How to Pack for Outdoor Camping

How to Pack for Outdoor CampingPacking gear and sustenance is essential to a successful outdoor camping trip. Packing for outdoor camping can be a complex and time-consuming task. By using a 4-step "Packing for Outdoor Camping" checklist, one can clarify the process and ensure that necessary items are both present and properly packed.


Difficulty: Moderate

Packing for Outdoor Camping Checklist

Things You’ll Need:
  • Trail and Topographic Maps
  • Outdoor Camping Gear
Step 1
Determine your packing list.

The packing list for any given outdoor camping trip is developed by adhering to three basic knowledge principles: (1) Know where you are going, (2) Know who you are going with, and (3) Know your gear. Obtaining the background knowledge for a packing list involves using both trail maps and topographic maps to gain a picture of your outdoor camping destination, recruiting and confirming trip partners, and having familiarity and prior experience with your personal and group gear. Each outdoor camping trip is unique and a deliberate plan up front will prevent shortfalls in your packing list that could prove detrimental later.
Step 2
Organize your equipment and goods.

Going down your packing list, find all the items that you currently own and know the location of and remove them to a staging area for packing preparation. If any of those items are not clean or are missing components (ie. fresh batteries), clean and replace at this time. For any items on the packing list that you have previously used and have owned, find them. If they cannot be located, mark them on the packing list as "missing".
Step 3
Acquire any missing items.

Anything from the packing list that has been marked as "missing" or does not exist in your outdoor inventory (ie. new gear, food) needs to be purchased or borrowed. Remember, the packing list was carefully created--stick to it.
Step 4
Distribute the load.

With all packing list items now being arranged in your staging area, pack your load bearing equipment (ie. full packs, day packs, duffle bags, containers). All the gear should be balanced in a way that is comfortable to carry. In the case of wearable packs, bulkier items should fill the lower and main spaces while heavier items should be placed in higher spaces. This optimally distributes the weight of your packing list in the way your body can best support it.

Tips & Warnings

Step 1 and Step 2 take the longest--give yourself more time to complete them. Break them up into smaller tasks if necessary.
Pre-made, template-style packing lists are available. If used, ensure these are from a reliable source and also that you review and make changes based on your personal outdoor camping trip.
You may switch the order of Steps 3 and 4 if it makes more sense to purchase needed items en route to your camping destination--only if that list is small.

Article Written By Seth C. Burgess

Seth C. Burgess has been an outdoor writer for since May 2009. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology and a Master of Business Administration degree, both from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.

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