What You Might Not Think to Pack for Your First Camping Trip

Prime camping season is just getting started for us in the Midwest.  We just got home from camping over the holiday weekend, and I only forgot one thing this trip.  Shampoo!  Ugh!  I did pack conditioner, if that counts!

We’ve been camping for six years with mostly our travel trailer or sometimes with just a tent.  I think we’ve got the packing thing down for camping, and I’ve put together this list of camping tips and items you might not think to bring.  (This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure policy here.)

Related post:  The Best Public Campgrounds in Northwest Wisconsin

What’s Always In Our Camper:

Tarp or rug to put down outside in front of the door – This will cut down on the amount of sand that comes inside and it’s a good place for the kids to take their shoes off.

Wet Wipes and hand sanitizer.  You will need A LOT of wet wipes after making a batch of messy s’mores.

Boot tray – keep it inside to contain the sand that made it through the door

Clothes line – you’ll need to dry those beach towels somewhere

Air pump – see below.  You don’t need to spend your camping trip blowing up those things yourself.

Inflatables for swimming – The bigger, the better!  The kids at the campsite next to us this last weekend were having the best time ever on this giant flamingo!  And I mean giant!

Christmas lights – to add a little extra light at night time.

Flashlights, headlamps, night light – bring more than you think you need.  Like 20 of them!

Shower shoes – just those old flip flops you never wear anymore

Coin purse with quarters – you’ll use those quarters when it’s time for a shower.

S’mores supplies – we use these extra long telescoping skewers for roasting our marshmallows.

Clothes pins – Use them with that clothes line you brought.  They are great chip clips too.

Disposable silverware, plates, bowls, and cups – You don’t want to be doing dishes all the time…

Plastic bags for garbage

Utility tool – My small Swiss army knife is always in my purse.  Except when TSA takes it…

Tool set – just the basics

Rain gear

Books, deck of cards, dice

Cooking basics – salt, pepper, oil, sugar, seasonings

Warm clothes – especially a jacket or sweatshirt once the sun goes down

Note pad and pen


First aid kit – bandages, Neosporin, aloe, medications

Hat – keep the sun off your face, or just cover up your “camping hair”

Kitchen knife

Baggies, foil, food storage containers

Dish soap and wash cloth

Sleeping bags

Glow sticks – these are fun to have when the sun goes down.  Bring a lot because kids swarm to glow sticks, just like bugs swarm to light. Be the cool mom and dad, and buy the 100 pack.


Bug spray – just in case it’s mosquito season

Table cloth and clips

Portable battery charger – if you don’t have electricity

Pot holder or oven mitt

Matches, fire starters, newspaper, lighter – We tried one of these color packets last weekend, and the flames of our campfire were blue, green, and teal for a really long time!

Camping on the water

Our prime camping spot this last weekend.

A Few Packing Tips for a Happy Camping Trip:

We use plastic storage containers for a lot of our packing.  They keep your stuff dry and organized.  I pack the kids clothes in their own containers that fit under the bench seat of our table.  Our bathroom supplies get their own container.  Another container for the kids activity books, pencils and markers, and small games.  And, of course, we always have that plastic storage container full of tools, batteries, duct tape, sewing kit, first aid kit, etc. etc.

Space is usually tight in the camper kitchen.  I do as much prep work as I can at home to save some time and frustration.  Fruit and veggies are washed and chopped at home.  I cut any meat that we are grilling, marinate it, and store it in ziplocs before we leave.  I even freeze it if it’s going to be a few days before we are going to eat it.

Create a master packing list for camping.  Write down everything, even the food you are bringing.  Keep this list so you can refer to it while packing for your next trip.  Although some of the food items may not apply, your memory will be jogged for the other items you may be forgetting this trip.

Think you are going to return to the same campground next year, but want a different site?  Walk around before you leave and take note of the site’s you want.  Take pictures too.  Check the campground’s reservation policy before you leave.  Some places let you make next year’s reservation one year in advance.

What did I miss?  What are your best camping tips?

Whether you have a motorhome, travel trailer, or a tent, get outside and enjoy some camping this year!

Sure you know the essential items to bring camping, but don't forget about what to bring for the ultimate family fun!
This is the list of things that you don't want to forget when you go camping. The list is full of items to guarantee family fun! I've also included our best camping tips! #Camping #packinglist #RV #thatwasafirst

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