Ask A Washington DC Guide: Packing List For Your Next Campout

April 27, 2013 9:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

With summer looming in the near future, many DC residents are undoubtedly thinking about fun warm-weather activities to engage in, like hiking and camping. Pitching tents, roasting marshmallows and singing by the campfire are fun for the whole family, but if you are a novice camper, make sure you pack all of the essential items you need to make your camping trip successful. Below is a list of five vital items you should bring with you when going camping, recommended by a local wilderness expert.

Courtney Coe

REI Store
1701 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 230-7670

REI is a popular sporting goods and outdoor gear store in the DC area that sells all of the crucial items you need to have a fabulous camping experience. Courtney Coe from REI has compiled a list of the five most important things that you need for your trip, although she warns that there are other key items you might need depending on where and what kind of camping you are doing. For more information, you should check out the REI website or stop by the store. The list below assumes you have food and shelter covered.

Some kind of navigation system

Many of the camping areas in Washington DC are huge, for example the Greenbelt Park is 1,100 acres, making a navigation system essential. REI recommends bringing a compass as your navigation tool. Many people rely on a GPS, which is also helpful, but a compass serves as a good backup device. Getting lost while camping is scary and stressful, so your navigation device is probably the most important thing you should bring with you on your camping adventure.

Related: Getaway Guide to Washington DC

Protection from the sun

This includes both sunscreen and extra water. DC is famous for its scorching summers, with temperatures sometimes going over 100 degrees. For this reason, sunscreen and water are absolutely essential. Getting sun burnt or heat stroke can be both dangerous and uncomfortable, so bringing as much sun protection as you can is crucial. Hopefully drinking enough water and slathering yourself in sunscreen should keep you from experiencing any sun damage.

First-aid kit with insect repellant

The insects in this area are known to be vicious and getting bitten is annoying and frustrating, especially for kids. Any kind of repellant with DEET in it should be effective against most bugs. The majority of repellants come in a spray or lotion form, whichever you prefer should be fine. An added bonus is that ticks are also deterred by insect replant, which should keep you from getting bitten by ticks that carry lime disease. Such ticks are especially prevalent in this area due to the high deer population. Just in case you do get bitten by any mosquitoes or suffer some other kind of injury, make sure your first aid kit also has band-aids and calamine location to stop itching.


It is important to bring some kind of illumination, such as a flashlight. Some of the wooded areas in the camping grounds around DC can be quite dense, and it is important to have some kind of illumination so that you can navigate where you are going. Be sure to bring extra batteries, and try to choose something that is not too heavy to carry. One option is to get a headlamp, which allows you to be hands-free. REI sells some with a rechargeable battery.


The temperatures at night in the DC area can get cool, even in the summer, so extra insulation is very important. First, be sure to layer your clothes. That way you are prepared for any kind of weather. Second, it’s good to have an insulated sleeping pad and a sleeping bag with the appropriate temperature rating so that your body is not losing heat while you sleep. And if you have your car, pack extra blankets and an umbrella just in case.

Related: Winter Camping Guide For Washington DC

Priya Konings is a freelance writer and restaurant critic in Washington D.C. Her work can be found at

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