Essential vs. Non-Essential Items: Prioritizing Your Camping Packing List

Blog, Family, Travel

 Camping in our trailer is something we have loved doing as a family. The past few years we haven’t taken as many trips as we would have lilked, but we wrapped up the summer with a trip up to Northern Minnesota. Since it had been a bit, packing took a bit longer than normal. Here are the essentials we pack, and some of the things we bring that I know are a little extra!

Now full disclosure – we travel in a 29 foot travel trailer – if you’re tent camping I am of no use to you! 😂

camp site with a travel trailer on it

The Basics First

When we start packing the first things in are bedding and towels. That way we know we are good to go for a cozy bedtime and staying clean. We also pack basic toiletries. These things we can keep in the trailer for the whole summer so can pack one time and be set to go (with a few laundry trips in between). 

Packing first-aid kits is also essential so a quick review of what’s still left inside at the beginning of the season is critical. We also test fire extinguishers.

Finally, it’s kitchen and bathroom basics. This includes trash bags, cleaning supplies, hand soap, and toilet paper.


This can be tricky depending on the season and location. We have camped in hot locations, as well as those that have dramatic changes in temperature.  Instead of packing an outfit for every possible scenario, opt for versatile clothing items. Choose clothes that can be layered and mixed and matched. Consider the climate of your destination and pack accordingly. Don’t forget to bring rain gear and extra socks – these can be real lifesavers.

We always pack more than we need of socks and underwear because you never know when you’ll need them. And wet, stinky socks are never a fun idea.

Food and Cooking: Plan Your Meals

Meal planning is where I really get after it. While we have a kitchen, it can be difficult to cook a meal for the whole family. I like to cook a handful of meals ahead of time that just need to be heated up and we’re ready to go.

Some of our go tos include:

  • taco meat (or chili dog meat).
  • pulled pork.
  • roast chicken (that we can reheat on the grill).
  • breakfast casseroles.

Outside of that I like to prep fruits and veggies so they’re easy to grab. It minimizes the time to prep as well as the dishes! 

With regards to side dishes, and other meals, I like to create easy options like frozen veggies I can steam in the microwave, rice packets, etc. Always thinking about the dishes as well as ease.

For snacks, we come prepared with things that the kids can easily grab. Trail mix packets, fruit cups, protein bars. I want snacks that are easy by the campsite, but also that we can throw in a backpack and take on a hike.

From here – I organize what I’ll need for kitchen supplies. Some commonly forgotten items? Not enough knives. Cutting boards. Kitchen shears. Aluminum foil or plastic bags. 

Things to keep us entertained

When we’re camping, we’re all about board games. We try to bring games that don’t have to many pieces. I once dropped the whole game of battleship (pegs and all) on the ground while camping. That wasn’t the best to clean up! Cards are also a great option. Uno tends to be afamily favorite in our trailer. Games are also a great option on days when the weather is not so great.

We try not to watch tv while camping, but we still pack some DVDs, just in case. Again for bad weather, but also for background noise if we need it. I like to have a movie on while I’m cooking or cleaning up the kitchen.

For outside the trailer it’s as simple as a football, frisbee, and the kids bikes. Depending on the camping site we’ll also bring our travel pickleball, bags or football toss. Afterall, the whole goal is to hang outside and be together.

Some of our splurge items

Now we purposfuly bought the trailer we have because of the dual slide outs, the kitchen island and the storage. We knew there were things that would come with us everytime and wanted to ensure we had space. There are few things we can’t live without.

These things include:

  • electric kettle (so I can always have hot tea).
  • ZeroWater pitcher.
  • fans – gotta drown out the noise somewher.

We also have our dog kennel so she feels safe and secure.

Customize for each location

Before you hit the road, do a final check of your trailer’s contents. Reevaluate each item’s necessity and whether it aligns with your camping goals. Remember, a well-packed trailer means less stress, easier setup, and a more enjoyable camping adventure.

By differentiating between the essential and non-essential items, you’ll not only have a lighter and more organized trailer but also a more enriching camping experience. Prioritizing your packing list allows you to focus on what truly matters – immersing yourself in nature, creating memories, and relishing the simplicity of life on the road. Happy camping!

Don’t forget to pay attention to the amenities of each space. That will help you determine what items you regularly bring and what you can leave behind this time around.