family photos in boise
5 insider must-haves for your first epic camping adventure
April 5, 2021

I forgot the bowl. Ya know, the bowl to mix the pancake mix in and therefore make breakfast? It was an epic fail. I was so thankful I brought extra food just in case and we munched on our breakfast instead. Don’t let this happen to you! It’s inevitable that we will probably forget something on our trip, and that’s just a learning game of knowing how you like to camp and also what you like to bring. However, I want to share with you some things I bring so you can make your next trip an easier one. Never underestimate the value of a list!

(And if you really want an amazing checklist, check out my ultimate supply camping checklist.)

boy paddle boarding on the lake with pine trees lining the lake behind him

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to bring everything and your kitchen sink with you camping. And when I say that- I mean DIRECTLY FROM your kitchen. Ok if you need a whisk then go ahead and grab it, but all your camping gear needs to be separate from your daily kitchen items. This way, you never have to really think about whether you have enough gear OR the right gear with you.

Towels and swimming suit laying the line with the sun peeking behind them

1. Tent

This goes without saying and really, in the summer months, you can possibly go without this one at all. Sleeping under the stars is something that can never be underrated. But, when you are first starting out, a good tent is a must. One rule of thumb is that you cannot trust the occupancy label on the tent. If it says it’s for 4 people, plan on it fitting 3 people max. The reason it says four people is that it doesn’t include all the gear you will inevitably want with you inside the tent. Clothing and blankets etc take up a lot of space that will account for that extra person. It’s my advice to buy for bigger than you think you will need to account for that. But watch out because the larger the tent, the harder it is to put up by one person alone. If you don’t have help- i.e. only have small kids with you- then better to get a couple of tents to fit the family. That is, of course, if the littles are comfortable sleeping alone.

girl standing in front and dogs laying down behind her on a camping trip. Boy sitting in chair looking to the side

2. Stove + propane tank

Basic car camping stoves are very simple to run as they are just like your stove at home. Turn the knob and you are good to go. Some stoves require a fire to light the burner (via match or another source) but some are electric start. Choose wisely when buying depending on your comfort level. The small green propane tanks are lightweight, found next to the stoves, and easy to attach. They last 2-3 camping weekends depending on how much you have to actually use it. We try not to use ours for every meal so we can conserve the fuel.

Girl holding paddle while looking down and to the side - next to the lake with trees behind her

3. Sleeping pad/bag

Sleeping bags are rated differently depending on the temperature they are expected to keep you warm. Some bags are rated 20 degrees while others are rated 0 degrees or even -20 degrees. If you plan on camping in different weather conditions or different seasons, you will want to get different bags based on the temps for that season. Don’t buy a -20 degree bag for summer camping. It won’t feel good! Also, you will want to make sure you have something to sleep on besides the ground. An air mattress or insulated heating pad will do wonders on the back. A cot or large mattress pad you inflate with a pump will also be very nice in your tent.

Boy with leaf hat one and another boy looking and pointing at him

4. Reusable plates, cups, and silverware

No one likes to take out too much trash while they are camping. And while doing dishes is not always the most fun thing in the world, you gotta do it. Let’s save the earth while we can. Don’t forget a tub to wash them in with some biodegradable soap and you are good to go!

Kids playing in water at the lake all doing independent things

5. A good book

OR a game or fun thing to do. I enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature just as much as the next guy, but bringing something to do while you’re out there, that is NOT attached to an electronic device, is the best idea yet. Bikes, paddleboard if by a lake- you get the idea. Bring an activity!

Other than that- besides the necessities like food and water, bring your good attitude. If you are new to camping, it might be uncomfortable at first to go out. Leave your phone in the car and just relax. If you are uncomfortable doing this simple thing, then it means you need it more. You got this!

Much love,


P.S. Before you head out, let me know so I can come photograph it for you. Remember the trip for a lifetime to come.

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