Camping For Beginners Checklist (Printable & Editable)

You’ve never been camping but it’s on your bucket list. You’re really keen to give it a go but really aren’t sure what you will really need or what sort of things you should take. 

You don’t want to turn up to the campsite with too much – or worse still – not enough, so you’re on the internet searching for a solid, basic, no-frills list of camping gear that tells you what you really need for a trip away as well as any extras that will take your camping trip from good to great.

We’ve taken the guesswork out of wondering what camping gear you will need for your first trip as a beginner and listed it here on one page. It’s editable, printable, and customizable. Find out what a first-timer really needs on a camping trip with our camping for beginners checklist!

Sleeping

  • Tent, poles, stakes/pegs, mallet, rainfly, or tarp
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  • Groundsheet, footprint, or tarp
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  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, sheets, blankets
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  • Pillow
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Related: Pop up tents are a fantastic choice for beginners as you don’t have to worry about setting up tent poles and guy lines. Simply open the bag, throw the tent on the ground and it pops into shape. Check out our best pop up tent reviews.

Kitchen

  • Camp table
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  • Camp chairs
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  • Tarp or shelter
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  • Portable camping stove or campfire materials
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  • Extra stove fuel, lighters, matches, firewood, firelighters
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  • Cooking pots and pans
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  • Large bowl
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  • Stovetop kettle
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  • Cooking utensils (Wooden spoons, tongs, flippers, spatula)
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  • Can opener, corkscrew, bottle openers
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  • Cutting board and knives
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  • Cooler with ice or ice packs
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  • Rubbish bin/bags
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  • Bucket for dishwashing, scrubber, detergent, tea towels, dishcloth
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  • Large drinking water container with potable water or water purification system
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  • Food containers and resealable plastic bags for food storage
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  • Foil and paper towel
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  • Marshmallow cooking sticks
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  • Dustpan and brush
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Eating

  • Plates and bowls
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  • Knives, forks, and spoons
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  • Mugs and water cups
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  • Wine glasses!
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  • Water bottles
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Wet weather protection

  • Tarp, poles, ropes, stakes
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  • Rain jackets or hooded waterproof poncho
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  • Clothes pegs and a clothesline
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Clothing & Footwear

  • Bag for clean clothes
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  • Quick-drying suitable outdoor clothing for the season
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  • Suitable nightwear
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  • Sun protection (Hats, sunglasses, sun shirts)
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  • Swimming gear (swimsuit, towel)
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  • Snow protection (Jackets, boots, thermal underwear)
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  • Cold weather protection (Hats, gloves, scarves)
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  • Trekking boots, water shoes, slip-on shoes
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  • Socks
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  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes
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Toiletries

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
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  • Deodorant
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  • Soap, shampoo
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  • Quick-dry towel
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  • Hairbrush
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  • Shaver
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  • Toilet paper
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  • Medications
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  • First aid kit
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  • Insect repellent
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  • Sunscreen
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  • Chapstick or lip balm
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  • Reading glasses/contact lenses
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  • Toilet shovel
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  • Waterless hand sanitizer
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  • Baby wipes
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Lighting

  • Lanterns
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  • Candles, matches
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  • Headlamps
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  • Rechargeable torches
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  • Flashlights
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  • Spare Batteries
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  • Portable solar panel for recharging
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Entertainment

  • Field guides, star charts, and books
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  • Binoculars
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  • Notebook and pencils (pencils write on wet-ish paper)
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  • Music player, Bluetooth speakers, phone, tablet, etc
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  • Musical instrument
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  • Ball, frisbee
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  • Watercrafts
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  • Hammock
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  • Camera
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  • Fishing gear, bait, license
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  • Deck of cards, Jigsaw, board games
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  • Day backpack for short hikes
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Useful things

  • Phone charger
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  • Watch or clock
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  • Ropes – thick and thin
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  • Multi-tool/Pocket knife/Scissors
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  • Duct Tape
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  • Extra guy ropes
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  • Bungy/shock cords
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  • Tent pole repair
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  • Hammer/saw/axe
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  • Compass or navigation device
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  • Reflective blanket
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  • Mosquito net
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  • Credit card/cash/Identification
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  • Repair kits for tent, tarps, water toys, blow-up mattresses
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  • Bear spray for errant bears also works well on unwanted human intruders
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  • Whistle to attract attention in an emergency
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Woman cooking a meal using a small camp stove on a rock in a mountain meadow.
Cook your meal before it gets dark so you can see what you are doing.

Beginner camping thoughts, tips, and hacks for first-time campers

  • Drive-in camping where you camp right next to your car is going to make things a lot easier for you and your family and should be your first option. 
  • Car camping means you can bring heavier things than if you were backpacking or hiking. 
  • Arrive in the daylight and give yourself plenty of time to set up before dark.
  • If you are camping in Summer, a two-season tent should be good. Get a three-season tent if you are camping when it might rain or is colder than your summer average. 
  • A sleeping pad or air mattress is going to ensure a good night’s sleep. Make sure you take one!
  • Choose a campsite with a bathroom for your first few trips to discover your level of comfort. 
  • Pick a campground that you can check out on the internet and see what reviews it’s got. They will let you know what to expect so you can prepare accordingly. 
  • If you have kids, make sure you pick a campground with things for them to do. Water play, playground, bushwalking, place to ride a bike are all good outdoor kids activities. 
  • Take your pillow! You’ll thank us for that tip on your first night under canvas!
  • Take a microfibre towel, not your bathroom towel. They are smaller and soak up a lot more water AND they dry quicker!
  • Know what the weather is going to do and pack accordingly. 
  • A headlamp will free up your hands after dark and make walking to the bathroom or packing up in the dark so much easier. 
  • Plan and prepare your meals at home if you can. Consider freezing some of them for even less hassle at dinner time. 
  • A portable stove might be a bit easier to cook on than a fire for your first trip. Save the fire for sitting around with a hot drink and sizzling marshmallows on.
  • If you are a morning coffee person, check out a french press, a stovetop kettle, or some pour-over filters for a steaming hot cuppa that will get you ready for the day!
  • Pack up your rubbish each night and put it in the car so you don’t attract wild creatures, small or big!
  • Think about renting or borrowing the big-ticket items for your first trip.
  • Camp close to home in case you forget something important or it goes pearshaped.
  • Don’t pack too much. You will survive if all you have is a place to sleep, food to eat, and a way to get home!  

And a few things to do before you leave

Always leave home with a full tank of gas in the car, and remember to let someone know exactly where you are going and when you’ll be back. Email them your campsite details in case someone needs to get you in an emergency. 

It’s a good idea to make sure you have the campsite booking number, address, phone, direction, and a printed confirmation with you and also leave a copy with a friend. A paper-based map will be handy if phone coverage is patchy where you are planning to camp.

It’s also a good idea to know what the weather is going to do, the fire ban status of the area, and what dangerous animals or toxic plants you may encounter in your campsite.

Stay safe!  Happy Camping 😊

Next up: Want the full camping checklist? Worry not, check out our camping checklist.

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Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!