Camping is a great way to get away from the daily hustle and bustle of city life. Restorative, peaceful and open to adventures, going on a camping trip allows you to take a breath of fresh air and get a well deserved rest.
Whether you are planning a solo or family camping trip around Australia, being prepared to spend several days outdoors is essential to your safety and comfort. And because we want to make sure that you enjoy your time off, we have come up with an ultimate list of camping gear you must have. Oh and this list is printer-friendly by the way, so you do not have to write down anything. Just print this list and tick off your camping essentials:
Print your Ultimate Camping Checklist
So, are you ready to prep for the ultimate camping adventure? Let's start!
We have broken down our list into three main categories: Camping Equipment, Camp Kitchen, Clothing and Personal Items. Beyond this camping checklist you will find helpful tips as to why these items are included in your camping must-haves as well as some product recommendations depending on your needs.
I. Camping Equipment
❏ Tarp, Rope and Pole (for shade/rain protection)
❏ Extra tent pegs
❏ Hammer or mallet
❏ Air mattress (with air pump)
❏ Air mattress repair kit
❏ Sleeping bag
❏ Blankets ❏ Sleeping pad or sleeping bag liners i.iii Power Source and Lighting
❏ Camping solar panel
❏ LED lights
❏ Fire starters
❏ Extra batteries
i.iv Communication and Navigation
❏ GPS devices
❏ Two-way radios
❏ Mobile phones II. Camp Kitchen ❏ Water jugs / Containers (large ones) ❏ Portable water filter ❏ Camp Stove or camp oven ❏ Cooking utensils ❏ Cutting board ❏ Bottle opener ❏ Can opener ❏ Food storage containers ❏ Cooking oil ❏ Fishing gear ❏Folding table ❏ Folding camp chairs ❏ Trash bags ❏ Tea towels ❏ Mugs ❏ Kettle ❏ Paper towels ❏ Plates, bowls, eating utensils and glasses ❏ Dishwashing products (soap and scouring sponge) III. Clothing and Personal Items ❏ Basic first aid kit ❏ Laundry bags ❏ Plastic bags ❏ Insect repellent ❏ Socks ❏ Underwear
❏ Long pants ❏ Belt ❏ Raincoat ❏ Rubber boots ❏ Hat ❏ Bandana ❏ Shoes ❏ Swimsuits ❏ Sweatshirt ❏ Jacket ❏ Lip balm ❏ Deodorant ❏ Duffel bags ❏ Toothbrush ❏ Toothpaste ❏ Sunblock ❏ Washcloths ❏ Comb ❏ Feminine products ❏ Disposable razor ❏ Portable shower ❏ Solar water heater ❏ Towels ❏ Personal meds (always double up) Now that you have your camping checklist above, we have gone over why preparing them is important for your safety and comfort:
Regardless of the time year you go camping, shelter is the first equipment you need to set up. You, after all, need something to keep you safe from the outdoor elements. And the primary shelter for any camping activity is a tent. Naturally, you need a tent that is strong enough to withstand weather conditions throughout your trip. There are various tent sizes available ranging from single occupancy tents to tents large enough for up to six adults to sleep in.
Additional gear like a hammer or a mallet is necessary to drive tent pegs to the ground and it would not hurt to bring along extra pegs, just in case.
Setting up a tarpaulin or canvas sheet by your tent entrance adds shade and gives extra protection should it start raining. Rope and poles keep the tarp up, giving you a shady pathway to your tent.
Camping does not necessarily mean "roughing it". Comfortable bedding is necessary to ensure restful nights. How else are you going to have enough energy for the next day's activities?
A sleeping bag is the standard bedding of choice, particularly by campers with limited space in their tent. Using sleeping bag liners make it more comfortable and provide extra insulation. This is helpful if you are camping during the fall or winter, when it can get very cold during the evenings.
If you are camping with a partner or with kids and you have enough space in your tent, an air mattress is a hassle-free bedding option. These mattresses keep you above the cold ground while you sleep and you can even buy air mattresses with built-in air pump, for rapid inflation. Ultra portable and simple to use, air mattresses are sturdy enough for outdoor use. These can also double up as extra beds in your home.
Power Source and Lighting
Fire starters are important when you go camping. You need them to get a campfire going in order to cook food and provide light on the campsite in the evenings. Extra batteries for flashlights and gadgets are also necessary. The problem though is there are areas where campfires are not allowed. This is common in national parks as part of their conservation efforts. While extra batteries are handy if you will go camping for a night or two, you will need a backup power source to charge devices if you are staying outdoors for a longer time.
This is where using a camping solar panel or an inverter generator becomes helpful. Let's start with solar panels.
Camping solar panels are not like those huge glass panels that you see installed on rooftops or buildings. A solar panel for camping is portable and available in different sizes, power output and design. Need more help? No worries, we'll explain.
Why use portable solar panels?
Portable solar panels are ideal for camping because unlike turning your car engine on and off to charge batteries, it is completely silent and does not emit smoke. You do not have to spend money buying extra petrol to run it. All you need is sunlight and last time we checked, that is completely free.
If you plan to spend nights in a holiday park, using a solar panel is preferable. Because it is quiet, you would not disturb other campers. Plus, you get to save money since you can stay in unpowered tent sites that charge as little as $15-$20 a night. So, if you are trying to stay within a budget, not paying extra to charge devices and keeping your lights on at night helps a lot.
Speaking of keeping the lights on at night, portable solar panels can be used to power LED lights around camp. Keeping your campsite well lighted is essential for your safety, more so if you are camping with family.
How can I use portable solar panels at camp?
It is important to understand that you cannot just directly connect your devices to a solar panel. Solar panels need to be connected to a regulator in order to charge 12 volt batteries that you can then use to power devices and appliances. Regulators are important to stabilize the power output, ensuring that the power transferred to your devices is safe to use.
So, if you want keep food fresh (and beers cold), you can power a 12 Volt camping refrigerator or cooler. If you are camping in summer, you can power a fan to stay cool and keep insects away while you sleep. If you are camping in national parks where campfires are not allowed, you can still cook hearty meals on your electric camp stove. Heck, you can enjoy a nice warm shower (great if you are camping during the fall or winter) since portable solar panels can heat water, too.
What solar panel should you get?
The answer depends on what kind of camper you are. We have listed a quick guide here that could help:
Solar mats or Solar blankets - These are solar power sources that you can literally lay out when you need them. Solar mats are made with the same monocrystalline solar cells for maximum power output.
These are ultra-portable as they fold into an integrated bag with handles. These come with matte surfaces so they are very easy to clean AND can be used in the rain making these products perfect for hikers and backpackers. Solar mats also has a built in regulator, so you can charge devices anywhere.
Fixed solar panels - Great as backup power sources for the home, 4WD and campervans. Fixed solar panels are made with monocrystalline solar cells for high power output.
If you are looking for affordable solar panels that you can permanently affix on your roof, this is the ideal choice. Tempered front glass protects it from scratches and anonized frames double up on durability.
Folding solar panels – If you are not too keen about permanently affixing solar panels on the roof of your campervan, folding solar panels are handy, portable device that come in a suitcase type design.
There is no DIY process involved. This solar panel has a built-in regulator, so it is ready to use anytime, anywhere.
Flexible solar panels - For those that often travel in a camper van or a boat, it can be tricky to use fixed solar panels because camper van and boat roofs have curved surfaces.
Flexible solar panels are designed to adjust to the curve of a boat or camper van roof, is ultra-thin and lightweight so it does not add stress to the vehicle in any way. The flexibility feature allows you to adjust the angle of the panel to maximize sunlight exposure.
Solar Mini kit - If you have been camping for some time, you understand how the space in your car suddenly becomes prime real estate for all your gear. And a reliable power source should not be left behind.
So, if you have limited space in your car, a solar mini kit is a must-have. At 10 inches wide, 14 inches long and only 1.3 kilograms, it is powerful enough to trickle charge your vehicle battery and 12-volt devices.
Apart from relying on solar power, another great source of electricity when in the great outdoors are generators.
Inverter generators are great backup power sources, not just for off-the-grid camping but also for emergency use at home. These essentially work the same way as traditional generators but an inverter generator "refines" the electricity they generate. You get the same quality of electricity that you get from the main power company. Because inverter generators produce refined electricity, they are safe to power sensitive devices like smartphones and laptops.
Where standard generators are heavy, bulky and loud, inverter generators are smaller, portable and silent. Because inverter generators adjust power output to demand (meaning the engine does not run on constant full speed), they are more fuel efficient. This ability to adjust engine speed to demand is also a reason why inverter generators are silent. So if you have neighboring campers, you would not disturb them at all.
Communication and Navigation
If you are camping in a remote location, communication and navigation gear can be lifesavers. If you are leaving your campsite for a hike, you do not want to spend half of your trip trying to find your way back, do you?
If you can read a map, a compass allows you to navigate your way around specific locations. While many smartphones and watches today have electronic compasses installed, it is still helpful to use a standard compass as it is more reliable and does not rely on batteries to work.
Opt for lightweight compasses that you can wear around your neck, and has a sighting mirror. This mirror can be used to signal rescuers, should you need to do so.
GPS devices on the other hand tells you your exact location on its digital map. Choose sturdy, water resistant models when you shop for one.
Mobile phones are not just important for communication purposes. As we mentioned above, smartphones now come with compasses and GPS locators which are great to have as a back up. Make sure your phone has a protective case when you take it with you on a hike and bring extra batteries.
II. Camp Kitchen
Camping does not mean eating out of a can or surviving on hot dogs and s'mores (although come on - who goes camping without eating s'mores, right?). You can enjoy hearty meals with a little bit of planning and the right camp kitchen set up.
The equipment you would need depends a lot on your cooking preferences and the length of time you plan to go camping. The list we have here pretty much covers the basics and you can choose to add items as you see fit.
Large jugs and sealed containers of water is essential. One for cooking and one for washing. If you have room, bring extra water bottles, too for drinking. If you are going to set up camp beside a river or a lake, you can just bring large containers of water for drinking and cooking. A portable water filter is helpful especially for hikers that do not have a lot of room to spare for huge water bottles.
A camp stove or a camp oven is handy especially if you are in a location where campfires are discouraged.
Portable butane gas stoves are essential in a camp kitchen, but if you do not want to rely on the availability of fuel, you can use a 12 Volt electric camp stove or oven that you can connect to a 12 volt battery.
You cannot cook great camping meals without reliable cookware. Get pots and frying pans with lids, preferably those sturdy enough to cook over an open fire. There are plenty of camping cooking utensil sets that are much cheaper than buying items one by one.
While an esky filled with ice is usually enough to keep food fresh for a quick camping trip (quick = one night camping), it just would not work if you are camping off-the-gird for more than two days. A camping fridge or cooler that you can connect to a 12 volt battery keeps food fresh longer. We suggest keeping food (hamburger patties, hot dogs, fruits, steaks) inside resealable plastic bags. These allow you to store as much food as possible in the cooler, versus keeping them in Tupperware containers. Also, be sure you have enough trash bags with you to keep your camp site tidy.
III. Clothing and Personal Items
Scratches, scraped knees and splinters are almost a part of outdoor activities as anything, especially if you are camping with your kids. This is why packing a basic first aid kit is among the things you should do before you go camping. Make sure you get a kit that includes antibacterial wipes and antibiotics to prevent infections. Over-the-counter pain medications and antihistamines should also be included in the kit, as well as a first aid handbook.
The type of clothing you should bring depends on where and what time of the year you will go camping. While you need to layer clothes and bring thermal suits during fall and winter seasons, we have listed some clothing essentials here for year-round camping trips. General rule though: bring an extra for everything. So bring extra t-shirts, an extra jacket, socks, underwear, an extra pair of shoes pants. Throw in a raincoat and rain boots because you just never now when you will need them.
Doubling up on feminine products is also recommended as well as personal medications. You would not want to run out on your prescription meds when you are hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest pharmacy. Insect repellent and sun block are as much part of an Australian camping trip as your sleeping bag and tent. If there are two things you should protect yourself from while camping, it is the harsh sun and pesky mosquitoes. Wearing hats with a wide brim adds more sun protection, and do not forget to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes.
A portable shower and portable toilet is helpful if you are staying in campsites without bathroom facilities. Opt for solar heated portable showers that you can easily take with you.
Because it heats water using sunlight, you do not have to worry about connecting it to a battery for power. There are portable toilets available too so you would not have to squat in the bushes to do your business. You can easily set up a separate tent for privacy and have the convenience of a shower and bathroom outdoors.
And a few more important things to remember:
Do a vehicle safety check
In the weeks leading up to your camping trip, we highly recommend that you spend the time to inspect your vehicle to ensure that it is roadworthy. For your convenience, we have listed the top things you need to check before you go:
Tyre checks - Make sure you have the right tyre pressure for the terrain you will be driving on. Would you drive mostly on highways or rough roads? Check your tyre manufacturer's website or ask a mechanic for the correct pressure levels and adjust as necessary.
Aside from pressure, tread condition must also be checked before you leave. You should not see sidewalls, cracks or cuts on any of your tyres. And also perform the same check on your vehicle's spare tyre.
Water and engine oil levels - Water and engine oil and levels must be checked when you fuel up before your trip. Have a mechanic check if you need to replace your oil filter and do so, if he/she recommends it.
Windshield wipers - Make sure your wipers and screen-wash system works before you leave. If you are going to camp off-road, you need these to be able to see where you are going.
Lights - We are not just talking about headlights, here. Your headlights, brake lights, indicator lights, fog lights must all be working perfectly.
Brakes - If the brake pedal is not firm when applied, have a mechanic check your brake pads as a replacement may be necessary. If your brake pads are worn, change them before you leave.
Let someone else know that you are going away camping
You could tell a neighbour, a relative, a co-worker or a close friend. Tell them when you will leave, who you would go camping with, were you will go, and when you will be back. If possible, leave them with your cell phone number as well as a map to the campsite you will stay in. This is just an added safety measure. At least someone will know of your whereabouts and notice if you were not back at your expected date.
Experiencing the beauty of nature firsthand is exhilarating. Deep down we all crave the serenity of the outdoors and wish for the opportunity to escape the demands of modern day living. Understandably, it can get confusing to prepare everything you need to make your camping trip memorable. Hopefully, this camping checklist can get you started in the right direction.
Always remember, how prepared you are can make or break your entire camping experience. So as you go through this list, double check your gear to be sure you have got everything covered. And we wish you well on your camping trip!