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Camping Trip Prep: Know What to Bring

By Lisa Gordon

Your list of car camping equipment can be as short or as long as you like, but there are a few items that are essential. First up is a good quality tent with a rain fly–a waterproof tarp that goes over the tent–and a ground sheet to act as a barrier between your tent and the ground.

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Sleeping bags, pillows and a sleeping pad or air mattress are also necessities. If you’re tempted to forgo the air mattress or pad—don’t. It’s worth making room for it in the car.

Picture the gear you’ll need at the campground at different times of the day. For instance, during setup you might need a hammer for tent pegs or possibly a Swiss Army knife. Toss in a tarp and some rope in case you’re plagued by rain–you can always use it to rig a makeshift shelter.


Think carefully about what you’ll need to cook. It’s always best to prep as much of your food at home as possible, but you’ll still need dishes, cutlery, cups and/or mugs, tinfoil, roasting sticks, a cutting board, a pot or two and a portable cookstove with fuel (or a fire grate, if you’re more adventurous).

With dirty dishes comes cleanup, so bring a plastic dishpan, some biodegradable dish soap, a dishcloth and a tea towel. A plastic, flannel-backed tablecloth and clips to hold it in place are highly recommended for your campsite’s picnic table. It provides a clean surface for eating as well as for washing dishes.

Want to take the stress out of camping? Check out how to do comfort camping close to home.


As night falls, you’ll want to keep the bug spray handy and change into clothing that will protect you from mosquitoes. Likewise, this is a good time to don socks and closed-toe shoes. Put your cooler, all food items and toiletries into your car before dark. Even better, make use of food lockers if they’re available onsite. If bears are in the area, you’ll need to be even more cautious.

Bring flashlights or battery-operated lamps (with extra batteries), as well as newspaper and a barbecue lighter to start your fire. Folding lawn chairs come in handy around the firepit, but a picnic table bench will do in a pinch. As for firewood, most parks sell it at the gate, and you can buy it during check-in. (Never bring firewood from home-you may be unintentionally introducing invasive insects to your park.)


Mornings often start with coffee, so bring everything you need to make your favourite cup of joe. Energy bars are convenient, as are pre-washed fruit. veggie sticks and hard-boiled eggs from home. Plan your menu carefully and prepare as much as you can before you leave (such as a batch of chili or curry). Bring a large water jug to limit your trips to the community faucet. If you’re planning to hike, remember refillable water bottles, hats, sunscreen and comfortable shoes. Dress for the weather and toss a first-aid kit into your pack. Don’t forget your cellphone (and charger), snacks, hand sanitizer, park map and compass.

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