KEEN’s Car Camping Checklist
It’s Thursday evening and your three-day camping weekend is fast approaching. It’s time to pack. But instead of creating your usual frantic garage-pile of things you may or may not actually need for your trip, try using this handy car camping checklist to smooth out your packing (and camping) experience. We’ve also made it easy to download and add in a few things of your own (so you never forget stuff like your guitar or dog food).
Things for sleeping & hanging out
Camping just isn’t as much fun if you forget the tent or sleeping bags. (That’s actually why they are the first two things to always remember to pack). Be sure to pack these essentials to help ensure successful sleeping and relaxing in the woods.
❏ Tent (make sure it’s got all the parts!)
❏ Sleeping bags
❏ Sleeping pads
❏ Camp chairs (for those cozy evenings around the fire)
❏ Camp blanket (also for those cozy evenings around the fire)
❏ Firewood, kindling, and hatchet
❏ Optional: Someone’s favorite stuffed animal. (If someone in your crew needs this for a happy away-from-home sleep, definitely pack it.)
Things for eating
Here at KEEN, we’re pretty passionate about camp cooking. Especially our KEEN Kanteen Head Chef David Gabel. Check out his tips for creating a camp kitchen and make sure to load up your camp kitchen box with these essentials.
❏ Camp stove (and extra fuel)
❏ Cooking pots and pans (personally, we love to include a cast iron pan!)
❏ Potholder or pot lifter
❏ Sharp cooking knife
❏ Cooking utensils like a spatula, a cooking spoon, and a heavy-duty tongs
❏ Cutting board
❏ Kettle and coffee/tea/hot cocoa making gear (We’re talking French press, coffee filters, loose leaf tea strainer. Whatever good morning jolt you desire.)
❏ Plate, bowl, mug, and utensils for everyone in the family (except for the dogs, they’ll be a-ok with just two bowls)
❏ S’mores sticks (or a sharp knife to carve some up)
❏ Dishwashing gear (large bin or pot to use as a basin, biodegradable soap, sponge, or rag and a dishcloth for drying)
❏ Resealable plastic bags and deli containers (these are handy to have and can be cleaned and reused trip after trip)
❏ Bags or bins for garbage and recycling
❏ Optional: Water jug and water bottles. If you are staying at a campground with potable water, you are probably fine but sometimes it’s good to bring your own water just to be safe.
(These are the things we always have on hand.)
❏ Salt, pepper, and any other spices you regularly cook with
❏ Cooking oil (whatever type you like)
❏ Hot sauce (for us, this is a must)
❏ An assortment of tea and/or hot cocoa packets
❏ S’mores stuff (after all, it’s a camping staple, right?)
This section will vary depending on your specific trip menu. We love this meal-specific list because it helps ensure that you don’t end up without the buns on hot dog night. Don’t forget to pack plenty of snacks and drinks too.
Example Meal 1:
Dinner on Friday – Chili dogs
❏ Two jars of chili
❏ Hot dogs/veggie dogs
❏ Cheddar cheese
❏ Two onions
Example Meal 2:
Breakfast on Saturday – Granola bowls
❏ Oat creamer
Things for the body
It’s always a good idea to make sure that everyone has all the gear they’ll need for a comfortable weekend away. Hand over this checklist to kids and put them in charge of packing up their own stuff (just be sure to double-check that everything actually made it into the bag).
Pro tip: Adjust this packing list as needed to best suit the season in your area. Then save it so that next time clothing packing will be a total breeze.
❏ Sturdy shoes (depending on what activities you plan to do, think hiking boots or water sandals)
❏ Camp shoes (shoes to kick around in around the campsite)
❏ Pajamas or warm layers for sleeping
❏ T-shirts/tank tops
❏ Jacket (insulated if it’s cold, waterproof if you live anywhere near Oregon)
❏ Warm hat and gloves (you honestly just never know)
❏ Optional: Sunhat, sunglasses, bathing suit, and/or birthday hats
❏ Toilet paper (Always good to have extra even if you’re headed to a campground with facilities.)
❏ Biodegradable soap (for hands, body, hair, or for when the dog rolls in a dead fish)
❏ Bug spray or salve
❏ Specific toiletries like medications, contact lens cleaner, face lotion, hair ties
Things for play
For us, this is an important one while camping. In addition to the stuff you need, you and the family are going to want the right gear and clothes to get into all that fun that camping provides. Similar to the food section above, this one is going to be dependent on the activities you are planning to do.
Gear for fun:
❏ Leisure time essentials (Books, magazines, journal, sketchbook)
❏ Campsite games/toys (Cards, mancala, nature bingo, book of word games)
❏ Activity-specific gear (Wouldn’t want to forget that tackle box or bike helmet, right?)
Sometimes getting everything ready for a weekend of camping can be overwhelming. But once you’re out there—singing silly songs around the campfire, dropping marshmallow in the dirt (and still eating them of course), and listening to the wind gently blow through the birch leaves above you—all that work is totally worth it. Download this packing list (PDF), print it out, and have it on hand so that nothing holds you back from getting out there in nature and enjoying some starry nights and sticky s’mores fingers.