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The Ultimate Essentials Camping Checklist

A concise camping checklist helps you bring the essential items for an enjoyable car camping trip.

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Car camping setup with air mattress and tent

A good camping checklist helps you figure out what you need to take on your next car camping trip. This camping checklist includes the essential items for an enjoyable and comfortable car camping trip while including some optional items depending on your trip. 

I have been car camping for decades and have refined my camping checklist over the years. We especially enjoy our car camping trips to various national parks. I’ve found that it’s really easy to bring too much stuff for car camping, so I’ve included the items that I have found are important for an enjoyable camping trip.  


Tools and Accessories



Hygiene & Health

Personal Items

Leisure & Recreation

Organizational Items

Camping with Kids

Camping with Dogs


Most of these items are found at your local outdoor store. You might be interested in checking out the planning tips for how to find a great campsite. If you’re hiking on your car camping trip, don’t forget to bring the essential hiking gear for a safe, fun hike.


What type of car is best for car camping?

An SUV, crossover, wagon, or minivan with fold-down seats provides plenty of cargo space for gear. Higher clearance helps access campsites down dirt roads, and all-wheel drive adds stability for varied terrain.

How do I organize my gear for car camping? 

Keeping your car organized is crucial due to the gear you can bring. Store each gear category in separate bins and ensure everything has a designated place in your car. Keep essentials like your headlamp, water bottle, and portable charger in your center console for easy access.

How can I ensure safety and comfort while car camping alone, especially as a solo female traveler?

Car camping can be a safe way to travel solo if you follow common sense and a list of safety precautions. Choose well-lit and populated campgrounds or big box stores that welcome campers. Always lock your doors at night and keep a personal safety device within reach.

Photo of author
Daniel Borkert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outdoor Footprints, a website that tells you everything you need to know about camping and hiking. He is an avid outdoorsman with almost four decades of experience in hiking, camping, caving, and fishing. Daniel loves to involve his wife and kids in his outdoor pursuits and inspire other families to do the same. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his family and an energetic Boston Terrier named Zion.