Ron’s Car Camping Checklist

Having some basic necessities and creature comforts can really make the difference between a successful camping trip or one that leaves you wishing you had never gone in the first place. Basic items like tents, sleeping bags and food are just the beginning when it comes to creating a complete camping checklist. It’s often the little things like can openers or resealable plastic bags that are easy to overlook, but much appreciated when living in your temporary home away from home.

The camping checklist below was created by going through our own camping gear and from older lists we’ve used in the past with success. We arranged the items into logical groups, hoping it would help to make more sense that way. We omitted recreational items, like boats, kayaks, canoes, fishing gear & tackle, bicycles, and skateboards because these types of items are unique to your adventure and preferences when car camping. We’ve also not included food itself and recommend cooking easy and quick meals. We often prepare things like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, and trail mix ahead of time for easy campsite preparation.

Just print out the car-camping-checklist and add whatever else you want to the list, on the provided blank lines. Use the check boxes on the left to be sure no items are forgotten.

Below the camping checklist is an explanation of some of the less obvious items and how we use them when car camping.


  • Air pump
  • Axe
  • Broom & dustpan
  • Bungee cords
  • Chairs (1 per person)
  • Clothesline w/clips
  • Firewood (bring or get at campsite)
  • Flashlights (1 per person)
  • Hammer
  • Lantern(s)
  • Pillows
  • Rope
  • Shovel (fold-up type)
  • Sleeping bags (1 per person)
  • Sleeping mats (foam or air) or cots
  • Tarps
  • Tent(s) w/poles, rainfly, stakes
  • Wood saw


  • Bug repellant
  • Clothes (per day)
  • Hats
  • Jackets, sweatshirts
  • Money (cash and quarters)
  • Personal shower/hygiene kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Rain gear, ponchos
  • Shower shoes
  • Shower towels, facecloths
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen


  • Air horn
  • Batteries
  • Camera w/accessories
  • Cell phone w/car charger
  • Cooler(s)
  • Daypack, fanny pack
  • Fire / Wilderness permits (if needed)
  • Games (card, board, book)
  • GPS and/or Compass
  • Road Maps or GPS
  • Roadside Emergency Repair kit/tools
  • First aid kit
  • Storage containers
  • Water Purification (tablets, filters, UV light)


  • Aluminum foil
  • Camp stove or Grill
  • Can opener/bottle opener/corkscrew
  • Coffee filters
  • Coffee pot
  • Cooking utensils (spatulas, wooden spoons, cutting knifes, tongs, pot holder, oven mitt, scissors)
  • Cups (paper or plastic throw-away)
  • Cutting board (small)
  • Dish soap
  • Dish towels
  • Dish-tubs (wash, rinse)
  • Eating utensils (forks, spoons, knifes)
  • Fuel (propane, white gas, charcoal, lighter fluid)
  • Insulated mugs
  • Matches or Lighter
  • Paper supplies (plates, towels, toilet paper, napkins)
  • Portable water container (5 gal)
  • Pots & Pans (large, medium, small)
  • Pot scrubber/ sponge
  • Roasting skewers (gotta roast hotdogs and s’mores)
  • Tablecloth (waterproof)
  • Trash bags (use saved produce bags from the grocery store)
  • Zip lock bags

Explanation of Items

Tarps – One of the most handy items while camping, we use them for additional shade at the campsite, as well as under the tent for floor protection. We usually bring three in different sizes with us.

Flashlights – campgrounds are dark at night – that’s a good thing. Flashlights are used in the tent and can be hung from the ceiling and are needed for those before bed bathroom treks, or to make scary faces when telling campfire stories!

Axe and Wood Saw – Use these tools for cutting firewood and making kindling to start the fire. The back side of the axe can be used to pound in the tent stakes as well.

Bungee cords – Handy like tarps, these universal helpers can be used for hanging flashlights, trash bags, paper towels, and the like. They can be used to strap down gear to the top of your car or bundle related gear together for easy packing.

Shower shoes – Showers can get pretty grungy at campgrounds. Who knows what you could be stepping on in the shower. Bring an old pair of flip-flops and wear them always!

Money/ quarters – Many campground showers are coin operated and require quarters. And, many campsites do not get cell phone reception, but have pay phones. Quarters – don’t leave home without them.

Air horn – These small horns are handy for scaring off nosy bears and other wild critters and are legal everywhere. But please, use only if absolutely necessary. Pay attention to bear warnings, always store food properly, and you’ll likely never need it.

Storage containers – We like using two giant sized non-clear containers to pack much of our gear and food into for camping. We use one for mostly kitchen items and the other for non-refrigerated food. And, they help minimize the smell of the food when the lid is attached – important when camping.

Paper supplies – I know this looks obvious, but save a few plates or napkins from dinner to help start the campfire.

Zip lock bags – another obvious one, but why take a bunch of Tupperware, when these do the same thing and take up much less packing space.

Portable water container – Many campgrounds provide drinking water, but you need to put it in something. We always use these soft-sided, collapsible 5 gallon containers made specifically for camping and available anywhere camping supplies are sold. Just hang from a tree or rest on the end of the picnic table for convenient water.