Camping gear checklist

We didn’t have much (read: anything) to start with. And it’s always hard to gear up for something when you don’t know how often you’re actually going to use what you buy.

So this seems to be the core set of things one needs to get started (car camping) without going overboard. Am I missing anything obvious? (We already have water bottles and clothes.)

We’re currently shopping for sleeping bags. Trying to keep things on the inexpensive side (~$100) while staying fairly light (<3 lbs). I’m somewhat struggling with temperature ratings. I run hot, so +25 or +35°F seems about right, but why not +45? Stephanie runs cold, so she’s looking at +15°F. We’re both concerned about being constrained in the mummy design, so we’re thinking about light rectangular bags. Any suggestions? I think we may have to go back to REI and see how the mummies feel.

REI’s 10-Plus Essentials is a useful reference. Things I probably wouldn’t have thought of: a whistle. Shopping at Campmor and Backcountry Edge and Mountain Sports so far.

Update, July 26, 2009: It’s been two years since I first put together this list, and after numerous car camping excursions, I have a far more nuanced appreciation for what I like to have with me, which I’ve compiled in a new post, Car Camping Essentials.


First question: Are you going camping or backpacking? If the former, stick to items that are usable and comfortable. If the latter, you really do want to keep weight and packability in mind. Example: for car camping you can’t beat a classic coleman outdoor stove, but for backpacking you need something much smaller like an MSR DragonFly.

If you’re thinking of any cold weather trips, mummy bags have much better thermal properties that rectangular bags.


rectangular=bad because the cold seeps into those empty places and you suffer. I find the temp ratings on the bags are almost always exaggerated (remember your body temp drops when you sleep) so go for the lowest rating you can afford. sleeping bags are a comfort you shouldn’t skimp on. oh, and backpacks are another thing it’s good to spend money on–that back support really helps.

Fun! I don’t see anything obvious missing, but you can get into various levels of detail with lists like this. You made me think that our car camping checklist might be helpful to others, so I’ve posted it along with some other thoughts about gear.


I love my Big Bertha mummy sleeping bag, it’s very comfy. Also, I might wait to buy the cooking materials till you’ve become a little more hard core. Pitch a tent, sleep in a sleeping bag, & drink beer out of a cooler and next thing you know you’re spirit animal will be hopping into camp ready to lead you off on a mystical journey.


Let’s see…duct tape and flare gun/road flares come to mind…um, a couple of those thin aluminum sheets that are supposed to help keep you warm in the event of an emergency (say you are trapped in the snow and your sleeping bags are wet). Oh, and emergency chocolate stash. That is VERY important.

Sleeping bag, pad, and pillows ordered. Decided mummy bags weren’t so bad after all. May not need a backpack initially (for car camping), but we’ll definitely need it for vespa camping.

Finally picked up an MSR Pocket Rocket and a GSI Bugaboo Non-Stick Mess Kit for our Utah National Parks trip, pictured in Motel 6 camping.


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