The Ultimate Ultralight Camping Checklist

Your Ultralight Camping Checklist

Today on the blog we’re going to take a look at what you should be bringing with you on your next ultralight camping adventure! When you’re heading out on the trail, it’s surprisingly easy to end up taking the kitchen sink with you. I find I’m especially likely to do it if I’m feeling a bit anxious, as I want to bring enough stuff with me to cover every possible eventuality.

This is why having a dedicated camping checklist to hand is always a good idea. It prevents unnecessary gear from creeping into your pack, and also helps address that dreaded feeling of “What have I forgotten!?”. In this post, we’re just focusing on the absolute bare essentials you’d need to get by for a couple of days out on the trail. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need:

#1: Your Sleep System

A good sleep system is an essential part of any camping checklist!
A good sleep system could be make or break for your camping trip!

First things first – you probably won’t be gone for very long if you haven’t got a warm, comfortable sleep system. At best, an underperforming sleep system will leave you tired and in a bad mood. At worst, it could potentially put your life in danger – if, for example, you’re going to a very cold destination with unsuitable gear. So a good sleep system should really be item number 1 on your camping checklist.

Sleep systems are usually comprised of a tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and a pillow. However, there are a lot of options available here. Instead of a tent, you could have a bivvy bag or a hammock. Rather than having a sleeping bag, some ultralight campers choose a quilt. If you’re going down the quilt route, then the Aegismax Wind Hard comes very well rated and – for down, at least – is super cheap.

It’s important to always do your research on the climate of wherever you’re going, particularly if you’ve never been there before. We all know that Google is our friend when it comes to research, but it’s also worth getting opinions from other hikers or friends you might have in the area. As much fun as dry statistics on humidity and temperature are, there’s often no substitute for a bit of local insider knowledge. Make sure your sleeping gear is rated properly for wherever your adventure is taking you.

Pro tip: If you buy a sleeping mat with an integrated pillow, that’s a 2-in-1 that shaves an item off your list!

#2: Clothes

Next on your camping checklist should be clothes. Don't forget a good pair of walking boots!
Always remember a good pair of boots 🙂

Believe it or not, there’s a little more to this than not walking out of the house naked. Although, that is definitely important. Having the right kind of clothes for your trip is pretty much essential. Just like you did with your sleep system, you should research the local climate in order to plan what clothing you’ll need.

First of all, you’ll almost certainly want a decent pair of walking boots (though some prefer trail running shoes). When it comes to your bottom half, we find that you can’t really go wrong with cargo trousers and shorts. If you can find some that are quick-drying, then so much the better. For a t-shirt (and underwear), moisture-wicking material is your friend. And for socks, it’s difficult for us to recommend anything other than Merino wool – it’s lightweight, breathable, and anti-bacterial. So long, smelly feet!

Lastly, don’t forget to bring along head-to-toe waterproofs. No matter how sure you are that it won’t rain, you can guarantee that it will if you’re not prepared!

Pro tip: Looking for more advice on socks? Check out our guide to ‘Smartwool vs Darn Tough‘ – two of the best brands of hiking socks out there on the market!

#3: First Aid & Toiletries

A first aid kit should be on everyone' list of camping essentials.
You never know what might happen on the trail! Image Source:

Safety first, people. We know that some people may want to throw caution to the wind if they’re only going away for a few days. Still, we’d always recommend taking a first aid kit with you, even if it’s just a small, basic one. You never know what might happen on the trail, and often it’s just worth having that extra peace of mind. Even something as simple as having a patch for a blister can make a big difference to the enjoyment of your hike! Besides, it’s not like you have to spend a lot on a first aid kit. There are plenty of affordable options out there. So, no excuses! 🙂

When it comes to toiletries, try to find smaller travel-sized packets that you can decant some of your toothpaste and soap into. This will save space precious space in your pack. And don’t forget your towel!

Pro tip: A first aid kit is definitely not something you want to leave off your camping kit list. But… nobody said you had to take the whole first aid kit. If you’re comfortable leaving a couple of plasters behind on a shorter trip, who are we to argue? Anything to shave a few grams off of that pack weight.

#4: Stoves, Cookware & Food

The Trangia stove is a great cooking set for those who don't know where to start in this area
The Trangia Stove is a solid ultralight cooking option

When it comes to cookware, here be dragons! If you ask 10 ultralight campers what cooking gear they take out on the trail, and you’re likely to get 10 completely different answers. There are a tonne of options out there to choose from, and it can start to feel like a case of the paradox of choice. 

We personally recommend Titanium cooking gear as a cheap, super lightweight option. However, you also can’t go far wrong with the tried, tested and much-loved Trangia Stove Kit as an entry-level cooking setup.

When it comes to food, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Some people take the ‘food as fuel’ approach and focus on packeted goods and dehydrated meals. Others prefer to have a little bit of home comfort and do some good old campfire cooking. I’m definitely in the latter category. There’s nothing like a tasty meal to lift your spirits after a long day on the trail!

Pro tip: Why not make your own coke can stove to cook on!

#5: The Personal Stuff

Wallet... keys... phone... check!
Wallet… keys… phone… check

This should be the easiest thing to remember on your camping checklist. And that’s because it’s all the things you usually take with you when you leave the house anyway. Most of us never leave home without our wallet or purse, keys, phone for example. But there may be a few other things you want to bring with you if you’re ditching civilization for a while.

I personally wouldn’t go camping without a cheap and cheerful set of headphones. Listening to some music or radio can be a great way to drift off to sleep if you find yourself tossing and turning in the night. But hey, your mileage may vary. If there’s some gizmo or personal item you just can’t live without, then bring it with you on your adventure!

Pro tip: Why not download your favorite podcasts onto your phone before you go away. That way you can listen to them as you drift off to sleep! Check out our favorite podcasts about the outdoors.

Now You’re Ready To Hit The Trail!

That’s it for now, folks, I hope you found this camping checklist useful. Don’t forget, this is only the “bare essentials” list. If you’re heading out on the trail, and you have these items, then you should have everything you need to get by! Please do let us know your thoughts in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more tips, tricks, and gear reviews from the trail. Until next time!

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