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A Beginner Camper’s Guide to Commonly Forgotten Camping Essentials


Typically, overpacking is a big concern for new campers. Rookie wilderness explorers want the “full experience” of adventuring into the woods to enjoy a taste of a simpler life, at least for the long weekend. That is until a mid-summer thunderstorm cracks across the sky, and the campers find themselves with sopping wet clothes and a tent that hasn’t even left its storage bag yet.

There’s a reason that the Boy Scouts emphasize being prepared. Stock up on camping essentials at retailers like Self Reliance Outfitters, and ensure that your outdoor experience is a safe, enjoyable one. If you’re at a loss for where to start, here’s a list of commonly forgotten items that can make or break your camping trip.

Commonly Forgotten Camping Essentials


Shelter, food, and water are essential to survival. If the weather is too rough while you’re roughing it, you’ll want something light and compact to protect yourself from the elements.

If you decide to hike away from your site, bring the tarp with you in case of emergencies. If the worst-case scenario happens, you can use it as a makeshift tent or a water catcher. Tarps can keep you dry and at least somewhat warm if Mother Nature decides to rain on your camping parade.


Nothing cuts a camping trip short quicker than a drought. The human body needs an average of half a gallon of water a day, and that’s if you’re taking it easy. Hiking up and down mountains and through rough terrain will use up your body’s resources as you sweat out water and electrolytes to keep cool and on the move. Dehydration can set in quickly and turn into a massive problem if you don’t keep an eye on your water supply.

If weight is a concern, you can bring along a few filtration kits or straws for any freshwater sources you find. That way, you can keep the whole crew hydrated without lugging gallons of water through the woods.


Even if you’re not planning on blazing a new trail through uncharted territories, a length of paracord has virtually limitless uses in any outdoor setting.

If your primary shelter is compromised, a length of cordage between trees can hold up your tarp for you to take cover.

Hit by a sudden downpour? Tie up a clothesline and let everything air dry. Lost your matches? Create a bow drill and get a blaze going. Staying at a campsite known for hungry animals? Hang your food in a tree.

There’s no telling when it’ll come in handy, but you’ll be relieved that you have some type of cord when the time comes.

Duct tape

Duct tape is similar to cordage in that there’s no end to its possible uses during your camping trip. This famous silvery tape can do anything from mending tears in your tape to making utensils to sealing your food containers from nosy neighbors. Even if you can’t imagine why you’ll need it now, you’ll be glad to have it once the need arises on the trail.

First aid

Wounds that seem minor can quickly become a much bigger problem if left untreated, so make packing your first aid kit a priority.

Before every excursion, double-check that it’s well-stocked on sterile bandages, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, burn cream, aspirin, and any other medical supplies you might need. A small cut or sprain can quickly spiral out of control when you’re surrounded by dirt, bugs, and the elements, so you can’t underestimate the value of a well-stocked medkit.

You should also include care items for chronic conditions, like plantar’s fasciitis or elbow tendonitis, as the exertion of camping is likely to activate those symptoms. It’d be a shame to march all the way to your campground only to have a chronic flare up ruin the rest of your nature getaway.

Wet wipes and toilet paper

Hygiene is more vital than ever when it comes to stomping through the underbrush. Bringing along some anti-bacterial wet wipes can give you a chance to wipe your hands and face around meals or after handling anything unclean. Fresh, clean water sources aren’t always nearby when you need them, so it’s good to have a backup method for sanitizing your hands.

You should also remember to pack plenty of toilet paper. Nature calls even on a nature retreat, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re packing your tissue.

Extra socks and shoes

Wet footwear may seem like a minor annoyance, but depending on the conditions you’re camping in, it can lead to significant health concerns.

Trench foot, first identified in World War I soldiers, is a condition where feet lose circulation under exposure to the cold and damp, causing massive tissue damage. Symptoms can develop in as little as an hour and have lifelong consequences.

Pack a decent pair of shoes and a few pairs of socks in a protective pouch, so you’ll always have warm, dry feet. It may seem like a small thing, but all ten of your toes will thank you for investing your health.


Even if you remembered to grab your lanterns and headlamps, you could be stuck in the dark without batteries to power the gear.

Pack a couple of spare sets for every battery-powered device you plan to take along on your trips, as well as a fully-charged power bank for your cell phone. A lack of light can turn a lighthearted camping trip into something out of a ghost-story in the blink of an eye, so don’t let batteries and flashlights slip beneath your packing radar.

Wrap up

Beginner campers should overpack for their trips, at least until you get the hang of what gear you’ll need and which items you’re better off leaving. Keep an ongoing packing list and consult it often as you prepare for your next journey into the great outdoors. As you increase your confidence in the woods and on the trail, you can pare down on what you bring based on each trip’s length and difficulty.