are also hand towels and washcloths along with hand/body soap. Towels can also be used to dry things if it rains a lot.

Next time, I’ll stop back with some ideas on what to pack for food and cooking supplies!

3 Replies to “What to pack for a camping trip – General supplies”

  1. Great list. Looking forward to the food and cooking supplies article! Thanks for taking the time to put this list together!

  2. It was nice to read about your “travel” through the camping life and the developements of tents! It brought back many good memories from our camping trips when we were younger. We started with a small old canvas tent that had been used in Bjørn’s family from the early 60’s. When it was worn out we bought a new one, and as the family grew we upgraded to a bigger one. And we were also into a pop-up camper. We only had it for one year. Then Bjørn got some health issues and we did not camp anymore.

  3. Yes you can never replace the smell of those old canvas tents. Thanks for the great post.

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