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Approximately 40 million people go camping each year in the U.S. If you’re planning to join the ranks this summer and enjoy one of Michigan most favored past times, then you may need some help planning. The below is a breakdown of baseline items you should bring with you to make the most out of your camping experience. Keep in mind camping for the first time can offer a larger upfront cost, but once you have these items, you are set for years of camping adventures.

What to Bring

  • Water – This is the most important thing you need to survive, and you want to make sure you have plenty of it while you’re camping. Fill a large reusable jug with water before you leave and bring reusable bottles to refill throughout the trip. If you are camping in a remote location with no convenience stores nearby, be sure to account for 2-3 liters of water per person per day.
  • Food – Again, you likely looked at this one and said “duh” but it’s important to pack the proper foods and meal prep ahead of your trip to make sure you have enough to last you the entire time. Make your grocery list in advance and plan to stop somewhere close to your campsite so things do not spoil. This is the perfect time to fill your cooler with ice and pick up any last-minute items as well.
    • Pro Tip: Dry foods will save space and weight, and you don’t have to think about keeping them temperature controlled.
  • Shelter – Although there are many forms of shelter available when it comes to new-age camping like cabins and campers, we are going to focus on the most traditional format – tents.
    • These come in many shapes and sizes and offer the best coverage to manage changing weather. Be sure to bring a tent that is designated to fit the number of people intended to sleep in it.
  • Bedding – You likely still own a sleeping bag from your childhood sleepovers, but its unlikely this will suffice now. With new technology, sleeping bags have become more advanced and designed to fit personal comfort needs, size, various temperatures, and weather conditions. Investing in a new one could be a smart decision. Don’t forget a pillow – or you’ll be using extra clothes to rest your head!
    • For added comfort, campers bring sleeping pads to go under or inside their sleeping bag to raise you up from laying directly on the ground. These also help to keep moisture from accumulating beneath your body and possibly lowering your body temperature.
  • Cooking supplies – If you’re planning to cook meals at camp, you’ll need a few additional items. These include but are not limited to a knife, cooking grate (if not already provided by the site), tongs, pot or pan, camping stove and fuel, can and bottle openers, cups, plates, and silverware.
  • Cleaning supplies – Ensuring that your campsite is tidy throughout your stay and before you leave is important for many reasons, but especially to keep away curious critters like raccoons or bears. Make sure you pack garbage bags, biodegradable soap, scouring pad or cleaning brush, wash basins (one for soap, one for rinse, one for sanitizing), and paper towels or rags.
  • Clothes and hygiene products – Packing clothes for a camping trip should be fairly low-stress since you don’t need special outfits or multiple pairs of shoes, but make sure you are bringing layers in case of drastic temperature changes. Synthetic fabrics are great for reducing moisture. Closed toed shoes and long pants are important, especially if you’re planning to hike through wooded areas. Bring a small bar of soap, washcloth, towel, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and any additional specialty products or medicines to keep up on your personal hygiene.
  • Extras – Consider bringing sunscreen and insect repellent, a map, flashlights or headlamps, a first aid kit, fire starter kit, folding chairs, and a toolset or toolbox. In most parks, you are not able to bring in wood that has traveled more than 50 miles from where it came from. Stop at a nearby town to purchase firewood that is local to the area to avoid spreading invasive species and diseases.

If you bring anything additional, such as electronics or kayaks, make sure you have the proper battery power and equipment necessary to use. Do some research to find recipes perfect for camping, like these essentials.

The National Park Service has additional tips and tricks to keep in mind before you head out for a camping trip. For more ways to enjoy Michigan this summer, check out the “Your Neighborhood” tab on Empowering Michigan.