First Time Camping Checklist

The weather’s right, you’ve got an open weekend and the great outdoors is calling your name. It’s time to go camping. It’s a first time camping checklist that you need, but, what’s a necessity, what do you not need, and what is better just left at home.

One of the biggest mistake most first time campers make is either coming way over-prepared or way under-prepared. Either way can be miserable! In this first time camping checklist is all the essentials to give you a great time and keep you comfortable on your first camping trip. The last thing you want is for you are your family or camping partners to be miserable and never return again. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

First Time Camping Checklist Supplies:



While it might seem like a no brainer, sometimes while in the rush to get everything in the car and get going, water is not added to the first time camping checklist. Bring water with you even if you think you are certain of the water conditions where you are going. You do not want to become dehydrated while camping, This will quickly end a good trip.

If it is not feasible to haul water, be sure to take something to purify your water.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Camelbak water purifier above can purify nearly one liter of water in 60 seconds by using UV to kill the contaminants in the water. This is a great choice if you plan on a one or two person camping trip.

First Time Camping Checklist

If you are panning on a bigger camping party, the Katadyn Vario Filter can purify a gallon of water every 2 minutes. This is a great option for purifying water if you plan on having 4-5 people in your camping party.

Again, the best option is to bring water with you if you are not camping at a improved campsite with water. This guarantees you a clean water source. Be sure that if you bring water with you that you bring enough (about a gallon per day/person)  for cooking, drinking and washing up.


First Time Camping Checklist

A good tent is an absolute necessity. When choosing a tent DO NOT skimp. You will definitely regret it. Make sure to purchase a tent with a rain fly, if it rains and you do not have a rain fly, it will ruin your trip. Purchasing a high quality tent that is easy to set up and sturdy should be a priority for any first time camper.

Sleeping Bag

First Time Camping Checklist

Another first time camping checklist necessity is a good sleeping bag. The one above is a The North Face 3 season sleeping bag. This bag will keep you warm from early spring through late fall. One of the most important things to look for in a sleeping bag is the degree ratings. Make sure to purchase a bag that will suit most of your camping needs.

If you are doing a lot of summertime and late spring camping then a real heavy down sleeping bag won’t be necessary. The same goes if you will be doing some camping in the winter. Make sure to get a good bag that suits your needs.

Flashlight or Headlamp

A good item to add to your first time camping checklist is a good quality flashlight or headlamp. If you plan to do alot of walking at night or are going to be needing to use both of your hands at night (building a fire, fishing, hiking, etc.) then a headlamp is recommended. If you just plan on needing a light to find your way to and from the campsite at night from the latrine…..then a flashlight is probably a good call.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Princeton Tec Camping Flashlight above runs on 8AA batteries and provides 115 Lumens to light up the trail on any night. It is also waterproof which is a huge plus if you plan to be around a river or stream and you or the kids just so happen to drop it in.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp shown above is a great choice if you decide to go the headlamp route. This headlamp is rechargable via a USB port, but if you are not around any electronic device, it also runs on 3AAA batteries. With multiple light modes controlled by a single switch, you will always have the right light for the situation. Plus, let’s face it, you just look like a pro with an awesome headlamp on.

Fire starter

If you plan on making a campfire (it is definitely recommended that you do click here to learn how to build the perfect campfire) then you will need a way to get the fire started. Cavemen made fire by rubbing two sticks together, but they didn’t wear underwear. Humanity has come a long way since then. If at all possible, use today’s technology and bring along a lighter of some sorts.

If you do however want to build a campfire the more primitive way, the BlastMatch Fire Starter below is an excellent way to begin. Basically to use this, assemble a small pile of tender (again, refer here for further explanation), press the fire starter down forcefully onto your pile of kindling, and you have fire. What happens is that the fire starter produces a very hot spark which will start to smolder in your kindling. Lightly blow on the smoldering until it lights then add your kindling on top to get your fire roaring.

First Time Camping Checklist

Camp Chairs 

If weight is not an issue, definitely add a couple camp chairs to your first time camping checklist. You will want to be comfortable while sitting around the campfire at night or enjoying your campfire coffee in the morning. Unless you enjoy sitting on the ground, or in the unlikely event that you find a nice boulder shaped like a lazy boy, you will want a nice camp chair rest your backside in.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Eureka Camp Chair above has a low seat height and a relaxed back, which allows for some serious relaxing. There are a ton of options when it comes to serious camping furniture. When you are making your decision make sure it is easily fold-able and pack-able like the chair above.

First Time Camping Checklist

Camp chairs come in many shapes and sizes. Another option is the Kelty Love Camp Chair above. This chair is great in that even though it is a doubles chair it is still lightweight and easily pack-able. this is a really great option if you plan on cuddling up to that special someone under a blanket around a campfire on a cool evening.

Cooking utensils

One problem most people have when adding cooking utensils to their first time camping checklist is the tough choice of what to bring. Do you bring all your pots and pans, just one, and what about plates and bowls?

First Time Camping Checklist

The GSI Camper Cook System solves that problem with this all in one system. The system includes 2 pots, 1 frying pan, 4 mugs, 4 plates and 4 bowls. The good thing is, it all collapses into the large pot for easy packing. Add one of these to your first time camping checklist and you’ll be covered on the whole what to bring problem.

Trash bags

Always follow pack it in, pack it out best practices. If you will be camping in an unimproved campground without access to trash bins, make sure to bring along some trash bags. If you are camping in an area where the might possibly be bears, make sure to make your trash bags out of the reach of any Black Bears looking for a midnight snack.

Pack your trash out and discard at a trash disposal when you can. This will keep your area clean not only for your camping duration, but also for future campers who will use your campsite.



One of the best luxuries to add to your first time camping checklist is a good hammock. When camping in areas with plenty of trees around, a hammock can really up your camping trip to the next level. You can relax pretty good in a camp chair, but a hammock provides relaxation that is really unbeatable.

First Time Camping Checklist

The ENO DoubleNest Hammock above is made out of high quality lightweight nylon. Weighing in at 22 oz. this doubles hammock is easy to pack in. Hang this bad boy between two trees, kick your feet up and enjoy. Remember to bring some hanging straps if you will need them!

Ax or Hatchet

First Time Camping Checklist

If you plan on building a good campfire, you are obviously going to be needing some wood. The Gerber Camp Axe above is a lightweight, sharp axe that will definitely get the job done. Be sure that when gathering wood for your fire to always use downed, dead tress and limbs. Also, gather limbs and branches away from your campsite so as to not devoid your site of it’s natural beauty. Do a little hiking, find some wood, chop it up and bring it back!


This will definitely be a necessity for the average camper. If you plan on bringing any kind of perishable (meat, dairy, etc.) then bringing a high quality color that will hold ice for a few days at a time is a must.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Pelican 45 Qt. Elite Cooler is one tough daddy. When adding a cooler to your first time camping checklist, definitely check this one out. It boasts a 7-10 day ice retention and also has press and pull latches to keep out any unwanted critters. This cooler is also impact resistant so if you drop it while loading or unloading, you’ll be safe.

Air Mattress or Cot

One of the biggest problems most first time campers have is getting a good nights sleep. Let’s face it, we are pampered. We like our beds, and most importantly, we want a good nights sleep. Getting some good rest at night is super important as well while camping. you will want to rest and recharge after a long day of hiking, so relax the right way and add an air matress or a cot to your first time camping checklist.

First Time Camping Checklist

The Alps S.P.S. Air Bed come equipped with heavy duty bottom side to protect against holes and leaks and a velvety top to provide the maximum comfort. With it’s self contained pump system you will have maximum comfort in no time.

First Time Camping Checklist

If getting off the ground to sleep is a priority, the Browning Titan Cot is a must have. this heavy duty cot will get you up off the ground and out of the reach of any crawlers that might make their way into your tent. With it’s sturdy aluminum frame and soft polyester fabric, you will be sleeping in style! This cot also packs up for a lightweight pack in option.

Hopefully this will get you going in the right direction when developing your first time camping checklist. Did I leave an item out that you think is an absolute necessity? What do you always bring that others should know about? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Camping!

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