Camping List: 8 Things You Need to Pack

Labor Day Weekend is the perfect time to pack up the car and hurry off to your favorite camping spot. Thousands of campers will flood campgrounds across the country, only to find that an essential piece or two of equipment has been forgotten. Whether you are a first time camper looking to conquer the wilderness or a seasoned outdoorsman, here's our list of things that you definitely won't want to forget.

©  Marielisa Argueta

© Marielisa Argueta

Air Mattress:

Nothing can ruin a camping trip more quickly than a rough night's sleep on the cold ground. Despite what the guys at REI will tell you, those sleeping mats don't do much. It always seems like there is a boulder underneath you, when in reality it's just a few pebbles that, despite how much you try, won't go away. Air mattresses are much, much better. They keep you warmer by lifting you off the ground. And the pebbles seem to disappear into thin air. Now, if you are not car camping and have to worry about weight and size, go with a sleeping pad. But if you have the option, go with the air mattress.

Pump for Air Mattress:

We've all forgotten a phone charger when away from home and had to search high and low to find one. The same goes for for air mattresses. On more than one occasion, I have shown up to my destination, really excited and ready to camp, only to find out that I will be sleeping on the cold, hard ground, because I forgot the pump. 


Batteries are necessary for almost everything - lanterns, flashlights, and for your air pump. Just make sure you get the right sized batteries for what you need! 

Rain Protection:

There aren't many things that are worse than laying in your tent in the middle of the night and hearing the faint pitter-patter of rain just before a surprise storm soaks your camp until it feels like you're underwater. It's a horrible feeling trying to throw all of your equipment inside the car as the rain starts to fall. This can all be avoided by making sure your tent comes with a rain cover and by bringing an extra utility tarp for equipment. Now the rain can fall when you're at camp or when you're away from camp. To be safe and prepared, you should have a rain jacket or pants (preferably both). Another alternative is to buy a personal poncho which you can always carry in your backpack.


I know what you're thinking, "I don't need one. I have my phone." Well a map and the knowledge of where you are can save your life - or at least make it a whole lot easier if something goes wrong. Phones can get wet, lose service, or simply run out of battery. A good paper map is an inexpensive way to be able to know your surroundings. It can also be used to give you opportunities to take new adventures. 


One unexpected use for flashlights: scaring off bears.  After a good day of fishing and hiking while camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains a few years ago, we fell asleep in our tent until we woke up to repeated bashing noises coming from around our camp. We opened the tent slightly to see that a big, black bear was eating all our food. We quietly formulated a plan to get out with as much blinding light and noise as possible to scare the bear. On the count of 3 we hopped out and flooded the darkness with light. The flashlights and lanterns did the trick and the bear was gone (along with all our food). 

Toilet Paper:

You can use it to blow your nose, clean supplies, start fires, and you know... its main purpose. Whether nature calls on the long drive to your destination or the campsite stalls are fresh out of it, TP can be the MVP of the weekend.


Nothing beats sitting down by the campfire or along the side of a river or lake. The occasional stump is always nice to sit down on, but if you're like me, there are 2 things that prevent me from truly enjoying nature's chairs: spiders and fire ants. I have been terrorized by insects enough to know that if chairs are absent, use a cooler, cargo bin, or other objects.


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