Car camping and what to bring on your first trip

The following is a continuation of the last two car-ticles that outlined things to take on your next car camping trip.


  • Propane powered stove (and up to three extra bottles of propane)
    • Wind guards are preferred, to keep the flame from going out.
    • Having at least two burners makes cooking more efficient.
  • A medium-sized skillet: Many things can be cooked, or even boiled, in a medium-sized skillet.
  • Deep pot for boiling: Great for cleaning water, if necessary.
  • Biodegradable paper plates, and silverware
  • Spatula, a ladle and a serving spoon. Fun fact: a spatula is fairly versatile – a serving spoon is good to have for stirring, and well, to serve.
  • Sponge
  • Environmentally-friendly soap
    • Be a label reader – steer clear from soaps that contain any phosphate, surfactants, triclosan or any “anti-bacterial” agents. Phosphate and surfactants are known to quicken the pace of algae growth, which can slow water flow and cause rivers to be filled with muck and block sunlight for plant life along the bottom. Triclosan, which is common in kitchen soaps and hand sanitizers, is incredibly toxic to water-dependent creatures.
  • Cutting board
  • Bottle and can opener
  • Mugs and cups
  • Matches (in case propane stove needs help igniting)
  • Cooler and ice
  • Wash bin for dishes

Camping Attire

In movies and some TV shows, it’s common to see people camping in normal, everyday clothes. While that’s acceptable if camping in the summer or even the spring, it’s suggested that there are a few of the following items are kept just in case:

  • Moisture-wicking clothes. Including underwear and socks. If not wearing moisture-wicking pants or jackets, those can be substituted with moisture-resistant long johns and/or undershirts.
  • Waterproof shoes or boots. These are great for camping around a lake or if gallivanting around in the snow. Keeping feet dry is an essential part of enjoying a camping trip.
  • Clothes for unexpected weather changes. Such as rain jackets, boots, warm gloves (preferably water resistant or proof), warm socks, long sleeve shirts or longer pants, warm hat or beanie, etc.

Hygiene items

  • Toothbrush. Tooth paste is not completely necessary – using water and a brush is an effective and environmentally-friendly option to adhere to dental health suggestions. However, if not using paste isn’t part of the plan, spit it out away from the campsite as mint may attract predators to the site and dilute it with water.
  • Soap (see notes on environmentally-friendly dish soap, same suggestions apply)
  • Feminine hygiene products, if applicable
  • Extra toilet paper or wipes
  • If roughing it out, bring a shovel. Going #2 in the woods is acceptable, but to truly leave no trace, it’s advised to bury excrement to minimize possible predatory encounters. That includes used [biodegradable] toilet paper.


  • Sun Glasses
  • Sun Screen: Regardless of which type of sunscreen makes it on the trip (chemical or mineral), make sure that it does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – two chemicals that are proven to wreak havoc in the wild.
  • Identification: Having an ID handy with a current address can come in good use in case of an emergency.
  • Storage: With all the items mentioned, it’s imperative that they’re all stored in something sturdy and preferably waterproof, to offer protection to both your items and your wallet. Also, it never hurts to clearly label them according to their purpose to make both finding and storing much simpler.

Sleeping Arrangements

  • Tent: Similar to sleeping bags, no two tents are created equally. Some are designed to tolerate higher wind speeds, some are better suited for warmer temperatures – some are better at keeping bugs out than others, as well. What’s most important is to have a tent that’s waterproof and mold-resistant. Morning dew or rain can saturate a tent, and if left wet too long, can breed mold and mildew.
    • More space is better than not enough when it comes to tents. More space allows a camper to keep more gear inside – such as a lantern, clothes, extra jackets and provide room to change. It also makes lounging and napping a lot more comfortable.
    • In addition, be sure to purchase a footprint for the tent that’s also waterproof – it helps keep the bottom of the tent from getting dirty and helps keep a camper dry when the ground becomes dewey in the morning. It also keeps the bottom of the tent clean – which makes packing it away easier and more sanitary.
  • Sleeping bag: A sleeping bag is arguably one of the more important items on a camping trip. What’s important to note is that not all sleeping bags are equal – they’re designed within the parameters of a certain range of temperatures. Depending on the area and what time of year, the temperature range would be different; so it’s important to make sure the bag being brought is for the right conditions.
  • Sleeping pad: While not required, it does make sleeping on the ground a lot more enjoyable. Some are even inflatable (which can in turn be used as a floaty in a river, lake or creek – as long as it’s waterproof), which makes the experience more “adjustable” since air can be added or taken out. What’s best to take away is this: make sure it’s insulated, easy to clean and can be packed away neatly.
    • Note: an inflatable sleeping pad is known for drawing body heat away when it’s cold out – so be sure to have a layer between the body and the sleeping pad.
  • Pillows
  • Extra blankets (the more the better)
  • Warm socks (wool is best – moisture-wicking and warmer than cotton)

The list may seem daunting, but after a few trips, these items tend to come to the front of the mind when packing for the next adventure. With the basics covered, the topic switches to finding a site to reconnect with nature.

Leave a Reply

Recent Articles

Credential program candidates, listen up!

Awards up to $27,000 are available for candidates in the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) credential program. On March 17, the Making Accessible...

This Otter is changing what it means to ‘talk trash’

Alex Sanzo, a recent transfer student to California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is making waves with her podcast “Trash Talk,” hosted through Otter...

Using art as resistance

As California State University, Monterey Bay kicked off its 26th Annual Social Justice Colloquium, the Otter Cross Cultural Center hosted “Art As Resistance” on...

It’s time to take social justice into our own hands

Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran discussed her teachings, research and community work during her keynote speech March 16 at the 26th annual Social Justice Colloquium. The...

Related Articles