What to Wear Camping: Practical Packing

What to Wear Camping: Practical Packing

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George Cummings
November 20, 2021
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The easiest way to ruin any camping trip is by having the wrong clothes, whether they’re soaked through without a dry backup or you’re freezing because you forget to bring a jacket.

Being prepared for all aspects of camping is crucial but when it comes to your clothing choices, it’s one of the most important things you’ll pack.

What clothes should you bring camping? To determine the right clothing to pack for camping, you’ll have to assess the weather, what activities you’ll be doing, and how long you’re going for.

Usually, you’ll need the base and outer layers, sensible footwear, sleepwear, underwear, and protection from the elements like the rain and sun.

To help you determine what to wear camping and why it matters, we’ve created a simple guide that covers it all.

With our help, you’ll know how to pack for the season, always be prepared, and choose clothing that’s practical and comfortable for camping, no matter where you’re going.

Why Are Camping Clothes So Important?

Why Are Camping Clothes So Important?

The clothes you take on a camping trip can make or break your time away and it’s important to choose them carefully.

The clothing you take will determine how warm or cool you are, how easily you can partake in activities, and how protected you are against the elements, so they play a major role in camping.

Before a camping trip, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you’ve packed the right stuff. As you’re preparing clothing choices, have a think about:

  • How many days you’re going camping;
  • The forecasted weather for the length of the trip;
  • What activities you’ll be enjoying while you’re there;
  • What additional protection you’ll need against the sun and rain;
  • How many sets of spare clothes you’ll be comfortable with;
  • Whether you’re traveling light or packing a normal amount;

Packing for the Weather

Packing for the Weather

The weather plays a crucial role in camping, and especially when it comes to our clothing choices.

There’s no better indicator of what you’ll need to pack than the weather, so make sure you’ve done your research in the week leading up to your trip and know what the forecast is, including temperature, humidity, wind, and other notable events.

The best way to be prepared for sudden and unpredictable changes in weather while camping is by planning layered outfits.

With this approach, you can add or remove clothing as needed, without having to change an entire outfit and it ensures you have something there for all kinds of weather.

Regardless of what the weather forecast says, you’ll always want to be prepared for rain and sun.

This means packing garments like a long-sleeved swimming shirt, wide-brimmed hats, and sunscreen, as well as a waterproof rain jacket or poncho, so you can ensure that you’re always protected.

How Much Do I Need to Pack?

How Much Do I Need to Pack?

Another crucial factor worth contemplating when packing for camping is how long you’ll be gone for, as this should directly correlate with how many clothes you bring along.

A good rule of thumb is one outfit for the day, a sleepwear option for the night, and a spare change of clothes for each day.

If you’re going somewhere that has access to laundry facilities or water and are going away for more than a few days, you’ll be able to plan ahead and wash your clothes as needed.

This means packing less in your backpack but still being able to rotate through garments, and always having something clean and available to wear.

What to Wear Camping?

The easiest approach to packing clothes for camping is breaking it down into the most important categories and then choosing enough garments in each one to cover you.

These are the most important clothing areas to pack in while thinking about the weather, activities, and length of the camping trip.

Base Layers

Base Layers

Start at the most basic layer of clothing and choose your underwear well, thinking about comfort and practicality, and have two pairs of underwear and a pair of socks for each day.

For women, you’ll also want to bring along a sports bra or other supportive type of undergarment rather than anything with padding and underwire that will only cause discomfort.

From there, you’ll want basic layers like a singlet or tank top as well as some lightweight shorts. Consider what you might wear in the middle of summer while trying to stay comfortable on a hiking trip, and let this guide you towards the best base layers.

In winter, your base layers will be thicker and longer, with options like fleece pants and long-sleeved shirts forming part of this level.

Don’t overdo it on the base layer though, even if you assume it’ll get cold, otherwise you could be stripping down and removing it all if you find yourself overheating.

Outer Layers

When camping in colder weather, your outer layers will be critical, so you’ll want to pack clothing that will provide insulation.

This will be placed on top of the base layer but underneath the thicker top layers, and it depends on how much warmth you require. Choose synthetic materials here as they provide optimal insulation while still being breathable.

The outer layers should be determined by the temperature and might only be required when camping in winter.

In this case, you’ll want water-resistant materials that form a barrier between the rain and the clothing underneath, but also provide warmth and protection from the wind.

Think a pair of long pants, a winter coat, and some sort of lighter long-sleeved top.

Every camping backpack should contain a rain jacket of sorts, and regardless of the weather, you’ll find that it’ll come in handy.

In summer, you can easily drape it over at night if it gets chilly and in winter, you’ll find it provides another layer of much-needed warmth.

Its main purpose, though, is to protect from the rain and make sure the clothes underneath stay dry, so choose materials specifically manufactured for this.

Footwear

Footwear

One pair of hiking or camping boots are all that’s needed unless you want the option to mix things up and swap your shoes occasionally or have some breathability.

Some people prefer a more casual shoe for days spent relaxing around the campsite, or if you plan on doing water activities and would like the protection of a waterproof sandal or shoe, pack a pair of these as well.

Hats and Head Coverage

A quality hat is always needed for camping regardless of the weather, so choose either a baseball cap or wide-brimmed option to take along.

If you’re camping in winter, additional coverage will be required in the way of beanies and other thicker types of hats that can trap warmth.

Sleepwear

Sleepwear can often be reused the following night, depending on the weather, as you’ve done nothing in it and it’s rarely dirty.

Depending on the shelter and bag you’re sleeping in, you’ll want nighttime clothing that will ensure you’re comfortable and warm enough for the weather outside.

Sleepwear may also need to be layered, if the weather permits, so think about starting with a tank top and shorts and building from there.

During summer, this will be more than enough, and in winter, you can add fleece pants and a long-sleeved shirt to give you an added layer of protection.

Top Tips for What to Wear Camping

Top Tips for What to Wear Camping

On your first camping trip, the mere thought of packing the right clothing can be overwhelming.

To help you navigate your way through and come up with a list of garments that are sensible, practical, and packed efficiently, we’ve got a few expert tips you can learn from.

  • Choose functional clothing: A good piece of clothing goes beyond just covering your back, and when it comes to camping, you’ll want something that can do two jobs at once. Think about what other purpose your clothing might serve, like cargo shorts with pockets for carrying stuff or a pair of pants with belt loops to hang a multitool from, and opt for clothing that can do more.
  • Use military packing: To save space in your backpack, use the military-style of packing clothes. First, fold the clothes as usual and then fold them in half again. Roll the clothing up so that it’s compacted and tight, then pack it into your backpack. Think about the order you might wear the clothes in and try to pack them accordingly to save you rummaging through your bag each day.
  • Sleep dry: At the end of each day, strip down to nothing, bathe yourself by whatever means available, and put on a fresh pair of underwear to sleep in. When you wake up in the morning, you can keep those base layers on without needing to change them because they’ll hardly be dirty at all.
  • Moisture-wicking materials: Whether it’s sweat, rain, or something else entirely, there’s nothing worse than spending the day in a wet outfit. Choosing materials that are known for wicking away moisture, like wool, polyester, and nylon, means they’re doing the job for you so that you can stay dry and comfortable.
  • Separate the dirty stuff: Bring along a bag that can keep your dirty clothes away from the clean ones. Not only will this make it easier to do the laundry, if you get a chance, but you’ll avoid it spreading anything like poison oak or wetting the dry clothes you have in your backpack.
  • Know what not to bring: Some garments have no place on a camping trip, including denim, designer goods, jewelry, white clothing, and anything expensive. If you’re worried about losing it, leave it behind, and if it doesn’t add any practicality or functionality to the camping trip, it’s not necessary. The same goes for overpacking a bag and bringing too many clothes because you like to have options, as this approach is not advisable for camping.

Packing With a Plan

The most crucial part of any camping list is getting your garments right, as it’ll ensure you’re warm, dry, comfortable, and ready for action, no matter what happens.

With some careful planning and sensible clothing choices, you’ll get to enjoy the best parts of camping without your garments letting you down.

Related Questions

There’s a lot to think about when planning a camping trip and knowing exactly what you need to pack.

If you’re new to camping and still feel unsure about what to take and what to leave at home, check out these commonly asked questions that can point you in the right direction.

How Big Should a Camping Backpack Be?

If you’re traveling with just one backpack, you’ll need one that has between 35 and 50 liters of capacity to fit a weekend’s worth of camping supplies in.

At this size, you should comfortably fit a tent, sleeping bag, clothing, food, and basic supplies inside, and still have some space left over.

Can I Wash My Clothes While Camping?

Can I Wash My Clothes While Camping?

If you want to pack fewer garments, there are ways to wash your clothes on a camping trip that lets you cycle through them and always have something fresh.

Take along a small amount of biodegradable soap and use a separate container with water to wash and rinse the clothing, then dispose of the wastewater somewhere appropriate.

How Can I Camp Without a Shower?

The prospect of not showering turns many people away from camping, but there are options for staying clean while you’re away from home.

Wet wipes, no-rinse body bath products, and even bathing in the lake with suitable soaps are all possibilities for bathing while camping and keeping your good hygiene up.

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George Cummings

George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.