The Sustainable Camping Essentials checklist

Author: Adela


camping checklist

I love camping! It's my all-time favourite outdoor activity, especially if it's wild camping combined with trekking.  There is no better way to connect with nature and take some time off from daily routine. 

My first camping trip was only a few years ago and it wasn't really a great one. I was pretty scared, uncomfortable and very much unprepared.  This is where this camping essentials checklist might have come in handy for me, but I had no such thing. 

Since then, I've become quite an expert I might say, because there was no way I was going on the next one without being ready.

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Sleeping Essentials


Choosing the right tent depends a lot on where you're going and what your expectations are. I recommend getting one that has 2 layers: a base layer, similar to a net, for hot summer days and another protection layer that goes above and is secured by pegs to stay on top of the basic layer. Having a space between the two layers is essential for having good ventilation. Most seller will tell you that tents with only one layer are OK and will keep a summer rain away. I haven't yet found one for which this is actually true. 

I like tents that have a porch, very useful on those rainy days when you don't want to get wet while having breakfast in the morning but also for keeping your shoes outside your sleeping area.

Sleeping bag

It's always best to have a sleeping bag than not have one. No duvet or blankets will ever make up for not having a sleeping bag. Choosing the right one depends, again, on what you're going to use it for. They normally have the suitable comfortable temperatures written on the labels and that's probably the main information you need for choosing the right one. Ideally, it should weight around 1kg or less. 

There are also twin sleeping bags that are great if you're travelling in a couple and want to stay close for the night. Make sure you choose the L (left) and R(right), not two of the same kind (I might have done that). 

Sleeping bag liner

Although it might not be a necessity for most campers, I always choose to get a sleeping bag liner. It ads an extra layer of warmth to the sleeping bag. Plus, it's always nice to sleep on fresh sheets. This will be a thin barrier between your possible sweaty body and the already hard to clean sleeping bag. 

Sleeping Mat

Never ever go on a camping trip without a mat! If you like the idea of feeling like comfortable, you might be tempted to get an inflatable or self-inflatable mattress, which is perfectly fine. Remember that between your back and the cold ground will only be a thin sheet of plastic and air, so you will need a rubber mat underneath just so you don't wake up frozen. A fitness or yoga mat is perfectly fine for this. 

Ground mat

Most tents already have a ground mat, but ever since I got my first extra ground mat, I've felt the difference. This isn't something you can't live without while camping, but it's one of those things I couldn't go without. It works as a complementary  layer to sit in between the tent and the ground and protects the tent from getting pierced from underneath as well.

Mallet, spare pegs and puller

Pegs get lost. Always! I don't know where they go, but I never return with all of them. Pegs are good for properly installing your tent and sometimes come in handy for other projects like making additional shading installations. 

The mallet should preferably be wooden or rubber and should be used gently to tap on the pegs. Using a lot of force would only bend and damage the pegs unnecessarily. A puller will save you time and damaging your hands when leaving an trying to uninstall your tent. 


I should tattoo this on my forearm, really: don't forget flip-flops! Trying to tie your shoes in the middle of the night when your bladder can't hold it anymore is no fun. 


Choose something comfortable to sleep in. If it's cold outside, try adding layers rather than having one thick sweatshirt. A sleeping bag will keep you warm and you might want to take some clothes off during the night. 

Rain cover for tent

Everyone knows you can't trust the weather in the UK, but that can also stand for other places. If you head for the mountains especially, one quick shower can ruin your accommodation for the night. I always get an extra protective sheet as a precaution so I don't spend my time drying clothes or trying to get the water out of the tent. 


Head torch

It can be difficult to find your way in the dark while your hands are busy doing or carrying something else. A head torch is very helpful always, but make sure you don't wear it around the campfire just so you don't blind someone. 

Head torches can vary in size and power and I found the ones from Petzl to be the best. My first head torch was a cheap Made in China one that kept falling from the socket and eating through batteries.

Spare rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries are somewhat more sustainable than regular alkalines because you don't have to buy them that often. Make sure you have enough spares. I usually take them for the head torch.  

Self-charging torch

Self-charging torches generate energy via a flywheel works by squeezing a handle to spin the flywheel inside, attached to a small generator, supplying electric current to the bulb. So squeeze and shine bright, no need to worry about batteries. I've had one for ages and it's the most reliable thing ever.

Trekking shoes

Choosing the right type of trekking shoes could be a whole new article. It really depends where you're going and what type of terrain you'll encounter. One thing I've learned from my nature enthusiastic uncle is to never wear socks or shoes that have brightly coloured stripes on them. The reason is snakes are attracted to bright colours. I am not sure if this is true, but I took his advice and haven't had any problems or snake encounters so far.

I am always going for tall raised trekking shoes because it keeps my ankle in one place in case I slip or take a wrong step. A Vibram sole is most helpful on rocky terrain, concrete or other hard surfaces. You'll probably see the small yellow mark on a lot of trekking shoes.

Sun protection

It goes without saying that sun protection should be a must-have in any camping trips or any trips for that matter. No one wants sunburns! I use this all natural sunscreen SPF 25 and it's the best ever! 


Sunglasses are my absolute favourite fashion item, not only because the right fit can make anyone look cool, but they are also very good to protect our eyes. Polarised lenses are a must and they help reduce glare from the water or other shiny surfaces. You can recognize a polarised lense easily if you put it on top of your unlocked phone and start spinning it clockwise. The screen will get darker or lighter as you move it. 

Waterproof jacket

A good waterproof jacket will last forever and will most likely not go out of style. I wear mine on camping trips but also in the city. Make sure it's specified that it's breathable and you can tell from the label or by blowing on it from interior to exterior.


Backpacks are mostly sized in litres. A 50L backpack qualifies as medium and it's good for a 2-3 days trip, 65L for a week and 80L is for more than a week. If you pack your things the right way, you should be able to fit quite a lot in any of them, plus you get extra space on the outside for sleeping mats, pots, water bottles, shoes and even a tent or a sleeping bag. Make sure you put the heavy stuff at the bottom and the lighter items at the top.  

Walking Poles

I never understood the necessity of using walking poles until I finally bought some. If you have back problems, they are a Godsend because they take the load off your back and also help you with stability. I found an article that talks about all the benefits of walking poles and how to choose the right ones. 

Headcover, bandana

A bandana is never just a bandana when exploring the outdoors. It can protect your head or neck against the sun, but can also be used as a bandage, a facemask, a first aid sling and even as a water filter.

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Piezo lighter

A piezo lighter is a long-lasting device mostly used to light hobs and grills that generates a spark with a push of a button. Piezoelectricity doesn't need electrical connections and only produce a single spark. It's very useful to start a fire while camping and you won't have to worry about running out of gas or another type of fuel. It will only work in conjunction with some dry grass or thin wood shreds.  


Humidity can be a pain when trying to start a fire. And there's plenty of that in the UK! These can be anything from homemade ones like dryer lint, egg cartons or newspapers to store-bought options. You can learn how to make your own firestarters with items you already have at home here.

Coolbox or cool bag

I only take a cool box with me if I'm not going wild camping because they are bulky and heavy. I would rather try packing food that doesn't go bad very quickly or opt for a small cool bag instead.

Pots, pans, grill

I try not to take my whole kitchen with me whenever I go camping, because these things take so much space. I bought a travel set a couple of years back and it made my life so much easier. I don't normally use pans, but it really depends on what I'm planning to eat on my camping trip.

Chopping board

This is what I normally forget to bring with me. I know it's not really a bare essential, but it really helps cutting everything to perfection for a meal. Aside from making things easier, it can sometimes serve as a serving plate for a quick brunch. 

Plates, bowls and mugs

The rule I abide by is taking one of each type per person. And it's always been enough because I believe the more I'll have, the more I'll use and the more I'll wash. So I choose to have less in order to wash less. I know it sounds lazy but I would rather spend time doing something completely different than washing dishes. 

Cooking and eating utensils

The same rule applies with cooking and eating utensils. I always take one of each per person when it comes to eating utensils and just a wooden spoon and some grilling spikes as cooking utensils. 

Knife / Swiss Army Knife

My swiss knife just doesn't leave my backpack. That's where it lives, otherwise, I'm afraid I might leave it behind by accident. The basic ones have a few useful tools like a corkscrew, a knife, a can opener, scissors but on the more advanced ones you can even have a fork, a spoon, different tools for carving and even a tiny screwdriver.



Washing dishes is my least favourite activity of all and washing dishes while camping is even worse. Especially because I often have to do it with cold water. If I had to do it without a sponge it would just be a nightmare and I would rather just eat straight from the pan with my hands. 

Dishcloths & Tea towels

Tea towels can be used for so many things: as a table cloth, as a tissue, sometimes even as a bandage if the situation requires it. 

Washing up liquid and bowl

If you're camping next to a river or a water source, make sure you're using an eco-friendly washing up liquid or none at all. I try to bring a solution I make with water, lemons, vinegar and coarse salt to make sure I don't do any harm.

Compostable rubbish bags/ dog poop bags

You're probably wondering why would you carry dog poop bags with you if you don't even have a dog? Well...let's say the dog is you! What do you do when you "gotta go" in nature?  The solution is to clean after yourself as you would clean after a pet. Please don't be one of those people who mark their territories and leave tissues and other nasties behind. There is always a sustainable and eco-friendly way.


Probably goes without saying, but make sure you plan the meals ahead and bring enough food for as many days of camping as you need. By planning ahead you're very likely to waste less food and will end up saving money and the planet. Also, you will know exactly what utensils, pots and pans you'll need. 

Reusable bottle

My reusable bottle is like a natural extension of my arm. Along with my phone, of course.

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Health & Self-care

First aid kit

I have probably used my first aid kit once in years of camping. The truth is you might rarely or never need it, but it could save your life. A small cut can become a real pain if not disinfected and treated properly. You don't have to buy a ready-made one, but make one up from what you already have at home. There is a helpful guide on the NHS website of what a first aid kit should contain. 

Toilet paper

Of course you can't go on a camping trip without toilet paper. Please make sure you leave no trace when dropping one in nature. Even if it's a biodegradable and compostable toilet paper like Who Gives a Crap's. Use a dog poo bag to clean after yourself.  


OK, you got me there! I normally don't take tissues with me and use toilet paper or tea towels instead. But I do believe they can be useful sometimes. 

Toothpaste & toothbrush

It goes without saying, but had to put it on the list just in case. If you're using toothpaste tablets or powder, make sure you store them in a jar or somehow away from humidity.


I normally pack a beach towel, a hand towel and a face cloth. Depending on the trip length, I sometimes take 2 sets. 

Insect repellent

There is probably nothing worse than fighting mosquitos constantly. Insect repellent is just something I couldn't live without because for some reason every insect possible seems to like me too much.  


I keep a bag with travel-sized toiletries prepared at all times for my next trip. I am not sure how much time it saves me when packing, but it surely is something I don't need to worry about.   There's an entire article about how to prepare for low waste travelling here. 

Hand Sanitiser

Even before the 2020 pandemic, I've always had a small bottle of hand sanitiser attached to my rucksack. I buy hand sanitiser in big bottles and keep refilling small ones with it. 

Portable shower

A portable shower is the best thing ever to have when going camping. The ideal portable shower should be black or a dark colour so it can heat up water quicker. Some even come equiped with tiny solar panels to speed up the process, though I don't really find that necessary. 

What I never take camping 

Everyone needs different things in order to feel comfortable while camping. For me, camping is more of a connection to nature kind of thing. I'm totally fine with eating on the ground while sitting on a mat or straight on the grass and I would never carry tables and chairs with me. Porcelain, glassware or breakable items are also a no-no for me when camping. 

I also never take pillows, duvets or anything from my bedroom at home. A blanket, a sleeping bag and maybe a travel pillow are enough for me. 

While I would take a grill tray, I never take a whole barbecue grill. Camping sites normally have them and if I go wild camping, I just don't bother. 

I absolutely love music but I would never take speakers with me on a camping trip. A guitar, ukulele, small percussion instruments are the best sounds ever around the campfire. Combined with the sounds of nature, of course.

About the author

Adela loves researching and writing about sustainability! Her passion for ethical living started early in her childhood, being born and raised in a beautiful remote village in Romania, where life was much simpler. Life took her to the great city of London where she discovered that sustainability in a big city is not only needed but also possible.  When she’s not at her desk , she loves discovering hidden gems of London and travel to unique places.

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