This is geared for those that are about to embark on an amazing 2-week USA camping road trip—like the ones I ran this summer as a tour leader with Trek America and Intrepid. With this trip, I assume you have access to basic campsite services, like laundry, showers, etc., that you’re not an experienced camper, and that you already have your own luggage filled with a healthy mix of workout and day-to-day clothes.
This list is not meant to be all-inclusive but to gently remind you of things you might have forgotten to pack. It’s also things that people usually forget to pack when they’re going on a camping trip.
- 1. Sleeping bag. If you’re not an avid camper, you can probably buy a cheap one at a store upon arrival for around $20. Make sure you get one that covers you for at least 40F/7C because even in the summer, night temperature can drop; the contrast between the day and the night can also make you more aware of the cold.
- Sleeping Pad. Only for those that prefer a cushier sleep. Yes, one is included with the trip, but they’re usually quite thin and worn. One girl actually bought a whole air mattress for the trip.
- Camelbak. This is the biggest thing. Too often, my passengers never have enough water on them! And they refuse to buy reusable water bottles, opting for a gallon of water at the next gas station stop. Not only is this ridiculously hard to carry, but not environmentally friendly at all!
- Chacos. Now this is just a personal preference in brand, but you should probably have a sturdy type of sandal that can handle the wear and tear of the road. Not only can you use this while hiking but as a buffer between your feet and the shower floor, which can sometimes be a bit nasty.
- Headlamp. Absolutely necessary! We often rely so much on artificial lighting that we forget how quickly it gets dark and how pervasive the dark can be. It’s no fun searching with one hand while the other one is trying to hold the iPhone. Headlamps can just hang on your head once it gets dark and it’ll always be there when you need it.
- Patagonia Nano Puff. Again, it gets surprisingly cold in the summer at night. Yes, you may be sweating your balls off during the day, but at night, I still find myself huddling into my sleeping bag in the middle of the night. This jacket is a good all-around cover for when you hit a cold patch or if you get too cold during the night.
- Journal. The days go by so quickly that you need a journal to at least remind yourself of the wonders you’ve experienced each day! You won’t regret it. And what else is best to pass the time during those long drives?
- DSLR. You’re going to be seeing some pretty amazing sights. You want to document said sights. iPhone is also acceptable.
- Active sneakers. The type of hiking for beginners and for one-day hikes don’t usually require hiking boots. Hell, I’ve hiked many of the trails in Yosemite and Grand Canyon in my Chacos alone!
- Toiletry bag. This specific one (Everest Deluxe Toiletry Bag) works wonders for me. It’s enough to fit my normal sized shampoo and conditioner in addition to my razor, contact solution, dry shampoo, glasses case, extra contacts, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and body spray! It’s a beauty.
- Going-out clothes. Just one… or two if you must. There are only a few occasions to go out but who cares if you wear the same thing each time? You’ll be camping and hiking way more than you’ll be going out so pack accordingly. I had one outfit I wore for the entire summer and that was good enough for me!
- Travel towel. A normal-sized towel is just too big to pack. And you don’t want to waste it on something that wipes you dry when you can pack another shirt, do you?
- Swim suit. You never know when the time calls for it. Just remember to be ready to swim at any moment! It is the U.S. and it is pretty goddamn hot out in the west and south. When you do pack it, don’t just leave it in your whole bag—put it in your daypack so that you can actually use it spontaneously!
- Pillow. For a while, I existed without a pillow. And then I got one and everything changed. A pillow is so necessary for your sleep that almost nothing else can do. I’ve tried a lot of things… balled up sweatshirt, a bag… nothing compared.
- Travel pillow. Sleeping in a car is hard. Sleeping in a car with 12 other people is harder. Get a travel pillow so that you always have something there to hold your head up and prevent those annoying neck cricks!
- Leggings. Again, with that warmth thing. Leggings are small, compress easily, so there’s no harm in bringing it!
- Dry shampoo. Sometimes you’re going to be too tired to shower. Sometimes the shower is going to cost $2. Sometimes you just don’t want to shower. Thankfully, most people I know don’t shower too often and just use the dry shampoo instead. Saves water, which California needs most desperately right now, and gives you more time around the cozy campfire!
A few tips:
- Always hydrate! Dehydration leads to discomfort and crankiness. Don’t let your dehydration ruin yours and others’ times.
- Always put on sunscreen. Don’t underestimate the sun here. Even if it’s cloudy, you can still burn!
- Positivity in = positivity out. You get what you put into the experience. It doesn’t have to be perfect and fun all the time, but if your attitude is, then nothing else matters.
- Don’t waste your money on gas station snacks!
- If you’re on a 2-week trip, pack about 1 week’s worth of clothes and then do laundry halfway through. This way, you won’t have to carry a huge thing around all the time.
- Tip your guides! Tip your taxi drivers! Tip your servers!
What do you pack when you go camping?