Mountain camping is a hugely popular outdoor activity here in the U.S. Many people love the excitement and prospect of enjoying the closeness of wildlife and the beauty of nature found in the rugged outdoors and will many times make plans to ‘rough it’ by going tent camping in the mountains instead of renting a hotel room or cabin while on their trip.

Below are some suggestions on what to bring with you when traveling by vehicle. Be sure to also watch below for our great tips on making your travel experience easier as well!

Packing Your Vehicle

Ideally, everything you will need for tent camping should easily fit in your car and/or trunk or may even fit on top of your vehicle in what is commonly referred to as a ‘clam’ – a cloth, vinyl, or plastic car top luggage carrier which fits on the top of your car and is secured into place by straps or other sturdy latches.

And believe me….Clams are great!

Many times when my children were younger and my family and I traveled, whether to the mountains or not, we would use a clam because we loved the convenience of having all of our luggage (and many times other misc. things such as pots and pans, utensils, camping dishes, tents, extra jackets, extra blankets, pillows, extra pairs of shoes or boots, etc) out of the way and safely secured to the roof of the vehicle which left us with plenty of room inside the car to better enjoy the long journey as well as take full advantage of the beautiful scenery and sightseeing along the way without feeling cramped or overcrowded – which also makes it less likely for smaller children to make a fuss while you are driving.

The other convenience to having a clam is not having to unpack everything in your vehicle to find that small little something you are looking for and having the peace of mind knowing you can leave your clam packed with your belongings safely secured and locked away in case you need to make a short overnight stop somewhere along your travel route.

Most clams open from both sides, making it easy and convenient to open them and remove something you may need during your travels, your short stay at a lodge or motel, or if you just simply need to get an extra blanket or pillow for your children (or pets) to sleep with while traveling.

If you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend going online and checking out great deals for a Travel Luggage Carrier.

Believe me – the many conveniences of having one for travel is well worth it!

Get Ready For The Trip!

Have you ever traveled somewhere and got all the way there just to find you forgot something or wished you had thought of something to bring with you but had not? Honestly, I think we’ve all been there at one time or another!

Below is a list of items you may want to bring with you for any overnight or extended camping trip to the mountains.


1) Tent – I cannot even begin to tell you how much we have enjoyed the extra space found in the Ozark Trail 10 Person 3 Room XL Family Cabin Tent.

It is ultra spacious with more than plenty of room for you and your family or friends, has great screened windows for viewing wildlife and beautiful nature from the inside the comfort of your tent and is incredibly easy to set up (just ask my daughter – who had set it up for us on the majority of our trips!).

For those who do not need such a spacious tent, there are also some smaller tents available at just about anywhere you may decide to shop at as well.

2) Sleeping Pad – A good soft foam exercise mat can make a great sleeping pad for those who do not care to sleep on the cool or rocky mountain ground. Therm-a-rest travel pillows and sleeping pads are also a great help and come in handy for those who do not care to use bulky camping cots. Both pack small and are lightweight and very comfy.

3) Sleeping Bag – The very first time we traveled to the mountains, I had made the horrible mistake of packing summer sleeping bags for myself and my children. Though the outside temperature may be nice and warm or sometimes may even be a bit hot during the day, at night mountain temperatures can easily dip into the low 30s or lower. Our sleeping bags were not rated for such chilly nights, and we ended up huddled together and using all of our sleeping bags combined just to stay warm.

Lesson learned: when packing sleeping bags for mountain camping, be sure to buy and pack sleeping bags that are rated for very chilly or cold weather. Most sleeping bags have this much needed information listed in plain view right on its packaging or label which will state to what temperature they are made for.

When you are not sure what the temperature will reach while in the mountains, it is always safer to buy a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating (for instance, buying a great sleeping bag that will keep warmth to 0 degrees). It’s always better to be a little too warm than way too cold and unable to sleep or enjoy your stay in the mountains.

4) Backpack – Whenever camping in the mountains, you may also want to do a bit of hiking where you can utilize a good backpack like the Ozark Trail 36 Liter Kachemak Daypack which will definitely make your outdoor hiking experience easier and includes plenty of space to carry water, small snacks, and anything else you may need for your hikes.

If you prefer something smaller to bring with you when hike, a lighter regular sized or smaller backpack or a good medium or large sized fanny pack also work well.

5) Water and a First Aid Kit – When planning a hiking trip, whether short or long, you want to make sure to pack plenty of water to drink as well as some band-aids and antibiotic cream and/or a small first aid kit to bring with you in case someone happens to get a small sliver or receives a cut while hiking or playing.

6) Camera or Camcorder – Any time you travel, you are going to want to make sure you bring a good camera like the Canon PowerShot or a great Camcorder with you to capture the Beauty of your Adventure and those special moments that will last for a lifetime!

For those who love and desire a more professional approach while filming your fun camping adventures, you will love the Canon XA35 Professional Camcorder, which comes with Canon’s 20x High Definition Optical Zoom Lens.

7) Sunglasses and Sunblock – If you plan on being outdoors for any amount of time, be sure to bring a great pair of sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen that has a great rating of SPF.

8) Calamine Lotion – Not saying that you will run into a batch of poison ivy or other toxic plant and will need this lotion to soothe the burning itch that goes along with certain rashes, but calamine lotion is not only a huge relief for poison ivy, but is also great for soothing the itch and sting of insect bites!

9) Insect repellent is a good thing to have handy as one never knows where they will hike to and having insect repellent readily available makes for a more pleasant walk if the bugs start bothering you while you are exploring nature and the great outdoors. Just one of my absolute favorite insect repellent sprays to use while camping, walking, fishing, or spending any good amount of time outdoors is OFF Deep Woods Insect Repellent spray.

10) Deterrents such as bear spray also come in handy. Even though the chances of you ever having to use bear spray while out hiking or camping in the mountains is very rare, it is still a good idea to carry a can with you just in case you may ever need it.

11) Cookware – Even though when we go camping we are at our own campsite and could easily cook over a fire at the campground, I many times opt to bring my own small charcoal grill and have at times also brought a Coleman Camping Stove with as well.

I prefer not to use charcoal fluid to start my coals and instead use newspaper to start them – largely because I do not like the ‘smell’ of charcoal fluid getting on my food. Though I love the fresh grilled taste a charcoal grill has to offer while I am cooking outdoors, a propane grill or a good camping stove does also comes in handy from time to time, especially during those times where you want to quickly heat water for your morning cup of coffee or tea.

Some campgrounds may not allow you to use charcoal grills while at their campsites because of local fire hazards, so it is a good idea to check with the campground prior to leaving your home so you know whether it is okay to bring a charcoal grill with you or if you will need to bring and use a propane fueled grill or cooking stove instead.

12) Charcoal or Propane – If you will be grilling while camping in the mountains, don’t forget to bring plenty of charcoal or propane, depending on which method of cooking or grilling you will be using. If using charcoal, don’t forget to bring plenty of newspaper and a lighter to start your coals.

13) Plates, Utensils and Napkins – Yes, to have to wash dishes while you are on vacation, or not….okay, most of the time, NOT. After all, you ARE on VACATION!

I have from time to time brought on vacation what I refer to as ‘camping dishes’ – a few sturdy plastic dishes, bowls and cups I had purchased at Walmart and use specifically for camping. However, what a JOY it is to go camping and take a VACATION from having to wash dishes as well!

When choosing paper plates to bring with on a camping trip, I always bypass the flimsy types and most often opt for the most sturdy plates I can find that also have a good size to them. I also love the sturdy paper plates that come with separate sections to them so you can keep the foods you are eating separate if you like.

If you love doing dishes, you can always bring your own utensils such as forks, knives, and spoons from home, but if you REALLY want to take advantage of being on Vacation and taking a break from it all, you can buy a box of sturdy plastic forks, knives, and spoons from your local Walmart store.

Using paper plates and plastic utensils while camping DOES have its perks when you can forget about all of the dish washing worries and simply toss the plates and utensils in the garbage when you are done with them.

Oh, and don’t forget the napkins!

The utensils I usually bring from home include different sized spatulas, tongs, large pronged forks, and various sized serving spoons as well as corn cob holders (small pronged holders). I also bring drinking cups (some plastic, some glass) and a few coffee cups for coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

I also recommend bringing a couple of various sized pots and pans, as well as a camping worthy coffee pot, tea kettle or smaller pan for boiling water for your favorite morning coffee, tea, or other hot drinks.

14) Camping Chairs or Hammock – Ahhhh! How great it is to kick back in a good camping chair with built in cup holders! It’s even greater to be able to kick back in a favorite hammock if you have one!

15) Dish Soap – Whether bringing dishes from home or not, dish soap comes in so handy for not only dishes, but washing your hands, spot washing shoes or boots if needed, washing the campsite picnic table, or for washing other camping gear or utensils as needed. I highly recommend Dawn Dish Soap*. Nothing beats oil, greasy foods, and dirty hands like Dawn! I have used Dawn for years, and have not found a better product that has so many uses!

16) Wash Cloths and Scrubbers – Wash Cloths are needed not just for washing during your shower, but also come in handy for dishes, wiping down tables and chairs, washing down the tent if needed, among other things. We usually wash and/or wipe down the ground side of our tent as we are folding it back up for packing when done camping (wiping it down helps to prevent musty smells and/or mold from getting into your tent fabric). Washcloths also come in handy for wiping down your windshield, windows, or headlights if and when needed during travel, washing your hands or face throughout the day as needed as well as also come in handy for fishing!

Yes, that’s right! My kids and I often use old wash clothes while fishing to help while handling smelly worms and for hanging onto slippery fish while taking the fishing hook or lure off of them. Using an old wash cloth while handling a fish helps to prevent the stiff barbs or fins of the fish from cutting into your skin (or your children’s tender fingers) while unhooking the fish from the fishing line. It also helps to keep that horrible wormy smell from getting into your skin too much, and helps you to not smell too badly of fish and worms for hours after fishing (and even after washing up!).

Scrubbers come in handy for scrubbing anything that needs it, including scrubbing bugs off of your camping gear, windows, or headlights.

17) Wipes – If your not a fan of dish soap, non fragrant baby wipes also work great to wash your hands – especially during and after fishing and handling smelly fish and even worse smelling worms (washcloth or not) or after handling other live bait. Wipes also come in handy as a quick fix to wash your hands if you stop along the way to eat prepared and packed sandwiches or other meals or snacks while traveling.

18) Garbage Bags – Garbage bags are a MUST when traveling. If you don’t use or forget to bring a laundry bag while traveling, a good sturdy garbage bag comes in handy for dirty smelly fishing clothes, preventing your laundry bag or suitcase from picking up unpleasant smells and making it easy to bring them to a laundry mat when needed.

Garbage bags are also needed for obvious reasons such as throwing your garbage and food scraps into while camping. Most campgrounds have designated garbage containers or bins, which are clearly marked for food, garbage, or recyclables.

It is also not a good idea to keep your garbage bag with garbage and food scraps in it near by your tent or camping area, as at night there may be various critters (including raccoons and bears) that may try get into the garbage. Wild animals are curious by nature, and nine tenths of the time if they smell the food, they will attempt to tear into whatever is holding the food in order to get to it, which may be putting your safety at risk.

In the evening after you are done with your meals and snacks for the day, I recommend bringing your garbage to the designated campground garbage containers or bins and disposing of it. It’s better to dispose of it and use a fresh bag the next day than to risk having an unwanted intrusion or run in with some of the area wildlife.

19) Tin Foil – Tin Foil is great for covering food you may need covered. It’s also great for cleaning your grill racks before cooking and for cooking potatoes on the grill. For my super easy directions for cooking potatoes on the grill, please click HERE.

20) Coolers – A good strong cooler* is essential as well while camping, as you will be keeping your food and/or drinks in it and you will want a cooler that is dependable and sturdy. A smaller cooler within easy reach of someone who is not driving also comes in handy to keep in the car for when you are thirsty and do not want to have to pull over to get something cool to drink.

21) Flashlight and Batteries – Depending on where you are camping, you will most likely need a couple of good flashlights and plenty of batteries to find your way to the restrooms or outhouse in the dark. They also come in handy to read with at night without keeping everyone awake, as well as giving you enough light to see what you are doing if you happen to need a tire changed or something else while on the road when it is dark.

22) Camping Light – Camping Lights or Lanterns are also a good thing to bring with on any camping trip. My family and I have used non-kerosene camping lanterns while camping in the areas where there is no electricity or lighting and where kerosene or oil lamp use is prohibited. When shopping for a good camping light, choose one that is big enough for the space you want to light up and gives off enough bright light to see well with. I recommend having at least two of these available for use while camping in the mountains or in the wilderness.

23) Aspirin or Ibuprofen – It’s always good to bring some form of Aspirin or Ibuprofen for headaches, pain or inflammation that may arise while camping or hiking in the mountains.

24) Toilet Paper – Bring plenty of toilet paper. Some campgrounds supply you with toilet paper, and some don’t, so it is always better to be prepared.

25) Towels – Bringing plenty of towels is a must as well. Not only do they come in handy for drying off after showering or swimming and for drying dishes or utensils you may have brought with you, but they also come in handy for drying off your tent after wiping it down with wash cloths, to ensure it does not get packed away damp or wet.

26) Bedding – If I am not sleeping on a sleeping pad on the ground, I am sleeping on an air mattress in our tent. Your favorite sheets (mine are flannel), pillow cases and blankets will make you feel right at home while out camping.

27) Personal Care and Hygiene – Don’t forget to pack plenty of shampoo, conditioner, hairsprays or gel, bar soap, body wash, lotions, deodorants, as well as feminine hygiene items that may be needed while traveling.

Walmart sells great travel packs for your toothbrushes and toothpaste as well. You can also bring toothpicks or tooth floss for flossing after meals.

I hope this list helps when it comes to packing for your next great adventurous camping trip to the mountains!

Tip: When packing for any type of travel by car, extensive travel or not, I use a good strong storage tote like the Rubbermaid 14 Gallon Tote* into which I place all of my camping dishes, bowls, cups, napkins, soaps, utensils, cooking spices, towels, wash cloths, lighters or matches, as well as anything else that will fit neatly into the tote, and I put it in the back of our SUV where it takes up minimal room and all of the things I had put into it are safely, securely and neatly out of the way.

Using the tote for packing camping necessities puts everything I need in one place that is easy to reach, is easy to pack in the vehicle, and is easy to unpack and/or remove from the vehicle by simply lifting it out and placing it near where I will be cooking with everything I need now found all in one place.

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