The ultimate camping list – Don’t be burdened with too much or caught with too little |

The ultimate camping list – Don’t be burdened with too much or caught with too little

I get this question about once a week: “My friends and I are going camping. Do you have a list of what to take?”

With the help of Walt O’Dwyer, camping manager at Mountain Recreation, and Miriam Limov, backpacking instructor at Sierra College, I’ve compiled the following, for beginners and experienced campers alike.

To start, you must answer a couple of basic questions.

• How long am I going for?

• Where am I going?

• What will the weather be like?

• Am I car camping and can take more gear?

• Am I backpacking and need to keep things light?

How you answer these will determine the type of gear you bring. A car camping weekend at Lakes Basin requires different equipment than a week’s trip on the John Muir Trail.

The cardinal rule: If you don’t think you’ll need it, you probably won’t. And once you pack it in, start over and get rid of one-third. You need far less than you think you do.

The essentials


• Minimalist shelter or real tent

• three or four season

• one or two persons or a whole family

Ground cloth/tarp

Sleeping bag

• Summer bag – to 45 degrees

• three-season bag – to 20 degrees

• four-season bag – to 0 degree or below

Sleeping pad





Sharp knife

Plate and/or bowl

Unbreakable, heat resistant cup

Coffee or tea filter

Water bottle

Water purification system (iodine, water pump, electrostatic)


Biodegradable soap (Protect the environment and stay clean, too)


Strike-anywhere matches or lighter

Nylon rope

Two 40-gallon trash bags (pack cover in rain)

Bandanas (at least two)

Bug repellent


Personal toilet items

• Medications, if needed

• Toothbrush

• Toothpaste

• Lip balm

• Hand lotion

• Hand sanitizer

• Roll of toilet paper

• Small trowel

Topo map of route (in a plastic Zip Loc bag)

Compass or GPS

Wilderness permit

Pen and paper

Day pack or hydration pack

Sunglasses/reading glasses

First aid kit

• Moleskin

• Band-aids

• Butterfly bandage

• Gauze pads

• Adhesive tape

• Ace bandage

• Alcohol pads

• Tweezers

• Small mirror

• Pain killers

Appropriate clothing

These are just the basics…destination and weather will determine the final list

Great hiking shoes

Great hiking socks

Sandals or camp shoes


T-shirts or hiking shirts

Long pants (stay away from denim)

Long sleeve shirt

Bathing suit


Thermal underwear

Sweater or fleece

Warm jacket or vest for cold weather

Lightweight rain gear (poncho or pants/jacket)


2 hats: sun hat, warm hat


Wildlife, plant or natural history guides

Trekking poles

Photo equipment or notebook

Cards or lightweight games

Star chart

Car camping extras

Large water jug

Larger style stove: multiple burner

Cutting board, more elaborate cooking supplies

Thick camping mattress


More photo equipment


Table lantern

Bikes, kayaks, inner tubes, telescopes, etc

A few favorite luxury items

Sometimes it is nice to bring something special…

Down pillow


Camping espresso maker


A word on grub

Food can make or break your camping trip. Essentially, keep it simple, make sure you have enough and that you like to eat what you pack. Look for an upcoming article on camping and backpacking food. Even with the current fire restrictions, it’s not hard to eat well in the wilderness.

Have a favorite camping recipe you want to share? Send it to me at


K. Ryan Hodgkin is a resident of Grass Valley. She can be reached be e-mail at or by telephone at 273-1801.

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