What to bring tent camping | Great Lakes Guide

Environment and Education

What to bring tent camping

Published July 26, 2018

So you’re ready to go tent camping. You know where you want to go. You know who you’re going with, or you’re going on a solo adventure. You know when you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

The hardest part of your trip planning is done! Now is the fun part: What do you bring? It’s important to bring the essentials for survival, but there’s also a ton of stuff you can bring to make your trip the best trip you’ve ever been on.

    Here is your be-all-end-all list for tent camping:

Essential items to bring tent camping:

  • Backpack
  • To carry all of your stuff! Backpacks are especially handy for trips to the beach or hikes.

  • Maps
  • Make sure to bring a paper map and a compass, in case you don’t have a signal on your phone or GPS.

  • Campsite reservation information
  • Have this information handy so you’re prepared when you get to the campsite.

  • Tent (with stakes)
  • Remember you can rent or borrow a tent if you don’t own one!

  • Groundsheet
  • This is a piece of waterproof fabric that you put under your tent to protect it from the rain. Even if your tent is waterproof, a groundsheet helps keep your tent clean, making it super easy to pack up at the end of your trip.

  • Sleeping bag
  • If you don’t have a sleeping bag, bring some blankets and sheets.

  • Extra blankets
  • Just in case it gets cold! These are also great for wrapping up around an evening campfire.

  • Pillow
  • While this isn’t a necessity per se, you’ll definitely want some comfort while sleeping. To really rough it, you can stuff a sack with clothing to make your own pillow and pack less.

  • Sleeping pad
  • This is completely optional, but I recommend one. If you want extra comfort while sleeping in your tent, a sleeping pad is a great way to bring some of the comforts of home to the outside. These are especially useful if you have a bad back or are prone to muscle aches.

  • Tarp/canopy
  • A tarp can be very useful if it starts to rain. You can make yourself a sheltered outdoor living room or give your tent an extra roof!

  • Pocketknife
  • You never know when a pocketknife will come in handy in the great outdoors.

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • These are a necessity. No one wants to wander around in the dark in search of your tent or the bathroom. Headlamps are great too.

  • Lanterns
  • While flashlights are great for moving around, you’ll want some lanterns to light up your campsite at night. But be careful! Only use battery-powered lanterns in your tent. Gas or propane lanterns should only be used outside of the tent.

  • Rope or cord
  • Rope can help you with your shelter to put up a tarp. It can also serve as a clothes line. It can even help in unexpected situations, like if your shoelaces break.

  • Duct tape
  • Duct tape can fix just about anything and is water resistant!

  • Matches/lighter
  • These you will need to start your fire. Make sure to keep them dry or bring waterproof matches.

  • First aid kit
  • This is very important. You should always be prepared for accidents, bug bites, splinters, and anything unexpected. You should also pack face masks and plenty of hand sanitizer.

  • Whistle
  • You can use a whistle to alert people around you if you’re in trouble.

Personal items to bring tent camping:

  • Clothes
  • Bring a variety of clothes: daytime, sleepwear, rainwear, and extra layers for warmth (and possibly a hat and scarf, depending on when you’re going). Make sure you have strong shoes for hiking and walking. You might also want to bring a pair of water shoes. Bring lots of socks. And even more socks (trust us). And don’t forget your swimsuit!

  • Towels
  • Towels can be used for more than just drying yourself off. They are versatile if you need to wipe down a table or clean up a big mess. Microfibre towels are extra handy as they dry quickly and pack small.

  • Insect repellent
  • You will definitely want something to keep those pests away. We recommend citronella candles and lotions that are safe for the environment.

  • Sunscreen
  • It’s important to protect your skin, even if you’re covered by the shade of trees. Always bring sunscreen with strong SPF to protect yourself from those harsh rays.

  • Shampoo and Soap
  • You only really need to bring these if you are camping for a longer period of time. Check with your campsite to find out whether there are shower facilities (and whether those facilities are open). If you are going to bathe in the lake, make sure your soaps are biodegradable and safe for the environment.

  • Toiletries
  • You want to stay hygienic, so bring your toothbrush and anything else you need to feel good in the morning. Depending on the bathroom situation, you may need to bring toilet paper.

  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • If you use eyeglasses or contact lenses, you will be very happy by bringing extra, just in case. You wouldn't want to miss out on those beautiful views just because you accidentally sat on your glasses!

  • Medications
  • Sometimes, medications we take everyday are the most forgettable! If you have a need to take any medications, please make sure you pack them.

  • Folding chairs
  • Of course, you could always just sit on a log, stump, or blanket, but folding chairs make for a more comfortable evening sitting around the fire.

  • Camera
  • You’ll want to take pictures of all the beautiful scenery around you. Maybe this is as simple as the camera on your phone, or you can bring a higher-end camera for those who are photographers. If you really want to disconnect from technology, a simple disposable camera works great!

Cooking supplies to bring tent camping:

Always plan your meals ahead of time for your whole trip. That will help you narrow down exactly what cooking supplies you need so you don't miss anything.

  • Water and water bottles
  • This is very important. Check the campsite ahead of time to see if there is potable water available to refill any water bottles you have. If there is no filtered water available, make sure you bring a water filtration system, treatment tablets, or enough water to last your whole trip.

  • Ingredients for your meals
  • Once you have your meals planned out, you’ll need to have the basic ingredients. I recommend simple meals without a lot of preparation needed, so you can keep your cooking and messes to a minimum. Try to prepare as much of your meals in advance as possible.

  • Mess kit
  • This includes plates, bowls, mugs, and utensils (your basic eating supplies). This could also include a bucket or basin and sponges for washing your dishes.

  • Camp stove/grill and fuel
  • Bring this if your campsite doesn’t already have a place to cook your meals. You might want to bring it along even if you plan on cooking all of your meals over the fire (you never know when a rainy day might make your campfire soggy). Remember to bring fuel, if your camp stove requires it.

  • Pots and frying pans
  • If you plan your meals ahead of your trip, then you’ll know exactly what kitchen supplies you need to bring. Make sure that your pots and pans can fit on your camping stove.

  • Cutting board and knives
  • This is useful for cutting your ingredients. Of course, you can always use a wooden stump to really get the outdoors experience.

  • Cooler
  • You can keep any food that needs to be kept cold in a cooler. I would recommend a hard cooler since they tend to keep everything best. Remember to keep all of your food well stored and away from wild animals!

  • Aluminum foil
  • Foil is super handy for cooking over a fire and wrapping up leftovers.

  • Paper towels and/or cleaning clothes
  • The versatility of paper towels is very useful while camping. You can use paper towels to clean up spills and messes, or us them as napkins.

  • Garbage Bags
  • These are super important to keep your campsite clean and lessen your impact on the surrounding nature. Always make sure to gather up all of your garbage and recycling throughout your camping trip to dispose of before you head home.

There you have it. Now, get packing!

Before you head into the woods, make sure to read our Camping safety tips for a hassle-free and safe camping trip.

Heading to the woods during the Winter months? Check your our Top 8 Winter camping destinations article to find where to go.

When you are out in the woods camping, make sure you tag us in your posts using @greatlakesguide and #greatlakesguide.