Before you head out camping, it's important to spend a bit of time thinking about the essential gear you need to take. I learned the hard way how badly things can go wrong if you rush your preparation, and I've had more than one trip ruined in this way.
I've experienced everything from completely forgetting to take water to packing a tent without the right pieces - dumb, I know. Forgetting things can cause major problems, but so can packing too much. Having to search through piles of gear just to find one little thing can cause tempers to fray and enjoyment levels to plummet quickly.
To help you make sure you pack everything you need to set up the perfect camp, I've drawn on my years of travelling experience to put together the following checklist of essential camping gear.
But before we get into it, let's look at a couple of questions to ask before you even start packing.
Before You Start
What Sort Of Camping Experience Do You Want?
This should be relatively self-explanatory. If glamping is more your thing, you will obviously want to pack more luxury and optional items than you would if you're looking for a primitive, back-to-nature experience.
What Weather Conditions Can You Expect?
Everything from your bedding and clothes to the activities you plan and the cooking gear you bring will be dictated by the weather.
For example, in summer, you usually won't be able to cook on a fire due to regional fire bans. In winter, you may need warmer bedding and a specialized tent or swag.
Are You Planning Any Specific Activities?
If you're planning specific camping activities, you need to make sure you have the right gear.
For example, a camping table, some board games, and a pack or two of cards are great things to pack if you're expecting the weather to be a little gloomy. Or, if you're expecting bright sunshine, make sure you throw in the outdoor gear.
Essential Camping Gear
There are a few essential items that need to come with you on every camping trip. Without these, your adventure will be doomed to fail.
Without water, you will struggle to last more than a few hours in the bush. You could also find yourself in a dangerous situation and suffering from dehydration.
First Aid Kit
Although uncommon, accidents do happen. I always pack a small first aid kit, even on the most basic trips. And I've needed it on more than one occasion.
A Phone Or Radio
If a serious accident happens, you need to be able to contact someone. A mobile phone will work fine in many situations, although you may have to upgrade to a radio or satellite phone if you're going remote.
There are a few different shelter options to choose from when you're camping in Australia. Selecting the right shelter for your location and weather is important.
You also need to think about how you're going to transport it, particularly if you're using something like a rooftop tent or swag.
Having the right gear around your campsite will make your trip a pleasure. Most of the things here are optional, but they can certainly add to your level of comfort.
A good night's sleep is one of the keys to a successful camping trip. I've had many nights ruined because I didn't take the right bedding, and I really don't recommend the experience. Something as small as forgetting your blanket can be a complete downer.
Carrying the right first aid gear is essential. The things you should carry will change a little depending on where you're going, but there are a few solid basics that will get you out of most situations.
- Antibacterial cream
- Ice pack
- Snakebite kit
- Emergency blanket
- Insect repellent
- Lip balm
Food & Cooking
Setting up quality camp kitchens can be the difference between an amazing camping trip and frayed tempers. When I'm camping, my camp kitchen is really my number-one priority. Okay, I do love food, but who doesn't?
- Water bottles
- Camp stoves
- Cooking utensils
- Pots and pans
- Cutting board
- Cutlery and crockery
- Tea & coffee
- Paper towels
- Cooking oil
- Camping esky
- Food containers
- Table cloth
- Tea towels
Not everyone will need a power source when they're camping, but most people like to at least have a few lights running. The following will help you power your camp.
There are loads of different camping lighting options on the market. You can buy everything from simple fairy lights to string around your camp to much more powerful floodlights to illuminate the entire area.
- Strip lights
- Fairy lights
- Solar lights
- Rechargeable lights
Garbage & Cleaning
Australia's great outback is one of the most pristine and unspoilt places on the planet, and we'd like to keep it that way.
I like to follow the motto of "take only photos, leave only footprints", and a bit of cleaning and rubbish management gear can be very useful.
- Rubbish bags
- Dustpan and broom
- Rubbish bin
- Tub for dishwashing
- Dishwashing soap
Of course, you will want to take a few personal items with you. These will range from makeup to clothing and medication.
- Appropriate clothing
- Spare clothes
- Hiking pack
- Hiking pants
- Camp shoes or thongs
Fun & Games
In my opinion, no version of camping is perfect without some form of fun and games. There are loads of different leisure activities to choose from when you're out on the road, but you need to make sure you have the right gear for them.
- Board games
- Fishing gear
- Mask and snorkel
- Beach umbrella
- Books and magazines
- Camping/hiking guides
- Drawing/sketching materials
- Bikes and helmets
- Camera and spare batteries
- Ski gear
There are various other items for camping that you might decide to take with you. I've listed a few of the things that I've found useful and/or fun over the years.
- Spare tyre and jack
- Duct tape
- Pet gear
- Campsite reservation
How To Plan Your Camping Trip
Before you hit the road, you need to think carefully about exactly what you hope to get out of it. I know for a fact that the right option for me won't suit a lot of people, and that's something I keep in mind when I'm gear shopping before I head out.
Some of the most important things to think about when planning your camping trip include:
- Where you're going
- What sort of shelter you need
- How many people you're packing for
- What meals you're going to eat
- The activities you're planning
- The weather and average seasonal temperatures
- How long you're going for
I usually keep my essential camping kit together in one place. Then, the necessary gear can be added according to the type of trip you're planning.
What Happens If You Forget Something?
Forgetting something isn't always the end of the world, but it can cause some serious issues if you leave the essentials behind.
For example, accidentally leaving the fishing rods behind the shed when you leave won't ruin your trip. If you remember about them in time, you could head back and pick them up. Otherwise, you will still be able to have a great trip without them.
But if you forget something like water, your tent, or your bedding, your trip will essentially be doomed from the beginning. You will need to either head to a shop to pick up the things you need or turn around and head home.
Time To Hit The Road!
Now that you know what you need for the perfect camping trip, it's time to get out there and start exploring our beautiful country. Australia offers everything from scorching desert gorges to snow-capped mountains and ancient forests, and there's something for everyone.
If you're not an experienced camper, I'd suggest working through your essential gear list before you head off and comparing it to the comprehensive list I've presented here. Everyone makes mistakes, and I'm sure you'll forget something - I can't think of a camping trip where I haven't - but that's all just part of the fun!
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.