Few experiences capture the magic of camping like a night spent sleeping under the stars. From stories shared around the flicker of a campfire to the joy of waking up surrounded by stunning beauty and natural light, a camping trip is the quintessential way to make the most of the West’s breathtaking landscape.
Camping isn’t just a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of your daily routine and connect with nature—you’ll also find that the experience brings you closer to anyone you share it with.
Whether you’ve got a quick weekend trip or a month-long adventure, planning your excursion doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. With some basic planning and the right packing list, anyone can have an unforgettable camping experience. Here at Trekker Vans, we believe the most important elements of any successful trip are an appetite for adventure and great company eager to join in the good times.
Follow the handy guide below to find everything you need for an unforgettable trip that doesn’t break the bank.
You’re Going To Need Some Shelter
Even during the year’s warmest months, you’ll need some shelter to ensure you’re cozy out there no matter what Mother Nature has in store. Campervans are a popular option for campers that want an easy setup when it’s time for shuteye. Trekker Vans include all the warm bedding and pillows that’ll keep your toes toasty on your adventure. Sleeping inside a campervan or in the rooftop tent will provide the peace and shelter from rain, wind, and sun when you most need it.
A standalone tent is the classic option. If you want to sleep in spaces where traditional vehicles don’t fit, a tent is the perfect answer. Bivy sacks are an often overlooked, but perhaps most versatile, option for the adventure-minded camper who wants to sleep directly under the stars with an unobstructed view. These lightweight, waterproof sacks slip directly over your sleeping bag to provide an extra layer of warmth and protection. They’re basically insignificant when it comes to packing space, so they’re an excellent option if you have any backpacking trips on your bucket list.
Wherever you choose to sleep, hanging a tarp over your campsite is a simple solution that provides extra shelter that’s easy to transport. You can pick one up for a reasonable price at your local hardware store.
Food and Water
There may not be a Chipotle or Whole Foods within ten minute’s drive at your favorite camp spot, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend the weekend surviving on nothing but canned tuna and sardines. We suggest packing a mix of easy-to-grab snacks and sandwich ingredients to keep you fueled through your daytime adventures (carbs and protein are your friends here), supplemented by some quick-to-cook but hearty options for dinner that will leave you satisfied at the end of the day. All Trekker Vans include an 8-gallon (30 liters) refrigerator where you can store your perishables. We love bringing our favorite bread, cheese, and meat as staples for any camping trip. An easy meal option at the top of our list is ramen with peanut butter for a scrumptious, warm, and filling meal that requires nothing more than hot water to enjoy. Trust us, it’s a thing!
Speaking of water, make sure you have access to a clean source before you set out. Some campsites have water on-site, but check ahead of time, and don’t fret if your destination does not. Purchasing water and packing it in is easy…just make sure you have at least a gallon per person, per day.
If you want to avoid the waste and extra weight that comes with packing in water jugs, a water purifier is your best bet. Products like the Sawyer Squeeze filter natural water sources into safe drinking water, providing you ultimate versatility and peace of mind. Just remember—stagnant sources aren’t as clean as moving ones, even when they’re filtered. All Trekker Vans already have 7 gallons of fresh water to use from your indoor sink to brush your teeth, wash your hands, or whatever else you might use the sink for.
Your Outdoor Kitchen
With all these tasty treats you’ve brought along, you’re going to need some kitchenware to fully enjoy them. It’s easy to keep things simple with a plastic Tupperware or bowl from home, along with a fork and spoon. If you’re looking for something more compact, visit your local outdoor store to pick up a conveniently-packaged mess kit. If you’d rather not buy new equipment, Trekker Vans provides all the cookware, plates, bowls, utensils, cups, coffee maker, and more!
Minimalists will do just fine cooking over a campfire, but a campstove is the most reliable and convenient cooking option. Propane-fueled stoves with two burners like the classic Coleman allow you to do everything from simply boiling water to sautéing your favorite meats and veggies. One stove is normally all you need, but two stoves are suggested for the chefs out there.
Those looking for an ultralight and lightning-fast way to boil water should consider a JetBoil or similar stove. These compact contraptions bring cold water to boil in just minutes, which is especially handy on a chilly or rainy morning, or if you’re hungry for a simple meal once it’s already dark. What’s more—these compact stoves are about the size of a large coffee mug.
When it comes time to do the dishes, you’ll want to make sure you have a bit of sustainable soap. Campsuds is a highly-concentrated, environmentally-friendly product that’s been around for years, and no outdoor kitchen should be without it. Don’t forget your sponge!
Your Outdoor Wardrobe
Packing the right clothing for your trip is pretty dependent on where and when you’re going. That said, make sure you have waterproof outer layers (or at least a rain jacket). From there, you’ll want to pack lightweight, breathable pieces that easily layer with one another. Keep your options open with a few extra lightweight pieces rather than one heavy jacket.
A note on materials: cotton is comfy and works just fine, but sweat-wicking and odor-resistant materials like merino wool are a nice luxury when you don’t have many opportunities to change clothes. This is especially true for socks and undies!
Let There Be Light
No camping trip is complete without experiencing the flickering flames of a campfire and the intoxicating smell of marshmallows roasting on a stick. The fire is what keeps us warm and entertained at night as stories are shared and connections are built to remember for years to come. So, what do you need to get one started? Air, fuel, spark.
Many campsites will have firewood available for purchase on-site, but as with fresh water, you’ll want to check ahead of time. On the flip side, you’ll want make sure there are no restrictions on bringing your own wood, as some sites actually require you to buy theirs.
Collecting wood is also an option, but restrictions on doing so vary widely by location. Please always be respectful of the land. At the end of the day, just do a bit of research before you head out, and you’ll be throwing back the s’mores in no time.
Matches or a lighter are the easiest way to get your fire started, but they’re unreliable if they get wet or you’re faced with rainy weather. A flint and stone not only provide the spark your fire needs in all weather conditions, but you’ll feel like a true survivalist using them. Bring a compact set as a backup, and have fun with it!
Of course, be sure to abide by all fire restrictions and bans. There are ways to have fun without fire. Headlamps and cards work just as well when Smokey the Bear says fires are a no-go at your location.
Speaking of headlamps, you’ll want to make sure you have at least one even if you have a fire. Be sure to also bring the correct replacement batteries. Traditional handheld flashlights work just fine, but the convenience of having your hands free for more important things, like building that fire, truly can’t be overstated.
First Aid Kit. Sunscreen. Bug Spray. Seriously.
Chances are low that anything will go wrong while you’re enjoying the wilderness, but even small cuts and scrapes can become pesky if you don’t have the materials to treat them. Pack a compact first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze, and some basic painkillers, and make sure that it’s easily accessible. This is also a great place to stash your sunscreen and bug spray because nothing ruins an adventure like a rowdy sunburn or getting covered in mosquito bites.
Throwing in a compact survival/how-to guide is also a wise decision. We like the Collins Gem SAS Survival Guide, available here.
For Entertainment or Directions, Don’t Rely on Your Phone
A quick note about electronics here: you are better off without them. Bring your cell phone in case you need to make an emergency call, but remember—you’re going camping to get away from the curse of the screen and your daily routine. Just embrace it.
Even if you can’t stand the thought of a weekend without wireless, remember that you may not have service where you’re headed. Plan ahead and make sure you have maps, yes maps, of the areas you’ll be exploring.
The Most Important Element of All
At the end of the day, maintaining a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with great company are the best things you can do to ensure a stellar time out in the woods. Go with the flow, and remember that even the most meticulous plans rarely work out exactly as anticipated. Embrace the challenge, rely on your friends and family, and just have fun. Chances are, you’ll look back fondly on even the experiences that seemed difficult in the moment.
If you couldn’t tell, we at Trekker Vans like camping. Like, a lot. The only thing we like more than getting out there ourselves is helping others make the most of their experiences. So if you have a question about gear, where to go, what to see, or just want to swap stories after your outing, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit us up on our Facebook page. And if you’re looking for inspiration back at your desk in the morning, follow us on Instagram for awe-inspiring nature shots that’ll hold you over until your next adventure.