Thursday, June 24, 2010

Essential Summer Camp Packing List

Essential Summer Camp Packing List

by Denis M. Sweeney, camper, blogger, and Artist who now calls California his home.


My parents were teachers when I was growing up so we had summers off. At a minimum we would go camping locally, but many years we would go on long, out of state trips with nightly camping, for weeks at a time. I should also mention that I have 4 siblings, so, for you math-challenged individuals (you know who you are) that is seven people, or 2 adults and 5 kids, in one car. Now the kicker... wait for it... the car we drove in was a VW Beetle for this trip. Other trips were taken in different VWs; the squareback and the van. Several times we drove across the United States to southern California to visit an uncle, and then headed north to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then drove back across Canada, back to Pennsylvania. Before we get too far along, let me explain the Beetle-trip car setup, and also confess that I am old, so there weren't seat belt laws. So the car had the driver and the co-pilot adults in the front, the youngest kid, on a pillow sitting on the emergency brake, three kids in the back, and one lucky kid in the (dreaded) well, behind the second row of seats, and exposed to the glaring sun from the rear window.
But with all these kids filling the passenger compartment of the car, it made it a challenge to fit camping gear, clothes and food for seven in there too. The rest of the car was packed like this: in the trunk of the car (front in a Beetle) was the food and kitchen. On the roof was the tent, clothes, blankets, towels, and pillows. I doubt that Yakuma even existed back then; we used a tapestry and bungee cords to wrap up the pack on the roof.
My parents created a list, and constantly re-evaluated and refined the list of what to bring camping. This Camping List is not an extravagant list... you may wish to add to it, but a finer starter list, you will not find.

I have a memory of a common occurrence on our trip: another car begins to pass us, they slow down, and we can see them mentally counting us up; eyebrow raise; and 2 thumbs up, and then they zoom off past us.

Below is an actual photo from one of our trips (taken by amazing photographer Carl Shurer)
7 in a bug circa '75

Without further adieu, may I present: THE LIST

Camp Packing List

__ Backpack, daypack, and/or fanny pack

__ Bags - Tent bag, grocery bags, etc.

__ Cardboard boxes if needed

__ Ice chest with ice

Lighting - Check batteries!

__ Flashlight

__ Spare batteries and bulbs

__ Lantern (gas or electric)

__ Spare lantern fuel and mantles

__ Matches (preferably water proof)


__ Tent

__ Tent rain tarp

__ Extra tent stakes

__ Dining fly

__ Plastic ground cloth for under the tent

__ Sleeping bag

__ Mattress or pad - Inflator for air mattress

__ Pillow

__ Space blanket


__ Sunscreen

__ Insect repellent

__ Poison ivy block

__ Poison ivy remedies

__ Allergy medicines

__ Pain relief pills like aspirin

__ Tummy medicines (for diarrhea etc.)

__ Tweezers for splinters

__ Antiseptic

__ Band-Aids and bandages

__ Itch cream for bug bites

__ Mole skin (to prevent blisters if you hike a lot)

__ First Aid Kit (may include all the above items)

__ Prescription medicines (if prescribed by your doctor)

__ Extra pair of prescription glasses

Cleaning & Personal Items

__ Bar soap (biodegradable)

__ Washcloth

__ Shampoo (biodegradable)

__ Toothpaste (biodegradable)

__ Toothbrush

__ Comb or hair brush

__ Razor (shaving cream)

__ Toilet paper

__ Case or bag to carry the above items to the shower house

__ Bath towel


__ Ax (do not cut any living or standing trees)

__ Bow saw

__ Extension cord (if at campsite with electric hookup)

__ Duct tape and/or electrical tape

__ Hammer for pounding in tent pegs

__ Rope

__ Clothesline

__ Clothes pins

__ Whiskbroom to clean table and tent site


__ Pocket knife

__ Compass and area map

__ Fishing pole and gear (+ license & bait!)

__ Beach chairs

__ Camping chairs

__ Safety pins

__ Cellular phone w/extra battery and car adapter

__Solar charger. these are great in a pinch!

__ Power strip so you can share the love of often-limited outlets

__ Camera w/good battery and extra film

__ Camcorder w/good battery and extra storage

__ Money, credit card, ID

__ Books, radio, cards, games, toys, etc.

__ Sports equipment

__ Citronella candles

__ Binoculars

__ Field guides/phone apps for identifying wildlife

__ Park mini-map (get one when you arrive)


Dress for the season

Bring warm clothes in case the weather turns cold (layers!)

Don't forget these special items

__ Wide-brimmed hat to block the sun

__ Jacket - As weather dictates; Eskimo style, mackintosh, windbreaker, etc.

__ Rain gear

__ Poncho - Doubles as emergency tent/lean-to

__ Shower shoes

__ Hiking boots

__ Work gloves

__ Swim suit

Repair Kit

__ Hammer

__ Pliers

__ Duct tape

__ Screwdriver set

__Length of rope. useful for hanging food out of animals' reach, clothesline, etc.

__C-clamps or A-clamps. A quick-clamp with a tarp can make quick/easy shelter.

__bungee cords


__ Stove with fuel & lighter or charcoal and lighter fluid & grill for BBQ

__ Newspapers for lighting a campfire

__ Firewood

__ Frying pan with lid

__ Cooking skewers (for hot dogs, marshmallows, etc.)

__ Pot or sauce pan with lid

__ Can opener/ bottle opener/ corkscrew

__ Tongs

__ Coffee maker & filters

__ Pot lifter and/or pot holders

__ Tablecloth


__ Plates - Partition tray/plate is nice

__ Mugs/cups

__ Knifes, forks, spoons

__ Kitchen knife

__ Mixing bowl

__ Spatula

__ Scrub pad

__ Dish pan for washing dishes

__ Container for water

__Water purification kit


__ Paper towels & napkins

__ Trash bags

__ Plastic Bags

__ Aluminum Foil

__ Dish soap (biodegradable)

__ Water bottle, to carry while hiking

__ Water jug to fetch water from the pump or faucet

__Camelback-type water carrier

Food & Drink

Bring whatever food you wish, but remember that you will have limited space for food that needs to be refrigerated. Make sure that you have adequate cooking dishes and utensils to prepare what food you bring. Outdoor appetites are usually large so be prepared!

Be sure to store food in a safe location to keep animals from your food. Keep food in a car trunk or in the interior under a blanket, or hang your food between two trees.

Fresh fruit and vegetables do not need refrigeration and need minimum preparation
Kids will want to cook over the campfire so bring hotdogs and marshmallows (and graham crackers and chocolate for s-mores)

Don't forget condiments;

Salt, pepper, spices, sugar




Have a safe and enjoyable camping experience!

Postscript: I remember my mom always talked about writing an article around this list, so hopefully my family will not mind that I am publishing it here today. My mom, Louise H. Sweeney passed away last month so I partly wanted to get this published as an homage to her. She was an amazing woman and loved the outdoors. Please think of her when you are bug free, with a full belly, using your flashlight with working batteries, enjoying the splendors of the wilderness.
-- DMS.

7/26/2011 -added: power-strip, h20-purification kit, rope, bungee cords, clamps and corkscrew/bottle opener. Plastic wine glasses are frivolous, but a nice luxury when camping.
-- DMS

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