Camping Checklist for Beginners

There can be a lot to think about ahead of a camping trip in a tent. If you’re packing for a camping holiday for the first time, reduce the hassle and stay self-sufficient by following our tried-and-tested camping equipment checklist.

Ease the process when heading on an outdoor trip by following a camping equipment checklist (Karson Chan / Unsplash)

The ultimate packing checklist for first-time campers

Packing for a camping trip with your dog

Ten things to leave at home when you go camping

Packing tips for first-time campers

The ultimate packing checklist for first-timers campers

Getting ready to go camping for the first time? Tick off these items as you gather them together to make sure you don’t leave any camping essentials behind.

  1. Tent camping equipment

  2. Lighting

  3. First-aid kit

  4. Kitchen equipment

  5. Cooking equipment

  6. Food supplies

  7. Storage and cleaning

  8. Clothing

  9. Hygiene

  10. Personal items

  11. Entertainment

  12. Miscellaneous

 1. Tent camping equipment 

  • Tent (including the groundsheet, inner body, pegs and poles)

  • Tent footprint or tarp 

  • Mallet/hammer

  • Sleeping bag(s)

  • Pillow(s) 

  • Extra blankets 

  • Sleeping mat or air mattress and pump

  • Spare guylines

  • Tent pegs and spares (learn about the different types)

  • Tent repair kit

  • Windbreak 

  • Electric hook-up cables (if applicable)

  • Carbon monoxide alarm

2. Lighting

  • Lighters  

  • Gas lantern and gas

  • Spare lantern fuel

  • Torch(es) and batteries

  • Head torch

  • Solar or battery-powered outdoor lights

  • Citronella candles for keeping insects at bay

Figure out which camping lights to buy with this guide.

3. First-aid kit

  • Insect repellent

  • Painkillers

  • Plasters

  • Bandages and safety pins

  • Suncream

  • After-sun cream

  • Lip balm

  • Tweezers

  • Antiseptic

  • Water purification tablets

4. Kitchen equipment

  • Tin opener and bottle opener

  • Corkscrew

  • Sharp knife

  • Chopping board

5. Cooking equipment

  • Stove 

  • Fuel (gas canisters, campfire wood and/or barbecue charcoal)

  • Lighter and matches

  • Kindling or newspaper for lighting a fire

  • Kettle 

  • Frying pan and/or wok

  • Saucepan(s) with lid

  • Thermos flask(s)

  • Plates, bowls and mugs

  • Knives, forks and spoons

  • Plastic beer and wine glasses

6. Food supplies

  • Cooking oil or lard

  • Salt and pepper

  • Herbs and spices

  • Condiments (sauces, salad dressings, vinegar)

  • Bread

  • Butter

  • Packets of dried ready meals that only need boiling water

  • Tea and coffee

  • Water

  • Snacks

Planning to have an outdoor cookout? Here are some hints for cooking on a campfire.

7. Storage and cleaning

  • Dishwashing sponges

  • Washing-up liquid

  • Tea towels

  • Tin foil

  • Sandwich bags

  • Ice chest

  • Ice packs

  • Dust pan and brush

  • Bin bags

8. Clothing

  • Swimming shorts or costume

  • Wellies and/or waterproof hiking boots

  • Sandals/flip-flops (the latter are useful for wearing in the campsite shower)

  • Rain gear (waterproof jacket, trousers and an umbrella)

  • Extra underwear and moisture-wicking socks

  • Quick-drying T-shirts and long-sleeved tops

  • Warm layers for nights

  • A fleece or a cosy jumper 

  • Gloves and scarves (if the weather is cold)

  • Hat (for protection from the sun or cold)

  • Sunglasses 

  • Dirty laundry bag

Get more information on the clothes you need for camping in this guide.

9. Hygiene

  • Toilet roll

  • Pocket tissues

  • Baby wipes

  • Mini hand sanitiser gel

  • Travel-size shampoo and conditioner

  • Travel-size shower gel

  • Flannel

  • Toothpaste and toothbrush

  • Comb, brush, hair clips etc

  • Deodorant

  • Razor

  • Shaving foam

  • Contact lens solution

  • Minimal make-up bag

  • Towels – at least two

  • Hanging toiletries bag (useful for hanging in the campsite shower)

10. Personal items

  • Bank/credit card

  • ID/passport

  • Smartphone (with what3words downloaded in case of an emergency)

  • Insulated phone case (it extends the battery life of your phone and it floats)

  • Spare car keys

  • House keys 

  • Medication

  • Booking confirmation (either on phone or printed out)

11. Entertainment

  • Phone charger/spare battery pack

  • Camera charger

  • Deck of cards

  • Puzzles

  • Board games

  • Books or magazines

  • Local area guidebook

  • Frisbee, beach ball or inflatable ball

12. Miscellaneous

  • Safety pins

  • Swiss army knife

  • Camera

  • Outdoor chairs

  • Clothesline and pegs

  • Compass and map

  • Doormat or rug for tent floor

  • Hot water bottle(s)

  • Padlock

  • Gaffer tape

  • Spare carrier bags

  • Empty water bottles

  • Disposable plastic cartons with lids 

Find and book campsites on Pitchup

Packing for a camping trip with your dog

It may sound obvious, but remember to pick a campsite that welcomes dogs (Pitchup has thousands of dog-friendly campsites). Once you’ve checked that, you’ll need to take the following camping essentials for your four-legged companion. 

  • Collar and lead

  • A dog stake or long lead

  • Treats and toys

  • Dog food

  • Bowls (one for food, one for water)

  • Towels for muddy paws

  • Poo bags

  • ID on collar 

  • Dog bed, blankets or a crate

  • Dog coat (for winter) or cool mat (for summer)

  • Tick tweezers

  • Medication

  • Emergency vet details

Learn more about camping with your dog in Pitchup’s detailed guide.

Ten things to leave at home when you go camping

If you’re a first-time camper, trust us when we say you can safely leave the following items at home when packing for a camping holiday.

  • Glass: broken glass is a hazard in a tent or around a campsite. 

  • Paper plates and plastic cutlery – they often get thrown away after first use, so pack camping tableware instead and help to save the environment.  

  • Tinned food: it weighs a lot and takes up too much room. 

  • Valuables: don’t pack expensive clothes, and leave the jewellery behind.

  • Electronics (laptops and TVs in particular). You’re going on a camping holiday to escape everyday life and enjoy nature.

  • A mirror. Camping is about forgetting what you look like.

  • Bags full of toiletries and perfume. Yes, camping really is all about forgetting what you look like.

  • Matches: lighters are cheap and it’s harder to burn yourself when using one. 

  • Too many clothes: you’ll only have limited storage space, after all.

  • Lots of toys: the idea of a family camping trip is for the kids to play in nature. However, you need to have a few items as backup, so here are Pitchup’s suggestions for keeping the kids entertained no matter what the weather.

Packing tips for first-time campers

If you haven’t been camping before, here are a few handy tips on how to pack effectively, saving time and space on site.

Pack for the weather

Check the forecast ahead of time and pack appropriately, with lots of waterproof layers if it is going to rain, or lightweight T-shirts with a light jacket for evenings in warmer temperatures. 

If you’re camping in colder weather, check out our guide to winter camping.

Don’t overpack

Unless you’ve got lots of space in the car, leave the non-essentials behind. You almost certainly won’t need six different jumpers. As mentioned above, leave breakables and valuables behind too. 

Roll your clothes

Rolling – instead of folding – your clothing helps to pack it up tightly, giving you more room in your luggage. The same goes for your sleeping bag and tent. 

Invest in space-saving equipment 

Look out for collapsible items, like washing-up bowls and kettles. It’s also worth buying nested cookware and crockery, as well as ultra-portable folding equipment like tables and chairs.

Pack your car in an orderly manner

Put your tent and other essentials that you need for pitching up in the car last. This means they’ll be easy to grab when you arrive at your campsite.

Store everything together

You can keep most of the essentials (the first aid kit, the cooking implements and so on) in a big plastic box and store it in your home ready for your next trip.

Follow all these rules and you’ll never need to worry about leaving camping essentials behind again. Now you know what – and how – to pack, and what to leave behind, all you need to do is find the ideal campsite for you and your family.

Book your perfect campsite 

Camping checklist FAQs

What are the most important things I should bring when camping?

Having the essential camping items to hand can be the difference between a successful camping holiday and an uncomfortable experience. First-time campers should never leave home without at least the following: a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, water and lighters or matches. That way you have shelter, something to drink and means of starting a fire for cooking or warmth.

What should I not take camping?

Leave anything breakable at home – broken glass is difficult to clear up and dangerous around bare feet in tents. The same goes for your valuables, including expensive clothes, jewellery and electronic devices. If possible, ditching the plastic or paper one-use plates and cutlery and using camping tableware instead will help your camping holiday to become more eco-friendly.

What's the best packing tip for first-time campers?

Pack your car in an organised manner, so that your tent and other essentials for pitching (including the groundsheet, inner body, pegs and poles) go in last – then they’ll be easy to get hold of when you arrive on site.