Huzzah! Who knew I’d be writing a camping trip post that I updated multiple times to reflect our MULTIPLE camping adventures? AND that it would become one of my most popular blog posts?! 😂 2020 really keeps me on my toes.
Camping is the new hobby I never dreamed I would actually love–something I never would’ve discovered if not for this year–a silver lining, for sure. I first wrote this after our first ever van camping (er…glamping) trip to Michigan, but now I’ve updated it to include some heavy hitters we purchased for our cross-country camping trip from Chicago to the Badlands to the Tetons! (Yes, we’re REAL camping–as in, with a tent–this time, too. 😂)
Seeing as we knew traditional travel wasn’t happening this year, a few months back we reserved a camper van on Outdoorsy, (see more details on that in this post!), we found a camping location on Hipcamp, and the time had finally come to embark on our first ever camping adventure.
Let me tell you…if you’re hestitant, don’t worry, so was I, and it was seriously one of the most fun vacations we’ve ever had. So fun, in fact, that we planned more IMMEDIATELY! And here we are.
(By the way, if you need help figuring out HOW to plan a camping trip–head over to this post, then come back here!)
What to Pack for a Camping trip: My Official Packing List
So–what to bring on your camping trip? From clothing I packed to the most helpful accessories we purchased, read on for my 2020 Camping Packing List!
FYI–this has been updated since it was first posted to now include both my van camping essentials AND tent camping essentials!
First, a few considerations overall: Check the weather A LOT leading up to your trip. And pay attention to the lows, especially if you’re tent camping! Once you get out of the city, things tend to cool off a LOT at night–so you may need more layers than you think!
Here are my top must-pack items for any camping trip this summer/fall:
Breezy long sleeve shirts: #1 VIP OF THE TRIP!!
I feel like I never shut up about how much I love gauzy linen long sleeve button-ups in the summer. I brought three with me and wore them a TON. Favorites include the “Prince Eric Shirt” AKA the Lou & Grey gauzy henley 😂 and this Outerknown gauzy button-up (this is a new-to-me brand that I ADORE!) I probably wore this top the most! It’s also longer in the back so it worked great for a bathing suit cover-up! Never under estimate the power of having sleeves for sun and bug protection.
I have been a convert of the AGolde Parker jean shorts for a long time now. I wrote a whole blog post on them here! Jean shorts came in as one of the VIP’s of the trip–they’re comfy, durable, and don’t show dirt very easily and are great for hanging out. They also come in a longer version, called the Dee shorts, which I have since purchased and they will be the pair that comes with me on our next trip! I love that they’re high waisted! (FYI both pairs run REALLY SMALL. Size up at least one if not two sizes!)
I know they’re stupid expensive for jean shorts (like why would they be the same price as jeans when they’re like 1/4th the material?) but they’re the only pair I ever wear, and I’ve had them for years now–so they’ve well been worth it!
Comfy pull-on linen shorts:
As you know, I’ve been living in pull-on linen shorts this summer and I will be bringing them along on this trip as well! J.Crew and Nordstrom have my favorite pairs. Both run a little oversized but I ordered my normal size and since I wanted them loose, I was happy with the fit! See more ways to style your linen shorts here.
I got these from Amazon and I really like them! (I mean, I haven’t test driven them yet, but I’ll keep you posted!) For the price, I feel like you can’t really beat them! They aren’t lined so they’re very cool and they have a mesh lining for the pockets. Run TTS!
Cute water sneakers:
Water shoes are a must-have for rocky beaches, creeks and rivers. My MIL and SIL are the queens of cute water shoes–so they introduced me to a version I actually enjoy wearing! I brought this pair that my SIL got me for Christmas–they look just like sneakers! Neal also just ordered the men’s version in grey–he was so skeptical at first and now he loves them! They really do look like sneakers!
I’ve officially crossed over to the Birkenstock dark side and these waterproof birks absolutely live up to the hype. I have never been a Birk girl previously but my friends who have say these are even more comfortable than the original kind! They’re made of a foam-like material, so they don’t rub and give you blisters–it’s very soft! Definitely way more supportive than a flip-flop, too! (And most definitely cuter!) These are also great for shower shoes!
I have worn these to the beach several times and they’re easy to wear into the water to protect your feet from rocks too! I ordered my normal size! Many have asked if they wipe clean, and they do! Mine haven’t stained or anything!
Another thing that goes on the list of “things I never thought I’d wear”–I am IN LOVE with my Tevas! 😂 I got the fun deserty cactus colorway and they make me so happy. I basically lived in these and my birks our entire camping trip! If you don’t want water shoes and you also want something waterproof and easy to wear in the water (that isn’t a slip-on)–these are my best all-purpose sandal pick. When I first ordered them I really only envisioned wearing them camping but now I wear them regularly because they just make me smile!
Sneakers are obviously a must if you plan to do any light hiking–so I brought my Gerries on our Michigan camping trip. 😂 I honestly hardly touched them though, aside from the hour that we took a hike through the woods!
Hiking shoes/hiking boots:
On the flipside, I am actually bringing two pairs of real hiking shoes on our trip to the Badlands, Black Hills and the Tetons. I definitely don’t think this is necessary BUT the terrain/weather can just be drastically unpredictable and different between the two places, and I have both, so I wanted to have both trail sneakers and boots. I have this pair of Danners, and this pair of Columbia boots! I will keep you posted on how it goes!
Tall socks/Hiking socks:
Good to have for any trip where you’ll be walking or hiking through the woods or brush. They help protect against scratchy bushes, mosquitos, ticks, and snakes! Plus, temps drop a LOT at night no matter where you are–always good to have layers!
I don’t think you need anything fancy unless you’ll be doing some real hiking–other than that, any old socks will do–like this J.Crew pack. For heavy dutier hiking, I got these wool hiking socks from Amazon!
A baseball hat is a definite must for a camping trip. It protects you from the sun, and also disguises unwashed hair! Mine are all pretty old (my IU hat is usually my go-to!), but J.Crew makes some really cute non-branded ones!
Lightweight tank tops:
For any daytime activities on a hot day! Go with something with an ultra-lightweight blend, like this Madewell tank, for extra breathability!
A lightweight crewneck pullover is definitely a must, as I said above, nights can get chilly! I don’t know why it’s such a noticeable difference compared to nights in the city, but it is! And I definitely needed my sweatshirt and long pants each night! If you’re looking for a classic light sweatshirt, I really love the new-to-me sustainable brand, Outerknown, and they have an awesome sweatshirt that has 5 star reviews and comes in some perfect summery colors! I have since bought one and I’m bringing it with me on our trip!
Leggings are KEY especially if you plan to do any hiking and because the temperatures can drop pretty unexpectedly!
Depending on what you’re doing and what the weather is, my advice would be to go with a legging that doesn’t have a really delicate weave (like Lululemon’s aligns–which I ADORE but they’re more prone to snagging on rocks, wood benches, etc–and I’d be very upset if I ruined my Lulu leggings 😂) Something more along the lines of a Zella legging, which is a thicker, more durable material, would be good!(Or just wear your old ones so you don’t have to worry about ruining them!)
Again, just make sure you check the weater! Camping in the Tetons can get SUPER cold at night (we’re talking like, in the thirties!) so I got these fleece-lined joggers in Amazon and they are so incredibly warm! No matter where you’re going, make sure to always check the lows (especially if you’re tent camping!) and pack layers! I also packed long underwear and a beanie, just in case!
I’m also bringing my packable Lole jacket, again, just in case! Everything I’ve read about the Tetons say to bring alot of layers, and this one packs away so easily it’s great to toss in your bag.
I ALWAYS include a pair of jeans on every trip–again, it’s good to have long pant options! Levi’s wedgie jeans are always a great go-to pair that are comfy and good for a camping vibe!
Breathable “invisible undies”:
For our road trip, we’ll be doing a lot of hiking (unlike our Michigan camping trip which was just more hanging) so I bought these Under Armour thongs that are no-show under workout pants and super breathable–I love them!! Highly recommend!
Beauty and toiletry items:
Billie face wipes:
I brought my Billie face wipes for both Neal and I and they were a lifesaver. I kept them in the cooler and they are the most lovely refreshing treat! They’re an all-in-one solution for washing your face without water and they are seriously the best face wipes. (And also compostable!) I wrote a whole review of them here, but even Neal was like THESE ARE THE BEST FACE WIPES! They don’t leave your face sticky or dried out, and I love that they have Vitamin C!
Lots of good sunscreen and bug spray:
I typically get eaten alive by mosquitos–we’re talking like DOZENS of welts from bug bites on my body at a given time––but Kelly (well, Kelly’s mom Cathy actually 😂 hi Cathy!!!) turned me onto Skin So Soft bug spray and I swear it’s AMAZING. Seriously the best bug spray I’ve ever used. It’s MAGICAL. No bug spray has ever worked like this, AND it gets good marks in terms of safety from EWG! I think because the main ingredient is Picardin instead of DEET, maybe that’s why it works better for me? Not sure–but either way, highly recommend!
Of course, I’m also packing lots of sunscreen–I’ve been getting a lot of questions on good sunscreens–so you can see this whole post where I round up my favorites!
Lavender CBD roller
I brought my lavender CBD roller because it’s excellent for soothing bug bites and sun burns (luckily I didn’t get many bug bites thanks to said magic bug spray listed above) but it’s always good to have on hand. This is another thing I like to keep in the fridge/cooler! (I also love keeping this by my bed at home to roll onto my temples at bedtime!) Use code JESSKEYS for 15% off your first order!
Other camping accessories:
Of course you can totally find some cheaper Yeti alternatives, but I am a Yeti brand enthusiast 😂 We use these tumblers for everything from cocktails to wine to iced coffee! They make such a difference in keeping your drink cold!
I actually can’t find the ones we ordered online anymore, but that’s OK because we were kind of lukewarm about them anyway. I did, however, find this awesome chair that looks SO practical and very cute and comfy! (I like that it doesn’t like tip you forward like a regular camping chair does, and it folds up so fast and can be carried like a backpack!)
Update: We actually just got these chairs on Amazon for our road trip out west, because we needed something VERY compact. I will admit, we put one together yesterday and almost fell on the floor laughing (they look SO dinky) but then you sit in them and it’s shocking how comfortable they are! So if you need something VERY compact (like, this folds up into the size of a packable jacket) then these are a good bet. I will keep you posted on how they hold up.
Neal actually ordered this unbeknownst to me and I was pleasantly surprised 😂 It’s great quality for the price and was perfect for laying out on the beach and for an extra layer at night hanging out in front of the camp fire!
These are SO cute and were perfect for rolling up (they take up next to no space!) for both the beach and/or the showers!
These were AMAZING to have on our Michigan trip to get the campfire started in no-time. No yucky chemicals–they’re made with wood shavings and food-grade wax! (Note: Our campsites along the way to Oregon don’t allow campfires though, so make sure you check beforehand!)
This was a big splurge (and our first cooler) and we will use this a lot at the lake house as well. Yeti coolers keep ice frozen for THREE DAYS! Isn’t that wild!? This one is small and very portable, and we use it mainly for drinks!
For longer trips you’ll need a big cooler for all your food items–we purchased this Coleman cooler that was affordable and is supposed to keep ice cold for a really long time as well!
Neal got these packable fillable ice packs to put in the big cooler and they have amazing reviews!
The perfect way to easily make cold brew–I love it so much I wrote a whole post on it right here. Easy to pack, and it comes with an easy pour spout! I shared my two favorite new-to-me coffee brands in this post, if you’re looking for coffee reccos! Just make sure you’re getting a coarse grind!
Neal got this lightweight backpack for our trip and it was perfect for holding our supplies for a hike, a trek to the lake or creek, and for riding into town on our bikes!
Okay, not an exciting accessory, but if you’re cooking with a campfire, you’ll cook EVERYTHING in tin foil. It also makes for very easy cleanup– I can’t emphasize how great tin foil is when it comes to camping. 😂Make sure you get the heavy-duty kind!
We didn’t use this for our van trip, but we did purchase one for our road trip to Oregon! We’ll be camping in both the Badlands and the Tetons and we’ve never tent camped before, so we wanted something that was going to be very quick and easy to set up and take down. After a TON of research I found this tent and I’m pretty confident we’ll be happy with it! It literally pops up in two seconds and takedown takes only a few minutes. Just make sure to find a Youtube tutorial before you go, because it can be tricky to take down the first time!
Again, needing something that didn’t take up a lot of space, we got these sleeping pads in lieu of a giant air mattress for the tent. Will keep you posted on how that goes, but when we tested them out, they were awesome! They have this built-in foot pump (you just step right on it–it’s inside!) and it inflats. It’s really nifty! Apparently I say nifty now.
If a campfire is allowed where you’re going, I honestly don’t think you need a camp stove! We did all our cooking over the fire in Michigan and it was so much fun (and easy!) BUT because campfires aren’t allowed in the Badlands we needed to bring along a camp stove this go around. After some research, we purchased this little fold-up one! It has great reviews and is basically the size of a little briefcase with a handle and everything! It’s compact and I love the fact that it has two burners.
If you don’t have access to running water, you’ll want a “sink” to do your dishes! I love this one because it folds completely flat and takes up ZERO space! (Make sure to use with environmentally friendly soap!)
We got this big ole power converter for the car so we could easily plug in laptops, charge my camera, phones, etc. It plugs into your cigarette lighter! This is definitely not necessary if you aren’t doing a long haul road trip AND if you don’t think you’ll need to use a laptop while you’re driving.
For times we aren’t in the car (i.e. camping) this is how we’ll charge our phones, smartwatches, etc. Neal has had this for a while now just in case of emergency (can also use to jump-start your car) but it also has USB charging, so when we don’t have electricity this will be what we use for charging purposes!
I got ours on sale, but this one is similar! We got a double sleeping bag that is suitable for temps down to 30 degrees. Again, another reason to really pay attention to the low temps overnight if you’re tent camping–never would’ve dreamed it got down to the thirties in the Tetons in early September!
If you’re driving any distance to go camping and you struggle with carsickness–listen up–these will change your life! They’re just pressure point bands but they do wonders. I get so ill and these have saved me countless times.
Some photos of what I wore during our van camping trip in Michigan:
Our water sneakers on the picnic bench
Tevas on the dashboard! (I ordered my normal size!)