The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip - Intentional Travelers
The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

05 May The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip

If you are you going on a long camping road trip, being prepared and packing the right gear can make a big difference. In this post, we’ll share our recommended packing list, with details on our favorite items.

 Scroll down to get the printable camping road trip packing list.  

Our Big Road Trips

So far, we’ve completed two epic road trips, one month each, through the National Parks. Our first road trip took us to about a dozen parks. We spent most of the month camping but tried to stay somewhere with a hot shower and wifi every four (or so) days. In the second road trip, we spent almost half of the time staying at friends’ houses, but we still had a two-week stint in the middle of the trip where we camped in National Parks.

Note: We get most of our camping gear from REI. Why?

  1. Great products, reviews, and advice from a community of people that are passionate about outdoor adventures.
  2. Great return policy and customer service.
  3. Amazing benefits for becoming a member. Cost of membership? Free. Benefits like: you get 10% cash back off of regular priced items.
  4. Access to their famous REI Garage Sales where you can get returned, hardly used items at ridiculous prices.

 

Road Trip Camping List: Essentials

The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

Tent, rain cover, sleeping pads, and camp chairs

  • Tent with Rain Fly and Footprint
    We borrowed tents on both of our trips. While most nights we didn’t need the rain cover and footprint, we were really glad we had them for protection during two surprise storms.
    We Recommend: REI Halfdome 2 Plus Tent
  • Sleeping Bags
    We invested in mummy-style, down sleeping bags from REI which kept us warm when temperatures dipped into the 30’s at night in Banff.
    We Recommend: REI Flash Sleeping Bags
  • Compact Sleeping Pads
    On our first trip we took our own, bulky sleeping pads and they took up too much space in the car. The second time around we borrowed some great inflatable pads from our friends.
    We Recommend: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad 
  • Camp Pillows
    We always kept a pillow in the front of the car with us as well, which doubled as back support on long drives.
    We Recommend: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
  • Camp Towels
    We both have thin, quick dry towels from REI that take up very little space. We not only used them camping but also at one AirBnB rental which did not provide towels.
    We Recommend: REI MultiTowel Lite X-Large (more material to wrap yourself up in)
  • Fold-up Camping Chairs
    This was perhaps our bulkiest item after the suitcase. The seating in most campsites is limited to a picnic table, so chairs are necessary if you want to be able to sit by your fire at night.
    We Recommend: REI Camp X Chair
  • Hot/Cold Bag
    These take almost no space and can come in handy if your groceries exceed the size of your cooler.
    We Recommend: Arctic Zone Eco Blend Hot Cold Bag
  • Canvas Shopping Bags
    Multi-purpose for grocery shopping, keeping clothing items separate, etc.
    We Recommend: Just an example
  • Laptops and Laptop Cases
    Obviously these are not required for going into the wilderness, but for budding digital nomads like ourselves, we had to keep up on our online work every once in a while!
  • Bag for Cords and Chargers
    It’s easy to lose track of cords and chargers for your electronics, so we keep them all in one bag. Remember to bring chargers that can be used in your car.
    We Recommend: Eagle Creek Compression Sacs
  • Large Rolling Duffle
    Our one big suitcase from REI acted as storage for the bulk of our clothing and toiletries. We like to keep our clothing a bit neater by packing in separate canvas bags or packing cubes within the suitcase.
    We Recommend: Eagle Creek Geer Warrior Wheeled Duffle and Eagle Creek packing cubes
  • The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

    Cooler, carry-on, rolling duffle, work bag for laptop, day backpack, bin for cooking supplies

  • Small Suitcase for Overnights
    Due to the nature of our second car camping road trip, we made a lot of short stops at friends’ houses so we packed a small carry-on bag with the stuff we needed that night and left the rest in the large suitcase in the car.
  • Day Backpack
    Jedd carried a small backpack on almost every hike we did. It held a water bottle, camera, phone, bear spray, mosquito repellent, and extra jackets if necessary.
    We Recommend: REI Stoke Pack 19
  • Dust Broom and Pan
    This always comes in handy to dust off your tent before packing it up or clean your shoes after a hike.
  • Bin for Cooking Stuff
    We kept all of our cooking-related items in one box so we could pull it all out easily for meals.
  • The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

    Bin for cooking supplies

  • Water Bottle
    Our Sahara waterbottle is excellent for staying cold, regardless of the outside temperature. Put an ice cube in there in the morning, there’s a good chance it will still be intact at the end of the day! They’re a bit hefty but we’ve managed to cart them around Jamaica for two years and all of our other trips too.
    We Recommend: Sahara Water Bottle
  • Blanket
    Apart from one chilly Ranger talk where I bundled up in the blanket, we primarily used the blanket to hide any items in the car that weren’t covered by the trunk.
  • All-Purpose Tool
    A leatherman or other all-purpose tool with knife and pliers has all sorts of uses and is a must-have in your long term camping gear.
    We Recommend: Leatherman Skeletool
  • Lantern and Headlamp
    We kept these in the tent for getting around the campsite at night.
    We Recommend: d.light Solar lantern & Black Diamond Headlamp
  • Sunscreen
    Use SPF 30 or above with wide spectrum and remember that the sun can be stronger at higher altitude.
  • Small Bug Spray
    We found mosquitos in the most unexpected places, so it’s good to have something small and effective
  • Bear Spray
    According to the Park Rangers, making noise on a hike is the best way to avoid encountering bears. But if you do encounter one up close, bear spray is almost 100% effective to deter them. For hiking in Parks like Banff and Glacier, it is highly recommended. (And you can donate them to the Park Rangers when you’re done.)
  • iPhone with podcasts, music, audiobooks
    We made sure to have fresh downloads on the iPhone to keep us going during the long drives between stops.
  • Camera
    Thanks to a generous donation from our cousin, we had an excellent digital point-and-shoot which we carried with us everywhere. If you’re not a travel blogger or photographer, your smartphone will probably do the trick just fine.
    We Recommend: Sony DSC-RSX100
  • Umbrella
    We keep two compact-but-sturdy umbrellas under the seat of the car.
    We Recommend: Totes Compact
  • Gifts for friends
    We tried to bring something to thank our hosts for putting us up along the way. See this post for our recommendations.

 

Other Camping Supplies:Kitchenware Packing List Essentials for Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

  • Laundry Detergent
    We brought both a one-time use packet and liquid laundry soap in a plastic carry-on bottle. Remember to use environmentally-friendly detergents, especially if you’ll be washing while camping outdoors (Example: Sea to Summit washes).
  • Wipes and Paper towel
    Keeping a clean, odor-free campsite is very important, especially where bears are concerned. Find out if the campsite has a dish washing station and follow their guidelines about containing waste water. In some places, even water used to boil pasta should not be discarded because it can attract unwanted wildlife. You can do some creative dishwashing with wipes and towels and minimal water.
  • Olive oil
    We found that a short water bottle carried just the right amount for several weeks of cooking and we added leak protection by sealing it in a ziplock bag.
  • Favorite Seasonings
    We even took Johnny’s seasoning to Peace Corps with us because we use it on everything! For this trip, we also packed teriyaki sauce for stir fries and parmesan cheese for pasta.
  • Sweetener of Choice
    This time it was agave.
  • Tin foil
    Tin foil can have multiple uses while camp cooking, so we always make sure to bring a small roll.
  • Soap
    We brought dishwashing soap in a carry-on size bottle.

 

Camping Kitchenware Checklist:Kitchenware Packing List Camping Trip Essentials | Intentional Travelers

  • Tablecloth (A)
    Something easy to wipe down and store away every night.
  • Plates, bowls, utensils (B)
    Stackable or collapsible can help save space.
  • Flexible cutting boards (C)
    These are great because they can be used as work spaces while cooking and they store easily.
  • Small Cooler (D)
    The size will vary depending on how many people you’re serving and how often you can restock at the grocery store. 
  • Tupperware (E)
    Pack your lunch, keep certain kitchen items together in them, or use them to store perishables in the cooler without getting everything soggy from melted ice.
  • Good knives (F)
    Chef Jedd recommends one pairing knife and one chef’s knife.
  • Vegetable peeler (G)
    If you’re cooking with carrots, potatoes, and the like. 
  • Spatula (H)
  • Boiling Pots – mini and large (I)
    Our large pot doubled as a dishwashing bin when we didn’t have access to a designated campsite sink. The smaller one is good for using less gas when boiling water for a cup of tea or something. Also makes a good cup for “bucket baths.”
  • Can opener (J)
  • Wine bottle opener (K)
  • Oven mitts (L)
  • Strainer (M)
    If boiling pasta/veggies
  • The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

    Mini burner and propane

  • Portable mini burner and extra fuel (N)
    When not cooking over the campfire itself, we made good use of the mini burner we borrowed on both trips. We even cooked a full meal on it in the corner of a snowed-in parking lot in Yellowstone!
  • Travel mugs (O)
  • Sponge (P)
  • Non-stick pan (Q)
  • Lighter and/or matches (R)
    Essential for building a campfire or lighting the propane stove. I prefer the lighter “gun” to keep more distance between my hand and the fire.
  • Tongs (S)
    For cooking and also moving around hot fire wood.
  • Marshmallow/hotdog roasting sticks (T)
  • Dish soap in a carry-on bottle (U)
  • Wash cloths (V)
  • Cast iron pan (not pictured)
    This is great for cooking over the fire  pit. Just remember not to use soap when washing it.
  • Large tub or pot (for dishwashing)

 

Clothes for a Long Road Trip:

The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

Items we used less often ended up in storage under the floor board of the Prius trunk

Our second road trip took us to the extremes, from an evening wedding in Seattle to doing yardwork at a friend’s house; from nights below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Banff to days above 90 degrees in Denver. We’ve only included the stuff we wore to the National Parks below, since it’s not likely for other trips to include the same variety of circumstances. After the wedding and yard work in the first week of our trip, we stuffed those clothes in a crevice of the Prius and didn’t see them again until we got home.

  • Running/Hiking Shoes
    Since we weren’t doing anything too hard core, I pretty much lived in my running shoes and used them for all of our hiking. Jedd brought separate, sturdier hiking shoes as well as running shoes for when we exercised.
  • Flip Flops
    For hang out time as well as public showers.
  • Nicer Every-Day Shoes
    For going out to eat when we visited friends in town.
  • Short and Long-Sleeve Layers
    We both took a couple high-tech fabric under shirts (and long johns) for the frequent changes in temperature through the day.
  • Beanie or Ski Hat
    To keep warm at night when temperatures dip.
  • Good Socks
    One of the most important things to consider is your socks. It will help you feel comfortable and avoid blisters- socks that wick moisture are important to keep your feet warm.
    We Recommend: Smartwool & Injinji Socks
  • Exofficio Underwear
    We’ve used Exofficio underwear all through our Peace Corps service and they are perfect for camping and road trips, too, because they are high quality and dry really quickly.
    We Recommend: Exofficio Underwear
  • Down Vest
  • Hooded Sweatshirt
  • Soft Shell Jacket
  • Swimsuit

Note: you might be wondering why we don’t suggest a rain jacket in this road trip gear list. If you are hiking and you get caught in a rain storm, we find it best to put on a poncho over your warm gear to keep you dry, warm, and free to continue to hike. Rain coats tend to get muggy and sticky if you’re active, plus they’re more bulky to pack. In most other situations, the best defense against rain is an umbrella.

Optional Gear:

The Essential Packing List for Your Epic Camping Road Trip | Intentional Travelers

Collapsible hiking poles and collapsible fishing rod

  • Solar Shower
    We received this as a gift and were able to use it while camping in Glacier where there were no shower facilities nearby. We only used it to rinse off though because discarding soapy waste water was prohibited.
  • Hiking Poles
    I really appreciate the stability these give me when we’re hiking around steep drop offs with loose footing! They collapse so we’d often carry them up in the backpack and take them out when the trail got more sketchy. 
    We Recommend: Black Diamond Trekking Poles
  • Rain Ponchos
    In Colorado, summer brings the threat of some intense afternoon storms. We did most of our hiking in the morning for this reason but compact ponchos are light and easy to take along, just in case.
  • Collapsible fishing rods
    Another great gift from a cousin, which allows us to hike and fish without too much trouble. 
  • Fishing hooks
  • Bike rack, bicycles, and helmets

 

So that’s our packing list for a long camping road trip. Want a free, printable version of our road trip checklist? Sign up with the form below, and we’ll send the PDF to your inbox! We hope it helps you, wherever your adventures take you! Let us know if you have questions or suggestions.

You might also like: Top Resources for Traveling Full-time in the U.S.

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13 Comments
  • Sanjana @ Green Global Travel
    Posted at 08:10h, 05 May

    Very useful list that I’m sure will come in handy to many! Thanks for sharing!

    • intentionalmc
      Posted at 09:33h, 05 May

      Thanks, Sanjana!

  • Guadalupe Boyd
    Posted at 06:23h, 11 September

    Bear spray is amazing. Me and my husband met a bear when we were in Denali last year. Only the spray made this animal go away. It was a little bit scary, though. I hope you don`t have to use it. Greetings!

    • Michelle C
      Posted at 09:07h, 11 September

      Good point. That is definitely needed in some camping spots. We have not had to use it yet, but we did borrow a can from our friends when we headed to Glacier.

  • Leanne
    Posted at 15:02h, 29 December

    Hi,

    My boyfriend and I are camp hosting in Wyoming next summer. We are trying to find ways to store meats! How did you do this? We will be VERY remote. At least an hour drive from the nearest town/city. Typically I backpack and use freeze dried foods, however, we will be camping for the entire months of June through September. We will be fishing quite a bit as there is a river very close to the campsite, but fish gets old! Thanks in advance!!

    Leanne

    • Michelle C
      Posted at 15:18h, 29 December

      Hi Leanne. We kept a small ice chest with us and on the few occasions that we bought meat or other perishables, we would also buy a pack of ice from the store to fill the cooler. For some things, we also had a collapsable hot/cold insulated bag. It’s good for going to and from the store, but not quite enough to refrigerate meat for more than a couple hours. Let me know if you find any other tricks, and enjoy camp hosting!

  • Vicki
    Posted at 20:41h, 24 November

    I know it’s a little late for the meat question–but I buy lean ground beef and after browning it I boil it a couple of times, rinsing in between to get as much fat off as possible. I then dehydrate it and vacuum seal it. Simply use a little extra water to rehydrate it. Add it to spagetti sauce and mac and cheese. I also use a lot of canned meat–canned chicken, beef, Pork, turkey, and tuna are all good. Finally, using shelf stable bacon and fresh eggs (unwashed) straight from the chicken along with powdered milk rounds out breakfast. Lunchmeat can consist of spam and shelf stable packages of salami. None of the above ever needs refrigerated or placed on ice. I like to be able to camp without being dependent on ice. As for the eggs–I always place them in a bowl of water before I use them. Throw them away if they float. If they sink, they are good. Two week camping trips in the summer with eggs and no cooler and I’ve never had one float…. But I always check to be safe. Hope this helps someone!

    • Michelle C
      Posted at 23:07h, 27 November

      Thanks, Vicki. Great tips!

  • Therie
    Posted at 20:52h, 18 May

    Saving this for later! Thanks guys!

    • Michelle C
      Posted at 12:32h, 19 May

      Thanks for stopping by, Therie. Happy travels!

  • Kate M
    Posted at 23:09h, 18 June

    I am looking to get a solar charger for my backpacking trips but I am a little lost as to which would hold up well on trips.
    I see a lot of Goal Zero at REI but have read that they are more hardcore for sailing, etc. I will be using them really just to charge smartphones with USB cables.
    Do you have any recommendations?

    • Jedd
      Posted at 09:00h, 08 August

      Hi Kate! We don’t have too much experience with solar chargers as most of our travels aren’t off the grid. We sometimes rely on powerbanks to recharge our phones and camera. REI does a pretty good job of vetting their products but they offer a limited range of products for electronics. I would suggest going through the options on Amazon and carefully reading reviews and questions by users: http://bit.ly/solar-chargers

      Hope this helps. I’d love to hear if you find one that worked for you.

  • Marquestra
    Posted at 04:08h, 30 June

    Thank you for putting together a great list! I’m sharing this now 🙂

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