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Packing for Wilderness Camping: The Ultimate Guide

Packing for a camping trip at a campground and packing to head out into the wilderness are two different things. When you have your car to carry all your stuff, you can take pretty much anything you want with you. The size and weight of your tent don't really matter, and you can even take a camper or trailer instead. You can take folding beds, cooking equipment, and even camping furniture, and it doesn't matter. But when you're going to be carrying all of your things, packing light is key. It takes practice to be able to pack a bag that you can carry as you walk (or perhaps cycle), as well as the right gear.

Start with a Good Bag

The first thing to start with is a good backpack. You need a bag that fits you comfortably and that you're able to carry. You should have a backpack that fits your shoulders and isn't too big for you. Women might benefit from looking at backpacks designed for them, especially if they're particularly petite and have narrow shoulders. Look for backpacks that have straps on the hips or waist, as well as across the chest. You should also look for padding and ventilation for comfort. For a longer trip, a pack of about 65 liters should be fine, but you can go small for just a day or two.

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Pick Your Tent

Next, you'll need a tent to sleep in. A lightweight, compact tent is what you'll want for any trip where you have to carry your tent with you. Keep your tent as small as you can, focusing on how much space you need to sleep however many people are on the trip, rather than any extra living space. If there's a group of you, multiple small tents will probably be better than one large tent. Other things to look for include the speed with which you can put it up and take it down, as well as how weatherproof it is.

Pack Lightweight, Climate-Appropriate Sleeping Gear

Once you have somewhere to sleep, you need some other items to sleep comfortably. A sleeping back is a must, especially in cooler weather. Make sure you choose one that's right for the climate. Check what temperatures it can handle so that you know you'll be warm at night. Something to prevent you from sleeping directly on the ground is useful too. Camping mats can be made from foam if you're looking for something cheap, or there are inflatable options. A self-inflating mat doesn't require you to carry a pump. An inflatable pillow isn't essential but might help you be more comfortable.


When you're camping, there's always the chance you're going to get wet. This is especially true if you're planning on canoeing, kayaking, or any other water sports. Waterproofing your stuff is essential if you want to avoid having wet clothes and a wet sleeping bag. Dry bags will keep your things dry, and they're also useful for helping to separate your stuff within your backpack. EcoGear FX has some options for keeping your things dry, including waterproof pouches for your cell phone. You can also get covers to pull over your backpack, although you might find them slightly less reliable.

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Cooking and Eating Equipment

If you're planning to heat anything up to eat or drink, it's handy to have some equipment and utensils. You might be able to start a fire in some places (check before you go on your trip) but you'll still need something to cook in or on. And if you can't start a fire, you ideally would have a camping stove. For something very compact, try a Trangia, which has several different items packed into one bundle. You can eat straight from the pot, but a lightweight bowl, cup, and cutlery set can be useful too.


Of course, you're going to need food too. Try to keep things lightweight and easy to cook. Anything that you can make in a single pot is a good idea, whether you take quick camping meals or you want to cook something from scratch. Of course, you should also take water with you. If you're planning to fill up from freshwater sources at any point, you can use solutions like iodine filters to ensure it's clean before you drink it. A cleaning sponge is useful too, and some biodegradable soaps are available.


When you're packing clothes for your camping trip, think about the weather and the environment. Having different lightweight layers can help you to pack lightly and ensure you're able to keep cool or warm as you need to. If you're only going for a short trip, you shouldn't need too many spare changes of clothes. Choose clothing that wicks away sweat and make sure you keep a spare set of clothes dry in case what you're wearing gets wet.

Personal Hygiene and First Aid

Remember to pack some essential supplies for personal hygiene and first aid. Wet wipes always come in handy for a quick cleanup. Try looking for natural products for toothpaste and other items so you can avoid introducing any soaps or other substances into the environment. Take a towel for drying off too. A first aid kit is a must too, and you can get compact kits with a range of useful supplies. Taking CPR classes before your camping trip would be a great idea to be prepared for anything. Some other essentials include bug spray and sunscreen to protect you from the elements.


There are a few gadgets that you might want to take on a camping trip. Your phone is good to have with you, especially if you know you'll be able to make calls. A spare power bank will keep it charged for you. It's also useful to have a flashlight or even a couple of them. One you can wear on your head will leave your hands free. Pack some spare batteries to make sure you don't run out of power. Packing a device like the Bad Elf GPS will minimize the chances of getting lost no matter where you are

When you're packing things into your backpack, experiment with different configurations to get things right.

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