Imagine this: there you are, enjoying the beauty of nature. You’re sitting outside on a sunny, perfect day, surrounded by those you love. There’s refreshments and food aplenty, and your camper is right behind you.
You want to fully immerse yourself in the moment, but you can’t.
In the back of your mind, there’s this annoying but persistent sensation that you’ve forgotten something. You can’t put your finger on what it is, but you know you didn’t bring everything you were supposed to.
At some point, when you need it most, it hits you: you didn’t pack matches, or cookware, or jackets for when it gets cold.
You now have two options: either go without (which puts a damper on your trip) or drive off and buy the needed item (which is an unnecessary expense).
By having a handy checklist you can refer to before you leave, you can make sure you don’t forget the important stuff (and the not-so-important stuff that’s fun to have anyway). Whether this is your first camping trip or your hundredth, anyone can forget the essentials.
You might want to print this list off so you have a paper copy just in case!
25. Fresh Milk
You may not have as many chances to pick up fresh milk while camping as you would back home. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re not throwing your milk away too early.
If you toss your milk out based on its sell-by date, you’re wasting your money. That date refers to the last day milk can be sold. There should be a second date, an expiration date, and that’s the one you should follow.
Can you drink milk past the expiration date? Sometimes.
Did you refrigerate your milk? Was the fridge temperature adequately cool? If so, you could squeeze a few extra days out of a carton.
Is the milk yellowish? Does it have clumps? Does it smell off? It’s time to throw it away.
24. Roasting Sticks and Marshmallows
Whether you have kids or you want to bring out the kid in you, roasting marshmallows is the perfect activity to do while camping. Wait for a clear, crisp, slightly cool night and make a fire! You and your campmates are then in for hours of fun.
To avoid burning your hands when roasting marshmallows, invest in a wooden roasting stick instead of a metal one. Yes, wooden sticks can’t be reused, but they’re safer to hold over an open flame.
23. Frying Pans and Other Cookware
You gotta eat, right?
Whether you’re fishing and hunting for your own food or you have a stash with you (more on this in a moment), you need to heat up and cook your meals.
It’s recommended you bring a few frying pans and pots of varying sizes if you can spare the space. You’ll also want lids for all these.
Even if you don’t have a stovetop or oven in which to cook with, you can always use the aforementioned open flame. Make sure you wear oven mitts or use a potholder to avoid burning your hands!
22. Non-perishable Food
If you’re the type who prefers easy eating or if you don’t enjoy foraging for your own meals, you have options. Non-perishable food is called such because it won’t go bad for a very long time (if ever).
This type of food can typically be stored at room temperature and withstand slightly cooler and warmer conditions (just not too hot or too cold).
If your non-perishable items are canned, make sure you pack a can opener.
You could be driving through California or Texas and you might still have to deal with a chilly evening or two. It’s better to be prepared, so make sure you have jackets for every one of your campmates, yourself included.
If you’re traveling in the cooler months, or you’re visiting states with colder climates, bring a coat. It might not hurt to have some gloves, too. Even if you never wear them, they’re there if you need them.
At some point in your exploring, you may enter thick woods, ankle-deep waters, or dirty and muddy terrain.
For those environments, it’s best to wear boots.
These may be rubber rain boots or heavy-duty hiking boots. It’s best for your boots to reach almost up to your knee. That should protect you against messes and insects like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
You might also want a pair of snow boots if you like traveling in wintry weather or you get hit with a surprise snowstorm.
You have a visor in your car, but sometimes when driving, the sun hits at just the right angle and gets in your face. Your visor is rendered useless.
A pair of sunglasses are useful in those and other situations.
Sunnies prevent your eyes from being exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays. These also minimize glare for careful driving and day-to-day activities.
If you wear eyeglasses, you don’t have to skip the shades. Before your trip, you can get sunglasses designed by your eye doctor that match your eyeglass prescription. You can also buy sunglasses that are meant to fit over your glasses.
Hats of all kinds are also a must-have for your trip.
Knitted winter hats will keep your noggin toasty if you’re driving through colder climates.
Baseball caps keep the sun out of your face and prevent sunburn (but you should still use sunblock; more on this soon).
A big, floppy, wide-rimmed hat will keep your whole head and some of your shoulders covered.
No matter which hat(s) you bring, make sure you have the room to stash them in your camper.
17. Toilet Paper
I really can’t stress this enough: you’re going to need toilet paper for when nature calls.
Find a deal at your local grocery store before your trip and stock up on as much as your camper can carry. Make use of all those hidden compartments. If space is an issue, open the packs of toilet papers and store them roll by roll around the camper.
Depending on how long you’re gone, you may have enough toilet paper for the duration of your trip.
If you don’t, you can always stock up again when you pass a grocery store.
16. Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
There are no substitutes for toothbrushes and toothpaste in the wild, so make sure you bring yours with you!
Depending on how many campmates you’re taking along, buy at least two toothbrushes each for a shorter trip and double that for a longer trip. You may not need every last toothbrush, but if someone accidentally uses yours or you lose it, you’re covered.
Buy the biggest toothpaste tubes you can find, and stock up on these, too. The more people coming with you, the more toothpaste you’ll need.
15. Bandages/First Aid Kit
Hopefully, you never have to touch your first aid kit, but you should still have one.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), here’s what you should include in your first aid kit:
- Eye wash
- Distilled water
- Antihistamine tablets
- Cough medicine (check the date before your trip to make sure the meds haven’t expired)
- Over-the-counter painkillers (again, check the date)
- Antiseptic cream
- Insect sting/bite spray or cream treatment
- Hydrocortisone for rashes
- Digital thermometer
- Sticky tape for bandages
- Cleansing wipes
- Sterile gloves
- Rolled bandages and triangular bandages
In those instances where your stovetop oven or other heat source doesn’t work, you must be prepared.
Matches come in a small paper box, so there’s always room for them, even if that’s in your back pocket.
You may want to buy a few boxes depending on how long you plan on staying in your camper.
13. Dish Soap
Unless your camper has incredible amenities like a dishwasher, you’re going to have to wash your dishes by hand.
Dish soap is cheap and economical. If you use no more than a quarter-sized drop to clean your dishes, you can get weeks of use out of just one container. It doesn’t hurt to have a backup dish soap (or three) just in case.
This soap can also double as hand soap if space is limited in your bathroom or kitchen.
12. Hand Sanitizer
What about when you’re not in the camper and you want clean hands? What then?
Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you. These bottles are tiny enough that they can fit in your pocket, your purse, a backpack, or even a fanny pack.
You can even get hand sanitizer with a belt clip attachment for easy carrying.
Admittedly, hand sanitizer does not kill as many germs as good old-fashioned soap and water does. That said, if you have to limit your water use, this is a great way to keep your hands clean.
11. Cups, Plates, and Bowls
It’s dinnertime! What are you serving your meal on?
Make sure you bring a collection of cups, plates, and bowls with you.
It may seem smart to buy paper or foam since you can throw these away after each use. That said, you want to reuse your supplies as much as you can, which means paper and foam are poor choices.
Avoid glass cups, plates, and bowls, as these can accidentally shatter. Plastic is your best bet.
As for storing this tableware, that’s the tricky part. You’re going to have to be a bit of a Tetris master to squeeze everything in, but it’s worth it.
You also need utensils for enjoying homecooked or store-bought meals in your camper.
Again, avoid the disposable kind of utensils, as these make waste. You might want to leave your silverware sets at home so you can ensure each piece of cutlery is there when you get back.
Hard plastic utensils are the way to go. Save yourself the headache and pick up a utensil storing rack so you never have to wonder where a fork is when you need it.
9. Generator Gas
You may use a generator to provide electricity or heating to your camper. You may also keep this gas around as a source of backup power.
Regardless, your generator is the lifeblood of your camper. Without it, you’re going to have to deal with cold, dark, and uncomfortable conditions.
To keep your generator running, you need gas. This comes in heavy metal canisters that are quite bulky, but they’re crucial, so carve out some room for one in your camper trailer.
8. Up-to-Date Camper Registration Papers
Like many motor vehicles, you must have registration papers that prove your ownership of your camper trailer. It helps to keep the title in the vehicle’s glove compartment as well.
If you don’t, on the off chance a police officer pulls you over, you could be in big trouble.
Don’t bring your camping trip to a grinding halt because of a couple of pieces of paper. Check and double-check you have the necessary paperwork before you hit the road.
7. Spare Camper Keys
You know what else can bring your trip to a grinding halt? Losing your keys.
I get it, it happens. Your keys were in your back pocket, or your jacket, or maybe you left them under the bed…
You could drive yourself crazy and lose valuable hours searching for your keys.
To save yourself the headache, get a spare set made before the trip. You can entrust a campmate with these or hide them in a special spot. Regardless, if you somehow find that you misplaced your keys, you’ll very quickly be back on the road again.
6. Collapsible Camping Chairs
The whole point of owning a camper trailer is to stop whenever you want to appreciate the beauty of nature. That said, rocks can be sharp and grass can be wet and slippery. Neither make for great seats.
Don’t question where you’ll sit again when you can invest in a few camping chairs before you go. Make sure these are collapsible to save on valuable cargo space.
5. Smartphone/Tablet Charging Cord
Technology is a part of all our lives, and no matter how far off the grid you go, it will still be there. You may want to snap a few photos for Instagram or record some videos to send to family members back home.
Regardless, you’re going to need charging cords for your mobile devices to power your trip.
If you have children and teenagers especially, there isn’t a more essential item on your packing list.
Speaking of essential items on your packing list, sunblock is one of them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s winter. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cloudy day.
The sun’s rays are present even behind the clouds. At best, spending a warm day outside without sunblock can lead to painful sunburn. At worst, your skin could prematurely age and you could develop skin cancer.
Don’t buy just any sunblock, though.
Look at the sun protection factor or SPF. Read a bit about this. You don’t always get UVA ray coverage with some sunblocks, only UVB coverage.
Your first inclination then may be to grab a sunblock with the highest SPF number you can find. That’s not always what’s best for your skin, though.
An SPF 45 sunblock does the trick just fine, barring almost all UVB sunrays (98% according to WebMD) and plenty of UVA rays.
3. Mosquito Repellent
If you’re on the road in the spring or summer, beware standing water. Mosquitoes like to breed there, and these bloodsuckers can really ruin a trip. After all, no one likes the red, itchy bites mosquitoes leave in their wake.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to keep these unwanted guests far from your afternoons and evenings outdoors.
If you’re concerned about chemicals, you can go the natural route. There are plenty of scents that mosquitoes hate, including:
- Neem oil
- Tea tree oil
- Soybean oil
- Greek catnip oil
- Thyme oil
- Lemon eucalyptus oil
2. Pillows and Blankets
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised what you may forget in the mad rush that is packing before a long trip.
There’s a chance your camper trailer came equipped with cushions, but you may want to bring the comforts of home in the form of your pillow. You’ll be more relaxed and likely to get a better night’s sleep.
Pack blankets of all thicknesses. A light woven blanket is ideal for warmer weather, while a fleecy blanket wards off nighttime chills. You can top that off with a nice, fluffy comforter.
Even if it’s summertime, you never know when you might have a cold night ahead. Instead of shivering until sunrise, roll up the thick blankets.
1. A Map and Compass
A lot of these travel items, like matches and a first aid kit, have been for worst-case scenarios.
Here’s the biggest of the big worst-case scenarios: your generator is out of juice. You don’t have any gas left. Everyone’s mobile devices are dying, and you can’t get to a power source.
What do you use now?
A good old-fashioned paper map and compass.
Yes, back in the days before Google Maps made it easy to go anywhere, many travelers relied on paper maps to mark their way. If they were wandering and got misplaced, a compass could get them back on track.
You may never need these items, and that would be a good thing. Still, isn’t it worth having the peace of mind knowing you could naturally navigate if you had to?
Remembering you left something behind when about to embark on a trip is one of the worst feelings ever. That’s especially true when you know it’s too late to turn back and retrieve said item.
Next time you plan on taking a lengthy trip in your camper trailer, be prepared. This 25-item list is full of necessities, emergency items, and even some fun additions. If you follow this list and augment it with your own essentials, you’ll be prepared for anywhere the road takes you.