Camping 101: For the Survivor enthusiast

A badminton racket and assortment of camping supplies

Throughout my childhood, no summer was complete without a few camping trips. Being a child, I had the fortune to just enjoy the weekend as food and supplies were magically provided to me.

As I turned the corner into adulthood and marriage, my husband and I grabbed the torch and began introducing camping adventures to our child. To us, spending a few days outdoors made sense.

During this time, reality survival shows started to explode on TV. When you hear someone talk about the show Survivor, do you hear that iconic horn introduction to their theme song in your head? The one that flows into tribal chanting as you watch a video clip highlighting all of the eager contestants?

My family’s obsession with reality survival shows started with Survivor, but it flew off the rails as more gritty ones cropped up on cable networks. From Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival and Naked and Afraid to History Channel’s Alone, there has been no shortage of programming to wet your primitive survival thirst.

My husband and I have binged on endless hours of these shows. And, since we love camping ourselves, we’ve turned into unofficial couch quarterbacks, questioning each contestant’s moves and missteps.

“Why didn’t he bring a fire starter as his survival item?”

“Why didn’t she purify that water before drinking it? She’s going to be hurting later!”

“Did he really just eat that unidentified mushroom?”

“He tapped out after only five days. What a lightweight!”

The fact of the matter is, spending time outdoors unscathed isn’t always an easy task. But, at least for the first-time curious campers, most missteps can be avoided and the family can successfully spend a weekend playing in the woods and reconnecting with nature.

To set you up for success, it’s helpful to lean on a camping supply checklist. Using one will assure that you’re packing all the best essentials you need to avoid unnecessary meltdowns while you’re deep in the woods.

To get you started, here are some basic must haves if you want to spend a few nights in the great outdoors.


  •  Tent/ground cloth
  •  Sleeping bag and pillows
  • Cot or air mattress
  • **Bougie bonus points for electric campsites where you can plug in an electric blanket.

Pots, pans and plates


  •  Water, Water, Water!
  • Cooler and ice
  • Charcoal grill
  • Lighter
  • Pots and pans
  • Firestarter
  • Plates, cups, bowls, utensils, and silverware
  • Paper towels
  • Dish soap and rag
  • Food (don’t forget the condiments)
  • **Bougie bonus points to step up your S’mores with exotically flavored chocolate bars. (Think salted caramel, mint and chili).

A pile of clothes on a chair in front of a camp fire pit


  • More than one pair of shoes and socks
  • The essential tee shirts, sweatshirts, pants, shorts, sleep clothes, undergarments
  • Long Johns
  • Jackets
  • Hats
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain gear
  • **Bougie bonus points for cozy cabin socks and a Snuggie for around the fire.

A basket filled with hygiene products


  •  Soap and shampoo
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Towels
  • Feminine products
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush
  • Hand sanitizer
  • **Bougie bonus points for extra moisturizing creams and scented products. Be prepared, though, as some bugs may swoon over your fantastic scent.


  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Firewood (most campgrounds sell it onsite)
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Basic tool kit
  • Trash bags
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Entertainment items (books, games, radio, etc.)
  • Camp chairs
  • Saw/axe/pocket knife
  • **Bougie bonus points for packing up cornhole, ladder golf or extra games you may enjoy with a typical backyard BBQ.

If you properly plan and take a trip to one of the countless camping options in our area, you’ll be equipping your family with some good stories in the future. Even when my family suffered through setting up late while hangry, during torrential downpours, our memories turned those types of experiences into lighthearted recollections of fumbling triumph.

After spending a few days romping out in the wilderness, you can return home to your climate-controlled house, settle into your recliner and ask the desperately beaten-up survivalists on TV why in the world they didn’t make a pair of shoes before trudging barefooted in the wild landscape of Panama.

In June, Kaplan shared her favorite places to go camping within three hours of Mt. Lebanon. Give that post a read!