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:

Survival items to bring for tent camping:

This list is all-encompassing, but make sure to look into your campsite first. Many campsites have shelters that you can rent in lieu of a tent, for example. Some of this stuff will make your life easier, but you can certainly camp without them!

  • 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. 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!

  • Mat for tent entrance
  • This helps you to keep the inside of your tent clean by providing a place to wipe your feet and store your shoes.

  • Pocketknife
  • You never know when a pocketknife will come in handy!

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Headlamps work 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. And gas or propane lanterns can 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
  • Make sure to keep them dry or have waterproof matches.

  • Paper
  • Newspaper or any sort of paper will help you easily get your fire started.

  • First aid kit
  • It’s important to be prepared for accidents, bug bites, splinters, and anything unexpected.

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

Personal items to bring for tent camping:

  • Clothes
  • Bring a different 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 lotion.

  • Sunscreen
  • It’s important to protect your skin, even if you’re covered by the shade of trees.

  • Shampoo and Soap
  • Even though you’re outside in the dirt doesn’t mean you have to be dirty!

  • Broom
  • You can use a broom to sweep the your tent of any leaves and dirt that might sneak in.

  • Clothespins
  • If you do hang a clothesline, then pins will be useful for hanging up your wet clothes.

  • 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.

  • Small mirror
  • For getting ready in the morning.

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

  • Folding chairs
  • Of course, you could always just sit on a log, stump, or blanket!

  • 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!

  • Any other fun stuff
  • We’re putting this as an item to give you the option to bring anything fun that you want! Just remember to always be respectful of the surrounding nature and animals.

Cooking supplies to bring for tent camping:

Before you jump into this list, you should start by looking into your campsite to see what’s already available to you. Then, you should plan your meals for your whole trip. That will help you narrow down exactly what cooking supplies you need so you don’t overpack.

  • Water and water bottles
  • Check the campsite to see if there is a place to refill any water bottles you have. Also if there is no filtered water available, make sure you bring a water filtration system or treatment tablets.

  • Ingredients for your meals
  • Once you have your meals planned out, you’ll need to have the basic ingredients.

  • Mess kit
  • This includes plates, bowls, mugs, and utensils.

  • Tablecloth
  • Not only does a table cloth make your eating experience nicer, it also makes cleaning a breeze.

  • Camp stove/grill and fuel
  • Bring this if your campsite doesn’t already have a place to cook your meals. 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.

  • Oven mitt
  • How else are you going to pick up your pots and pans from the stove? If you have pots or pans without handles, you can use a pot gripper.

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

  • Paring knife, spatulas, spoons, strainer, tongs, etc.
  • What you bring will depend on the meals you plan to cook. Don’t forget to bring measuring cups and spoons!

  • Dishpan
  • This is as simple as a plastic container or bin. Simply fill it with water to wash your dishes.

  • Biodegradable dish soap
  • Please make sure you’re using environmentally-friendly dishwashing soap. Also make sure to not dump your dirty dishwasher on the ground or in lakes or rivers. Always find a sink or a drain.

  • Sponge/Dishcloth
  • You need something to clean your dishes with, right?

  • Cooler
  • You can keep any food that needs to be stored in a cooler. But keep it well stored and away from wild animals!

  • Can opener
  • You’ll thank us later.

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

  • Food storage containers or bags
  • You can use small bags to carry snacks on a hike, or a larger food container to save food overnight.

  • Corkscrew
  • For you wine lovers…

  • Bottle opener
  • For you beer lovers…

  • French press or portable coffee maker
  • For you coffee lovers…

  • Paper towels
  • 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 footprint on the surrounding nature.

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? Fear not. 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.