It’s that time of year again: camping season! Make life easier for yourself by keeping these camping essentials together in one place so when the fancy strikes you, or those elusive Yosemite campsites open up, you’re ready to pack up on a moments’ notice!


Unless you’re planning on sleeping in a cabin or on a tarp beneath the stars, you’ll need a tent. Whether it’s a giant one for the whole family or a tiny one for yourself on a secluded mountain top, make sure it’s clean, dry, and ready to go. Hopefully you’ll have left it as such after your last trip, but double-check just to be sure.

Most tents come with their own tent stakes, but if you’d prefer something a bit sturdier, add several extra stakes to your camping box. If you have the space and don’t want to use a rock or a stick, throw in a tent stake hammer or mallet. Bonus: some have a hammer on one side and a hatchet on the other, so you’ll have a tool to break down kindling and firewood as well.

Sleeping bag and pad 

Once the tent is set up, you’ll need something to sleep on and in. Put the pad down first to create the soft base and follow it up with your sleeping bag. Sleeping bags have come a long way since middle school sleepaway camp, and these days there are countless lightweight, warm ones to choose from. There are even sleeping bag/pad combos, so you don’t have to worry about rolling off the pad and spending the night on the hard ground!


Whether you choose propane, solar, or LED, having ample lighting around your camp is a must. And to make sure you’re not taking the camp’s light source with you every time you need to leave the campsite, pack a flashlight, or even better, a headlamp. Go hands free while walking around the campground, doing the dishes, and getting ready for bed. Just don’t forget to turn it off when chatting with fellow campers or chilling around the campfire so you don’t shine that super bright light in anyone’s eyes!

Camp stove

Now that we’ve covered sleep and visibility, let’s talk food! Some plan to survive a camping trip on freeze-dried, non-perishable, or cold food, but to cook anything, you’ll need a camp stove. Even if you aren’t planning to cook something elaborate, consider at least bringing a small one for making coffee or boiling water for oatmeal or soups.


While we’re on the topic of food, you’ll definitely need a cooler. Depending on where you’re making camp (are you in bear country or hiking into your site?), there are a variety of coolers available, running the gamut of size and price. Plus, a cooler can double as a seat or 2 around the campfire.


Speaking of sitting around the fire, add chairs to the essentials list. Some may argue chairs aren’t a necessity, but it’s decidedly more enjoyable to relax around a fire in a chair rather than on the ground. If you’re not backpacking, make yourself at home! You’ll be glad you did.

Safe and smart | Travel hacks


about Hannah

Hannah Fairbanks is a freelance writer living in San Francisco with her husband and 2 daughters. When she’s not writing, you might find her reading, packing bento box lunches for her kids, and making sure she gets in at least 10,000 Fitbit steps a day.