11 Camping Essentials for the Truck Camping Family

By Shaggy Outdoor Team

May 16, 2022

Get all your needs right here at Sportsman’s Warehouse before you head out on your trip.

When you pack these essentials your family will have a great time in the woods.

This guide will help you establish a storage tote for your camping necessities. If you are like me where sometimes you need less gear you can have two or three totes or you can have one master and a smaller tote to put your particular essentials in for each trip.

You want to make sure you have all the necessary equipment to ensure a fun and memorable trip.

At Shaggy Outdoors we are all about getting to the woods and creating memories for the whole family.

When building out your master tote you will have a long list of gear and equipment that you can pick out the necessary equipment for the immediate trip.

When considering my family’s upcoming camping trip I always make a list. This gives me the satisfaction of knowing I’m probably not forgetting anything important.

Start with who is going on this trip. What necessities do you need for those attending including food and what food preparation you can do in advance?

When I’m not backpacking and I can drive the truck to my camping spot, I’m always overpacking. Extra sleeping bag, extra chairs, more water than I need, and other items to make sure I’m supplied. This overpacking trend of mine always comes in handy when we camp with newbie families. We love the newbies because we get the help them enjoy the outdoors and see that camping is fun for the whole family.

Shortly we’ll add a downloadable list that can be used by both experienced and new camping families. Click Here to get your list and add to the essential list based on your family needs.

This list can be a great check-off for every trip you take. We even kept a few spots blank so you can add in other gear you may need to remind yourself before leaving on your trip.

This list is NOT all-inclusive and you need to consider your destination when forming your camping list. For example, you may be going to a campground and need to make sure you have trash bags or you may be going into the woods and you may want to bring a shovel. You will discover the necessary tools needed based on your destination and this list will help you start preparing.

The more prepared you are for your adventures the more fun the family will have and you can start a new trend for your family by making sure everyone has loads of fun.

Continue reading to get your 11 Camping Essentials:

#1 Camp Grill/Stove

You set off to the campgrounds thinking you will have a great experience cooking on an open flame. Those burgers and hot dogs will be the envy of the campground as the smells go to the neighbors. But as soon as you pull into the campgrounds the host informs you that there are no open flames.

Now you did it. No open flames and you didn’t bring your grill or stove.

I always bring a single burner cooktop for making the essential coffee in the morning. Our recommendation for a single cooktop burner would be the Coleman PowerPack Propane Stove. I have been using this single burner option for over 10 years check out this video on Instagram where the coffee is brewing by clicking here.  But don’t stop there there are several single burner options on the market including the Chef Master 90019 Butane Stove which you can find on Amazon by clicking here.

Ready to upgrade to a multi-burner option? Here are a few you should consider. We have been using the Coleman Gas Camping Stove for 10 + years and while it’s not new it works just great and I have had no issues over the years.

Coleman Gas Camping Stove – click here for Amazon Price 

Camp Chef Everest 2X Burner Stove – click here for Amazon Price

When you are camping with the family you probably will find you need a few burners if you’re preparing all your meals at the campsite so go with the two-burner option. But, consider having a single burner stove like the Coleman PowerPack Propane Stove, which is the one I’ve owned and used for over 10 years, is handy for making coffee in the morning. 

When using propane stove make sure you keep a few canisters on hand. Typically I keep 3-4 Coleman Propane Fuel 16 oz canisters with me at all times. You never know when you might run out or a neighboring campsite may need some fuel. 

Don’t start the trip stressing about gear. That’s why this is called the essential gear for truck camping families. You are not limited when truck camping to only one option. If you’re not sure if it should be brought on this trip, bring it because it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

#2 Toilet Paper and Toilet Options

Okay, this one should be number one for those newer families to camping. Check out our Best Camping Toilet review by clicking here. Scott Myers gives a great breakdown of toilets for camping.

Why are toilet paper and toilets on this list? Because not everyone is comfortable going behind a bush and when you forget that all-important wipe paper, the fun is over because the sock will be the next resource.  

Now, this essential is assuming you are camping in the woods and not at a campground. Campgrounds generally have public restrooms, but if you are like my family we like to check out the wildlife at the end of the day. Several times my boys were unable to make it back to the campground and therefore having the toilet paper in the truck was essential.

Here is a great foldable toilet option for when your backpacking or hiking.

Consider the environment and the ecosystem when taking toilet paper into the woods. Nobody wants to see where you went so biodegradable toilet paper like Freedom Living Septic Tank Safe Toilet Tissue is a great choice. There are several good and inexpensive options for the portable toilet so check out our review to get some great ideas.

#3 Tent Options

When you are going camping you need shelter. Shelter from the weather, shelter from the environment, and just shelter to keep everyone feeling safe. We have a tent review that outlines a few options to consider for your family including the mesh tent to keep insects out of your food area. Check out our tent review by clicking here

So many tent options for shelter. Consider your environment including temperature, potential rain, and location of the campsite. If you are not familiar with the area contact someone you know that may have some additional information including a camp host ahead of time or even the local game and fish office.

Besides the environment, when you are considering the right tent, consider the number of people and the number of days you will be camping. Get our review of some great tent options here.

People on the Camping trip: you have four people in your family do you choose a 4-person tent? Well maybe, are you sleeping on the ground, on a blow-up mattress, or cots? Are you all sleeping in the same tent? All good things to think about before the trip.

Pro-Tip; Never go into the woods and not set up your tent at minimum 2 times before you go.

You need to make sure all the parts are there, and you need to make sure you know how to put the tent together. You don’t want the camping trip to start off negative because you need an hour to figure out the tent.

When you set up the tent at home you can think about where everyone will sleep and determine if the space is big enough for the whole family.

Check out these family camping tents on Amazon. If you’re a minimalist and need to save money understand that these tents are typically smaller than they indicate in my opinion. You can sleep 4 in a four-person tent but you better like who you are sleeping with because you will be in a tight space. And if you are using a cot or blow-up mattress you will never fit four people inside.

I have found that you want to go 1-2 sizes larger than the number of people sleeping in a tent. We use blow-up mattresses and cots and these take up space. You also want to have room to move around, stand up, and get dressed. Remember comfort will be key to a great trip.

Consider these options for your next family tent purchase:

Make yourself comfortable when you are sleeping. Use a Cot or blow-up mattress for comfort. You can get smaller 1”-2” backpacking pads or blow-up mattresses, but remember we are TRUCK camping so grab what will make you the most comfortable. Your family’s enjoyment of the trip will involve how comfortable your sleep is.

#4 Water Container for Camping 

Water is essential for all trips. Don’t assume you will have water to clean up your meals or drink in the area. Remember we are truck camping so we can bring our water to the campsite.

Take water to wash your hands and have it available for cleaning dishes in a Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon Rigid Water Container. Other great water containers are the Igloo 6 Gallon Heavy Duty Portable Camping Hiking Water Storage Container.

I like these two options for a couple of reasons. First, they are rigid containers that can be stacked, and second, they can hold up on those bumpy roads.

A great option that I have been using for drinking water for years is the Igloo 5-10 Gallon Portable Sports Cooler which is very handy to save money on water bottles. Consider this type of water cooler when you have several people in the camp to provide fresh water for everyone.

When considering your water containers keep this in mind. Use containers with handles that can be used for multiple purposes. You don’t want a container that is hard to carry or doesn’t sit sideways for ease of use. Soft containers look convenient and store great when not in use, but when you fill them and need to take them to the campsite be prepared for a hassle.

How much water should you take? This is a great question that you need to consider. How many people, how many days, and what is my availability to refill these containers are all good questions.

I take more than necessary. Typically 1-2 nights will be 6.0 to 7.0 gal of water.

If I am planning on having a campfire, then I may bring between 10 and 12 gals of water. Don’t let your campfire burn when you go to sleep. That is an easy way to start a forest fire and put your family in danger.

#5 Multipurpose Tools

Now for me here is where the fun begins. I need to have a tool or multiple tools in my truck.

Check out this great multi-purpose “Leatherman” tool on Amazon. Don’t skimp on this tool. I have used several multipurpose tools over the years and the Leatherman in my pouch has lasted the longest. You need a tool like this to cut the rope, and small branches, use the bottle opener, or even screw in screws with this tool.

The other multipurpose tool necessary is a Survival Shovel like the one from RHINO USA. This tool has a shovel and a pick and can be very handy at the campsite.

You should even consider tools to fix things when you’re on your family camping trip. A kit like Cartman 148 Piece Tool Set is a great general set of tools in a hard plastic case that can fit easily under the seat of the truck.

#6 Medical Kit Supply

Yep, if you are camping with the family, you will get some cuts and scrapes. Build out your medical supplies and put them into your tote or purchase a first aid kit.

Here are a couple of options for first aid kits.

Surviveware Comprehensive – medic

My Medic makes a comprehensive medical supply kit for every occasion. It is our personal choice to use a My Medic Bag on all our camping and hiking trips.

Depending on your location remember to keep an eye on your first aid kit to replenish what you have used and make sure the Band-Aids and other products are not drying out or going bad. I check my first aid kits about 2 times a year and before I go on my trip.

#7 Sleeping Bags and/or Blankets

We talked about comfort several times so far and we will not stop short of warmth when sleeping.

When we camp we always think of using sleeping bags first. It’s part of the fun for everyone and they keep you warm. But don’t stop there. Blankets can be just as good of a source of warmth when it’s cold as lightweight when it’s warmer.

Sleeping bags come in several different weather options.

Sub-Zero bags – for those extreme nights

Less than 30 Degree bags – for those cold nights

30-50 degree bags

50+ degree bags

The options here are endless. Remember we are truck camping and can bring more options.

Couple of things to note when you are considering the sleeping bag.

How do you sleep normally?

This is help determine what bag you purchase.

Do you like to be tight and do you normally not move around a lot when you sleep? In this case, you might consider a mummy bag. These are smaller and tighter. Good for kids but not always good for adults.

Are you a larger guy that moves around a lot at night? Consider a larger bag that gives you the room you need.

Stay close to your overnight temperatures for your sleeping bag. Remember that the coldest part of the night will be right near dawn. But, don’t let your family get cold. This is one sure way they will say no next time you want to go camping.

#8 Camping Clothing – rain gear, jackets, socks, and shoes

Pro-tip; bring extra socks and shoes. If you are near water I almost guarantee your feet will get wet. When you are in a sandy area or desert environment you probably will have dirt in your shoes. Have an option to change out your socks and shoes. It will make for more comfort and keep everyone happy.

This is another necessity when building out your list. But each trip will have a different need. Here are some good options for clothing for your family on your camping trip.

Rain Ponchos – inexpensive option to have a couple ready for the rain

Rain gear – tops and bottoms

Fox River makes the BEST Socks for all occasions!

Hiking Shoes

#9 Pots / Pans / Utensils

Did you plan out your food for the camping trip? don’t forget the pots, pans, and utensils.

I tend to use old household pots and pans – but here are a few good options that you can find on Amazon.

#10 Cooler – Keeping your Food Cold

At Shaggy Outdoors we believe in hard-shell coolers. We have several brands in our garage and use them differently depending on the trip. But one thing is for sure. These coolers will keep your food cold if you use them properly.

Check out our list of Best Hard Shell Coolers to get some more information.


You don’t need a hard-shell cooler. But you want to make sure you are keeping your food cold. Ice is a good source to keep your food cool, but many freeze packs can do the same without the water mess.

Check out these cooler ice pack options:




Pro-Tip; use two coolers if possible. If you are camping with younger family members it is inevitable that they go and open the cooler about 50 times per hour. Grabbing ice or drinks and never closing the lid.

Two cooler options put your food in one cooler where the kids will not be opening and drinks in a second cooler. You know the drinks will get warm faster because the cooler is being opened but you don’t need to worry about the food warming up because it’s tucked away in a separate cooler only being opened a few times a day.

Pro-Tip; the quality of the cooler will depend on the temperature outside. If it will be warmer temperatures you will need a better quality cooler to help keep items cold. Consider the Kong Cooler as a good option.

#11 Lights, Headlamps, Lanterns

When you get to your campsite at night and you can’t see where anything is located you just had your first run-in with not being prepared.

I have several sources of light. The first source is my headlamp which is on the door of the truck. When I get to my destination after dark I immediately grab this light source to help me see in the dark.

For the kids, cheap flashlights are an option. I suggest the LED Flashlight by Eveready which has multicolored options if you have several kids at the campsite, so everyone knows which flashlight is their own.

Remember your want to have the best camping trip possible and when everyone has their flashlight it makes for less arguing and stress on the parents.

Lanterns are a great source for the campsite to light up the area. You can get propane lanterns, electric lanterns, and Kerosene lanterns.  All good choices, but again there are restrictions on fire that includes flames from your lanterns. Consider two different kinds to get an idea of what you like best for your situation.

Go here for our lights and lantern reviews and some good options for your family’s camping trip.


Essential Camping Equipment Wrap-Up

Did I hit all the camping essentials necessary for every person’s trip?

Heck NO!!

Here is a quick additional list of items to consider

  • Tarp (option)
  • Games (frisbee, xxx, xxx)
  • Chairs
  • Camping table
  • Fire Starter
  • Firewood
  • Bug Spray
  • AXE or Hatchet
  • Air Mattress
  • Cot
  • Sleeping Pad

Check out some additional Recommended Reading

Outdoor Camping Lights https://shaggyoutdoors.com/outdoor-camping-and-hiking-light-review/

Best Hard Shell Coolers https://shaggyoutdoors.com/comparison-product-reviews/best-hard-shell-coolers/

New Backpacker Guide to First Trip https://shaggyoutdoors.com/blog-page/new-backpackers-guide-and-review/

Best Portable Camping or Car Toilet https://shaggyoutdoors.com/comparison-product-reviews/best-camping-toilet/

Camping Tent Review https://shaggyoutdoors.com/comparison-product-reviews/camping-tent/