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Preparing for Campouts

(Originally Published in 2001) - Our first campout was in our backyard. We were only allowed to go inside the house to use the facilities. This way we got to practice setting up the tent and outdoor cooking. But the biggest advantage was we made a list of things we should "have brought" but didn't. That way when we had our first away from home campout we came well prepared!


Karen in New Haven

Do you have a list of items you "never" want to forget when you go camping? Or any camping preparation suggestions that have helped you over the years?

Send them to or post them below.

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June 15, 20010 found this helpful

Never forget:
Insect repellent
Water repellent matches
A flashlight & extra batteries
Bottled water (I once got sick from drinking camp
- and/or
Water purifying tablets
Marshmallows to roast
A sleeping bag & eggcrate mattress pad (for comfort) & pillow
Shower shoes(flip-flops) for walks to the bathhouse
Camp cooking utensils (if you are doing a lot of
cooking out) & canned foods
A cooler & ice or ice packs


Personal toilet items
- Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA

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June 15, 20010 found this helpful

I would add to that list:
A shovel (for burying campfires or digging a trench around the tent.)
Some plastic sheeting or tarp
First Aid Kit
Can Opener
Folding knife
Laundry cord (for hanging wet clothes)
Laundry Soap (if you plan to do laundry)
Dish Soap and dish cloth or sponge
- Susan

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June 16, 20010 found this helpful

Don't forget the can opener! - Michele

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June 17, 20010 found this helpful

These ideas/suggestions are in no particular order:

- Always bring your pocket knife, rain poncho, flashlight (with an extra set of batteries), string/rope, toilet paper, and plastic bags.


- A small toiletry kit should contain a tooth brush, tooth paste, comb, chapstick, hand lotion, and soap. I always tried to put in some facial tissues. Things to put up long hair (elastics) are great on hot days.

- Small backpacks are great for day trips.

- Dress in layers with a wind breaker on the top layer. Don't forget hats, gloves, and warm socks/shoes (weather dependent).

- Develop a checklist. It may depend on the "type" of camping you do (i.e., tent, cabin, camper, etc.), the time of year, length of the trip, and how far you might have to carry your gear.

- Pack all of your stuff in sturdy bags and don't over pack your bags. The ideal situation is carrying all of your personal gear in one trip.

- If you are going to be around water, be prepared. Bring your swim suit, towel, sun lotion, hat, sun glasses, flip flops, glass case (if needed), etc. You might also think about whether shoes and socks might need to be worn to the beach. For those who go out in boats and canoes, a strap may be needed if the person wears glasses. A shirt and shorts may also need to be worn over a swim suit if you will be out on the water for an extended period of time.


- Do your homework in advance to know what is and is not available at the facility.

- After each trip, evaluate what you did and did not use (and why you did not use each item). Also, indicate items that you could have used. Update your checklist(s) accordingly.

- Evaluate what worked well and what should be changed for your next camping trip.

- Firestarters are easy to make, and help out when the wood is wet.

- Bring your matches in a waterproof container. Another option is to waterproof your matches by dipping them into nail polish or melted paraffin.

- Start fires only in designated fire bowls.

- Have a bucket of water near by any open flame.

- A bandana is a versatile item. It can be used as a fire scarf, a sling, a wrap (in case of an accident), a "bag" on a pole, hot pad, headband, neckband, wash cloth, etc.


A damp bandana around your neck feels great on a hot day.

- Bring something to sit on. (Commonly known as a sit-upon.) There are now camp stools, portable camp chairs, and portable director's chairs.

- A mess kit and a silverware set are quite handy. The mess kit includes small pans that can double as a plate and bowl. It generally has a plastic cup with measuring lines on it.

- A compass is a handy item.

- I had a small manual can opener about an inch or two in length. It was hinged, and it had a sharp blade that you had to work around the lip of the can.

- I always liked to put in pen/pencil and some paper in a plastic ziploc bag.

- Bring small butter containers for your food leftovers.

- Have a plan for cleaning up (dishes, bathroom facilities, trash disposal, etc.) Think about sanitation.


- Decide ahead of time what to do with wet things on the ride home.

- Have a contingency plan in case of natural disaster (especially in case of a flood if you are tent camping).

- Remember your First Aid kit. Make sure at least one person in your group has a current First Aid certification from the American Red Cross or American Heart Association (or similar organization).

- Make sure you know about any health concerns (bee allergies, etc.) of your group members.

- Leave your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member and include contact information for each member of your group. Bring along the contact information for that individual who has your itinerary.

- Determine in advance how and what you will be eating and cooking. The two easiest meals should be the one right after you arrive and just before you leave.

- Practice putting up your tent in the dark if you plan to arrive as it is getting dark.

- Store all food in closed containers, so as not to attract animals, bugs, etc.

- One pot meals means there is only one pot to wash!

- Trail mix is a great snack, and it can be made with a variety of ingredients.

- Ziploc bags can be used to mix up ingredients and then the food can be squeezed out of the bag.

- The more simple your meal preparation is, the more time you have to do other things!

- Remember to allow for free time in your schedule. Relax and enjoy nature! - Kathy

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June 17, 20010 found this helpful

We started camping during our first vacation after getting married and have continued for 13 years and 4 kids... We started building our camping boxes from the beginning. We use Rubbermade totes in varying sizes. The kitchen boxes have all our kitchen things. I actually have a whole set of kitchen utensils that stay in the camping box. These I have picked up at thrift stores and yard sales. They do not match, but they do work. For our last trip (to Glacier Nat'l Park) I made 3 denim drawstring bags to hold: flatware, cooking utensils, and tent stakes. These worked great. No more hunting for that last fork or spoon in the bottom of the box. The Rubbermade boxes also hold our sleeping bags. Great for the back of the pick up, and in the tent. When it looks like rain, I pack them in the boxes, head out for a day of hiking, then come back to a dry camp.

Other items we like for camping are 2 dishpans for washing dishes (one soapy and one clean). Different colors help you remember which is which. We have 4 kids to do the dishwashing, but when it was just me, I took along a rubbermade dish drainer. I could wash, rinse, and drain. By the time I was finished with the dishes, most had drip dried. We also bring along an assortment of ziplock bags in various sizes. They are great for storing left-overs; storing fresh river fish when caught, making pudding (add instant pudding and milk to bag, sqeeze to mix, put in ice chest until dinner; cut corner and squeez into bowls); etc. We also keep a roll of foil and plastic wrap in the camping box. Other regular stock items include: clothes line with clothes pins, radio with extra batteries, dish soap, TP, old dish towels, and matches. Happy camping. - Dee Wolters Viola, ID

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June 18, 20010 found this helpful

And always, ALWAYS take along a screwdriver and a coffee pot! On one of the few camping trips that I did not go on with some friends of ours (They always said I packed everything but the kitchen sink), they forgot to take along a pan and a spoon. They ended up making baked beans in the coffee pot and stirring it with a screwdriver! Hey, whatever works, right?

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June 18, 20010 found this helpful

Also...don't forget the trash bags... :)
- Newspaper to help start the fire
- Camera to catch all the fun times on film!! - Sheli

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June 22, 20010 found this helpful

- Don't forget SUNBLOCK!!!
- Put your spare clothes (especially underwear) into ziplock bags so they stay clean and dry. You can use the large freezer bags for this, then use the bags to stash the wet stuff later. - Brita

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By Tawnda (Guest Post)
May 4, 20040 found this helpful

We live in Alaska, so come summer time it is hard to keep us home! We go camping as much as we can. Just as we have a picnic Rubbermaid for day trips, we also have camping Rubbermaids that are ready to go except for our food and clothes.

We have resorted more to the action packer type totes for camping because they have a locking lid that doesn't blow away in the back of the truck.

We pack all of the things you are bound to forget at least one of on your trip. If it is always in the tote, you don't have to worry about forgetting it. I keep old silverware, plates, bowls and cups as well as paper goods in case we don't have time to clean them. We keep a small bottle of dish soap and tubs to wash in. Old kitchen towels and dishrags and potholders, spatulas, serving spoons, tongs for hot dogs, aluminum foil, trash bags, extra ziplocks, can opener, flashlight, extra batteries, matches, sunblock, bug dope, first aid kit, old sheets and plastic table cloths to cover old yucky picnic tables or to lay on ground when there are no tables, etc.

We get a package of miniature ziplocks from the craft section of Wal-mart and fill with salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc. so that larger spice containers don't take up as much room. We put all of those in one large ziplock to keep them together. We also take cornmeal, flour and sugar along in gallon ziplocks because we like to get creative and cook real meals when we camp. You can do a world of wonders in a dutch oven!

You can now buy this creative container filled with spices in the hunting section of Wal-mart but it is like $6 or more. It is very similar to a cake decorator container filled with sprinkles, etc. that I had gotten on clearance and am now waiting to empty that to use in the future. Each section has its own lid you can open and shake out. I think there are 6 or 8 individual sections. I guess it is worth the investment since you can reuse it.

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