Whether you want to get off the grid for a while, reconnect with nature, or just have a great weekend with your friends, our camping trip planner can help make a night in the great outdoors feel as cozy as a night at home. And if you’ve never camped before, you’ll soon find out that planning a camping trip is half the fun (at least, it should be).
Talk to any seasoned camper, and you’ll likely find them geeking out over the type of gear they like to bring along—and for good reason. Having the right gear will not only have you safe and prepared, but you’ll be able to truly enjoy a night sleeping under the stars or the feeling of waking up with dawn to crystal clear lakes and majestic mountains.
On top of using Guestboard to get your group more organized, let’s dive into some of the other essential things you need to know when planning a camping trip. To make it easy, we’ve broken it down for you into four main categories: shelter, food, clothing, and a few extras things to take into account.
For an itemized list, jump directly to our camping trip planner below.
From state to national parks, to private campgrounds and backcountry, there are many options for camping. But even before you decide where you want to camp, consider what type of camping you’d like to experience.
“Car camping” is a loose term for what is basically camping within close walking distance from your car. It’s great for a lot of reasons, (just search the popular hashtag #yourhomeiswhereyouparkit and you’ll see why). Because you don’t have to carry all your gear on your back, car camping allows you to bring along some more of the creature comforts for your trip. It’s also great when the temperatures start dipping into the colder digits for a little extra protection.
If you want to “rough it”, on the other hand, leave your car behind and get further into nature. Backpacking requires that you pack everything in and out with you, so your camping checklist becomes a little more limited, focusing more on the bare essentials. While it can be a bit intimidating the first time, there’s nothing like waking up being surrounded entirely by nature.
Permits & Reservations
No matter what type of camping adventure you’re planning, it is essential to make sure you have the necessary permits before setting out. Some require minimal effort on your part like reserving sites online or having a few dollars on hand to secure the campsite, whereas others require you to apply for permits months in advance. This is especially true for popular campsites, protected lands, and backcountry camping.
Do your research ahead a time; there is nothing worse than having your entire plans derailed before you even start.
Food and Water Essentials
There’s nothing like diving into a great meal after a day of hiking. When it comes to your culinary situation, what type of food you bring and what kind of mini-kitchen you set up will depend on what type of trip you’re planning (see above).
For car camping, you’ll likely have a fire pit for cooking and a tad more access to fresh water (as well as space in your car to bring along more food luxuries– like a cooler).
But even if you are backcountry camping, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your cooking. Investing in a Jet Boil or Pocket Rocket stove and a few miniature pots and pans will give you access to boiling water for things like rice or mac n cheese, or even for doing some serious sautéing. When it comes to water access, you’ll need to your research ahead of time to calculate how much to bring or invest in tools or tablets to be able to purify your water source.
One of the best ways to approach the food situation is to get everyone involved. For example, if you’re planning a camping trip for five nights, assign each camper a night for dinner. They’ll be responsible for cooking for the whole group that evening—which is great because that means each person will only have to cook once, and each friend can compete for who can make the best meal for the group.
Pro-tip: Assorted spices take up very little space/weight, and they can really add a new level to a camp dinner! Put some of your favorite spices in a labeled ziploc bag and you’re ready to go!
Need some inspiration for recipes? Take a look some of these great ideas from REI.
What to Wear
Layering is the best approach any outdoor activity. Make yourself familiar with the average temperatures of where you’re heading but make sure to take into account the variability of the elements. Trails can be delightfully warm at the trailhead but can change drastically and become windy and cool as you gain altitude. Make sure to bring along a waterproof jacket as well as a warmer jacket for when temperatures drop.
Say NO to Cotton
Unless you’re just hanging at the campsite the whole time, avoid cotton when hiking. Cotton holds onto water, which means if you get sweaty when hiking, you’re likely to get a chill later if you’re unable to change out of it. Instead, opt for moisture-wicking materials for both your shirts and bottoms.
Be sure to pack long thermals, even if where you’re camping has pretty mild temperatures. Nighttime can get cold so bring layers as well as a beanie to keep your head warm.
Feet > Everything
Bring sensible footwear like hiking boots or trail runners when camping, and consider bringing along a pair of lightweight strapped sandals. These are great for giving your feet a rest in the evening from boots when you’re around the campfire while still protecting your feet. If your boot got wet during the day, remove the soles to let them dry for the next day.
Ever heard of sacred socks? Make sure you have a pair. There’s nothing spiritual about them, but instead, they are simply one pair of (clean) socks that you reserve specifically for nighttime, when you slip into your sleeping bag. You might think it sounds crazy now, but trust us, you’ll thank us later.
A Few Extras
In addition to sorting out shelter, food/water, and your clothing, there are a few more odds and ends you’ll need when planning a camping trip.
Cash is sometimes necessary for campsites, and especially in the case of more remote sites, you’ll need exact change. Carry small bills for this reason.
Sunscreen, toilet paper, dry bags, navigation tools (or printed maps) and small bags for carrying your trash (leave no trace, people) are additional items that will prove necessary and useful for making the most of your camping experience. Not everyone has to bring all of these items though, so divvy it up with your crew beforehand.
Get Planning Your Camping Trip
While it feels like there are lots of moving parts when planning a camping trip, it will all certainly pay off in the end when you’re surrounded by a tranquil forest of pine trees or listening to your friends tell their best ghost stories.
To make the planning easier, get your crew together on a centralized planning board like Guestboard, where you can create your own camping trip planner.
Keep track of all the necessities with Guestboard’s interactive checklist so you will know who exactly is bringing what. You’ll be able to keep things ultra-organized by separating your list with titles like Cooking/Food Items or Group Equipment.
Like anything, the more you do it, the easier and easier it’ll get. You’ll find that some things are unnecessary for your crew when camping or you’ll find other things that are must-haves. Keep adjusting your checklists for every adventure and you’ll be a pro in no time.
Wherever you’re heading, happy camping!
Here’s a Basic Camping Packing List:
- Tents (if not car camping)
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping liners (if camping in colder temperatures
- Camping pillow (or use folded clothing)
- Camp chairs
- Corkscrew/bottle opener
- Cooking Utensils
- Eating Utensils
- Scrubber (for pans)
- Trash bags
- Fire starter/kindling (for fire pits)
- Firewood sourced nearby
- Stove and fuel (for backcountry)
Clothing and Footwear:
- Sturdy boots
- Strapped sandals
- Moisture wicking shirts, pants, underwear
- Long thermals
- Waterproof jacket
- Fleece or down jacket
- Toilet paper
- Bug repellant
- First aid kit
- Solar charging
- Hand sanitizer
Ready to get outdoors?
Click here to create your camping trip board and invite your friends! ⛺